Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 30, 2013 Dinner – Ham and lentil soup

December 30, 2013 Dinner – Ham and lentil soup

Today’s meal reminded me what a good stock maker Suzette is.   Part of that goodness is the desire to waste nothing by making stocks with things that would otherwise be thrown out, such as the leftover bones from a baked ham. On Christmas Day she started a stock with all the leftover bones from the four ham halves I had baked for Christmas.  I cut up one medium onion, three stalks of celery, and four carrots (a mirepoix) and Suzette threw in the mirepoix and the ham bones into a large pot with three or four gallons of water and cooked them for hours until the ingredients yielded a velvety smooth clear broth. 
Today when I returned home at 5:00 from an afternoon appointment, I brought the stock in from the garage and removed all the congealed fat floating on the top and then all of the bones and added 1 cup of French small green lentils (lentilles du Puy, the French green lentils from the Auvergne, are not called ‘the caviar of lentils’ for nothing, Wikipedia); bought at La Montanita Coop, to the pot holding about 2 to 3 gallons of stock.  After cooking the lentils for about one hour I added about 1 lb. of diced ham from the burned ham, being careful to not include any of the hardened burned surfaces.  In another ½ hour I tried the lentils and they were tender and the ham integrated into the soup.  I toasted a dinner roll and buttered it and ate two bowls of the soup while Suzette was trying to book airfare to Marrakesh for Easter.


The soup was a complete success.  The lentils were delicate, yet tender.  The ham was tasty and fresh tasting.  This reminds me of my mother’s recipe for chicken soup.  You boil a chicken with a mirepoix for hours, until they give up all their flavor to the broth.  Then you remove the cooked chicken and vegetables and throw them away and add fresh vegetables and fresh chicken meat and finish cooking the soup with fresh meat and vegetables (and matzo balls or dumplings, if you wish), so that the soup has a flavorful freshness to it and also has a fully enriched broth.  Two simple steps but both very important steps.  I did not remove the vegetables and add fresh vegetables, but the result was delicious because of the fresh ham and lentils, which was the desired result (to highlight the ham and lentils).

I could not resist eating the soup when I thought the lentils were completely cooked so ladled up a bowl of it and poured glasses of the PPI Le Ferme Julien (The farm Julien, 2012 Appelation Ventoux Contrôlée) rosé for Suzette and me.  This is my favorite inexpensive rosé (Trader Joe’s $5.99).

We greatly enjoyed our simple but nutritionally complete dinner.   
Bon Appétit

December 27, 2013 Dinner – Bistro Petit Louis, an uneven meal

December 27, 2013 Dinner – Bistro Petit Louis, an uneven meal

I do not have much to say about uneven meals except that is what they are.  It means you must be careful how you order, less you be disappointed.

Duck L'Orange

Petit Filet

Tuna with Cream sauce

I suggested that Melissa order the petit filet with Périgueux Sauce, which I had eaten before and consider the best French dish in Albuquerque with its rich, creamy black truffle sauce with real slices of truffle.  It did not disappoint and met my high standard for the dish.
Unfortunately, my duck l’orange was disappointing, but that requires an explanation.  My favorite dish when I was growing up (the one I requested for my birthday dinners) was Duck L’Orange.  Think of the reaction of the hard core food critic in the 2007 movie “Ratatouille” when served the ratatouille).  My mother was a gourmet cook who had a cooking school.  My Mother made Duck L’Orange in the elegant traditional way by buying a whole duck and aging it for a day in the fridge and then pricking its skin and roasting it until the skin was crisp and the meat tender.  Then she made an elaborate or traditional l’orange sauce with lemon, orange slices, orange juice and sugar and perhaps some madeira.  This was what I expected to receive when I ordered Duck L‘Orange Friday evening. 
What I received instead was four or five slices of hard cooked slices of duck breast that lacked any tenderness and were hard sautéed and the skin was flaccid served with a very minimal sauce without any orange slices, so the sauce did not have the body to sit up on the duck or fruitiness to complement the duck’s strong flavor.    The waitress asked if I wanted to try the comfit and I said yes in an effort to salvage the meal and what I received was another hard cooked to the point of being inedible, duck breast coated with black pepper, which I hate, garnished with a few cold limp wet string beans.  A poor effort to mollify me that only made me madder.  The restaurant chose to use a short cut to make a dish that, when made properly, does not allow for such short cuts.  I refer you to Julia Child’s recipe in her “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” for the traditional recipe.  I hated the fact that the restaurant thought I was so stupid that I would not know that they were taking unacceptable shortcuts with such a traditional dish.  The least they could do is change the name of the dish to reflect the fact that it is not a roasted duck, but a sautéed duck breast, so discriminating dinners will avoid the dish.  Our waitress was no help; a pleasant person who seemed to know nothing about the food or care.  Try to get the middle aged black waiter who does know the food and will do whatever he can to make your meal a success.
Suzette fared better, she ordered the House Special Tuna, which turned out to be an approximately ½ pound piece of fresh albacore tuna sauced with a cream sauce that was over salted.  The fish was fresh and delicious although the salty sauce detracted from the dish as a whole.

We ordered a ½ carafe of white wine (French Chardonnay) and rosé and both were good.       

We also shared two orders of escargot, which turned out better, with the traditional garlic butter and parsley sauce, although Suzette thought the flavor of the snails was decidedly “out of the can”.

Are we overly tough critics, having eaten these dishes for years and many times in French Michelin starred restaurants?  I still want to say on the strength of the petit filet with Périgueux Sauce that Petit Louis ($26.00) is still my favorite French restaurant in Albuquerque, but I intend to return to Café Miche soon to try it again and might change my mind.  Also, I will never order Duck L’Orange ($24.50) at Petit Louis again. Our bill was $124.00 without tip.

Bon Appétit

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 29, 2013 Dinner party – Ham, mushroom and cheese quiche and salad.

December 29, 2013 Dinner party – Ham, mushroom and cheese quiche and salad.

We finished packing the luminarias this morning and then Suzette went to work.  I ate a bowl of posole, with a tamale and red chili sauce around noon. 

At 1:30 p.m. I rode my bike and at 3:00 p.m., I went to Costco and bought salad ($3.99), spinach, and eggs for dinner.  I was looking for Swiss Emmentaler cheese for the quiche, but there was none, but luckily there was French Beaufort, which I had never seen before ($13.99/lb.), so I bought a 1 lb. wedge of it.  Susan had graciously offered me a package of two Pillsbury pie shells, so I picked those up and a few green onions on my way home. 
Soon after I arrived home at 4:00 Suzette arrived and I asked her to make the partially cooked pie shells while I chopped and mixed the ingredients for the quiche.  I used Julia Child’s recipe for spinach quiche.  You start with the basic recipe for quiche at the top of page 152 and add the ingredients for Spinach quiche listed on page 153. 

I made a double recipe because we had two shells and six for dinner.  Lauren, a friend of Rebecca’s from Sunday school and her friend, Allison, who were driving to San Francisco for New Year’s Eve had asked to stay the night with us. 
So I chopped up about ½ cup of ham, four green onions, and three mushrooms.  In a separate bowl I chopped the three cups of spinach.  Suzette then sautéed all four ingredients in a large skillet with salt, pepper and nutmeg while I mixed 7 eggs, 3 cups of heavy cream and a pinch of nutmeg in the Kitchenaid.

When the spinach filling was cooked Suzette put them in the partially cooked pie shells and we added the egg and cream mixture to the shells and baked them for thirty minutes at 350˚, as the recipe recommended.
While the quiches were baking, I made a salad dressing with a tsp. of the Herbs Provence that Mike and Cathryn had given us, 2 tsp. of red wine vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, ½ tsp. of Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard, olive oil and pressed in three small cloves of garlic.  I also chopped about two Tbsps. of red bell pepper and a large tomatoes and sliced three palm hearts to make a salad and Suzette filled our new bowl with salad and we added the other ingredients and then I tossed them all in the salad dressing.

When the quiches puffed up a bit and the tops turned golden brown after thirty minutes, we were ready to eat.

Charlie and Susan had brought a bottle of chilled 2012 Bayten Sauvignon Blanc made and bottled at Buitenverwaching Wine Farm located in the Constantia Valley, just north of the Cape of Good Hope.  According to the label it is one of South Africa’s premier wine properties founded in 1796 and Susan said it garnered a rating of 91.  It tasted fine to me and very fresh.  It had a good balance of fruit and light clean flavor and still retained that slight earthiness that is so common among South African wines.

We ate and enjoyed the quiche and salad and wine.  After a bit I saw that the wine had been enjoyed and I opened a bottle of Le Ferme Julian rosé, which had darker and more muted smoky flavors, but was nice.  Finally we passed Susan’s red velvet cupcakes with the white icing and Susan and Charlie told us about how two 4 year olds had come over Christmas Eve to help them light the luminarias and had insisted on sprinkling micro sparkles on the cupcakes.
After a lovely meal, I retired to the T.V. room to watch the Dallas Cowboys lose to Philadelphia in the NFC division game with Charlie and Susan and Suzette schmoozed at the dining table in the T.V. room.

After Charlie and Susan left around 9:30 and we went to bed.
Bon Appétit






December 28, 2013 Brunch – Ham, Mushroom, avocado and cheese omelet Dinner – La Boca

December 28, 2013 Brunch – Ham, Mushroom, avocado and cheese omelet   Dinner – La Boca

We had a leisurely morning packing up luminaras.  At around 10:00 we decided to have an omelet, so I took out all the ingredients I thought would be great together: sliced cooked ham, 2 Tbsps. of onion, an avocado, some shredded jack cheese and several mushrooms and sliced them into small cubes and then I mixed the two egg whites in the fridge with three eggs.  I then snapped three sprigs of oregano from our indoor plant and six or seven stalks of chives and chopped them finely.  After I had sautéed the ham, onion, avocado and mushrooms, I poured the eggs whipped with a whisk over those ingredients in the large skillet.  After a minute I placed the shredded cheese and half of the oregano and chives on top of the omelet.  After about five minutes when the eggs had stiffened I folded one-half of the omelet over onto the other half and reduced the heat because Suzette was on the phone.  I put a puddle of the fresh tomatillo sauce that Suzette had made last weekend on each of two plates.


I toasted a roll and heated water for tea and when Suzette was finished I garnished the of the omelet with fresh oregano and chives and served the omelet with the roll and cherry preserves.  Viola! It was lovely and full of goodies.  I decided to use a similar ingredients on Sunday evening to make quiche and invite the Palmers over for dinner.
We had been discussing whether to go to Santa Fe, and at around 11:00 we finally decided to go because we wanted to see the Renaissance to Goya Spanish drawings exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum.

We first went to Stephens Consignment and when we told the man who helped us look at three teak bar stools that we were interested in indoor bar stools for our new kitchen remodel, he said that he sent most of the furniture items to their other store called the Consignment Warehouse?and suggested that we visit it.  So we drove out Cerrillos to Richards and then to Ruffino  and found the store.  It had several interesting items and a lovely selection.  There were actually two fabric covered Italian bar stools ($75.00 each) that we liked and we bought them and put them in the car and drove to the Museum.  When we got into the exhibit we saw Michele and Ed Houston and invited them to join us at La Boca for dinner at 5:30 p.m.  I did not like the drawing show very much because much of it was cartoons for murals in churches in the Baroque style, kind of like going to see fifty churches. Yuck.  There were several lovely drawings that were genre compositions and cartoons for portraits of Saints and Cardinals that were finished drawings without the grids drawn on them.  The drawings were masterfully drawn with good technique and lots of grey and white gouache to delineate the curves and shadows of cloth. 
When we were buying our tickets at the Fine Arts Museum I had asked the cashier what exhibit was at the O’Keefe Museum and he said a Lake George Exhibit, so after meeting Ed and Michele and seeing all of the Spanish show and the six O’Keefes at the Fine Arts Museum, we decided to go to the O’Keefe and see the Lake George show because it was a little after 4:00 p.m.   We loved the Lake George exhibit, especially the magenta and purple leaves that we had never seen before.  I especially liked a scene of Lake George covered in layers of fog that had that imperceptible foreground and background so common to symbolist paintings like Roerich’s .

After the O’Keefe, we walked to La Boca and arrived at 4:40 p.m.  Luckily, the tapas special menu is served from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00, so we were in time to take advantage of the Tapas Menu, which means that everything was half-price.  We ordered a bottle of red 2009 Ergo Tempranillo from Rioja for $26.00 and six tapas on the menu ($5.00 and 6.00 each), because we expected Ed and Michele to join us at 5:30 and we wanted to make sure that they tasted the tapas.  The first two tapas brought out were a trio of small square ramekins and a side of grilled yogurt flat bread slices and a plate of kale salad garnished with olive oil fried garbanzo beans and garlic cloves and lightly dressed with a lemon vinaigrette.  The ramekins were filled with a harissa carrot hummus, one with beet puree garnished with a dab of goat’s cheese, and my favorite one with white bean and artichoke puree, After a while our waitress brought us out two small paella pans, one filled with fried cubes of chorizo sausage and potatoes and the other filled with morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo sausage, and fried cubes of potato and toped with a over easy fried egg.   I loved the flavor of the morcilla and the egg made a lovely sauce with the hot olive oil.  We ate some of the sausage and potato and egg tapas and left some for Ed and Michele, but at around 5:45 we realized that they would probably not make it, so we took another glass of wine and realized that we had a large meal of tapas to consume.  When the Seasonal tapas menu was placed on the table, we realized that we would not be able to even think about eating any of those lovely tapas. 
Finally, we were brought two more tapas, Patatas Bravas (long wedges of fried potatoes covered with a spicy sherry vinegar sauce and roasted garlic aioli) and a pork tenderloin skewer (Pincho de Puerco) lightly grilled so that the inside was still pink, just the way I like it, on a plate with a smear of apricot honey puree. garnished with slices of briny green Manzanilla olives.  By this time we were really stuffed and we barely managed to finish the pork tenderloin because it was so delicious and about half of the potatoes.  By about 6:45 we were really stuffed and when our waitress asked us if we wanted a dessert, Suzette could only collectively laugh.






We made it home by around 8:30 p.m. happy and full of Spanish art and tapas.
Bon Appétit and Salud

Friday, December 27, 2013

December 26, 2013 Potluck Dinner Party at Cynthia and Ricardo’s house

December 26, 2013 Potluck Dinner Party at Cynthia and Ricardo’s house

Another day, another dinner party. Tis the season to celebrate.   Cynthia had invited us to join her and Ricardo’s for their official Christmas dinner party at 6:00 p.m.  During the day I went to Lowe’s and bought a 1 lb. bag of Birdseye green peas ($1.00).
When Suzette got home around 5:00 I fetched the ingredients for simple tapa we discovered at a small seaside restaurant in Pasia, Spain two years ago.  Besides the peas one uses mostly prepared and canned ingredients (a can of artichoke hearts in water from Trader Joe’s, a can of Goya pimientos from Ta Lin and a small amount of saffron and some smoked ham.  We bought a small 1.5 gram plastic container of saffron in Spain two years ago.  Suzette diced two Hormel smoked pork chops from pro’s Ranch Market ($4.29/lb.) and sautéed them in a large skillet with a bit of Sleman’s Chilean olive oil (a gift from Michel and Johnson) and then she chopped up the pimiento and I chopped up the artichoke hearts and we added them with the last ½ gram of saffron to the skillet.  Suzette then added about 1/8 cup of water to allow the whole mixture to steam and blend its flavors by cooking the ingredients covered for about ten minutes.

I fetched a covered serving dish and a bottle of La Granja from the Cariñena DO region in Aragon near Zaragoza, a 100% red Spanish tempranillo ($3.99 at Trader Joe’s) and we were off to the party by about 6:00 p.m.

As soon as we arrived the house started filling up with folks and dishes.  Cynthia made a tuna and kale salad, a vegetable plate, a horseradish flavored cream cheese, roasted sweet potato sticks, a cheese and salami platter and bowl of white beans garnished with diced tomatoes, a wonderful  baked artichoke dip and had sliced a Bosque Bakery baguette.  Others brought salad and smoked salmon, chips and salsa, zuchinni quiches, fresh salmon and salad sushi, pecan and pumpkin pies from Costco and lots of other delicious things.   Janet, who is married to Kurt, the wine expert brought a bottle of Vouvray from Augustins, which was a special treat.  Ricardo made his Seelack cocktails with bourbon, orange liqueur, Peychaud’s bitters and champagne.  They were a little bitter, so some folks, like me,  added more champagne.

We got to talk to Catherine and Devin for a while about how we couples met and got married and then I ended up at the kitchen table and talked to Terry and Bob and found the half bottle of Vouvray that Janet had brought, which made the evening extra special.  I mentioned to Janet that we should get together with Kurt for dinner.   Bob and his wife bought the Santa Fe Tile building at the northwest corner of 8th and Mountain Rd. from Stefan and Eileen Watson, so it turned out to be a small world kind of evening.
After three plates of food at around 9:30 we went home full, happy and sleepy.    

Bon Appétit

December 25, 2013 Breakfast- Ham, Mushroom and cheese omelet A PPI Dinner at Cynthia and Ricardo’s

December 25, 2013 Breakfast- Ham, Mushroom and cheese omelet   A PPI Dinner at Cynthia and Ricardo’s 

We woke up around 8:00 a.m. and visited with Mike and Catherine and Devin in the living room for a while before they had to go to their family Christmas celebration.  Catherine brought us some goodies from Paris, where she lives and works for a website named girlsguidetoparis.com/.  She is a friend of Kit and Jean Claude and was introduced to Mike by them.   They brought us a small can of paté de foie gras d’oie (goose liver pate) from a specialty shop that sells foie gras named Valette, a ceramic jar of fleur de sel from Le Saunier de Carmargue  [from the Aigues-Mortes (stagnant water) sea salt facility at the Rhone delta that has been in continuous production for at least the last 2400 years] and a bag of herbes de Provence marked with a label that said Bonheur (happiness) that I think may have been purchased at the small specialty store named Le Petit Bonheur le Chance.  Three perfect gifts for foodies like us that will be greatly enjoyed.

When Mike, Catherine and Devin left we decided to make an omelet with some of the PPIs.  I sliced up three large white mushrooms and two thin slices of yellow onion and minced it and went to the garage fridge and fetched the block of Manchego cheese while Suzette minced about ¼ cup of PPI ham.
Suzette then made a lovely ham, cheese, onion and mushroom omelet that we ate with glasses of PPI Marques de Riscal white wine that a guest had brought us last night.

Suzette was talking to Cynthia and they decided to get together for dinner.  So in the morning I added some red wine to the two day old marinade of eight lamb chops (Costco $6.99/lb.) made from olive oil, rosemary and garlic greens. 
Around 5:30 we loaded up the PPI Mulled wine, roasted sweet potatoes, pecans, lamb chops, some of Suzette’s pecan caramel cupcakes and sautéed greens and drove to Cynthia and Ricardo’s house for dinner.  Cynthia and Ricardo had made a fire in their horno fireplace in the back yard, which is where I put the pot of Mulled wine.  After it heated a bit, we tasted it and decided that it was too sweet and too lemony, so we added about ½ bottle more of Concha y Toro red wine to it and let it heat a bit more next to the fire.  Our second cup of mulled wine was much better and we relaxed in front of the fire and talked and drank for a while.  After a while we decided to cook, so Cynthia put the vegetables into the oven to warm and Ricardo turned up the heat on the grill.  Suzette and Ricardo took over the grilling and I went in to the kitchen to watch Cynthia prepare a salad of fresh greens, two kinds of tomatoes and cubed avocado. 
In about twenty minutes everything was ready.  Cynthia put the warm dishes on the stove and we served ourselves buffet style.

Everything was delicious.  I did not use add any salt or pepper to the marinade because I like the elegantly simple flavor of the lamb when it has been marinated and loses some of its pungency and is delicately infused with the olive oil and wine and herbs.  We drank glasses of the PPI Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend and enjoyed sitting in their warm kitchen.
After dinner we ate the caramel pecan cupcakes Suzette made with cream cheese dough.

Bon Appétit 

December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve Open House

December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve Open House

The best thing on the table was the fresh Lebanon Bologna that Suzette’s Mom and Dad sent us from Pennsylvania.   The cutest dish was penguins made by Lisa Battaile LaForest, Michele Varner Johnson’s sister, who is a PHD Geography professor and a penguin lover.  They were constructed with a slice of carrot cut into the shape of feet, a bottom black olive sliced open into which cream cheese was placed to make a white fronted stomach on a black backed body and then another smaller black olive for the head into which a slit was cut and a small triangle of carrot inserted to make a beak.  Then the middle black olive was draped with a thin slice of red bell pepper to give it a Christmas scarf. 

 Here is Suzette's beautiful white poinsettia Christmas tree.
Here is Mike Verhagen lighting our luminarias.

Suzette’s mustard and kale greens sautéed with shallots were excellent, but the two most popular dishes on the table appeared to be Suzette’s roasted Brussels Sprouts with pinon nuts, garnished with threads of Pecorino Romano cheese and Mother’s Van Cliburn shrimp mold, made by Suzette; followed by Michele’s lovely baked five bean medley with white, lima, kidney, fava and another bean cooked in vinegar, mustard and brown sugar.  
There were three very strong dessert selections this year;   Susan Palmer’s Red Velvet cupcakes with a creamy white icing, Suzette’s pecan caramel in cups made with a cream cheese and flour dough and my French baked chocolate pudding with Crème Anglais.

Susan Palmer really did a great job of cooking this year.  I asked her to cook three of my favorites that she prepares so well: Julia Child’s cheesy biscuits, her roasted seasoned pecans that always remind me of fancy parties of my Texas youth and pickled shrimp in an onion, caper, vinegar and sugar marinade.  As I mentioned she also prepared the red velvet cupcakes that melted in your mouth and last but not least, she made my mother’s cranberry and lime salsa, which is a recipe I had lost, but Susan had saved and went so well with the ham.  
I made mulled wine and this year it was great because I used sweet limes from Pro’s Ranch Market ($.99/lb.) along with regular lemons and some orange juice in the five cups of juice added to the negrus along with 6 bottles of Concha y Toro’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot wine ($7.99 for 1.5 liters at Costco).

Suzette and I had a discussion about posole or garlic grits.  I made posole because I think hard core New Mexican's expect it.  But I was wrong and should have simply made garlic grits because it went so well with the other Southern dishes.  The second attempt at cooking the ham worked out well and the caramel and bourbon glaze was delicious.

Mike and Catherine and Devin stayed overnight and Mike brought a bottle of Brunello (Costco $27.99).
We had lots of old friends and their extended families this year, Alan and his girlfriend and sister, Bill and Regina Turner, Rahim Kassam’s family, Robert Schiller, Aaron Lohmann and his friend Andrea who brought some awesome Christmas cookies, Davida and Josefo, Cynthia and Ricardo, Ed and Michele Johnson and their family, Ken Gillen and his wife from the book club, Dale Alverson and Jennifer Bean from the neighborhood and a few others.  Then at 10:30 or 11:00 Willy’s friends showed up, Drew, Eli, another fellow whose name I missed who went to Sandia Prep with Willy and Emily Graf.  They became instant friends with Devin, Catherine’s daughter, a junior at University of Virginia, who joined them for their late night ramble around the neighborhood.

I had ridden my bike to Rio Bravo and after cooking and prepping and serving and talking all day I could hardly stand straight by 11:00, so Suzette and I aborted our usual walk and drove around the neighborhood and Old Town instead and went home to bed.
I loved the evening.  The house with all the lights lit and a fire in the fire-place seemed to exude warmth and friendship among all and Mike helped clean up, as I had asked him to do, so I was spared that function, which made my evening much more enjoyable.

Bon Appétit and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 23 and 24, 2013 Cooking Christmas Eve Dinner

December 23 and 24, 2013 Cooking Christmas Eve Dinner

I had decided to cook a ham for Christmas, especially since it was advertised for $.88/lb. at Lowe’s for a Cook’s pre-cooked shank end ham and $1.08 for a butt end ham. 
This year has been a misadventure with the ham, mainly due to the instructions on the package, which I attempted to follow.   Also, on the first attempt I failed to cover the ham with foil or bake in a covered roasting pan, as recommended.  After two and one-half hours at 350˚ I ended up with a charred piece of meat.  So I returned to Lowe’s and bought two more hams for $15.83 and was sure to cover the ham loosely with aluminum foil.  This time I disregarded the instructions slightly and cooked it for two hours at 325˚.  After two hours when I checked the ham’s internal temperature with a meat thermometer, both hams registered internal temperatures of 300˚.  So I have decided that the instruction to cook the ham for 25 minutes per pound, given on the package must be a ruse to make you buy more hams.

The larger of the two hams weighted nine pounds, so that would have been three hours and 15 minutes and another charred ham.  We usually cook our hams to an internal temp of 175 to 180˚, so I probably overcooked the hams by a half hour.  The good news is that any harmful bacteria are completely destroyed.
I guess I can resolve any guilt from overcooking the ham by the thought that I have cooked a safer ham.

If there is a moral to be learned from this experience, it is to put your faith in your meat thermometer and not to blindly rely upon the printed cooking instructions.
On the morning of the 24th we scored and glazed the hams with a lovely caramel, bourbon and mustard glaze and are cooking the hams a bit to give them a bit more flavor and crispness.

We prepped all the other dishes on Saturday and Sunday, including Suzette’s sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts and I made my chocolate French Baked pudding.  On Saturday Suzette made Mother’s Van Cliburn Shrimp mold, which is still one of my favorites.  Here is the recipe:

Just as Julia Child attempted to adapt French Haut Cuisine to American ingredients, Mother had a real talent for creating very exciting dishes from available ingredients, like canned tomato soup and gelatin with fresh vegetables in a shrimp mold.

There will be lots of cheeses and I bought rolls and baguettes yesterday, so we will open some red wines.

Today I will cut up some apples and pears to go with the cheese.

Susan is making pickled shrimp, cheese biscuits, red velvet cupcakes and Texas seasoned pecans.

I just spoke to Ed and he and Michele are making a sweet and sour bean medley.

I am finally looking forward to a lovely Christmas Eve party.

Bon Appétit


Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 20, 2013 Shopping and cleaning out the refrigerator

December 20, 2013 Shopping and cleaning out the refrigerator

Today we shopped for the Christmas Eve Party.  I went to Pro’s Market and Suzette went to Sprouts.  We still need to shop for more ingredients but we are on the way.

Pro's Ranch Market's food court

Here is the tentative Christmas Eve party menu.
We will additional items such as olives and cut fruit and, since I have decided to make posole, we probably will not cook the garlic grits.

This morning I emptied the freezer in the basement refrigerator and let everything thaw in the kitchen.  We lack cooling in the refrigerator section and a refrigeration client told me that sometimes if the freezer is working, as it is on the fridge, if you let the refrigerator come to room temperature that the ducting for the cool air to refrigerator will unthaw and begin to cool again.  So, that is what we are doing today.
Since one of the thawed items was a 12 inch by 1 inch slab of vegetarian enchiladas made with the PPI roasted vegetables from last year’s party, we ate enchiladas for dinner slathered with sour cream and drank beer with it.   

Bon Appétit

 Christmas Eve will be an open house and any persons who are readers of this blog are welcome to come by to sample the food and beverages.

 Here is the invitation with the address and directions:


Friday, December 20, 2013

December 19, 2013 Lunch – Seafood Noodle soup Dinner – PPI Beef and Barley Soup

December 19, 2013  Lunch – Lan's Vietnamese Restaurant  Dinner – PPI Beef and Barley Soup

I had to go to Santa Fe for a hearing today and we decided to go to Lan's for lunch, which is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the State.  We both ordered My Huang, which is a combination of fresh torn lettuce, mung bean sprouts, and herbs on the bottom, fresh boiled noodles in the middle and several thin slices of chicken breast and a grilled shrimp on the top garnished with toasted sesame seeds.  Lan's is almost indescribably different than other Vietnamese restaurants.   The main difference between this dish and those usually served is the use of fresh made wide rice noodles and use the combining of a bit of peanut with the usual fish sauce sauce.  Wonderful food!
I was going to Book Club tonight so we heated up the PPI Beef and Barley soup and made open faced cheese sandwiches with two kinds of cheese; Swiss Emmentaler and Mexican Oaxacan string cheese on Fano’s French Baguette.

Bon Appétit

December 17, 2013 Lunch - Scallops in Lobster Sauce Dinner - Grilled pork sirloin steaks, Gnocchi with pesto and sugar snap peas

December 17, 2013 Lunch - Scallops in Lobster Sauce   Dinner - Grilled pork sirloin steaks, Gnocchi with pesto and sugar snap peas

I went to East ocean today to have my favorite Chinese lunch dish; Scallops in Lobster Sauce with fried rice and Sweet and Sour Chicken.   I love the dish because I can not figure out how it is made and because it is delicious.  The sauce contains ground pork, chicken broth and egg and scallops.  You mix the mound of fried rice that come on the plate of sauce with the sauce and it makes an thick stew.   Here is picture of the dish after the rice has been stirred into the sauce.   
We went to Costco today because Suzette had to buy food to take to Santa Rosa on Tuesday.
We bought sugar snap peas and a box with three packets of gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings) and a few other things for home.

During the day I had thawed out two pork steaks, so when we got home, we made a quick dinner.  Suzette grilled the pork steaks and we heated water to boil the gnocchi and I de-stemmed and steamed  a cup of sugar snap peas.  I fetched a bottle of Rare Rosé four grape blend from Eagle Rock Vineyards in Lodi, CA ($4.99 at Trader Joe’s) because it had a slightly red wine character.  I do not recommend Rare Rosé.  It does not have any fruit flavor or complexity.  It drinks a bit flat, but with grilled pork, it was adequate because it is lighter than a red and heavier than a white.
While the Gnocchi cooked, Suzette sautéed a diced up Mexican squash, 1/3 onion sliced, and on radish sliced in butter and olive oil in a large skillet.  After the gnocchi was drained we put the drained gnocchi into the skillet and Suzette added 3 Tbsps. of her homemade pesto to the gnocchi and tossed the gnocchi.  When the grilled pork was brought in we were ready to eat.



Bon Appétit

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 15, 2013 New Recipe: Mom's Cranberry Lime Salsa

December 15, 2013 New Recipe:  Mom's Cranberry Lime Salsa

We did a complete repeat PPI Dinner using the stuff we made a few days ago, so you only need to look back a couple of days to see how we prepared everything.

In the absence of any interesting new stuff to report, I have taken the liberty of including an email from Susan Palmer with the recipe for my Mother's Cranberry Lime salsa.  Mom has a knack for creating recipes from easily found prepared foods.  This is a good example.

Here is Susan's email. 

I'm in the middle of making several batches of your mom's cranberry lime salsa. I bring it as a "hostess gift" whenever possible, particularly in the summer when people are grilling.
Florence gave me a copy of the newspaper clipping when she was here. It was the same visit when she showed me her wardrobe for a cruise she planned to take. (my exotic cruises are still limited to the Staten Island Ferry). I know I have this newsprint copy somewhere, but I couldn't find it over the last few days.
I NEVER bring "Florence's salsa" somewhere that I am not asked for the recipe. We go to our friend's latke party in Santa Fe every year; I bring your mom's salsa instead of applesauce. (Latke party was yesterday). I have yet to bring that salsa it to a gathering where I have not been asked for the recipe. I DO give Florence credit -- she passed it on to me.

I'm actually shy. So it is hard for me to say this to your face. Your mom's recipe is a "KILLER."
Please put it on your blog.

Cranberry-Lime Salsa                           Florence Simon

2 cans Ocean Spray WHOLE cranberry sauce
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
zest and juice of 2 limes
diced jalapenos to taste

This is a treat with turkey, ham, and all the seasonal meat dishes. Personally, I like it best in the summer with grilled poultry and fish.

Bob, I bet you have a copy of your mom's column. Please put Florence's recipe on your blog eventually. It is a lot more sophisticated than my mother-in-law's comfort food, but even easier to make.


If you are in a hurry to make a condiment to complement your turkey or ham this Christmas, this recipe might be just the answer.

Bon Appetit

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 14, 2013 Lunch – The Shed Dinner- poached Mahi Mahi, sautéed noodles and steamed Broccoli

December 14, 2013 Lunch – The Shed    Dinner- poached Mahi Mahi, sautéed noodles and steamed Broccoli

After shopping for towels and a few Christmas gifts at J.C. Penny’s home store, at around 9:30 we went to Santa Fe, mainly to attend a Stephen’s Consignment Estate Sale on Abeyta, near the corner of Acequia Madre and Monte Sol in a lovely house in the old East side neighborhood.  The house was stuffed full of antiques, art and books.  Stephen, told us that Mr. Hirsch, who owned the house was a great cook.  There was a prodigious collection of cooking wares, cookbooks, and serving pieces.  We tried to be judicious in our selection of items and Suzette returned several items.  I selected two cookbooks I did not have and have been wanting: Classical Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan and the Gourmet Menu Cookbook for $3.00 each. 
I saw the best and largest (nine inches high) Mary Witkof bowl I have ever seen and bought it for $60.00.  Suzette bought a lovely blanket that looked like a Hudson Bay Co. blanket for Luke’s new room.  We both saw an Italian set of six appetizer plates, a platter, and a serving bowl with hand painted floral designs that we liked.  I bought the bowl for $20.00 and Suzette bought the platter and six plates for $28.00. She also bought a medium sized Calphalon stock pot and tape dispenser.

At around 11:30 we carried our items the two blocks to the car and, after packing them among the towels, decided we were hungry and drove to Owings Gallery and parked and walked to the Shed.  We were seated immediately and I ordered my usual, No. 5 (two baked enchiladas filled with beef with double posole).  Suzette satisfied her annual hunger for Mexican food by ordering Chicken enchiladas with a side of sour cream, which was lucky because the chili was really hot (Robert at Owings Gallery had warned that the chili at the Shed was really hot).  We both ordered Negra Modelo’s and I ordered a Mocha Cake to be thawed out for dessert.  The sour cream and the beer hlped blunt the force of heat in the chili enough to dig our way through our enchiladas with a little help from the chocolate Mocha Cake after lunch.  The Mocha Cake is the Shed’s best dessert, two frozen dark chocolate and mocha mousse layers topped with fresh whipped cream.  It will be served frozen rock hard and be very unappetizing unless you order it when you order your food, in which case it will be thawed out enough to be cool and smoothly delicious.  
We had called T.R. and Linda on our way up to Santa Fe and they were going to be at Terra Nova, a new shop in the rail yard, where she works.  So after stuffing ourselves on Mexican food we drove over to the rail yard area and found the shop at 530 Guadalupe.   The reason we wanted to see them was so we could discuss Marrakesh, where we intend to go in April and where they have a home.  Linda and T.R. were both at the shop and we spent a lovely hour discussing where to go in Morocco and whether their home would be refurbished by April.  They have just returned from Marrakesh but stayed in another house.  Luckily, they are returning to Marrakesh in February and intend to fully refurbish their house by April. T.R. is a trader.  He specializes in Moroccan textiles and olive oil (www.nomadsofsantafe.com).   They also own a house in the jungle just north of Sayulita, Mexico they constructed from an ancient Balinese teak wood house, where we stayed at a year ago (www.retreatsofmexico.com).  So it looks more and more like we will go to Ireland in April and join up with Willy and travel to Morocco for a week and perhaps Southern Spain for a few days.

When we got home, we rested for a while watching a movie and then we began dinner around 7:00.  We decided to poach the fresh Mahi Mahi I had bought at Costco yesterday ($6.99/lb.).  Since we had PPI squash and chard and noodles, Suzette threw those items into a skillet and heated them.  We also de-stemmed the flowerets from a stalk of broccoli and steamed it.  Suzette makes a lovely poaching medium with water, white wine , butter and lemon juice.  I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of the 2009 Antonini Ceresa Grillo di Sicilia Indicarione Geografica Tipica.  It tasted great, like a lighter rueda; flowery but with character.  I bought a case of it from Connie Nellos at Quarters on Yale the other day for $3.99/bottle and am very happy.

I loved peeling the delicate flakes of Mahi Mahi from the filet and eating them with bites of the squash, sweet potato, chard mixed with the noodles and broccoli and delicate poaching broth with sips of wine.

After dinner I made a pot a beef and barley soup in our new pot.  I chopped and sautéed one medium onion, 2/3 cup each of carrots and celery, 1/2 of a red bell pepper and ½ of a PPI sweet potato for about ten minutes in 1 1/2 Tbsp. of butter.  Then Suzette added 8 cups of water and I diced 6 oz. of PPI rib steak and added the last Tbsp. of Pho paste for its brown miso and beef flavoring and 1 cup of hulled barley and a handful of fresh oregano leaves from our indoor plant and some salt and pepper  and simmered the soup for an hour until the barley popped open and the soup thickened.  I added another two cups of water and we put the soup in the garage to cool.  Tomorrow we will see what we produced.  This was my first time to make beef and barley soup.

Friday evening, the 13th we went to Debbie and Jeff's for a pizza and salad dinner party.  We met two lovely couples, Bill and Sissy and Rick and Andy, and Debbie served a lovely dessert of chocolate cake topped with a scoop of vanilla e cream.  We took a bottle of Chianti Superiore that I also bought two cases of from Quarters that I enjoyed very much because it had a light fruity taste.

Bon Appétit

Friday, December 13, 2013

December 12, 2013 New Recipe: A Sunday Chicken Dinner like Granny Simpson used to make: Fried chicken, Mashed potatoes, Cream gravy and steamed Broccoli

December 12, 2013 New Recipe: A Sunday Chicken Dinner like Granny Simpson used to make: Fried chicken, Mashed potatoes, Cream gravy and steamed Broccoli

I went to La Salita on Eubank for lunch for the first time in several months and got my favorite, Chile Relleno stuffed with Swiss cheese on a bed of turkey with double pinto beans and extra garnish and onions with green chili (the lite bite version has only one chile Relleno and is $7.10 plus $.54 for the extra turkey) and is more than enough to eat, especially since you must leave room for one of the best sopapillas in town.
I rode to Rio Bravo and got back and took a shower and met with a client until 6:15.  When I returned to the kitchen I suggested that we fricassee the thawed out chicken thighs.  Suzette agreed and suggested mashed potatoes.  When we went to the fridge to get the chicken we noticed a bag of broccoli, so we had our dinner menu.

Suzette put flour and salt and pepper in a gallon freezer bag and dusted the chicken and then fried the four thawed chicken thighs (Costco) in about 1/3 inch of very hot canola oil to crisp the skin for about twenty minutes and then laid them on a cookie sheet and baked them in the oven for thirty minutes, while I peeled and rough diced four Russet potatoes and boiled them until soft.
I also de-stemmed the broccoli flowerets from a stalk of broccoli and put them in the steamer with enough water to steam them. 

Then Suzette put the potatoes into the Kitchenaid bowl and mixed them with milk and butter to cream them to slightly lumpy, but creamy (I hate flaccid creamed potatoes that have the consistency of thin cream of wheat or taste like they came out of box).
When the chicken was done she added the flour mixture to the hot canola oil and cooked the flour to a golden brown roux.  Then she poured off the canola oil until only the darkened flour and a bit of oil was left.  She then made 2 cups of chicken stock by dissolving Knorr dehydrated chicken stock in hot water and I poured that slowly into the hot flour and grease until it mixed in.  There was too much flour to absorb the chicken stock so we added about 1 cup of milk and then we had to make another cup of chicken stock before the gravy had absorbed enough liquid to turn into a thick, smooth (not lumpy) gravy.

We removed 2/3 of the gravy to a plastic storage container and added more milk to the remaining gravy to thin it out further, because as it cooks gravy will thicken.  Finally, we agreed that the gravy was right (thick enough to sit on the potatoes and chicken without running, but not so thick as to taste doughy).

Then we started the broccoli steaming and in ten minutes dinner was ready.  To finish the dish with a little flair, Suzette plucked and snipped five or six sprigs of chives with a scissors and garnished the potatoes with bits of cut chive.
I poured glasses of the PPI 2008 Marques de Riscal Rueda, because its huge flavor would cut through the grease of the chicken and gravy.  It tasted much better tonight with the fried chicken and heavy gravy than last night, perhaps because it had oxidized slightly, which gave it a lighter, less closed character.

This all reminds me of when I was young, around 6 years old. On holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, when my parents entertained for a large group of people, I would spend the night with my favorite babysitter, Granny Simpson.  She was from Texas pioneer stock and lived in an old wooden double shot gun house with three connected bedrooms on one side and a small parlor, a dining room, bathroom and kitchen on the other side, with doors connecting all the rooms, on an acre or two of land.  The bathroom was off the dining room as I recall.  She had a chicken coup and a bunch of chickens in the back yard and a large garden.  Most of the parties were on a Saturday night and I suspect rather wild with lots of drinking because that was what folks in Texas did in the early 50’s. 
Granny Simpson was a very religious Baptist, the kind who go to prayer meeting on Wednesdays and church on Sunday.  She lived on McCart Street, five or six blocks from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and attended the Gambrell Street Baptist Church located across the street from the Seminary (sort of like living six blocks from the Vatican, if you are a Catholic).   
Sundays were very predictable.  We got dressed up and went to Sunday school at 9:00 and then at 10:30 or 11:00 the church service and then we (my brother Billy and I) and Granny’s son, George and his wife and their kids, George, Jr., Rena and Carol Sue (who was my age) would go to Granny’s house for Sunday dinner.  As I recall Sunday dinner was the same as what we made tonight with the addition of Granny Simpson having to go out to the back yard to catch, wring the necks and pluck the feathers from two chickens and then cutting them into pieces.  Everyone had a task and in about an hour we were sitting at Granny’s Simpson’s table eating our Sunday dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream gravy and a vegetable, just like tonight, except peach cobbler was the usual dessert and we also usually had some creamed corn made at Granny Simpson’s for Sunday .  

These memories are very vivid.  I particularly recall attending Sunday School at Gambrell Street Baptist Church, where I was a curiosity as the only Jew most of the kids attending had ever met.  Perhaps my memories are vivid because I remember the kids saying to me, “You know you are going to go to Hell because you are not baptized.”  I wasn’t quite sure what Hell was at 6 or 8 years old, but my parents had warned me not to get baptized if I was offered the opportunity.  

I loved Granny Simpson very much.  She was a fixture in our family and even went to Ruidoso with our family to take care of us one summer.  I also remember being driven to a hospital and visiting with her because she was sick in a bed and dying of cancer, even though I did not know much about hospitals or cancer or dying at the time.   

I guess the moral to this story is that food, religion and love can impress strong lasting memories on one’s mind.  Of the three, food seems to be the strongest for me. 
As Ed Louden, who started Bacchus Wines and Spirits, often said as we sat across the table at lunch at one of his new favorite restaurants, “Life is too short to eat bad food or drink bad wine”.  That seems to me to be a good axiom for living a happy life, no matter what religion you are.

 Bon Appétit