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Beef Wellington

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Beef Wellington

My ten year old loves to cook and she helps me prepare dinner several times a week.  Earlier in the week she asked if she could cook dinner Saturday night.  She informed me that she wanted to cook the entire meal herself and just have me offer guidance.  The dish she chose was Beef Wellington! Quite advanced for a ten year old…but I was happy she was aiming high.

On Saturday morning I set out to the store to get the ingredients and gave her the recipe to study.  Working in the steps outlined, with nothing but supervision from me, she made an absolutely delicious, elegant dinner that made me tremendously proud.

Many of the recipes you see for Beef Wellington call for prosciutto.  But we did it the old fashioned way with duck liver pate and it was superb.  If you prefer to use prosciutto, by all means you can substitute that for the liver.

Beef Wellington

Serves 6

For the Duxelles

  • 2 pints white button mushrooms
  • 1 shallot peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 thyme springs, leaves only
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Beef

  • 1 three pound tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces duck liver pate
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon flour

To make the Duxelles, add the mushrooms, shallots garlic and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and sauté over medium heat.  Add the mushroom mixture and sauté for 10 minutes until the liquid has evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper as it cooks, and then set aside in a bowl to cool.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This can be done several hours ahead of time.

Drizzle the beef with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sear the meat on both sides.  About three minutes per side. Be sure to keep the string on so that the meat stays together while being seared.

Turn the heat off, remove the string and brush the meat immediately with the Dijon Mustard on both sides.

Place the meat on a plate and allow to cool for 20 minutes.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface (a little over a foot).

Place the meat in the center of the plastic wrap.

Spread the pate all over the top of the meat and then using a spatula spread the duxelle mixture on top of the pate in a thin layer.

Roll the meat up tightly in the plastic wrap and be sure to seal up the ends.

Place the meat in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  The meat can be done up to this point up to 3 hours in advance and kept cold in the refrigerator.

Spread one tablespoon of flour on your work surface.

Roll the puff pastry out to ¼ inch thickness.

Remove beef from the plastic wrap carefully and set it in the center of the pastry.

Fold the pastry over the beef, and brush with egg wash to seal.

Brush the ends with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the sides of the beef.

Place the beef seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush the entire pastry with egg wash and make four slits in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape and to aid you in cutting the portions.

Sprinkle the top of the pastry with a little salt and pepper.

Bake for 35-45 minutes in a 400 degree oven until the pastry is golden and the beef registers 125 degrees.  Remove from the oven and let the wellington rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Cut into slices where the slits indicate and garnish with thyme sprigs and serve with the sauce below if desired.

Dijon Cream Sauce (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, split in half
  • 2 sprig thyme, leaves only
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Place the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Add the shallot and garlic and thyme and cook until the onion and garlic soften and become translucent.

Add the beef stock, heavy cream and mustard, salt and pepper and whisk until combined.

Let the mixture simmer for 7 or 8 minutes, whisking frequently.

Serve the sauce alongside the beef wellington, or drizzle some on top of each piece.

Antipasto Platter

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Antipasto
Halloween is tonight, and I have a crowd coming over.  After all the children have gone trick-or-treating we will have a casual dinner together.  This mini version of an Antipasto Platter is a perfect hors d’oeuvre to put out for guests so they have something to wet their appetite.  And the marinated olives…those are what makes this simple plate so special!

Antipasto

  • 10 slices imported prosciutto
  • Imported provolone cheese cut into 10 wedges
  • Boston lettuce
  • 1 pound fresh Italian olives
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

To Prepare Marinated Olives

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and garlic until the garlic turns golden.

Turn the heat off, and lay the thyme and rosemary in the pan and let the herbs infuse the oil for 30 minutes.

Place the olives in a bowl, and pour the olive oil over the olives.

Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  The olives will keep for up to one week.

To Assemble the Antipasto

Line a platter with the lettuce leaves, so that the ruffled edges of the lettuce are facing out.

Roll each individual slice of prosciutto and place them around the plate, so they are resting on the lettuce.

Tuck the cheese wedges in between the prosciutto slices.

Place the marinated olives in the center of the plate.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This dish can be assembled (with the exception of placing the olives on the platter) six hours in advance.  Cover the antipasto and keep it chilled in the refrigerator.  When you are ready to serve, place on the olives and the platter and bring to the table immediately.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing: Chianti, Montepulciano or Valpolicella

Chicken and White Bean Chili

Chicken and White Bean Chili

  • 3 Pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 3 Cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Green bell pepper (cored, seeded and diced)
  • 1 Yellow bell pepper (cored, seeded and diced)
  • 1 Can cannellini beans
  • 1 14.5-Ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5-Ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies

For the Chili Sauce

  • 2 Dried Chiles
  • 1 Dried Habanero Peppers
  • 2 Cups hot water
  • 2 Teaspoons oregano
  • 2 Teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 Teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 Teaspoons garlic salt

For the Slurry

  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • ¼ cup water

Begin by soaking the dried chiles and habenero pepper in two cups of hot water for one hour.  When the peppers have become soft, place the water and peppers in a blender and puree.  Put the mixture through a strainer to eliminate any of the bits of skins and seeds from the peppers, and then add the oregano, cumin, coriander and garlic salt.

Brown chicken in the olive oil until caramelized.  Add the peppers, onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables have become translucent.

Add the tomatoes, beans and chili sauce and bring up to a simmer.

While the chili simmers, whisk together the cornstarch and water.  Turn the heat up on the chili and add in the cornstarch slurry, stirring briskly until the chili thickens slightly.

Turn the heat back to a simmer and continue to cook the chili for 30 minutes.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This is a great make-ahead dish, and can be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

I use Melissa’s dried chili peppers and dried habenero peppers, which can be found in the produce section of most supermarkets.  If you don’t want to make your own chili sauce, substitute 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder (the oregano, cumin and coriander measurements would stay the same).

If you like your chili extra spicy, you can add red pepper flakes at the end of the cooking process. 

If you like your chili less spicy, eliminate the habenero pepper.

Serve with any of the following toppings:

  • Fresh Chopped Cilantro
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Scallions
  • Onions
  • Chopped Egg

The Elegant Occasion Wine PairingCotes du Rhone, Malbec, Rioja or Beer

Lentil Soup

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Lentil Soup

My mother believed that every New Year’s eve at the stroke of midnight everyone in our house had to have a spoon full of Lentil Soup.  According to some weird Italian superstition, the Lentils would bring you good luck in the New Year to come. For my entire childhood and up until I left my parents home and had a place of my own, we continued that tradition. Maybe that has something to do with why I love a steaming bowl of Lentil Soup (although I stopped the whole New Year’s Eve thing long ago).  In fact, it is one of the first dishes I ever made for my husband when we were dating. The old saying is true: The way to a mans heart….

Want to make this soup a bit heartier?  Cook up some ditalini pasta and pour the soup over it in the bowl.  Sprinkle on little parmesan cheese, and you have a delicious meal!

Lentil Soup

  • 1 Package dried lentils
  • ½ Package split peas
  • 8 Cups water
  • 1 Teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 Ham bone
  • 1 Small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 Carrots, chopped fine
  • 1 Celery stalk, chopped fine
  • 3 Cloves of garlic, each split in half
  • 2 Teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 Small can tomato sauce
  • 2 Teaspoons salt

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the ham bone and sauté for a few minutes, until the oil becomes fragrant.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  I freeze a ham bone after I have made a baked ham, and then when I am ready to make Lentil Soup, I have what I need.  If you do not have a ham bone, you can use a bone-in-ham steak.  Place the ham steak in the pan and sauté.  When the soup is completely done, remove the ham steak and discard)

Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until just softened.

Add in the tomato paste and stir so that it starts to coat the vegetables.

Pour in the water, lentils, split peas, tomato sauce and salt and give the entire pot a good stir.

Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. When it has come up to a boil, stir again.

Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Let the soup cook for 2 hours (stirring every 20 minutes)

When the soup has cooked for two hours, remove the lid and raise the heat to bring the soup back to a rapid simmer.  Let the soup cook for another 20 minutes and thicken up.

Remove the ham bone.

Taste for seasoning.

The Elegant Occasion Note: Store the soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or freeze the soup for up to two months.

Salted Herb Rolls

salted herb roll

Salted Herb Rolls

In a carb-conscious world, I have a family that cannot get enough of them and bread tops the list!  Every night we consume crusty French baguette, exquisite loaves of Italian bread (our favorite market gets it in fresh every morning from New York) or countless biscuits (all of course are slathered with butter).  I ran across a recipe in Bon Appétit for dill and onion rolls that sounded interesting. I played around with the recipe, changed the herbs, omitted the onion and they became Salted Herb Rolls. They are terrific and my family loved them!

If making your own bread intimidates you, I am here to tell you that it should not. I make breads, babkas, cinnamon rolls etc. and the key is in diluting the yeast properly.  Working with yeast is quite simple, as long as you heat your milk to the right temperature and know that when most recipes you see in books or magazines refer to the yeast “foaming”it is somewhat of an exaggeration.  The yeast will begin to “bubble” in places, and that is how you know the yeast is fresh and doing its job. I remember the first time I ever worked with yeast years ago, and the recipe said the yeast would foamI waited and waited and I never saw any frothy foam so I threw it out and started again….about six times.  I finally took a chance that the tiny bubbles that formed in the milk were what they meant, and violaI got it!

These rolls are a great addition to your fall and winter meals.  Feel free to change the herbs to suit your taste.

Salted Herb Rolls

Makes 12 rolls

  • ½ Cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Package active dry yeast
  • ½ Cup buttermilk
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped fine
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • 2 Teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 ½ Cups flour
  • 1 Stick butter, divided in half and melted

Heat the milk until warm (an instant read thermometer should register 120-130).

Add the sugar and yeast and whisk to combine.

Add the buttermilk, whisk again and then let the mixture sit for about 8 minutes.

You will see little bubble form in the milk mixturethat is the sign that the yeast is activating.

Add the thyme, rosemary, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the flour and 2 teaspoons of the melted butter into the bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands.

The dough will be extremely wet and tacky.

Turn the dough into the bowl of an electric mixer, and using the bread hook attachment, let the machine knead the dough for 5 minutes.  The dough will become elastic.

Using two more teaspoons of the melted butter, grease a glass bowl and place the kneaded dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, dry place for 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes, punch the dough down and let it double in size again by resting for another hour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently pat it down and spread it out (do not put a lot of pressure on the dough)

Using a sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 pieces.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread 2 more teaspoons of the melted butter onto the parchment.

Gently shape each piece of dough into a ball and then space them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Brush each roll with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle the remaining on teaspoon of salt over the top of each.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise for another hour.

Bake the rolls at 375 for 25-30 minutes (until they are a deep golden color and have doubled in size.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately with plenty of butter.