Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rachel Ray to the Rescue

Earlier this week I was reading The Hungry Dog.  She made a point that after all the Holiday fuss  what she really wants is a simple homemade meal.  I feel the same.  In this crazy week, between Christmas and New Year's Day, when life is moving so fast, I finally found the need for a 30 minute meal.  Not just a burger or a frozen Trader Joe's entree, but a flavorful comforting dish.  This recipe fits the bill. 

I never really enjoyed the whole Rachel Ray experience.  Don't get me wrong, I like Rachel Ray, she's cute, personable and always has a beautiful smile on her face.  But I always thought running around the kitchen grabbing ingredients and throwing a meal together to be akin to having a nightmare.  But the other night it seemed an appropriate moment to try a quick and easy recipe.  I decided to prepare Coq au Vin from the first Rachel Ray cookbook, 30 Minute Meals.  Of course I changed it a bit, but only a bit and the result was wonderful.  However it did take a bit longer than 30 minutes.  If you're really pressed for time, throw the carrot, celery and onion in a food processor. 

I served it over Acme Bread's Herb Slab.  I threw together a salad and the result was a quick and delicious meal.

2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup flour for dredging, on a plate

1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 package mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups good quality red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 bunch fresh thyme

Slices of baguette, buttered and toasted
handful of parsley, chopped

Cut breasts into large chunks and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet,  heat oil until hot. 
Dredge chicken pieces in flour, shake off excess and place in hot oil.
Do not crowd the pan, or the chicken will not brown. 
Saute until brown, and remove. 
Once all the chicken is brown add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and thyme, saute until soft. Add the mushrooms and saute until they release their juice. 
Add the red wine, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan. 
Add the chicken broth and stir in the tomato paste, bring to a boil.  
Add the chicken. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until the broth has thickened. About 10 minutes. 

Serve over croutons, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

All photos are property of The Gypsy Chef

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chocolates and North African Fare in San Francisco

 My last San Francisco layover was a sensuous treat. The town was dressed for Christmas and everywhere we turned was another reminder of the Holiday.

We headed to the The Ferry Building Marketplace, for a chocolate tasting at Recchiuti Confections.

 There were two chocolates that literally took my breath away, the Tarragon and Grapefruit Truffle, and the Cardamom Nougat Truffle. Both were unusual flavors that were surprisingly good. It's fascinating that chocolate can be enhanced by so many different kinds of flavors. 

I dared not buy the assorted box of chocolates, because I knew they would never make it back to the hotel, much less home for Christmas!

We headed over to my favorite bread shop, Acme Bread Company

I love their Herb Slab and Walnut Levain and wanted a few loaves for the Christmas Dinner. I am happy to report that they did make it home! The array of bread they display is truly mind boggling. Every loaf is flavorful, crunchy and chewy. I even recommend the cinnamon swirl roll, which I had for breakfast the next morning.

As we left the Ferry Building we saw one of the vintage street cars still in service in San Francisco. This one had been decorated for Christmas.

We began a long walk across town a wonderful North African Restaurant Cafe Zitouna

We discovered Zitouna last week on a walk around the city, and decided to try it on the next layover.  After photographing chocolates, I was exhausted and left my camera in the hotel room. I realized two bites into the meal that I should have brought it. An iphone would have to do. Surprisingly the photos aren't all that bad!

We thought we would split an appetizer, entree and dessert. Our first course was the Mosaic of North Africa, a combination of Zaalook (eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and parsley sauteed in olive oil), Michwiya (mix of tuna capers, onions and roasted peppers), Taktouka (a blend of bell peppers, tomatoes and garlic), and North African Salad. Unfortunately we were starving so I forgot to take a picture:(
Our entree was the Breast of Chicken Kabob, served with North African Salad and Loubia, white beans cooked with cumin and garlic. The North African salad was sublime. All fresh greens, red onions, olives and goat cheese with a cumin scented vinaigrette.

If that wasn't enough, dessert was to die for! Tunisian Pudding they called it. Sounds simple, but was actually an extraordinary combination of flavors. Layers of Lady Fingers, pistachios, and almonds graced a light custard flavored with geranium essence. I have a scented germanium plant given to me by a friend. I knew it had to be good for something besides it's fragrance. Anyone have a recipe for geranium essence? 
Of course, being tired and hungry I only remembered to photograph the dessert after we had finished it. Guess I will just have to order it again.....

The Moroccan Mint Tea arrived on a charming tray with these lovely glasses. Lightly sweetened it was the perfect end to a really wonderful meal and a even more wonderful day.

I adore this place and can't wait to return for another meal.

All text and photos are property of The Gypsy Chef

Sunday, December 13, 2009

She's In! An NYU Dream Come True!

When there is a Princess in your life, excitement reigns! She moves through the house like a whirl wind, baking, working and studying and texting. Because she likes to have a plan, we began the college journey early in her junior year. First she had her sights set on Villanova. Then nothing but Boston College would do. Finally after a visit to NYU she decided nothing, but nothing would be as good, wonderful, interesting, fabulous or as incredible as New York University. Without this school, her life would come to a crashing halt. There would be no future, no decent law school would accept her and she would live her life in despair wondering what could have been. She applied for early admission and we waited.......holding our breath. One night last week a packet arrived that created chaos in our house. 

No one got to sleep before 1 AM, the phone rang off the hook. Luckily the camera was on the table and I snapped a few pics of her Dance of Joy!

As she called her friends, their parents called us and finally I turned off my cell phone in hopes we could all settle down to a night's sleep.
A family celebration was in order. We decorated the dining room with purple streamers, napkins and a a lovely bunch of purple tulips. (Once in a Blue Moon would have been proud of me!) It's not easy finding purple napkins and decorations during the Christmas Season! Our center piece was the Statue of Liberty, representing New York.

Her father made a huge sign and hung it on the front door, just in case someone in town missed the big news!  

I cooked all her favorite foods, and we celebrated our Princess's achievement.
We started with a salad of baby arugula, romaine, oven roasted tomatoes and mozzarella cheese with a vinaigrette of her favorite Balsamic Vinegar.  
Marcella Hazan's Bolognese Sauce topped rigatoni ( Hungry Dog, one of my favorite Blogs has already posted this recipe, so here's a link to her site) and Uju's Chocolate Mousse was the finish. 

It was a wonderful evening, one I don't think my Princess will forget. Now if only I had Kate from Serendipity here to take photos with her new camera!

All pictures and Text are property of The Gypsy Chef

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A French Meal in New Jersey

Last Saturday my son Emmett and I drove to the wilds of New Jersey to prepare dinner with our friends, Ujwala, Pascal and their son Nevenn.
We all had a specific task, Pascal would prepare the Duck breast, Uju the Coulis de Poireaux and the Fig Chutney, I was in charge of the Galettes de Pommes, Garlic butter and Chocolate Cakes.
Holly and her husband Lou arrived with a case of wine, I kid you not! They were the immediate heroes.
I had a stack of potatoes to slice and when I realized I had left my mandolin at home, Holly rose to the occasion and drove home to pick up her mandoline. Yes, Holly saved the day (for me), others would think the case of wine did the trick.
Natasha, Uju's sister and my neighbor and her husband Chris drove down with their children and we proceeded to have a terrific time. Natasha appointed herself as the chief of the clean up crew and we were in business.
The evening went off without a hitch, except for the oven fire, of course. But no one is really claiming responsibility for that. The house didn't burn down, the food was wonderful, the company superb.

Le Menu

Toast de Foie Gras au Chutney de Figues
Courton with Foie Gras and Fig Chutney

Escargots de Bourgogne

Snails in Garlic Butter

Salade de Gesiers de Canard
Sauteed Duck Gizzards on a Bed of Butter Lettuce

Magret avec Coulis de Poireaux
Duck Breast with leek Sauce

Galette de Pommes de Terre aux Champignons Sauvages
Potato Galette with Wild Mushrooms

Chocolate Molten Cakes with White Chocolate Centers

Mousse au Chocolat
The escargot started out like this.....

but ended like this. We made the traditional garlic butter but decided to tuck them into pastry shells. We then moved onto the Foie Gras. Brought from Paris, Lou and Holly had purchased it at Chez Papa, one of our favorite restaurants.Pascal had the heck of a time opening the jar.
Once opened, Ujwala placed slices ontop of her Fig Chutney and toast's.
On my last French Food, Wine and Culture Holiday, I had purchased a bottle of Troussant Doux from Saint Pourçain, owned by the Laurent Family. This sweet late harvest wine was a perfect match for our appetizer.
The duck breasts roasted under the grill while the Galette de Pommes de Terre aux Champignons Sauvages finished cooking in the oven.
The Coulis de Poireaux simmered on the stove waiting to become a bed for the duck.
The Galette before being turned out onto the plate. Basically a Pommes Anna with a layer of wild mushrooms in the center. How could you go wrong?
Turned out onto a plate the Galette was delicious.
Lou kept pulling out bottles from his case of wine. We enjoyed this Medoc with the Magret avec Coulis de Poireaux . Due to the amount of wine consumed I didn't get a picture of the Salade de Gesiers de Canard. Basically duck's gizzard's saute in their own duck fat. They were delicious atop a simple salad of greens and vinaigrette. For some unknown reason my son thought they were cock's combs.
Our planned dessert was Chocolate Molten Cakes with White Chocolate Centers,
however Emmett loves Uju's Mousse au Chocolate! No visit is complete without a bowl. She whipped some up especially for him. He usually brings a bowl with him for the ride home. This time his sister beat him to it and finished the mousse before he had a chance to get to it.Nevenn and Emmett decided to have mousse for breakfast. Goofy as they are, they made it look so good.Croutons de Foie Gras au Chutney de Figues

32 croutons, cut from a baguette and lightly toasted
1 small bloc of foie gras
1/2 cup fig chutney or fig jam

Place a spoonful of fig chutney on the crouton, top with a slice of foie gras.

Fig Chutney

2 shallots minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
10 ounces fresh figs, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch cinnamon
Freshly ground white peppercorns

In a medium size saucepan combine all the ingredients and cook 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once thickened, remove from the pot into a glass bowl and allow to cool.

Magret avec Coulis de Poireaux

My friend Uju is an amazing cook, this is her recipe for Leek Sauce.

Chop leeks fine, rinse well and just leave in a colander to drain.
Warm butter+oil, add leeks saute till transparent and water evaporates. Add enough white wine to simmer leeks, add salt, pepper and when the wine has semi evaporated, add a couple of tbsps of creme fraiche. Voila!

Potato Galette with Wild Mushrooms

adapted from Anne Willan's La France Gastronomique

6 ounces wild mushrooms cleaned and cut into large pieces
1/3 cup goose fat or olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic minced
Handful chopped parsley
1 pound russet potatoes, cleaned and peeled.

Large oven safe saute pan

Heat 2 tablespoons goose fat in the saute pan and add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Saute quickly, tossing the mushrooms occasionally until the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender. Stir in the garlic, shallots and parsley. Cook another minute and taste for seasoning.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the potatoes thinly. It's easier on a mandoline. If you don't have one, use a very sharp knife. You want them very thin, about 1/8 inch.
Heat 2 tablespoons fat in a saute pan for 1 minute. Arrange 1/2 the potato slices in the pan in an overlapping circle. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the potatoes with the mushrooms and cover the mushrooms with the remaining potatoes.
Spoon the remaining fat over the potatoes. Cover with foil and place a weight on top. We used another saute pan.
Cook on top of the stove until the galette browns, about 5-8 minutes. Turn it by placing a plate on top and turning it onto the plate. Slide it back into the pan, return the foil and weight and brown the bottom, about 5 more minutes. Place in the oven and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove the foil and weight, turn out onto a cutting board and slice into wedges to be served promptly.

Makes 4 servings

Mousse au Chocolat

8 ounces semi-sweet good quality chocolate
6 large eggs
Pinch of sea salt

Melt chocolate in the micro wave, stirring every 20 seconds. When it's 75% melted remove it from the oven and stir until smooth. Set aside.
Separate the yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks until blended.
Add the salt to whites and beat them until stiff peaks form.
Gradually pour the melted chocolate into the yolks beating vigorously.
Using a whisk gently stir in 1 / 3 of the stiff egg whites to lighten the mixture.
Using a spatula, fold in the rest of the whites, until no trace of white remains. Be careful not to break them down. The airiness of the whites makes the mousse light.
Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.
serve with freshly whipped cream.

Makes 6 servings

All text and photos are property of The Gypsy Chef.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

An Award, Gulp.

I originally started my blog to support my Interactive Dinner Party business. Basically I appear at the hostess's house with recipe booklets for each guest, food and assorted kitchen flotsam. I divide all the guests into teams and each prepares a different course. While they drink wine and cook I watch over everyone like a mother hen. I demo knife skills, roll out pastry, or just tell stories about cooking adventures. At the end we all sit down, eat, drink more wine and talk until the wee hours. 

Inevitably someone would decide to recreate a dish from the menu, having misplaced the recipe they would ask me for a copy. After e-mailing countless  recipes a friend suggested I put them all on a website. What started out as Pamela Dockery Food ended up as The Gypsy Chef and I am happier than I've ever been sharing cooking ideas, disasters, and adventures. 

Blogging has introduced me to many new skills. Writing, photography and cooking are all now interactive activities in my life. I drive my kids and friends crazy snapping pics of them eating, talking and cooking. I record our lives so that we are able to revisit events. My daughter's A 17 Layer Cake Fit for a Princess  is still my favorite blog. And the pic of her behind the cake can still make me tear up.

I have others I haven't even published yet, as I am sure you do also. But rest assured they will appear all in good time. 

I have favorite blogs I follow, looking though a window into the author's lives. I have visited some of the most beautiful places, eaten the most delicious food and met so many interesting people and all on your blogs. My life has been enriched by my experiences of the past year and a half.
That said, one of my favorite blogs nominated me for the Honest Scrap Award. Thank you Kate at Serendipity!

 There are rules to receiving this award;
  1. Post the award on your blog. Present this award to seven others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
  2. Tell those seven people they’ve been awarded HONEST SCRAP, inform them of these guidelines, and ask that they link back to you.
  3. Share “Ten Honest Things” about yourself.
First of all I will award this Honest Scrap Badge to these fabulous blogs:

Estelle in New York City

The Healthy Plate

Once in a Blue Moon
La Table de Nana

Now for 10 things about myself;
1. I am always busy. I take on more than I can possibly do, then I scurry around until I complete it.
2. I love being a flight attendant, because I enjoy being on the go and have unabated wander lust. So no matter how bad the job becomes, I will continue to fly. Period the end.

3. I adore a french pedicure, but am too lazy to do it myself. So I indulge at the nail salon    every chance I get.
4. I study French rabidly than I get side tracked and have to begin again. This is a repeated behavior for me.
5. I have a MacBook, It's one of the best investments I ever made. 
6. I am back in school finishing my BA.
7. I attended the Culinary Institute of America when there were only 4-6 women in every class of 60 men.

8. Every Christmas I make a gingerbread house with my kids. We've made castles, thatched roof cottages, half timbered houses and a haunted house. 
9. I'm an avid knitter.

10. Last but not least, I have about over 200 cookbooks. I guess you could say I've never met a cookbook I didn't need!
I am the luckiest woman in the world.

So tag, your it!

All text and pictures are sole property of The Gypsy Chef

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Old Timer's Steak and Guiness Pie

I published this blog last year on another blog site. Yesterday my son came home asking for Steak and Guinness Pie for dinner. It was a cold day and seemed perfect for this warming meal of beef and pastry.  I re-made it, left out the Stilton, stirred all the cheddar cheese into the stew,  used self rising flour (I was out of all purpose flour) and baked it in the Cream Soup bowls I had bought in Paris. I think it's even better now. I've updated the recipe and hope you'll try it and let me know what you think. It makes 5 soup bowls or the original 1 pie dish and 3 ramekins.

Mel and Vic live in the center of Exeter, near a lovely traditional pub called Old Timer's.
Located on Little Castle Street in the center of Exeter, Devon it is a charming place filled with English memorabilia and mismatched tables and chairs. The staff is attentive and welcoming. The night we were there Steak and Guinness Pie was a featured item on the menu. I decided to give it a go and and like the locals placed my order for the favored dish.
The "Steak and Guinness Pie" arrived hot, and bubbling. The sauce was dripping down the sides of the dish. A salad of baby greens, carrot tops and herbs graced the plate. It was stocked with mushrooms, onions, carrots and celery. Dark, rich and flavorful it hinted of rosemary, thyme and bay. A thick pastry covered the pie. Made with suet, it was flaky and firm. The aroma made my mouth water. The flavor was unforgettable.
I came home determined to make an authentic meat pie. I started with my favorite beef stew recipe, and substituted Guinness Stout for the red wine. I diced two red onions, one carrot and one stalk of celery. I added stems of rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf. I then thickened it with a bit of flour, and doused it with Stout. After baking for about 1 1/2 hours I folded in the cheddar, topped it with pastry, and returned it to the oven. Served piping hot and aromatic it was delicious!

The pastry was a simple affair made with butter, as my kids flat out refused to eat suet! I put it together quickly, let it to rest in the fridge whilst the stew was cooking. Brushed with egg yolk it looked very English Country Manor House.
Steak and Guinness Pie

2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large red onions, finely diced
2 carrots peeled and finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 -8 ounce package baby bella mushrooms, wiped cleaned and sliced
2 1/2 pounds beef brisket
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 - 12 ounce bottle Guinness Stout
6 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the brisket or stew meat into ½ inch dice. Smaller cuts enable the pie to cook faster but also allow the pie to hold together should you decide to cut it into wedges. To cut the meat easily, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Using a large dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook until soft, about 7-10 minutes. Add the celery and carrots, herb sprigs and mushrooms and cook, stirring often until the mushrooms and browned and dry.

Season the meat with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir the meat and flour into the pan and cook over high heat for about 3 minutes. Add enough Stout to cover the meat. Give it a good stir, bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the stew from the oven and taste. If the sauce has thickened and the meat is tender, stir in the cheddar cheese.
Turn it out into a prepared pie pan. Sprinkle the other half of the cheddar on top.
You could also fill individual ramekins.
Cover with pastry and bake at 375 degrees, for 35-45 minutes until the pastry is puffy and golden.


1 1/2 cups self rising flour ( if you use all purpose flour, add 1 teaspoon baking powder)

3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
small bowl of ice water
1 egg, lightly beaten with a few drops of water

Whisk together the flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly work in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until the butter morsels are the size of peas.
Slowly add ice cold water one tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a floured marble slab and form into a ball, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest in the refrigerator while the stew cooks, about 1 hour.

Remove from wrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out until large enough to cover the pie dish.
Cover and crimp sides with a fork.

Slit the pastry with a knife and brush with the beaten egg. Place on a sheet pan to bake.Bake at 375 degrees, for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is golden. Serve immediately.
All text and pictures are property of the Gypsy Chef.