Monday, June 21, 2010

Beef Wellington and ::Sayonara::

Two nights ago, I wanted to make a special dinner at home since it was the last I would share with my husband until September. As a Marine, his training takes him (well, us, really) all over the place. This time, he's in a desert on the other side of the country. When I think about him eating out there, I just imagine sand in everything, the way it was when I was a kid on vacation in the Outer Banks.

I decided to try my hand at Beef Wellington, something I've only had once at my momma's house. I turned to one of my new cookbooks (purchased from McKay's a couple weeks ago). The book is Appetizers, Finger Food, Buffets & Parties by Bridget Jones (no joke).

There's more this cookbook than its title offers up, including "Festive Main Courses," "Brunches, Lunches and Fork Suppers," and "Eating Outdoors." I look forward to trying out a little of every section. Now, before I get into all the nitty-gritty, I have to note a few things. 1) I asked for the specific cut of meat from the butcher at the local grocery store. Being in a hurry, I didn't check the packaging and, upon returning home, realized that it was 1 lb instead of 3.25 lbs. (Not sure what happened ...). So! I have two, half-pound cuts in the photos. 2) I didn't chop the mushrooms. Oops. I was distracted working on my growing herb garden (photos to come soon) and just totally looked over it. I will definitely chop them next time. 3) I didn't put tin foil over it. Since we had less than half the called-for beef, I should have covered around the 15-minute mark. I had set the oven timer for 30 minutes as the directions called for. Thankfully, the pastry was only dark gold, not too crispy, so the taste was definitely still there (without any burnt-flavoring). And 4) I didn't make any pastry leaves. Time was of the essence.

  • 3 1/4 lb fillet (tenderloin) of beef
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil (we substituted with olive oil)
  • 1 1/2 C chopped mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 oz. smooth liver pate
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (we substituted with parsley flakes)
  • 14 oz. puff pastry
  • beaten egg, to glaze
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • fresh flat leaf parsley, to garnish
  • kitchen twine
  1. Tie the fillet of beef at regular intervals with string so that it stays in a neat shape during cooking.

  2. Heat 2 tbsp of the sunflower oil in a large frying pan, and cook the beef over a high heat for about 10 minutes, until brown on all sides. Transfer to a roasting pan, bake for 20 minutes. Leave to cool.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms and garlic for about 5 minutes. Beat the mushroom mixture into the pate with the parsley, season well. Set aside to cool.

    (Don't you just love the label on this? The font, the flourish - so fun!)

  4. Roll out the pastry in a sheet large enough to enclose the beef, plus a strip to spare. Trim off the spare pastry, trim the other edges to neaten. Spread the pate mix down the middle of the pastry. Untie the beef and lay it on the pate.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425. Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg and fold it over the meat to enclose it in a neat parcel. Place the parcel on a baking sheet with the join in the pastry underneath. Cut leaf shapes from the reserved pastry. Brush the parcel with egg, garnish with pastry leaves. Chill for 10 minutes.
  6. Bake the Beef Wellington for 50-60 minutes, covering it loosely with foil after about 30 minutes to prevent the pastry from burning.

  7. Serve cut into thick slices garnished with parsley. 

And so, my love, I will dream of you and me, the sun and sea, until we meet again...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coffee Table Book: F. Scott Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise"

Growing up, I was required to read Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for school. I was already fond of reading so it wasn't the general requirement that concerned me, but more the genre. By that point in my life (my early tweens), I hadn't read anything from the 1920s WWI era or, more specifically, anything that was more philosophical than, say, The Diary of Anne Frank and Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. I enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby, but in re-reading it as an adult, realized that I miss a lot of the introspection of the author through the characters.

Reading This Side of Paradise carried a lot of the same sentiments for me. I appreciate the character development throughout the book, but most of the time the philosophical blabbing really detract. I don't need a novel loaded with action sequences, love affairs, addictions, war, etc. BUT! I do need a strong enough plot to keep my interest as well as a healthy balance of plot and philosophy.

This book was mildly entertaining at its best. As the book continues, I found it more of a challenge to keep coming back to it. At the very end, it was really just a test to see if I would force myself to finish it (not just to say I had, but to see if it redeemed itself, if even at the very very end).

The most provoking thing I can say (at this pre-coffee moment in time) is that the book did make me think more about men's names. The main character is a young man named Amory. I love that name for a man and have never met one. The tail-end of the Victorian Era was a time for fantastically unique names, especially men's in my opinion. Other men's names in This Side of Paradise are Alec, Burne, and Kerry. Other popular names during that time were: Harland (love the sound of it as a slightly Southern "Hah-lon"), Garrett, Wyatt, and Alistair.

Conclusion: Amory's quest for knowledge, comfort in society, and finally, self-awareness is Fitzgerald's first (and long-winded) attempt at addressing failure (in love and in life) and the overall effect of power in many forms. I'm excited for a change of pace...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sage, Thyme, and Lemon Turkey Cutlets with a Quick Pan Sauce & Balsamic-Glazed Onions and Green Beans

(I apologize for the delay in getting a post up this weekend. The power went out on the mountain and, well, the "watch embarrassing or heart-breakingly sweet childhood home footage of your husband" night turned into a lovely chitchat over candlelight and wine kinda night.)

This must be the week for uncommon (by our standards) meats at the cafĂ©. I prepared pork chops for the first time the other night and a couple nights ago was my second time preparing turkey cutlets. Of course, if you’re not a turkey cutlet kinda guy/gal, you can certainly substitute chicken. Maybe even tofu? (Try that at your own risk.) The turkey flattens out a lot more than chicken, looking like a grilled paillard. The onion and green bean recipe at the end of this post was the perfect accompaniment to the dish. The balsamic glaze balanced really well with the creamy pan sauce. 

This dish is fast and easy enough to prepare for weeknights and delicious enough for Friday nights. You know it’s good when you’re evening episode of “Cash Cab” is on and, instead of trying to keep as quiet as possible so all parties can hear and jump to answer the questions, you both keep interjecting with, “Wow!” “Yum!”

Ingredients for the Turkey:
·         6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
·         Leaves from 6 fresh thyme sprigs, coarsely chopped
·         Juice of 2 lemons
·         Salt and black pepper
·         1 1/3 lbs turkey breast cutlets
·         2 tbsp EVOO
·         ½ C dry white wine or dry vermouth
·         1 C chicken stock
·         ¼ C heavy cream or half-and-half
·         ¼ C fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, a generous handful, chopped

1.       In a shallow bowl, combine the sage, thyme, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey cutlets and let them marinate for 10 minutes.

2.       Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the EVOO, 2 times around the pan. Remove the turkey cutlets from the marinade, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, and add the cutlets to the hot skillet in a single layer, working in 2 batches if necessary. Saute the cutlets for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, transfer them to a warm plate, and cover them loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.

3.       Return the skillet to the heat, add the wine, and stir, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken stock and cream, turn the heat up to high, and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in the parsley and pour the sauce over the turkey cutlets.

Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions and Green Beans
Ingredients for the Beans:
·         Salt and black pepper
·         1 to 1 ¼ lbs trimmed green beans (many markets sell 1-lb packages of trimmed raw beans in the fresh produce department)
·         3 tbsp EVOO
·         ½ lb frozen pearl onions, defrosted and dried in a dish towel (*Note: I used fresh pearl onions and imagine they taste better than the alternative.)
·         3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
·         ½ C chicken stock
·         2 tbsp butter

1.       Heat 2” of water in a skillet with the lid on. Once it comes to a boil, add some salt and the beans and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes with the lid off.
2.       Drain the beans and set aside.
3.       Put the skillet back on the stove over medium-high heat and add the EVOO.
4.       Once hot, add the pearl onions and cook them for about 5 minutes, or until they start to take on a little color.
5.       Stir in the balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, and a little salt and pepper; turn the heat up to high and cook until the liquids have reduced by half.
6.       Return the beans to the pan, toss them around a bit, then add the butter and turn off the heat. Stir until the butter melts. Serve.

Et voila!

Shared here:
Tuesday Night Supper Club

Friday, June 11, 2010

Taking the Cafe on the Road

Just a quick note to say that the cafe is packing up shop and heading down to the mountains of Tennessee for the weekend! Hopefully, I can get some cooking time in with momma-in-law, maybe even with grandmomma-in-law? How many family cooks can we fit in the kitchen? :) You can expect a post tonight ... eight hours in the car ought to give me enough time to write up the fantastic turkey dish we had last night!

Au revoir!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grilled Pork Chops with Coffee Barbecue Sauce and Garlic-Roasted Yuca

When it comes to the kitchen, there are only a handful of things that can really push me over the edge. My biggest beef (no pun intended) is having to throw any unused food in the trash. I can't stand the action or the sight of it in my trash can. This is one of the reasons I try to stick to my weekly menus that I create. Thankfully, I was allowed to make this over a few days and use the ingredients I had on hand.

When you're short on time, or just not in the mood to spend much more time in the kitchen, this is a good recipe that you can prepare over a couple days. One night, make and refrigerate your sauce (it's good for up to 2 weeks in the fridge). The next night, brine the pork chops. A day later? Throw everything together!

(I do want to note two things off the bat. 1) This recipe comes from Nightly Specials: 125 Recipes for Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home. 2) The yuca was a little dry. [Dear husband referred to it as a heap of bacon bits.] While awfully taste, make sure you pay attention to the consistency of it before and after you put it in the oven. Given a second chance, I might add a little more olive oil to keep it from drying up.)

Ingredients for the Pork Chops:
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs pork chops, preferably center cut, 1/2" thick
  • Coffee Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
  1. Pour 1 quart (4C) water into a deep container. Add 1/4 C salt and stir until it's dissolved.
  2. Submerge the pork chops in the solution completely and weight them down with a plate if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 12 and no more than 24 hours.
  3. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Prepare an outdoor grill or preheat a grill pan over high heat on the stovetop.
  5. Season the chops with salt and pepper and put them on the grill over direct heat. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, or less if the chops are thinly cut.
  6. After turning the chops, baste them with the barbecue sauce, letting the sauce caramelize onto the pork.
  7. Serve from a platter with extra barbecue sauce alongside.

Ingredients for the Yuca:
  • 2 lbs yuca
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 lb bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 C dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 C chopped almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel off the brown skin. Cut the yuca into 3" pieces, then those pieces into halves. Set aside in a bowl of cold water.
  3. Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with enough water to cover the yuca. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt to the water, add the yuca to the pot, and return the water to a boil. Lower the heat and let the yuca simmer until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain the yuca and let rest until cool enough to handle. Use a sharp knife to remove any thick fibers from the center of the yuca.
  4. Put the yuca in a vegetable roasting dish and sprinkle evenly with the cumin and 1 tsp black pepper.
  5. Meanwhile, saute the bacon in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat until the fat has been rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, leaving the fat in the pan.
  6. Add the oil to the bacon fat and warm slowly. Add the garlic and toast it to a pale golden brown, about 2 minutes. Pour the garlic and oil over the yuca in the roasting dish. Add the cooked bacon to the yuca and stir to combine evenly.

  7. Combine the breadcrumbs with the chopped nuts and sprinkle on top of the yuca. Put the dish in the oven and roast until the top is browned and crisp, about 25 minutes.
  8. Serve the yuca family-style from the center of the table.
Ingredients for Sauce:
  • 1/2 C brewed espresso or strong, dark coffee (*Note: I love coffee and did not get enough of the flavor in the sauce. I'd double it, but that's just me.)
  • 1 C ketchup
  • 1/2 C cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 C)
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 fresh hot chiles, such as jalapeno (or hotter), seeded
  • 2 tbsp hot dry mustard mixed with 1 tbsp warm water
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  1. Stir all of the ingredients together in a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower the heat so the mixture is just simmering and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, let the mixture cool, then puree it in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade. (Or use the immersion blender I love to shamelessly promote!)
  2. Cover and refrigerate.

(Tip: Check out World Market, Target, Walmart or even your local dollar store for clear plastic condiment dispensers to make your own sauces easy to dispense and decorate with.)

Recipe posted in Make it from Scratch.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Almond-Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Scallion Beurre Blanc

The cafe is OPEN! I know it seems like the chef has been away from the kitchen for awhile, but I promise it's only been a few days and I did feed my husband every day. There was even fantastic Indian food involved (courtesy of Taste of Tandoor in Woodbridge, VA).

Tonight I turned to my "new" (gently used from my very favorite used bookstore: McKay's in Manassas) Rachael Ray cookbook, "2, 4, 6, 8: Great Meals for Couples or Crowds."

Here at Cafe Groenhout, we love anything almond: banket, almond butter, almond pound cake, the list goes on and on and al-mond. (Sorry, sorry.) This recipe was easy to make and definitely within the 30-minute limit that Rachael promises. It's also packed with flavor and quite lovely when plated.

  • 1/4 C plus 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 C dry white wine
  • 2 scallions, very finely chopped, whites and greens separated
  • 1 large egg
  • 8 thin chicken breast cutlets, 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs total
  • 1/2 C sliced almonds
  • 1/2 C plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp grated or ground nutmeg
  • salt and black pepper
  • 3 tbsp EVOO or vegetable oil
  • 1 lb asparagus, tough ends trimmed/snapped
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
  1. Place a baking sheet in the oven and turn the oven on low, 250 degrees.
  2. Combine 1/4 C of the cream, the white wine, and the whites of the scallions in a sauce pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until reduced to 1/4 C liquid, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. While the sauce is working, beat the egg with the remaining 2 tbsp of cream and add the chicken pieces. Combine the almonds, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until finely ground.

  4. Cover a plate with plastic wrap (this makes for easy cleanup after breading) and pour the almond and bread-crumb mixture onto it.
  5. Heat the EVOO, three times around the pan, in a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. One at a time, remove cutlets from the egg mixture and coat in the almond crumbs, covering entirely. Add the cutlets to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes on each side; transfer them to the oven to keep them warm. You may need to do this in 2 batches; don't overcrowd the pan.
  6. While the chicken cooks, bring an inch of water to a boil in a skillet. Reduce to a simmer, add a pinch of salt, and add the asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove the asparagus to a plate.
  7. Take the sauce off the heat, add the scallion greens, then whisk in the cold butter a few bits at a time. Hit the pan with just a touch of heat if necessary. The sauce will be white and thick and the volume will triple. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  8. Place a cutlet on each dinner plate, top with a few asparagus spears, then place a second cutlet on top. Spoon the beurre blanc sauce over the cutlets and asparagus.

Et voila!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom and Rosemary Ragu

One of my favorite vegetarian recipes (Sweet Potato Stacks) comes from The Accidental Vegetarian cookbook. Since I've been trying to slip in more vegetarian dishes during the week, I returned to that cookbook and found this recipe for Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom and Rosemary Ragu. I've only run across one other recipe for homemade gnocchi (in the back of a Bon Appetit). While this recipe is certainly time-intensive (about 2.5 hours), it's definitely fun in the kitchen. The taste is pretty great, too.


  • 1 1/2 lbs floury potatoes, e.g. russet, unpeeled
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

    For the ragu:
  • olive oil for frying and tossing
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 oz. tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 C red wine
  • 3 1/2 C vegetable stock
  • fresh rosemary, to taste

    For the topping:
  • 1 lb Portobello mushrooms (no, I don't like them, but I try to boost the health-level of stuff when/where I can -- tonight, that meant for husband, the fungus-amongus)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Directions for the Gnocchi:
  1. Boil the potatoes for about 40 minutes until soft. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, peel and mash or pass through a ricer into a bowl.
  2. Make a well in the center of the mash, add the egg and mix in, then add the flour and seasoning. Mix to form a dough, then knead for a few minutes until dry to the touch.

  3. Divide the potato dough into three sections and roll each out into a 3/4"-diameter ropes.

  4. Then cut off at 3/4"-intervals. Press one side of each gnocchi with the back of a fork to form "grooves" - this will give the sauce something to stick to.

  5. Bring a large pan of water to a boil and drop the gnocchi into the water. When they rise to the top, scoop out and refresh in ice-cold water. Drain well, then pat dry, toss in oil and chill until needed. You can also freeze them at this stage.
Directions for the Ragu:
  1. Heat some oil in a pan and gently fry the vegetables for 5 minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste and cook for 7-8 minutes until a rich red.
  2. Add the wine, stock, and rosemary, bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 40 minutes, but preferably one hour.
  3. When ready to serve, cut the mushrooms into chunks and fry with the garlic in oil until soft, season well.

  4. Warm the gnocchi in the ragu, spoon onto a plate and top with the mushrooms and Parmesan.
Et voila!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Linguine with Baby Heirloom Tomatoes and Breadcrumbs

With temperatures up in the 90s this week, I haven't been wanting to cook anything too heavy/rich this week. Last night, I got to try my first recipe out of my new (June) issue of Bon Appetit. It was perfect for the season, full of juicy tomatoes and fresh basil. I even got to make my own homemade breadcrumbs (definitely worth the minimal effort).

The weather also has me wanting my own garden. Of course, this is totally out of the question with our impending move across the world. My pacifier? A $5-Jiffy Greenhouse from Home Depot. It begins as pellets of soil in a tray. You soak the pellets, they puff up, you plant your seeds, and then cover the tray with the "dome" (plastic cover). Fingers crossed, it won't be too long until we've got our own cilantro, oregano, parsley, basil and lavender! Maybe it was all the sunshine at the pool today, but I got the itch to make little markers for them, too (homegrown, of course!):



  • 8 oz. linguine
  • 3 tbsp EVOO, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed and divided
  • 1 C coarse fresh breadcrumbs mad from crustless country bread (directions at end)
  • (1) 1 lb. container baby heirloom tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (I'd probably add another 1/2 if you've got fresh ones!)
  • 1 C thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • (*The original recipe calls for 6 anchovy fillets, mashed to paste with 1 tsp oil from can. I'm not a seafood girl [I draw the line at shrimp], and I'm especially not a seafood-in-a-can kinda girl. Add this at your own risk.)
  1. Cook linguine until just tender but firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1 C cooking liquid.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add anchovies (optional) and 2 garlic cloves, then breadcrumbs. Cook breadcrumbs until golden, tossing to distribute evenly, about 5 minutes.
  4. Scrape crumbs onto plate and cool.
  5. Heat remaining 1 1/2 tbsp oil in the same skillet over medium heat.
  6. Add tomatoes and remaining garlic clove. Cover; cook until tomatoes begin to break down, 3 to 4 minutes. 
  7. Using fork, crush 1/4 of tomatoes. 
  8. Add pasta, basil, cheese, and 1/2 C reserved cooking liquid to tomatoes. Toss, adding more liquid if dry.
  9. Mix in half of crumbs and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl; top with remaining breadcrumbs and serve.

Et voila!

"Test-Kitchen Tip: To make coarse fresh breadcrumbs, trim the crust off slices of (fresh or stale) country bread. Tear the bread into chunks, then grind it in the processor until coarse crumbs are formed."

Submitted in:  

Green Curry with Shrimp

I'm sure you don't need me to remind you, but last week was the premiere of the second Sex and the City movie (squee!).

Now, I knew I wouldn't miss it, but I was lucky enough to go with my own group of great ladies. With 7 o'clock tickets, I also knew that I'd have to make a quick 'n' simple dinner. (No one likes coming home from a great night out to a loaded sink.) I decided to try this recipe (for 2) from the "Dinners in a Dash" section of our Bride and Groom cookbook. Quick, easy and awfully tasty, this lives up to the cookbook chapters' name! (P.S. What kinda woman are you? Check out the poll on the right-hand side of the main page!)

  • (1) small yellow onion, chopped
  • (1) large garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1C unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp green curry paste
  • 1 (heaping) tsp sugar
  • (1) pkg. shrimp-flavored Ramen noodles
  • 1 (generous) tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 lb. peeled shrimp
  • 2 handfuls frozen peas
  • chopped basil or cilantro (for garnish)
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. 
  2. Sprinkle with 2 tsp flour and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in coconut milk, chicken broth, curry paste, sugar, flavor packet from noodles, and lime juice.

  4. Bring to a boil and add the noodles. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Season shrimp with kosher salt and add to the pan.

  6. Stir in peas. Simmer until shrimp is opaque, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir and season to taste with kosher salt. 
  8. Garnish with chopped fresh basil or cilantro.

Et voila!