Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

February 28, 2011

Spanish Mackerel with Orange and Anchovy Sauce

Blood orange and anchovy with fish? I couldn’t imagine what that would taste like. But, since restaurateur Anita Lo, whose recipe appeared in the Wall Street Journal, is a highly regarded chef, I decided to go for it. In case the dish didn’t turn out, I had left-over meatballs as a backup.
Lo and behold, the dish tasted terrific. Even George, who usually makes a face when I serve fish, was impressed and thought it was “highly original.”


Spanish Mackerel
Boiled Potatoes
Artichoke Vinaigrette
Wine: Bordeaux Blanc Sec “Chateau La Rame” 2009
Dessert: Cinnamon/Apple Cake


2 four-ounce fillets of Spanish mackerel with skin
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Zest of ½ lemon, grated
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and finely sliced*
¼ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon butter, more if needed
1 small blood orange, sectioned
Snipped chives for garnish
*I substituted anchovy paste for the anchovy fillets.

Preheat Broiler

Place a sauté pan over high heat. Add olive oil, shallot, garlic, pepper flakes, lemon zest, and anchovies to the pan. Cook until it sizzles. Add orange juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the mixture thickens. Turn off the heat and swirl in the butter. Add the orange sections. Adjust seasoning. Divide the sauce among 2 plates

Meanwhile brush both sides of the mackerel with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place mackerel, skin side up, on the top of the oven rack. Cook until the skin starts to blister, about 3-5 minutes. Arrange the mackerel fillets over the sauce and garnish with chives.

Serving the gentle Bordeaux Blanc with the macho dish was a mistake. The more pungent Babich Sauvignon Blanc would have been a better choice.

February 25, 2011

100th Blog: Musing and Schmoosing

This is my 100th blog! I confess, I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. First and foremost there is the challenge of what to cook for dinner. I sleep better once I’ve decided on the next three meals. These usually include one new dish, plus favorite standbys like meatloaf, a simple chicken, fish and pasta dish. Cooking falls into two categories: à la minute such as hamburger, or those that require lengthy prep, such as stews, which can be done in advance. Depending on the day, the weather, and my ambition, I’ll gravitate to one or the other. We both enjoy a good meal, but George is fussier than I am. Presentation and flavor nuances are important to him. I like variety and the right choice of wine.

Recent shopping Ventures & Changes

Trader Joe’s*. Granted, it’s a schlep but definitely worth it once in a while. Their frozen Tarte d’Alsace alone is worth the trip. I also like their Truffle Mousse Pâté, made with chicken liver, truffles & mushrooms, Irish Kerrygold Butter*, (see A word abut butter), frozen French Haricot Verts, and reasonably priced spices. The place seems overwhelming. But the staff is very helpful and will accompany you on your quest of assorted items spread over two floors.

“If it’s Monday it must be sushi……” The quality of sushi from the Katari market had deteriorated, and we now order our Monday night sushi ritual from Sushi of Gari.* Their sushi is consistently first rate; their Tofu salad is a gem.

Instead of going to Sandy’s for roasted chicken, I now buy roasted chicken at Chicken Festival,* a hole in the wall Peruvian eatery in our neighborhood. Sometimes their chicken is better than on others. George likes their rice and beans.

I continue to buy Saigon Grill’s Royal Bouillabaisse on Amsterdam Avenue. To make sure that the fish isn’t overcooked, I remove the fish and shellfish pieces before reheating the bouillabaisse. I may also add some shrimps, having cooked them in their shell first and then add the strained liquid to the bouillabaisse.

A Word about Butter

When the beurre noir for our skate dish didn’t turn out right, I suspected it was due to the quality of the butter. Enamored with extra virgin olive oil for the past decade, I had forgotten that you need top butter to make a good sauce. High quality butter has at least 82% butterfat. French butter with Appelation d’Origine Controlee designation such as Beurre d’Echire, Isigny-Ste-Mere, and Celles-sur-Belle fall into this category. So do their American counterpart among them Vermont Butter, Organic Valley, Ronnybrook Farm and the Irish Kerrygold Butter. Unfortunately American butters don’t indicate the butterfat content on their label. So, it’s a guessing game. I’m slowly doing my own comparative tasting. I'll keep you informed. Meanwhile, our sauces and flavored butters are getting better.

*Trader Joe’s (212) 737-8352
Bway & 72nd Street

*Chicken Festival (212) 988-2844
1584 First Ave. bet. 82nd & 83rd Street.

*Sushi of Gari (212) 517-5340
402 East 78 Street
Sushi of Gari (212) 362-4816
370 Columbus Ave (bet. 77 & 78 Sts.)

February 20, 2011

Filet of Sole with Apple Cider Vinegar Sauce

In my quest to expand the variety of our meals, I came across a recipe by Patricia Wells of turbot with a cider vinegar sauce. Wells suggested to use either flounder or lemon sole if turbot was not available.


Filet of Sole in Cider Vinegar Sauce
Baked Spinach
Wine: Bordeaux Blanc Sec “Chateau La Rame” 2009
Dessert: Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Recipe Fillet of Sole

½ lb. fillet of sole
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
Salt and white pepper

Bring water or fish stock (in my case left over from previous moules marinièrs) to a boil. Place the fish into the liquid; reduce heat and cook, covered, for 4 to 5 minutes, until opaque. Transfer the fish fillets onto a warm plate and cover loosely to keep warm.

Meanwhile, bring the cider vinegar to a boil. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking until all of the butter has been added and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Season to taste; spoon the sauce over the fish.

“Boring,” said George. “I like fillet of sole nicely browned, served with lemon wedges.”

I actually liked the sauce but, by and large, find lemon sole boring. Dover sole would have been another matter. And hard cider instead of apple cider vinegar would have made a difference. But this is not Normandy and I like living in New York.

Pommes vapeur would have been nice instead of the rice,” said George.

That’s what keeps our meals interesting.

February 17, 2011

Old Time French Bistro Meal inspired by Left Overs

I had so much soup stock left over from the pot-au-feu dinner, I decided to make onion soup. I hadn’t cooked the dish since the 70’s, but, like bicycle riding, I didn’t forget. To be on the safe side, I checked out Julia Child’s version. Except for the addition of cognac (which I don’t have in the house), we were more or less in agreement.


Onion Soup
Celery Remoulade
Black Diamond Cheddar*
Wine: Sauvion Saumur-Champigny “Les Gravières Du Roy” 2009
Dessert: Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Prep Onion Soup

1½ lbs yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2- 2 1/2 cups stock
¼ cup white wine
Black Pepper
Touch of Sazón Goya’s Coriander & Annato seasoning
2 slices of baguette, lightly toasted
½ cup grated Swiss cheese

In a heavy saucepan, cook the onions with the butter in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat and stir in salt and sugar. Cook for 30 minutes, until the onions have turned a golden brown. Sprinkle the onions with the flour; stir for a few minutes. Off heat, add the boiling liquid and the wine. Simmer, partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook Onion Soup

When ready to serve, reheat. Adjust seasoning. Pour into soup bowls over the bread and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Recipe Celery Remoulade (inspired by my friend Sylvia I)

I tend to overbuy and had a big knob of celery root left over. Ugly looking and hard to clean, this is one of the most neglected vegetables. Pity, because celery remoulade is one of the most delectable salads.

1 celery root, peeled and coarsely grated
Lemon juice
About ½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Opt. 2 white celery stalks cut into small pieces
Some dried cranberries & walnut pieces

Sprinkle the grated celery root with lemon juice. Fold it into the mayonnaise/mustard dressing. Add celery, dried cranberries and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

*The onion soup was so filling and the celery remoulade so plentiful we never got around to the cheese.

February 13, 2011


I finally cooked pot-au-feu, the ultimate winter dish. I nearly gave up before I started because the various cook books I consulted called for bottom round, beef shanks, oxtail, short ribs, marrow bones and chicken to start with. But where, I asked myself, was that written? Pot au feu, the classic French peasant dish, simply means pot on the fire. Like stone soup, you can put into the pot whatever you like. In my case I narrowed it down to boned beef shank, short rib of beef, one marrow bone thrown in by my obliging butcher, plus four vegetables.

Patricia Wells, one of my favorite food writers, makes a point of cooking the vegetable separately, arguing that each vegetable will retain its character and the finished dish will be less fatty.


Wine: Fleurie “Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois” 2008
Dessert: Chocolate

Recipe Pot-au-feu

Day 1 Meat

1 pound boned beef shank
1 pound short ribs of beef
Opt. one marrow bone
Bouquet garni (pepper corns, sprigs of Italian parsley, 2 bay leaves, dried thyme tied in cheesecloth)
1 large yellow onion, studded with clove

Tie the beef shank and short ribs into two separate bundles. Place into a stockpot to hold, together with the marrow bone. Cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Let simmer for about 40 minutes, continuously skimming the surface, removing all impurities or grease. (This is the most tedious part of the entire operation)

Season the liquid with coarse salt. Add the onion and the bouquet garni. Skim again and simmer for 2 to 3 hours or till the meat is tender.
At this point, I discarded the onion, bouquet garni and removed the string from the meat. I moistened the meat with some of the liquid, covered it, and put it into the refrigerator. I poured the liquid through a strainer and placed it, covered, into the refrigerator.

Day 2 Vegetables

3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized portions
1 small celery root, peeled and cubed
3 turnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized portions
2 leeks, washed and trimmed to about 5 inches

Dijon mustard
Sea salt

Place the carrots and celery root into a pot, cover with the cooking liquid (surface fat removed), and cook for about 25 minutes. Add
the turnips and cook for another 15; add the leeks and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile reheat the cooking broth. Slice the meat as desired and warm in the liquid.

To serve: Place the meat on a platter and arrange the cooked vegetables around it. Ladle a bit of broth over the pot-au-feu. Offer the condiments, together with pieces of lightly toasted baguette.

As usual, George’s observation was right. “No point cooking the vegetables separately,” he said. “After all, this is a one pot dish.”

Following the advice of my wine guru, Will Helburn of Rosenthal Wine Merchant, I had decanted the Beaujolais several hours before serving. It seemed pretentious, but Helburn insisted it would make a difference. “Most wines improve when allowed to breathe for a few hours,” he insisted. “Taste the wine before and after.”

Good heaven, he was right! While I didn’t particularly like the wine at first, it had morphed into superior Beaujolais which pulled the meal together nicely.

Am I going to cook pot-au-feu again? Unlikely. But it was an interesting experience.

February 10, 2011

Beurre Noir turns into Bête Noir: Skate with Beurre Noir

I love the texture and flavor of skate. Besides, the fish cooks in four minutes. Dinner should have been a cinch. So what went wrong? The beurre noir, that’s what. While all recipes for beurre noir state that the butter would brown within 1 minute, it took this butter at least 5 minutes to show any color. Maybe it was the pan; maybe it was the quality of the butter, who knows? Meanwhile, my perfectly sautéed fish was getting cold.

“You should have warmed the plates,” said George.

The white Bordeaux was lovely. Soft, fruity, it added a touch of class to the meal.

Skate with Beurre Noir
Red Pepper Coulis*
Wine: Chateau La Rame, Bordeaux Blanc, 2009
Dessert: Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Recipe Skate

2 pieces of skinless, boneless skate
Flour to dust
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Lightly dust both sides of the skate with flour. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. When hot, add skate. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes per side until the fish turns opaque. Transfer skate to two plates. (Preferably warm)

Melt remaining butter in a pan over high heat. Cook until the butter starts to turn golden. Remove from heat, swirling pan. Add vinegar or lemon juice, and capers. (Caution: the butter might splatter all over the place). Spoon sauce over skate. Garnish with chopped parsley.

*See August 4, 2010 blog for Red Pepper Coulis recipe

February 6, 2011

Chinese New Year Celebration: The Year of the Rabbit

A gigantic feast prepared by sister-in-law Jane Studley, enjoyed by
family and friends ranging in age from 3 to 92.

The Buffet

Assorted Spring Rolls
Sashimi platter including tuna tartare and crabmeat salads
Boned, slices of roasted duck
Boned slices of roasted chicken
Steamed artichokes with dipping sauce
Platter of cooked, mixed vegetables
Platter of raw, shredded vegetables
Whole sea bass
Bean curd
Jellyfish and shredded radish
Broccoli Rape
Mixed salad with raisins and walnuts

“Pigeon?” I asked Jane.
“Yes,” she said, without further explanation. She was so busy, I didn’t want to bother her.

We left before dessert. Jane offered us a doggy bag which I declined. Dumb.

Our dinner the following evening was less exalted:

Frozen Tortelloni plus Spanish Chorizo and Green Peas

Thanks to Fresh Direct I had a box of frozen Tortelloni in the freezer. Although the label stated that the tortelloni contained gorgonzola and walnuts, there was no evidence of it. Still, who was counting? I had a sweet Spanish chorizo in the refrigerator, some Parmesan, plus a small can of sweet peas.

After the tortelloni were cooked and strained, I sautéed them with olive oil in a hot pan to brown. Next I tossed small slices of chorizo, skin removed, into the pan, together with the drained peas. After plating I grated Parmesan over the pasta.


Piquillo Pepper stiffed with Italian Ricotta Cheese
Tortelloni with Sweet Spanish Chorizo & Sweet peas
Watercress salad with grape tomatoes, dried cranberry, and walnuts
Wine: Chateau Massiac, Minervervois Rouge “Cuvée Sentille, 2009
Dessert: Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Am happy to report that my salad was almost as good as Jane's.

February 3, 2011

An Accidental Oxtail Dinner

I confess. Seeing the neatly lined up oxtails at the butcher shop at Agata & Valentina, I couldn’t resist. The weather justified strong action: Oxtail Ragout. The recipe is loosely based on Teresa Barrenechea’s The Basque Table. Barrenechea calls it “Oxtail Bilbao Style, referring to Bilbao’s annual bull run, similar to the famous festival in Pamplona. Without worrying about the provenance of my oxtail, I tried to do it justice.


Oxtail Ragout
Potato Dumplings*
Wine: Marques de Riscal Rioja, Reservea, 2005
Dessert: Fruit

Prep Oxtail

4 pieces oxtail, trimmed
Flour to coat
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, diced
¾ to 1 cup red wine
Salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes
Chopped parsley for garnish

Sprinkle the oxtail with salt. Spread the flour in a shallow dish, and coat the oxtail on all sides. Shake off the excess flour. In a deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the oxtails for 5-7 minutes, until they are browned on all sides.
Add the carrots, leek, onion, and garlic. Cook, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes. Add the wine and reduce heat. Cook for 2 to 2 ½ hours until the meat is tender. When cooled, refrigerate over night.

Finish Oxtail

Remove the fat before reheating the stew. Adjust seasoning. The recipe suggests to purée the vegetables. I preferred to have them visible.
Since George hates to tackle any food with bones, I removed the meat from two oxtails and arranged them over the vegetables. Luckily I love bones. So there was no contest here.

*I simply followed the instructions on the potato dumpling package.
They came out rather well. All told, it was a dramatic winter meal.