Scallops in the Shell

Does anyone have the cure for jet lag?  As we get older it seems to keep a hold on us longer and longer.  It didn’t help we came back to dreary rain.  Good for the garden, not so good at getting us going!  I do hope it means our garden will do better than it did last year.  Last year was a very dusty growing season.

Being back in the UK was wonderful, we had incredible weather and did loads of walking.  We had to walk off all the lovely meals my mother-in-law cooked up!  Of course we like giving her a break from cooking, she runs a B & B so she welcomes the break!  Last year we did a curry night as my father-in-law is a big fan but my MIL isn’t so this time round we did a tapas night.  Which I love doing!  So off we went to the shops to get ingredients.

Aside from the usual dishes that are easy to throw together I found some scallops on the shell, which is near impossible to get stateside, never mind getting scallops with the coral still attached.  So I couldn’t pass this up.

Scallop in the shell 1 2017

Heat up the broiler/griller to medium.  Season the scallops with sea salt and pepper, thyme, olive oil, and rosé wine.  I had some of the wine from our France trip and while it turns out it’s not a favourite of mine I knew it would work well with this dish.

Scallop in the shell 2 2017

Broil/grill until the scallops are cooked.  Be careful not to overcook the scallops, you still want it tender.  This will only take a couple of minutes.

Scallop in the shell 3 2017

Serve on the shell.  This is a fun and quick dish to make, I just wish I could get this round here! It was a great night with good food, good company, and good wine.

Seared Pork with Creamy Cognac Mushroom Sauce

It feels good to be able to sit up at a computer and actually blog.  Which seems a strange thing to say.  The cold going round here knocks you on your backside.  There was barely enough energy to work the remote.  Forget watching anything with a plot as keeping focused was not on the cards!  Which meant silly stuff like Real Housewives.  Please, nothing real about them!  My brain may never recover.

I did find Design on a Dime.  Which is very lightweight but has inspired several ideas for our porch that I want to try out when the weather gets a bit warmer.  I’m looking forward to creating a comfy area to hang out in.

It also felt good this weekend to get back into the kitchen and work on creating dishes.  I had some pork ribs and some root vegetables to use and I wanted to do something on the French side.  There were a ton of recipes using mushrooms and cream.  A combination that I love.

Cognac Mushroom Pork 1 2016

I prepped the roast veg of potato, parsnip, and carrot first and got those cooking.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, season the pork with sea salt and pepper, then brown all four sides.

Cognac mushroom pork 2 2016

Remove from the skillet and cover with tin foil.  Finely chop a shallot (these can be potent and make you cry!) and add to the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes on medium heat.  You want the shallots to soften, not brown, then add 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic.

Cognac mushroom pork 3 2016

After another couple of minutes add a few mushrooms that have been sliced.  Then add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, some sea salt, and pepper.

Cognac mushroom pork 4 2016

Once the mushrooms start to brown add 1 1/2 – 2 cups of chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  Add about 4 tablespoons of cognac and a couple of tablespoons of stone ground mustard.

Cognac mushroom pork 5 2016

Put the pork back into the skillet and simmer until the pork is cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit.  Then add a 1/3-1/2 cup of cream.  Taste and add more cognac and mustard if needed.  Sometimes the cream can dampen the strong flavours.

Cognac mushroom pork 6 2016

Serve over the roasted veg and top with the sauce.  You might find you have plenty of sauce left over.  I used mine to make a creamy chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.  Too good to let it go to waste!

Finally French Baked Eggs!

There are times where you have to try, try, and try again.  Such is life.  It gets a bit annoying when that happens with a recipe.

I saw a recipe in a cookery book of Barefoot Contessa’s for easy baked eggs.  Ooh, I thought, this looks amazing.  Let’s have a go.

To start her method was to broil.  I followed it to the letter.  Three times and failed each time.  I was starting to get annoyed!  The flavours were there but the yolk would over cook and the whites would stay runny.  Not the way I wanted.

In the meantime I tried Jovina Cooks Italian recipe for Marinara Baked Eggs.  I still struggled with getting the yolks runny but it was a better result.  My husband and I talked about maybe separating the eggs and cooking the whites for a bit.  Darya on Tortore mentioned in the comments the same idea so that settled it.  I was going to give it another try.

French baked eggs 1 2015

This recipe is for one serving.  Finely chop a handful of parsley, rosemary, and thyme.  Then finely mince a clove of garlic.  Grate about a 1/4 cup of fresh parmesan.  Set all this aside.

French baked eggs 2 2015

Preheat the oven to 400F/205C.  In a shallow bake safe dish heat up 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream and a tablespoon of butter.

French baked eggs 3 2015

Separate three eggs and add the whites and half the cheese and herb mixture to the dish.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Bake until the whites are almost set, fluffing a few times as it cooks.  Add the three yolks.

French baked eggs 4 2015

Add the rest of the herb and cheese mixture.  Bake a few minutes more until the yolks are warm but still runny.  I was feeling really positive by this point!  Once the eggs are cooked, remove from the heat.  Grate a bit more parmesan over the eggs.  Toast up crusty bread to serve with.

French baked eggs 5 2015

Look at that, runny yolks!  This was easy.  🙂  And oh so good.  I am so happy I figured this out.  There is an extra step but it means I get the result I’m supposed to.

Croque Monsieur, Fun Food for the Kids

In some of the tourist places we visited in France I came across croque monsieur.  An inside out grilled cheese sandwich!  The kids tried it and thought it was fun.

I loved the inspiration I got while over there.  So much good food and ingredients.  I got a kick out of this vending machine we found:

Croque Monsieur 11 2015

I mean how cool is this idea?  Fresh veg, fruit, and homemade soups.  Don’t get me wrong I loved the Cadbury vending machines when I lived in London but still, this was refreshing to see.  Much better than these fish sticks I found:

Croque Monsieur 10 2015

How sad.

There are several recipes for croque monsieur, all pretty similar.  I used Ina Garten’s from Barefoot in Paris as a guide.  I used our sourdough bread for this.  I really didn’t want to use the soft storebought white bread she recommends.  I just don’t like that stuff!  I needed to make 4 sandwiches so I toasted the bread ahead of time.  Also, prep 1/2 cup of parmesan and 1/2 cup of jarlsberg and set aside.

In a small saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter then add 3 tablespoons of flour to the butter.

Croque Monsieur 1 2015

Keep it on the heat and continue whisking to cook the flour.  You don’t want the mixture to burn.

Croque Monsieur 2 2015

Her recipe called for 2 cups of milk but I felt that was way too much.  I decided to go with 1 1/2 cups of milk.  We still had too much sauce leftover.  Gradually add the milk to the flour mixture, again whisking the whole time to work out the lumps.

Croque Monsieur 3 2015

Croque Monsieur 4 2015

With the heat on medium bring the mixture to a near boil.  You don’t want to have it actually boil but you need it hot enough to thicken.  Keep stirring to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom.  Once the sauce thickens remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.  Dust the top with nutmeg and season with sea salt and pepper.

Croque Monsieur 5 2015

Spread stone ground mustard of your choice onto half the slices of the toast.  Add slices of ham and top with the other slices of bread.  Then spoon on the sauce.  Top with more jarlsberg cheese.

Croque Monsieur 7 2015

Croque Monsieur 8 2015

Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.  Serve with a side salad.

Croque Monsieur 9 2015

I have to say as crazy as this dish sounded to me it was a lot of fun to eat and it was delicious.

Tarragon Steak and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Yesterday was very frustrating.  We like to make cheese so we bought quite a bit of raw milk at a local farm.  Grand plans were made.  Grand plans failed in a spectacular fashion.  The cheddar may turn out ok but the camembert I tried didn’t get off the ground.  The pH seemed to be too low and the curd didn’t break properly.  We had issues with the cheddar as well.  Like I said very frustrating.

So being tired and feeling grumpy I needed a good dinner that wasn’t too complicated.  And it had to be quick!  There was wine to be had at the end of a long day.

We grow tarragon in our garden, though it’s currently getting overshadowed by hops.  If you ever grow hops put them somewhere by themselves.  We grossly underestimated their takeover talents.  So I waded in to find the tarragon and took a handful for this marinade.

Tarragon steak 1 2015

Chop up a handful of tarragon and a few cloves of garlic.  In a bowl add a few tablespoons of olive oil and one or two tablespoons of white wine vinegar.  Shake it up to mix.  Season the steak with sea salt and pepper then add it to the marinade.  Let it marinate for at least an hour.

Tarragon steak 2 2015

For those that follow my blog know I’m a huge fan of roasted potatoes.  I thought rosemary and lemon would be a nice touch for this meal.  Cube the potatoes and microwave them for 8 minutes.  Do not cover them with plastic or cling film.  That just leaches chemicals into the food.  In a baking dish add a few tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of lemon juice. While the potatoes are in the microwave preheat the oven or toaster oven to 375F/190C with the baking dish in it.  Add the potatoes to the hot oil, stir well and season with sea salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally as it cooks.  Once it is cooked halfway add a couple of tablespoons of rosemary, finely chopped.  Heat the grill to medium high.  I picked skirt steak which is pretty thin so it cooks quickly.

Tarragon 3 2015

Given that it’s summer a salad is called for!  Make up the salad while the steak is resting.  Then slice the steak and top the salad.  Drizzle with olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Serve with the potatoes.

Tarragon 5 2015

Tarragon 4 2015

We were lucky that there was low humidity last night so we had a lovely dinner outside on the porch.  The only interruptions we had was when we had to take turns chasing off the rabbits in our back garden.  They are showing no fear!

Rabbit and the Need to Strangle a Cock….

4am.  Still dead of night as far as I am concerned.  Cock-a-doodle-doo!  My husband then rolls out of bed to close the ceiling window because I’m too short to reach it.  Every morning the bloody thing would go off.  And it would go all day.  There is another one down the road that answers but that is more muted.  Ours was about 10 feet from our window. I say was as this morning it’s been quiet.  I’m wondering if coq a vin is on the menu next door.  If I never hear another cock-a-doodle-doo I’ll be a happy camper.

On my list of ingredients to cook while here in France was rabbit.  So off to the market we went in search of one.  

 
We were successful.  Good thing I asked the head be removed.  An unfortunate thing about the kitchen we’re using, aside from a very anemic oven, is the knives are very dull.  We’ve tried sharpening them without a whole lot of success.  Which made butchering this rabbit quite the chore!  My MIL helped as I had to wrestle it to submission.  I ended up removing the legs and then took what I could of the remaining meat to add to the sauce.  I didn’t want to waste the rest of the rabbit so when my MIL suggested making a quick stock I went in that direction.  In a saucepan I covered the rabbit in water, added a shallot, salt and pepper, and thyme.


Bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Once that is done heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the legs of the rabbit.

  

While that is happening, prep a small onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some fresh rosemary.

  
Remove the rabbit legs and set aside.  Sauté the onions and garlic until they soften.  Add some of the rabbit stock to simmer with the onion and garlic.

 
Add the rabbit bits and rosemary and sauté for a few more minutes.  I bought some local mushrooms at the market which were really nice.  I sliced a few and added them the the skillet.  Again add some stock.  About half a cup or 4 ounces each time.

  

Chop up a few tomatoes.  I also had a can of diced tomatoes that needed to be used.  Toss these in and add 4-8 ounces of red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add the rabbit legs to finish off cooking.

  
The tricky bit is not to over cook and toughen the meat.  In fact after simmering awhile there was still a bit of rabbit on the larger leg that wasn’t cooked through.  We still had plenty of meat to go round.  

 
The sauce with the stock was really nice.  Not sure if I’d cook a lot of rabbit going forward.  It was nice but not something I would crave.  But I can cross this off the bucket list so to speak.  

Today is packing day as we have a long journey home.  I’ll miss this place.  I’ve loved the food, the sightseeing, working on the language, and the leisurely meals.  No one rushes you and it’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or two with lunch.  And I could eat bread here with minimal side effects.  It’s been fabulous!  But back to reality I’m afraid. 

Lovely Farmer’s Markets and Grilling Cod

The schedule for the markets in the surrounding towns is being figured out.  We went to our first one in Noyant and what fun!  It isn’t a big one but you won’t lack for food.  Though for this one, in order to get fresh herbs I had to buy a thyme plant.  Where there’s a way!

 
It wasn’t expensive and my in-laws can keep it when they go home.  

  

With our phrase book, little French, and the vendors’ little English (or sometimes big English!) we managed to get everything we needed for the special dinner of celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary.  Quite the accomplishment these days!  

  
We also managed to find some lovely cured meats, cheeses, and the most amazing crevettes.  They are very messy to peel and eat but it’s worth it.

  
The fish monger had a very good selection of fish so I bought some cod to grill.  The stall that sold cured meats also sold spices and we got a mix that was like a citrusy dry rub that had paprika in it.  I thought it would be perfect for the cod.  We found some ready prepared kebabs made with turkey and beef for the non fish lovers to round out the meal.

I prepared the cod two ways.  First I rubbed the fish with the dry rub and added olive oil.  I wrapped it in the tin foil and put it in the fridge.

  
For the second preparation of the cod.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, added lemon slices, thyme sprigs, olive oil, and dry white wine.

  
Wrap in tin foil and place it in the fridge until ready to grill.  I also prepped aubergine with salt and pepper and olive oil to grill.  The mushrooms I dipped into a lemon thyme dressing I made for the salad.

  
  
I’ve gotten the hang of the charcoal grill but it is very hot work in this heatwave!  Yesterday was 100F/38C.  Even in the shade, trying to be an asthmatic bellow to get the flames going nearly did me in.  But I was successful.  Given that it’s not a large grill I had to do the food in stages with the aubergine put on last.

  
Keep the lemon thyme cod in the tin foil so it poaches in the olive oil and wine.  I decided to be brave and place the other cod directly on the grill.  Conor from One Man’s Meat was kind enough to give me a tip of about five minutes.  This was quite the thick piece so after a few minutes I checked to make sure it was starting to flake before flipping it over to cook on the other side.

  
So far so good!  The kebabs were done so I added the leek to the grill.  You want the fish to be flaky but not dry.  It’s ok to have it medium well rather than well done.

 
My husband made delicious garlic bread and his aunt made a salad.  I have to say, I was really pleased with how the fish came out.  Both ways.

  

We are enjoying the countryside and I love the sunflowers.  Though if you stop on the roadside beware!  I don’t know if I stepped in stinging nettles or some stinging insect nest.  Either way it was painful getting the shot.  Taking the suffering for your art a bit too far I think.  😊 

Leek and Mushroom Puff Pastry

Our kids are coming home tomorrow!  They’ve been gone for nearly two weeks visiting grandparents in Florida.  While I’m thrilled they are having a blast swimming, getting ice cream, and being goofy, they are missed.

I asked what they are requesting for dinners for the few days they are with us before they dash off to overnight camp.  My son is asking for chicken cordon bleu.  And my daughter would love something Italian.  I think I can handle these requests.  🙂

When I posted about the roasted veg with crepes I said there was another dish to post about from the French restaurant we went to at Terminal 3 Heathrow.  I did find out what the restaurant was called, it’s Oriel Grande Brasserie.  My husband ordered a puff pastry dish with leeks, mushrooms, and goat cheese.  It was delicious so I knew I would try to recreate it.

I confess I buy the puff pastry.  I do want to try to make some but I can get decent store bought and it’s one of the few ingredients I buy so what the heck.  🙂  For this dish I used the puff pastry shells which need to be baked ahead of time.  Follow the directions given.  For mine I baked them at 425F/220C for about 20 minutes.

Leek and mushroom pastry 1 2014 Leek and mushroom pastry 2 2014

Set aside. This recipe is for two servings. In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute 6 sliced mushrooms.

Leek and mushroom pastry 3 2014 Leek and mushroom pastry 4 2014

I wanted a nice roasted flavour from the mushrooms.  As Julia Child taught the best way to do this is not mess about with the mushrooms.  In other words, don’t stir.  After the mushrooms are sauteed for a minute or so, let them “roast” on each side until browned.  In the meantime, finely chop 2 cloves of garlic and add to the skillet with a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.

Leek and mushroom pastry 5 2014

After a few minutes add a 1/4 cup of chicken stock and about 3/4 cup of sliced leeks.  Bring to a simmer.

Leek and mushroom pastry 6 2014

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Once the liquid reduces about half add a dollop of goat cheese and melt it into the sauce.

Leek and mushroom pastry 7 2014

Spoon into the pastry shells and grate fresh Jarlsberg or a similar cheese on top.

Leek and mushroom pastry 8 2014

Bake until the cheese is melted and golden.   The side dish that was served when my husband had the dish was a potato salad of some sort over greens.  I roasted some potato in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper.  I served it over mixed greens with a lemon thyme dressing.

Leek and mushroom pastry 9 2014

This was a light summer meal but would also be great as a starter or a party dish.  I really wish my son liked mushrooms as I’d like to make this for the kids.  It would be hard to pick round the mushrooms though!

Crêpes with Roasted Vegetables

Usually when we straggle through security at Terminal 3 in Heathrow we head right to avoid the perfumes and the endless clerks ready to spray you with them.  Inevitably we end up at the same restaurant, get hustled through our basic food and sent on our way.  Then we wander and see other restaurants that we swear we’ll remember and try the next time.  This time we took a deep breath, hooked left, raced past the perfumes, and checked out the other side.  We came across a French restaurant that began with an O and for the life of me I can’t remember the name.  But the food was delicious.  Today’s was inspired by a dish our daughter had and I’ll be making another dish my husband made. Not bad for an airport.

Her dish was similar to a ratatouille but in a crêpe form.  Very basic but it worked.  While all the steps are easy for this dish it does take time to prep all the ingredients.  I mixed the crêpe batter ahead of time and chilled it.

Next I prepped the tomatoes to roast in the oven.  I used roma tomatoes and sliced them about 1/4″ thick, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper.  I set the oven to convection at 300F/150C.  I slow roasted them for about an hour.

Roasted veg crepes 1 2014 Roasted veg crepes 2 2014

My husband cooked the crêpes for me while I grilled the veg.  I sliced onion and aubergine and also drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Roasted veg crepes 3 2014 Roasted veg crepes 4 2014

In addition to the aubergine and onion I did up wide slices of pepper.  You want the grill to be relatively hot but not scorching.  I was going for a nice grilled roasted flavour, not burnt!

Roasted veg crepes 6 2014 Roasted veg crepes 5 2014

Once the veg is cooked begin to layer the ingredients on the crêpes.

Roasted veg crepes 7 2014

Grate a cheese of your choice that will melt well over the veg.  We used jarlsberg as that is what we had but cheddar would work.

Roasted veg crepes 8 2014

Place another crêpe on top and heat in the oven at 350F/175C until the crêpes begin to brown and the cheese melts.

Roasted veg crepes 9 2014

Quarter them and serve immediately.

Roasted veg crepes 10 2014

I loved the roasted tomatoes in this.  I really should roast them more often.  My daughter said it made the restaurant dish taste a bit one noted.  🙂  High praise indeed!

In reference to yesterday’s post about not being able to preview the post before publishing, I’ve also found that the photos load smaller even though the file size is the same, and if I want to include a link to a post I did previously I have to open a new tab, go to the dashboard, search, open the post then copy the link.  And they got rid of the list of tags I used the most. Not sure what they were thinking with this change!  But I’ve sent a note to the support group.  Hopefully we can get this sorted out.

A First Crack at a French Omelette…

Well it’s back to reality now.  We came back on Thursday from a fabulous trip to England to see friends and family.  Thursday was a 21 hour day so I barely avoided going face first into the pillow when we made it home.  A friend of ours asked me what I missed when we were gone and it was a bit erm ketchup?  Seriously, when we move back we’ll be asking any visiting friends to bring us ketchup.

Of course I missed our kitchen.  My husband and I got a bit of cooking in, there was an amazing leg of lamb, but it’s hard when it’s not your kitchen.  Not knowing where things are slow you down!  And if you are trying to cook to allow your mother-in-law to relax, it’s hard for her to relax if you are asking where things are.  But we did our best.

After doing a few travel and train posts I was anxious to get back to recipes though the jet lag held me back a bit but today was better.  I thought I’d be bold and go for a French omelette.  The fluffy, creamy, make in a few seconds but has a high level of technique kind.  And as it was my first time, take pictures!  Hmmm.  Maybe the jet lag hasn’t worked it’s way through yet.  But I did it anyway.

I used Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking for this.  It highly recommends a non stick omelette pan.  Which I don’t own.  I own a crepe pan.  I think I upped the level of difficulty right there as it is helpful to have some sides to the pan.

Omelette 1 2014

The cooking of the eggs is very quick so prep the ingredients beforehand.  I chopped up fresh thyme and chives from the garden and grated a 1/4 cup of fresh parmesan.  In a bowl beat 2-3 eggs until blended.  Don’t whip them just get them integrated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Omelette 2 2014

Heat a tablespoon of butter in the pan you are going to use, moving it about to coat the sides and the bottom.  The book says that once the foam subsides and just before the colour changes it is hot enough.

Omelette 3 2014

Add the eggs and slide the pan back and forth.  The book recommends using a fork but as I don’t want to scratch the pan I used a silicon spatula but you want to stir the eggs quickly as the eggs thicken.  Not scramble them mind but keep the egg moving as it spreads out to cook.  This only takes a few seconds.

Omelette 4 2014

As it begins to fluff up and starts to look like a broken custard add your fillings.  And when they said in a few seconds they weren’t kidding.  I could have used three arms for this with taking photos!

Omelette 5 2014

Gently move it about folding it over itself by bringing the pan to a 45 degree angle.  If it sticks whack the handle a few times.  However you do this you don’t want the eggs to stick.  They’ll start overcooking.  Roll it onto a hot plate.

Omelette 6 2014

Add a bit of butter to melt over the top and serve.  I was quite pleased with this being the first attempt but I can see I need some practice.  I don’t mind.  🙂

PS, I see coming back to the PC that the website changed.  Anyone know how to preview before publishing?  I can’t find it.