Pork Tenderloin w/ Bulgur Apricot Stuffing

Just for a change of pace, I decided to make a nutty tasting bulgur wheat stuffing instead of the traditional bread version for our tenderloin today.

Bulgur is more than just something to make tabbouleh with. Its nutty taste and hearty texture work in so many dishes or you can just use it as a substitute for other grains like brown rice, couscous or quinoa.

This kind of wheat should not be confused with its less-tricky-to-harvest cousin, cracked wheat. While they are similar, cracked wheat is completely raw while bulgur is pre-cooked and has a much shorter prep time.

For me, if the recipe involves grain, I’m in! I guess you can take the farmer’s daughter off the farm but you can never take away her love for food with grain in it.

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Pork Tenderloin w/ Bulgur Apricot Stuffing
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, place bulgur & vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium low & simmer until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add chopped apricots during the last 5 minutes. Remove from heat & drain any excess liquid. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg & spices. Add almonds, scallions & reserved bulgur & apricots; mix to combine.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Butterfly pork tenderloin & pound with a meat mallet to an even thickness. Place on an oiled piece of foil paper on a baking sheet. Cover one half of the tenderloin with stuffing; press to flatten a bit. Fold other half of tenderloin over top stuffing. Secure with kitchen twine to keep stuffing from falling out during roasting.
  5. Brush with olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Roast about 45 minutes or until tenderloin has a slight pink color remaining. Remove from oven & allow to sit for a few minutes before untying & slicing.
  6. For the blog picture, I opened our whole tenderloin before slicing to show how nice this filling is. These flavors are so good!

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberries have been around for more than two thousand years. There are records of strawberries eaten as food as early as ancient Roman times as they probably grew wild in Europe.

Shortcake on the other hand, was a European invention. The ‘short’ in shortcake does not refer to stature or scope. Rather it derived from a 15th century British usage of ‘short’, similar to crumbly.

The true shortcake is neither bread, nor cake, nor pastry, though bearing what might be called a ‘differing likeness’ to each. It’s greatness lies in the contrasts of textures and flavors of simple cake, fruit and cream … hard & soft, moist & dry, sweet & tart, acid & cake. Shortcake proves the ideal base, as it is firm enough to stand up to the juicy berries and damp cream but absorbing only some of them without losing its identity or becoming a mushy mess.

The first strawberry shortcakes were made of heavy pastry that were somewhat similar to pie crust but a little thicker. The crust was baked, then split apart and filled with strawberries that had been mashed and sweetened and the whole thing covered with a sugared frosting. At some point the icing was replaced with whipped cream. Today, the shortcake ‘biscuits’ are sometimes replaced with sponge cake, angel food or even puff pastry.

July seems like the perfect time to indulge in some fresh strawberries!

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Strawberry Shortcake
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, European
Servings
SERVINGS
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American, European
Servings
SERVINGS
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Shortcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Add butter & work it into flour mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, egg & 1/2 cup buttermilk. Add to the flour mixture & lightly mix until dough just comes together. Do not OVERMIX.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough into a 7-inch round about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 8 equal wedges.
  5. Space the shortcakes evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining 1 Tbsp buttermilk & sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar & orange zest & juice. Allow to stand until sugar is dissolved & the mixture is syrupy, about 15 minutes.
Serving
  1. Split the shortcakes. Place the bottom halves of the shortcakes on serving plates & top evenly with the strawberry mixture & yogurt. Cover with shortcake tops. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Instead of cutting your shortcakes into wedges, you could bake them in tart molds for a fancier look.

Honey Roasted Peaches

August is well-known for being the Sunday of Summer. Peaches are essentially summer in a juicy fruit, and this is the ultimate summer pudding. A glorious combo of fresh peaches, buttery honey sauce, topped with cool marscapone cream and toasted almonds.

There really isn’t anything better than a perfectly ripe, juicy peach. Sweet, messy, glorious, …. the juices dripping down your arm as you reach up to take a bite, then dripping down your chin!

Peaches are very versatile when it comes to the culinary arts. They can be grilled, baked, broiled, sauteed, blended or served au naturel. With just a couple of spices, peaches can go from their naturally sweet state to savory.

This dessert makes the most of the brief peach season.

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Honey Roasted Peaches
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Slice peaches in half & remove pits. Place the halves in a baking dish & top each with 1 Tbsp of butter. Drizzle honey over the top, using amount you personally prefer. Place them in the oven for about 20 minutes until bronzed & bubbling but not burnt.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together marscapone, cream & vanilla. Refrigerate until needed. Toast almond slices in a dry frying pan, stirring often , taking care not to let them burn.
  4. Remove the peaches from the oven & place on 4 serving plates. Spoon some of the sauce from the pan over the top, along with some marscapone cream. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.
Recipe Notes
  • For a casual dessert, its probably good to go with 2 halves per person. For dinner party guests, 1 half is good & looks a bit more, should we say, 'refined'.

Sweet Cherry Cream Cheese Cakes

There are literally hundreds of ways to make cheesecake with so many recipes and ideas available today. When pairing fruit and cheese, the goal should be to highlight both elements equally. We enjoy fruit with cheese because the combination of flavors are so complimentary.

One of the first cheesecake pairings I recall was the ‘Cherry-O Cream Cheese Pie’ from the Borden company. I doubt there are very many people in North America who didn’t enjoy this dessert in the 60’s or 70’s. The recipe was placed in a magazine ad and was printed to promote two of their products … cream cheese and sweetened milk.

Part of the reason it became such a favorite was it tasted great and was a no-bake cheesecake. All you needed was the ingredients, a mixer, a can opener and a refrigerator. Borden is still in existence today, selling sweetened condensed milk under the name Eagle Brand.

With a cheesecake idea in mind, I picked up some frozen sweet, dark cherries when we were shopping. As usual, I like doing individuals since there’s just the two of us. The base is like cake batter which is topped with the cream cheese filling and cherries. The streusel and sliced almonds are the crowning touch.

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Sweet Cherry Cream Cheese Cakes
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, with an electric mixer, combine cream cheese & sugar until creamy. Add egg white & mix just to combine. Set aside.
Streusel
  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour & chilled butter. With finger tips or a pastry blender, combine until pea-size crumbles form. Set aside.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter 8- 4 X 3/4-inch mini tart pans.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter & sugar. Add egg, egg yolk & the 3 extracts. Fold in flour mixture alternating with the sour cream. DO NOT OVERMIX.
  3. Divide batter between the 8 mini tart pans. Spread batter over bottom & up the sides of pans. Spoon filling into center of cake batter 'shells'. Arrange cherry halves, cut side down, in a circle on top of filling. Sprinkle tarts with streusel topping then with sliced almonds.
  4. Place tart pans on a baking sheet & bake 25-30 minutes, or until they test done. Serve warm or cold.
Recipe Notes
  • The newspaper clipping looks to be from a full page promo for Borden's cream cheese & condensed milk. The coupon at the bottom expired May 31, 1965
  • Interesting ... there is part of an ad on the reverse side of the clipping for a new Scout vehicle priced at $1690.85 which looks similar to a Jeep. What a price!!

Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake

We seem to have had all the right weather conditions this year for our little cherry tree. It’s yield was close to 8 lbs (3.6 kg) of really beautiful fruit. I personally like using these cherries for cooking and baking as opposed to eating them fresh. The sweet/tart flavor lends itself so well to numerous recipes.

While the warmer summer months certainly slow down my baking activities, they never really stop completely. On the cooler or rainy days, I still heed the call to head to the kitchen for some baking therapy.

My recipe idea today was inspired by the 1970’s ‘Poke Cakes’. Originally created to increase sluggish sales for Jello-O gelatin, poke cakes are colorful and easy to make. A fork, chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon is used to poke deep holes all over the top of the baked cake(mix). Next, it is topped with a colorful Jell-O syrup, which trickles into the cake looking like brightly colored streamers. Once it is refrigerated until set, the cake is then slathered with Cool Whip.

Although it seems like poke cakes are a phenomenon born in corporate American kitchens, drenching cake in flavorful liquids is not new, or entirely an American tradition. England’s sticky toffee pudding, a single layer date cake, is poked all over while still warm from the oven with a fork or skewer and drenched in sticky butterscotch sauce. Genoise, the classic French sponge cake, is almost always soaked in sugar syrups spiked with liqueur, not just for flavor, but to keep the cake fresh and prevent it from drying out. Pastel de tres leches, or ‘three-milks cake’, is a beloved Latin American classic. Made from sponge cake soaked in a milky syrup combining evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. All three called for this hole-poking action long before the 1970’s.

Of course, getting back to my German heritage, brings to mind a German butter cake or Butter Kuchen. This classic yeasted cake (actually more like a bread), seems to be very closely aligned with the poke cake idea. After the dough has risen and been rolled out, deep impressions are made for the filling to nestle in.

For our ‘cake’, I used an almond cream cheese filling to compliment the fresh cherries. We really enjoyed it!

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Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake
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Rating: 5
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
Votes: 4
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cake Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. Beat together filling ingredients & set aside in fridge until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Line a 15" X 10"-inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Place dough on paper & press out evenly in pan. Make about 20 deep impressions in dough with your fingertips. Fill each one with a spoonful of filling & top with a couple of cherries. Allow cake to rise 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake cake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients. Remove from oven: cool for just a few minutes then drizzle with glaze. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Cut into 24 serving pieces.

Swiss Easter Rice Tart

With Easter coming up real soon, why not bake something different this year or should I say, different for me. Swiss Rice Tart  has a custard type filling made with rice, eggs, milk, citrusy lemon zest, ground almonds all baked in a sweet, crunchy pastry. Traditionally only served during Easter time in Switzerland, it is a wonderful non-fussy and unusual brunch dish/dessert item.

It took a bit of time to try and learn some history of this Easter specialty. It seems that the first available recipes for a similar tart are from the end of the 16th century. In a cookbook by Anna Wecker, (the first German cookbook to be published by a woman) there was mention of a similar tart. In some of the early recipes, Parmesan cheese was included in the dough but this was abandoned for a sweeter crust. Another version used bread as a starchy filling instead of rice or semolina and the flavoring was rosewater and wine. By the 19th century, the tart, as it is known today, made its way into the rotation of most Swiss bakeries.

The key to getting the right consistency for the filling is to slightly overcook the rice from the beginning as it needs to to become smooth and creamy. The ground almonds, amaretto liqueur and raisins all add richness to the flavor of this ‘rice pudding baked in a crust’.


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Swiss Easter Rice Tart

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Servings


Ingredients
Sweet Pastry Crust

Rice Custard Filling

Topping

Servings


Ingredients
Sweet Pastry Crust

Rice Custard Filling

Topping

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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, salt & baking powder to blend. Add butter & pulse about 3-4 times, until butter is in pea- size pieces. Sprinkle in the ice water; pulse another 4 times. Turn dough out on a lightly floured work surface & knead gently a few times to form a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate at least an hour.

Custard Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine amaretto liqueur & raisins & allow to marinate until ready to add to filling.

  2. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in rice, lower heat to medium & cook until rice is soft & water is absorbed. Add evaporated milk, skim milk, butter, sugar & salt. Bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to low & add amaretto liqueur ONLY, setting raisins aside.

  3. Simmer until mixture has thickened almost to a 'risotto' consistency, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat & place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes to cool mixture.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. & place oven rack in the lowest position. When cooled, pour rice mixture into a bowl; add lemon zest & raisins. Mix ground almonds with the 1 Tbsp flour & fold into mixture along with eggs.

  5. Press chilled pastry evenly into tart pan. Trim edges flush with pan. Pour filling into pastry dough & bake about 35 minutes, until filling is set & golden. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar & almond slices (create a design if you wish) before serving.


Recipe Notes
  • This recipe was adapted from a site called cuisine Switzerland.
  • I had used a 10-inch tart pan for mine but there was a small amount of filling left over which had to be baked in a casserole dish.
  • I would suggest using a 10-inch spring form pan instead so the pastry sides could be higher to accommodate the extra filling.

Italian Plum Crisp

Italian prune plums or sometimes called Empress plums, are different from the traditional round red and black skinned plums we see in the grocery stores. Sporting a dusky purple skin and a tart, lemony green flesh, these European fruits are ripe for harvest by the end of August to the beginning of September. This particular plum is prized throughout Germany and plays a big role in the German kitchen. Although it has a bit of a sour taste, it is very versatile in making juice, jam, cakes, dumplings as well as Slivovitz — a famous Schnapps.

I remember my mother making these plums as a stewed fruit to be served with yeast dumplings ( see my blog on German Hefekloesse from Nov. 6/2016).

Now that the Italian plums have come into season, I’m taking this opportunity to bake some for our dessert today. Top them with a nice simple crumble mixture, bake and serve hot. Of course, what would they be without ice cream!

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Italian Plum Crisp
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place plum halves, cut-side up, in a baking dish & drizzle with lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients, working with fingers until crumbly. Pile topping mixture into 'pit' holes. Bake about 20-30 minutes until topping is golden brown & bubbling. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Recipe Notes

Roasted Summer Fruit with Spiced Mascarpone Cream

You guessed it —- more roasted fruit! It seems to be my addiction this summer. This time its not that I had fruit on hand but instead some mascarpone cheese. Who would dream of letting that go to waste?? Sometimes called  Italian Cream Cheese, mascarpone is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy. Mascarpone is used in both sweet and savory dishes to enhance the flavor without overwhelming the original taste. Lombardy has a rich agricultural and dairy heritage. Farms that produce the cheese provide their cows with special grasses that include fresh herbs and flowers. This in turn gives a unique taste to the milk and a creamy texture to the cheese.

Some years ago, Brion and I visited the Lombardy region of Italy. We have great memories of the wonderful food but probably even more so the beauty of the architecture and history. We spent a bit of time in Milan. While there we visited the world renowned ‘La Scala’ opera house and museum as well as the glass roofed shopping arcade and giant cathedral, the ‘Gothic Duomo’. I’ve included some of our photos from Milan for you to enjoy.

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Roasted Summer Fruit with Spiced Mascarpone Cream
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, toast almonds until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small roasting pan, toss together all prepared fruit, half of the sugar, the brandy & butter. Roast, stirring occasionally, until for tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. While fruit is roasting, beat together mascarpone, remaining sugar, vanilla, ginger & cardamom until smooth. In a separate bowl, whip cream; fold into mascarpone mixture along with half of the almonds.
  4. Divide mascarpone mixture into dessert dishes forming a mound in each. Spoon fruit & pan juices over top. Sprinkle with remaining almonds.
Recipe Notes
  • You can prepare the fruit & cream ahead. Just keep them in separate dishes; cover & refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Mug Cakes

Mug cakes have been around for a while. We seem to like eating food out of mugs. Whether it’s a mug full of chili or just some cereal and milk, we like being able to hold our whole meal in our hands and enjoy it by the spoonful. Mug cakes have gained popularity not only because they are delicious, but because you can make them in five minutes. The technique uses a mug as the cooking vessel and takes just a few minutes to toss in the ingredients. It then goes into the microwave; as the butter in the mixture heats up, it creates air pockets that will cause the cake to quickly rise. The problem is that microwave baking is tricky and not every ‘cake-in-a-mug’ recipe you come across will work well. 

I’ve tried a few with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, they are a great way to satisfy an emergency homemade treat craving without even turning on the oven.

Here are some ideas you might like to try.

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Mug Crumble Cake/ Chocolate Mug Cake
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
Votes: 1
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Instructions
FRUIT CRUMBLE MUG CAKE
  1. In a small bowl, combine apple with sugar & butter. Divide between 2 mugs. Cover each with plastic film & pierce several times. Cook in microwave for 1 minute at 800 watts or 50 seconds at 1000 watts. Add dried fruit & nuts & stir.
  2. In a bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, oatmeal, flour & salt with your fingertips. Crumble on top of fruit in each mug. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes at 800 watts or 1 minute 10 seconds at 1000 watts. Remove mugs from microwave & sprinkle with sliced almonds.
CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
  1. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add milk & oil; whisk together until smooth. Divide between 2 mugs & microwave on high for about 70 seconds. Remove from microwave. Cool a bit before eating.
Recipe Notes
  • Be aware that success will depend on knowing how to adjust the cooking time according to YOUR microwave strength (watts). Be careful not to overcook your mug cakes.
  • Each recipe should yield 2 mugs worth. 

Shrimp Tetrazzini

Food historians have all agreed on the fact that this retro classic dish is not Italian. Truth is it was named after the Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini. Chef’s often named dishes after prestigious clients at their restaurants. 

Tetrazzini is a rich dish combining cooked spaghetti tossed with either cooked poultry or seafood (never red meat) and a tangy sherry -cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sauteed mushrooms (a must), along with steamed peas, asparagus tips or broccoli florets are common additions.

Whether it is made individually or as a casserole, it is sprinkled with sliced almonds and additional parmesan, then broiled or baked until crunchy and bubbly with a golden top.

Time and home cooking have stripped away many of the dish’s continental flourishes, with modern versions of tetrazzini being more sturdier and less grand. The recipe means different things to different people with shortcut recipes sometimes using canned cream soups. Although tasty, they never quite measure up to the original iconic dish.

Brion and I absolutely love this meal. It might be a bit more expensive but using the Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano as opposed to generic parmesan cheese is well worth it in this recipe.

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Shrimp Tetrazzini
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Course Main Dish
Servings
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pasta
  1. In a large stockpot, bring 2 1/2 liters of water to a boil & add 1 1/2 tsp salt. Break pasta in half & add to boiling water. Cook pasta until slightly less than al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well & return to stockpot. Add the butter, Parmesan & pepper. Toss until butter is melted & pasta is evenly coated. Transfer to a large bowl & set aside.
Shrimp
  1. In the same stockpot, bring water, wine, lemon juice, lemon rinds & bay leaves to a boil. Add the shrimp. Start timing immediately & cook for 3 minutes. By the time 3 minutes are up, the water should be boiling. Drain immediately & rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze any remaining juice from the lemon over all. Toss into spaghetti & set aside.
Vegetables
  1. Slice the mushroom caps. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat; add mushrooms, garlic powder & salt. Increase heat & cook until mushrooms are losing moisture & mixture is juicy, about 6 minutes. Add unthawed peas; cook until almost no moisture remains, 5-6 minutes. Stir into pasta mixture & set aside.
Sherry-Cream Parmesan Sauce
  1. In the saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Increase heat to medium & add flour, salt & cayenne pepper. Using a whisk, stir constantly, cooking until mixture is thick, smooth & bubbly, about 30 seconds. Add cream, in a slow stream, stirring constantly, cooking until smooth, thickened & drizzly, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Sprinkle in the Parmesan, stirring until mixture is smooth, adding milk/broth if necessary. Add the sherry, to taste. Add & toss into pasta mixture.
Topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer mixture to individual dishes or one casserole dish that have been sprayed or lightly buttered. Without pressing down on top of the mixture, use a fork to evenly distribute tetrazzini. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top, followed by the Parmesan cheese.
  2. Bake, uncovered, on center rack for 25-30 minutes. Top should be golden brown & casserole will be bubbling around the sides. Do NOT overbake. Remove from oven & allow to sit 10-15 minutes before serving.