Salmon Wellington

HAPPY EASTER!

Easter is here and Salmon Wellington is the perfect holiday meal! The richness of the mushroom duxelles, pairs perfectly with the hearty salmon fish fillet and scallops and the buttery puff pastry just takes this dish to the next level.

Mushroom duxelles is an intensely flavored combination of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, and fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley that are slowly cooked to a paste-like consistency. French in origin and named after the marquis d’Uxelles, this mushroom condiment is traditionally used in the preparation of beef Wellington, but it can also be used to flavor soups and sauces as well as to fill omelets and ravioli. 

Wellington fillet as we know it today was first made famous by the American chef and star Julia Child, who introduced the filet de bśuf en croûte, the French crust beef fillet, as ‘Filet of Wellington Beef’ during her TV show ‘The French Chef’, on the 1965 New Year’s Eve episode. From that day on, the recipe began to appear in various recreational circles in North America, as well as being taken up in the most important cookbooks.

A Salmon Wellington is a copycat version of the popular English ‘Beef Wellington’. Because puff pastry takes about 20 minutes to bake (salmon takes 12-15 minutes), keep the salmon refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble. Starting with cold salmon ensures it doesn’t overcook. To prevent the bottom from getting soggy, pat dry the salmon thoroughly before assembling. Also, make sure to cut slits on the puff pastry once assembled to allow the steam to escape. Don’t open the oven until ready since puff pastry needs full consistent heat to bake into flaky layers.

You’ll be so impressed when it’s time to take it out of the oven because it just looks amazing. However, you’ll be more impressed with how it tastes. Just like an elegant and flavorful fish pie!

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Salmon Wellington
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
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Instructions
Mushroom Duxelles
  1. In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms to a roughly diced consistency,15-20 seconds. In a saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, a heavy pinch of salt & pepper, shallots, garlic, rosemary & thyme. Sauté until moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl & set aside.
Scallop Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine the scallops (or shrimp), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into scallop mixture.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into FOUR- 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Divide mushroom mixture evenly & spread over 4 pieces of pastry leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  3. Center the salmon pieces on top. Next, top each salmon piece with a quarter of the scallop filling.
  4. Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on the baking sheet & brush with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
  1. While salmon is baking, mix all sauce ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.

Vertical Pumpkin Cheesecake Tarts w/ Cranberry Gelee

There’s something about the presentation of food—it always seems to taste better when it looks great. Plated desserts aren’t quite my passion, but it was still an experience worth learning.

Our eyes are the gateway to our stomachs. When a dessert looks good, it’s like a promise that it’s going to taste amazing. But it’s not just about the looks; there’s actual science behind it! Psychologists believe that visually appealing food also seems tastier. The brain, being the mischievous little thing it is, associates’ beauty with flavor.

Plated desserts are essentially desserts that have multiple textures, flavors, colors and components that are paired together and presented beautifully on a plate, almost looking like a piece of art.

Dessert plating has been around since the Renaissance. The nobility used to have their chefs present their sweets in the most elaborate ways. So basically, when you’re plating, you’re partaking in a historical tradition.

Embracing the seasonality of ingredients not only adds fresh flavors to your desserts but also creates a visual impact on your plate.

These little elegant tarts are made using rings of crisp, sweet shortcrust pastry, a light pumpkin cheesecake and a layer of fresh cranberry orange gelee. Standing upright on a bed of gingersnap crumble, they are decorated with white chocolate fall leaves and candy spheres.

A plated dessert can be simple to strikingly complex and everything in between so you are only limited by your imagination. 

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Vertical Pumpkin Cheesecake Tarts w/ Cranberry Gelee
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Cranberry Gelee
Pastry
Crumb Base
Servings
Ingredients
Cranberry Gelee
Pastry
Crumb Base
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Instructions
Pumpkin Cheesecake (make a day ahead)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9 X 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, brown sugar, ground spices, nutmeg and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin puree until smooth. Beat in the cream, maple syrup, vanilla and eggs at low speed until blended.
  3. Pour the batter into a prepared baking pan. Spread evenly in the pan. When baked & cooled the cheesecake should be the height of the width of your tart rings. (Mine are about ¾-inch).
  4. Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover & refrigerate covered overnight.
Gelee (make a day ahead)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries with 1/4 cup of water and cook over moderate heat until they begin to pop, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine sieve. Rinse out the saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar & 2 Tbsp of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring, until dissolved. Let cool. Stir in the orange juice and cranberry puree.
  3. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 Tbsp of water and let stand until softened, 5 minutes. Microwave for 10 seconds, or until completely melted. Whisk the gelatin into the cranberry mixture. Line a 6 X 9-inch dish with plastic wrap. Pour the gelée into a prepared pan; shake it gently to even it out. Refrigerate the gelee overnight.
Pastry
  1. Combine the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt, & vanilla in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with your hands until the butter is broken down into pieces the size of peas and the ingredients are well combined. Add the egg and mix with a fork until the dough is smooth and the egg is fully incorporated. Don’t overmix.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and gently shape it into a ball. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight, until cold but still pliable.
  3. When the dough has chilled, unwrap the dough and place it on a silicone baking mat on your work surface. Roll it out into a rectangle about 1⁄8 inch thick, using a second silicone sheet on top.
  4. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into strips about 1- inch thick. These strips will make the tart rings. Place cut pastry in freezer until cool. This will make handling the strips much easier.
  5. When chilled, transfer each strip of dough to one of the tart rings and lightly press it to the sides. (I am using 2 sizes of tart rings – 2 ¾-inch & 2 ½-inch diameter and ¾-inch width). Use a small knife to neaten the top edge of the rim on the rings.
  6. Transfer the baking sheet containing the tart rings to the freezer & freeze for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  8. Bake tart rings for 15-20 minutes or until light golden in color. Cool on wire racks.
Crumb Base
  1. Place gingersnap cookies in a sealed plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, crush to coarse crumbs. Set aside.
Assembly/Decoration
  1. CHEESECAKE: Using a ring cookie cutter the diameter of the inside of the BAKED pastry rings. Cut out circles. Cut each cheesecake circle in half, so that you have semicircles. Place one semicircle inside each pastry ring so that the curved edge sits flush inside the pastry ring.
  2. GELEE: Cut strips of gelee & place one along each cut side of the cheesecake, so that when you stand the rings of pastry up, it is sitting on top of the cheesecake.
  3. CRUMB BASE: Arrange small piles of gingersnap crumbs on a serving plate & place each tart on top of the crumbs, so they are standing vertically.
  4. DECORATION: Decorate your vertical tarts with whatever you wish. My choice was some tiny white chocolate fall leaves in keeping with an autumn dessert.
Recipe Notes
  • Traditionally the pastry for the rings is made containing almond meal. Since I have a nut allergy, mine is made without but still has a nice crispy texture. 
  • Very often this kind of dessert is made with a chocolate filling but I wanted to do something in the way of a fall dessert. 
  • Using a pumpkin cheesecake filling has two benefits. It definitely says fall & is easy to make it conform to the circular shape.
  • These plated desserts add such an elegant finishing touch to a holiday meal.

Garlic Orzo Tuscan Shrimp

Quite often confused with rice, orzo is a short-cut and petite pasta that is often used in place of other grains. Also known as risoni, this little pasta, or pastina, is a wonderful base for many meals.

Orzo offers enormous culinary potential made with 100% enriched durum semolina wheat. However, there are other varieties, including whole wheat orzo made with whole wheat flour and tri-color orzo which is enriched with red tomato and vibrant green spinach.

Orzo can be used in a wide variety of recipes such as mixed bowls, soups, salads, casseroles, and side dishes. Another way to take advantage of orzo pasta is by using it as a filling or stuffing. It makes a hearty option for anything from stuffed peppers and tomatoes to orzo stuffed zucchini boats.

The shape of orzo may resemble a large grain of rice; however, while both are rich in carbohydrates, these two plant-based ingredients are quite different. Apart from their composition, rice does not contain gluten, whereas pasta, made from wheat, does.

With its origins in the Mediterranean, it’s no wonder that orzo wonderfully complements the tastes and vibrant colors of a variety of coastal cuisines. I think it compliments this Tuscan shrimp dish very well.

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Garlic Orzo Tuscan Shrimp
Instructions
  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil & cook orzo pasta about 8-9 minutes. Drain the orzo using a colander & set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter & add minced garlic & shrimp; fry for 2 minutes on each side or until cooked & pink. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl & set aside.
  3. Add the onions & mushrooms to the butter remaining in the skillet. Stir in sun dried tomatoes & Swiss chard leaves; fry for 1-2 minutes or until leaves are wilted.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low & add the cream; bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Stir in parmesan cheese; allow the sauce to simmer for about a minute until the cheese melts. Sprinkle the herbs & parsley over the mix & toss to combine.
  6. Add shrimp & cooked orzo pasta; toss to combine. Serve.

Asparagus & Prosciutto Self Crusting Quiche

Some of you may recall Bisquick’s ‘Impossible Pie’ recipes published back in 1978. They were called ‘impossible’ because it made its own crust as it baked. There was no need to make a separate bottom crust before adding the main ingredients, and the Bisquick mix. Baking in a hot oven, this concoction magically became a glorious, thick quiche-like pie with a golden surface. Once out of the oven and cooled a bit, it sliced cleanly and released from the pan flawlessly.

The headline on their newsletter at the time read: ‘Bisquick Makes the Impossible Possible’. It wasn’t long before the number of impossible pie recipes grew to more than 100, including everything from beef, chicken/turkey, ham, sausage & bacon, fish & seafood, meatless to fruit pies. In 1997, the name was changed to ‘Impossibly Easy Pie’ in an effort to reach a new generation of cooks.

At some point in time, the original recipe was evidently removed from the Bisquick box. By the 1980s the North American diet was undergoing dramatic changes. In keeping with the low-fat diet recommendations that became so popular in the early ’80s, recipes for the heavy, rich foods we had previously favored were forgotten.

Nevertheless, quiche is supreme. This self-crusting, asparagus quiche made with gouda cheese and topped with prosciutto does not use the Bisquick mix but follows the same theory. Quick, easy & delicious!

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Asparagus & Prosciutto Self Crusting Quiche
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9-10-inch pie plate or ceramic quiche dish. Set aside.
  2. Use a veggie peeler to trim away the outer skin of the asparagus spears. Trim away the bottom 2-inches of each spear. Slice on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces, leaving tips intact. Set the tips aside.
  3. Grate cheese & toss in a bowl with 1 Tbsp flour making sure to evenly coat as this will help suspend it in the custard as opposed to having it all settle to the bottom.
  4. Whisk eggs, milk & cream together until frothy in a medium bowl. Season with thyme, salt & pepper.
  5. Spoon 1/2 of the sliced asparagus spears all over the bottom of the dish. Scatter 1/2 of the scallion slices over asparagus. Scatter 1/3 of the cheese over all veggies. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp chili flakes over this (if using). Scatter 1/3 of prosciutto slices over the cheese.
  6. Repeat with remaining veggies & another 1/3 of the cheese & prosciutto.
  7. Pour the egg mixture gently over the veggies & cheese. Top with the remaining cheese & the dill.
  8. Add the remaining prosciutto pieces & the asparagus tips over the cheese at this point as well, so that they will be slightly elevated, for presentation. You can use the extra slices of prosciutto slices to make prosciutto 'roses' for extra eye appeal by folding them in half lengthwise & rolling the up in rolls. Gently fold the edges out & down, to create the look of a rose.
  9. Place on a baking sheet & bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown & set. The center can still be ever so slightly giggly, but it shouldn't be soggy soft.
  10. Remove & allow to sit for a good 20 minutes to let the residual heat continue cooking the eggs. We enjoyed this quiche with a warm piece of focaccia bread.

Quiche Lorraine w/ Hash Brown Crust

Quiche seems like a springtime dish, but the truth is its an ‘any season’ dish in my opinion. This version skips the pastry and is built on a crispy, grated, potato hash brown crust.

Hash browns can always be counted on to add heartiness and can be made several different ways, incorporating a variety of ingredients, including leftovers or whatever happens to be on hand in the fridge. Although hash browns are credited as being from the USA, there are similar dishes elsewhere that likely contributed towards the hash browns of today, and should be mentioned:

  • Rösti of Switzerland – like a potato pancake
  • Latkes of the Jewish folks – also like a potato pancake, but with eggs
  • Tortilla de papas (or patatas) of Spain – like an omelet

The original ‘quiche Lorraine’ was an open pie with a filling consisting of an egg and cream custard with smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added to the quiche Lorraine. The bottom crust was originally made from bread dough, but that has long since evolved into numerous other ideas such as puff pastry or hash brown crusts.

Although quiche is now a classic dish of French cuisine, quiche actually originated in Germany, in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, and which the French later renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ is from the German ‘Kuchen’, meaning cake.

The specialty quiche from Lorraine features gruyere cheese, onion, bacon as its primary flavors. The nice thing is, quiche is something that anyone can make and can be served as an entrée, for lunch, breakfast, or an evening snack.

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Quiche Lorraine w/ Hash Brown Crust
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Instructions
Potato Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Thaw & pat dry shredded hashbrowns on paper towels. Lightly toss with remaining crust ingredients. Press into the bottom & up the sides of a 9" quiche pan. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp, 5-6 minutes; transfer to a paper towel lined plate & allow to cool.
  2. Wipe out skillet & heat oil. Add leeks & garlic; cook covered , stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes or until tender.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, heavy cream & smoked paprika. Stir in bacon, leeks & cheese. Spoon mixture into hashbrown crust. Slightly press sliced tomatoes , cut side up, into quiche. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper.
  4. Bake until set & golden brown about 20-25 minutes. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • To cut out a few calories, I use a low fat milk instead of the heavy cream. It just requires a little longer cooking time but still tastes great.

Pork Medallions w/ Wild Mushrooms & Mustard Cream

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Many of the best holiday traditions involve food — and New Year’s is no exception. Not only is it the final celebration of a long holiday season, but it’s also a moment to celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. When January 1st arrives each year, people across the globe turn to New Year’s Day foods said to bring good fortune, long life, love, and more in the coming year. No matter the events of the previous 12 months, many of us look at the holiday as a chance for a fresh start.

Eating pork is just one of the many foods considered to be lucky. Pigs symbolize progress. Some say it’s because these animals never move backward, while others believe it’s all in their feeding habits (they push their snouts forward along the ground when rooting for food). They are also rotund, symbolizing a fat wallet ahead. The meat itself is fattier than other cuts of meat, making this New Year’s Eve food both tasty and a symbol of prosperity. 

Here in Canada we have so much to be grateful for. I guess if we think further, the most important wish would be for world peace.

HEALTH & HAPPINESS TO EVERYONE IN THE COMING YEAR!

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Pork Medallions w/ Wild Mushrooms & Mustard Cream
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Instructions
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 6 minutes.
  2. Wipe out the skillet. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet over high heat until hot. Sprinkle the pork medallions generously with salt and pepper. Sear over medium-high heat, turning once halfway through, until browned, about 12 minutes for medium. Transfer the pork to a platter.
  3. Add the shallots to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the mustard and heavy cream and bring to a boil, cooking until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Spoon the sauce on a plate; place the medallions on the sauce and scatter the mushrooms over top. Garnish with additional parsley, if desired.

Roasted Vegetable Crumble

Crumble is not just a crispy dessert. Some variations on the original recipe have managed to transform the crumble into a mouth-watering savory dish. Almost Mediterranean at its heart, the roasted vegetable crumble introduces a whole new vegetarian culinary experience. A magnificent display of accessibility & balanced flavors, with rustic and crispy textures. While both sweet and savory versions have received international acclaim, at its root, crumble is a fruit-based dessert topped with a breadcrumb-like topping made with flour, butter, and sugar.

Crumbles became popular in Britain during World War II, when the topping was an economical alternative to pies due to shortages of pastry ingredients as the result of rationing.

This savory crumble with roasted vegetables is topped with buttery cracker crumbs, Parmesan, Panko crumbs, thyme and cracked black pepper to give it some added texture. It makes such a nice fall or winter casserole.

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Roasted Vegetable Crumble
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 9-inch deep pie dish; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl combine crackers, bread crumbs, cheese, pepper, thyme, and butter. Toss to coat everything in butter. Spoon just less than half of the mixture into the bottom of the pie dish and slightly up the sides. Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes, until just golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms and thyme. Increase heat to medium-high and let the vegetables sauté down until well softened, browned, and caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper as the vegetables cook down. The mushrooms will release a lot of their moisture and then the mixture will brown and cook down.
  4. When vegetables are cooked down and softened, reduce heat to medium, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until the flour disappears. Slowly add the chicken stock and stir, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer to thicken. Finally, stir in the cream and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Spoon mixture onto the browned crust. Sprinkle with gruyere. Top with the remaining crumble crust. Place in the oven to bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until top crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving warm.

Rainbow Trout w/ Mushroom Stuffing

There is something about fresh roasted fish that always appeals to me. This simple preparation really allows the fish to be the star of the meal.

Trout are fresh water fish, with firm textured flesh and a medium to high (good) fat content. Rainbow trout is probably the best known and one of the most popular varieties in the world. Being a mild, white fish with a light, clean flavor and just a touch of ‘sweetness’, makes it perfect for even a non-fish lover.

Rainbow trout fillets vary from ivory to pink as they belong to the same family as salmon. They’re most often fried but can be poached, baked, steamed, grilled or broiled. Whole trout is often stuffed before being cooked. Mushrooms and fish are an underrated combination but a good one nonetheless. Fish cook very quickly so its important to make sure the stuffing is cooked first.

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Rainbow Trout w/ Mushroom Stuffing
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Clean & scale trout; set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, heat butter. Add onions & celery; sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms & season well; continuing to cook 3 more minutes. Add breadcrumbs & mix well. Add cream, fennel & chives; cook 3 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat & stuff trout. Tie with string. Dredge with flour & bake 12-15 minutes.

Black Forest Desserts

While the origins of the black forest cake aren’t all that clear, some historians believe that its origins can be traced back to the Black Forest Region of Germany. This part of Germany is well known for its sour cherries and ‘Kirschwasser‘ … a clear cherry brandy.

This iconic creation is a layered confection of a liqueur ‘soaked’ chocolate cake with rich whipped cream and sour cherries between its layers. The liqueur and cherries give the cake an intense and unique fruity flavor. It’s these sour cherries which gave it its German name: Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen or Black Forest Cherry Cake.

There are many origin stories about the cake. Some sources claim that the name of the cake is inspired by the traditional custom of the women of the Black Forest region, with a characteristic hat with big red pom-poms on top called a ‘Bollenhut’. The earliest published written record of black forest cake was in 1934, by a German confectioner. Today, the cake is well known worldwide and probably one of the most popular cakes in Germany.

Since we just happen to have a nice little sour cherry tree growing in our garden, why not put some of them to good use in these cakes?!

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Black Forest Desserts
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Course dessert
Cuisine German
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Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cherry juice in the bottom of each of two 8-ounce ramekins. Microwave ramekins until butter and brown sugar are melted and bubbling, about 1 minute. Arrange cherries in a tightly packed layer in the bottom of each ramekin.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in egg yolk, then flour mixture and milk. Divide batter between ramekins.
  4. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, 20 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, beat cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and cherry brandy until soft peaks form. Run a paring knife around edge of each cake and invert onto a plate. Serve cakes with brandy whipped cream.
Recipe Notes
  • Kirschwasser is German for 'Cherry Water', and while it may be as clear as water, it packs quite a punch.  This double distilled brandy made from the sour Morello cherries is, more often than not, simply referred to a Kirsch. This 'not too sweet with a subtle cherry/almond flavored' liqueur is a vitally necessary ingredient to make a traditional Black Forest Cake; for that is where both the cake and Kirschwasser hail from...  The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, in southwestern Germany.  

French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto

Thanks for the memories! This phrase says it all when I think back to the wonderful time we spent in France. Although this holiday is now 20 years past, the memories remain very vivid and special.

My sister, Loretta had joined Brion & I on this French vacation which had made it even more special. Our journey began in Paris where we had rented a car, then travelled south (about 613 km/380 miles) to the sleepy little village of St Thibery. For this segment of our trip we had rented an apartment to use as ‘home base’ during our time in this part of France. Many of these houses are from the 14th,15th & 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio.

St Thibery is situated between the larger towns of Agde & Pezenas and is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. On one of our day trips we visited the town of Agde. It is one of the oldest towns in France and is captivating by its maze of narrow streets. Agde was built of black basalt from a volcanic eruption thus the black color of its buildings.

It was here we discovered a nice restaurant where we enjoyed some classic French steamed mussels. It would be an understatement to say how much the three of us enjoyed this feast of fresh seafood.

During the time we spent in the area, we made the 20 minute drive from St Thibery to Agde just to have some more mussels on numerous evenings.

Brion & I decided to revisit the taste of those ‘French’ mussels today with our supper meal. Of course, nothing compares to the ‘taste of a memory’!

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French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto
Instructions
Risotto
  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat to low & keep at a simmer.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon & sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain & set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings from skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary to equal 2 Tbsp) then add leeks, mushrooms & shallot. Turn heat up to medium-high; season with salt & pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender & starting to turn golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add rice; stir to coat & cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Turn heat back to medium; add wine & stir until absorbed by rice. Add hot vegetable broth; stir near constantly until rice is tender & all the broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If broth gets to a hard boil, turn heat down. Remove skillet from heat; stir in thyme, parmesan cheese & cooked bacon. Keep warm until mussels are ready.
Mussels
  1. Heat olive oil & butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter & parsley. Season well with salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Mix well, cover pot with a lid & cook until mussels are cooked through & opened, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve mussels along with the juices in the pan with risotto & crusty or garlic bread.