Russian Pelmeni

My love for noodles, dumplings, etc. probably could be accredited to my German heritage. This recipe for Russian pelmeni has been hovering in my ‘must try’ file for quite some time, so today’s the day.

It seems most food historians agree that these Russian dumplings originated in Siberia. Although pelmeni forms the heart of Russian cuisine and culture, it does have numerous look-a-likes in particular the Ukrainian vareniki and the Polish pierogi. The easiest way to spot the difference is to look at the shape and size; a typical pelmeni is almost circular and about two inches in diameter. The other forms are usually more elongated and larger in size.  Also, the fillings in pelmeni are usually raw, while the fillings of vareniki and pierogi are typically precooked. Pelmeni will never have a sweet filling , unlike its Ukrainian counterpart. The recipe may actually be an adaptation of Chinese pot stickers.

Fillings differ but essentially they are ground meat (pork, beef or sometimes lamb), fish or mushrooms as well as being quite spicy.

The word pelmeni comes from ‘pelnyan’ which means ‘bread ear’, a reference to the food’s ear-like shape.

Although this meal was favored by hunters who were looking for light, easy to prepare, nourishing food to take with them on long trips in the winter, its also seen as Russian fast food among students or bachelors.

This recipe gives you the option of making traditional pelmeni or using an alternate method called ‘lazy’ pelmeni. Both equally as good.

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Russian Pelmeni
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
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Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover, set aside & allow dough to rest until your filling is prepared.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine ground meats, onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Mix well.
Assembly
  1. FOR THE TRADITIONAL PELMENI: Divide the dough in half & roll each portion out into 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch diameter circles & place about a teaspoon of the filling on each circle. Fold the circle in half & crimp edges well, then bring the ends together & crimp. Repeat to use remaining dough & filling. It is best to refrigerate or freeze finished pelmeni before you are ready to boil them.
  2. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place pelmeni in the boiling water & cook until they float to the top then cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add butter & mix to coat. Serve with sour cream & fresh parsley.
  3. FOR 'LAZY' PELMENI VERSION: Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large thin rectangle. Spread meat filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
  4. Tightly roll the dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
  5. In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add carrot & 1 bay leaf; cook until the carrot is tender, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Place pelmeni rolls into the skillet with veggies, add the vegetable broth, salt, pepper & the other bay leaf. Cover with the lid & cook for 30 minutes on low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is liquid in the skillet. Add more if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with sour cream if you wish.

Seafood Stuffed Pork Medallions with Peppercorn Sauce

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important, is just the act of doing it. I am very grateful to have had a father who was such a strong role model in my life. Everything he did was driven by his commitment to provide and care for the family he loved.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. Both our Dad’s loved to talk and tell stories from their lives. We often wish we could retrace that time and hear their voices again. It seems you never fully appreciate your parents until they are no longer on this earth. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

My special meal to honor them on this Father’s Day, is a nice medley of pork, shrimp and mushrooms.

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Seafood Stuffed Pork Medallions with Peppercorn Sauce
Instructions
Stuffed Mushrooms
  1. Shred zucchini, sprinkle with a little salt & set aside. In a bowl, combine the cheeses, crumbled bacon, egg & seasonings. Squeeze as much liquid from zucchini as possible. Add it to the filling & mix well. Divide the filling between mushrooms. Place a small amount of Zesty Italian dressing in a cup. Dip bottom of each mushroom in dressing & allow to dip off for a few seconds. Place stuffed mushroom caps on a small baking dish making sure they will stay upright. Place in fridge until ready to bake.
Parmesan Shrimp
  1. In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, oregano, basil, Parmesan, salt & pepper. Add shrimp & toss gently; thread onto skewers. Place on a plate & refrigerate until ready to cook.
Stuffing / Tenderloin
  1. In a saucepan, saute garlic & shallots in 1 Tbsp olive oil for a few minutes. Add a few pinches of salt & pepper; stir in breadcrumbs. Add water; stir till all is combined & transfer to a bowl.
  2. In a bowl, cream together butter & cream cheese. Add 1/2 of the capers, the parsley & stir thoroughly. Add the Gruyere & scallops, stirring gently. Set aside.
  3. 'Butterfly' tenderloin & pound making it all the same thickness. Spread stuffing evenly on flattened cut side. Starting with the long side, carefully ROLL the tenderloin as opposed to just FOLDING it over. On work surface, lay out bacon strips side by side. Lay stuffed tenderloin at one end & roll up in bacon strips, placing a toothpick at end of each strip.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, add the roast carefully & saute for about 3-4 minutes on each side to cook the bacon a bit. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay stuffed tenderloin on it; bake at 400 F. for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, set the roast on a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, & let rest while the shrimp & stuffed mushrooms are cooking. When ready to serve, slice into 1 - 1 1/2" thick 'medallions'.
  5. Increase oven temperature to 400 F. Remove stuffed mushrooms from refrigerator, bake for 20-30 minutes or until filling is golden & mushrooms have softened. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil, place skewered shrimp in oven for the last 6-8 minutes of cooking the mushrooms.
Peppercorn Sauce
  1. This can be made earlier or while the last items are cooking in the oven. In a hot skillet, add butter, shallots & peppercorns; stir until shallots are golden, about 1 minute. Add broth & thyme sprigs; reduce heat & allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Add cream & salt & pepper to taste. If you wish to thicken sauce, combine cornstarch & water in a small dish, stirring until smooth. Add a bit at a time to your hot mixture, stirring until desired thickness is achieved.

Tortilla Crepe Stacks

To some of us, Mexican food terms get a little confusing. I mean there is the taco, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada and taquito just to name a few. Before anything, one needs to know what a tortilla is. Simply put, it is wheat or corn plain bread that is used as a wrapping material around different types of filling ingredients to make the various Mexican dishes. 

Masa Harina is a traditional flour used to make corn tortillas and tamales as well as other Mexican meals. To make masa harina, field corn (or maize) is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water called slaked lime (or wood-ash lye). This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.

The soaked maize is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough called masa. It is this fresh masa, when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina. Water is added again to make dough for the corn tortillas or tamales.

Cornmeal and masa harina are very different preparations of corn. Do not try to substitute cornmeal or regular wheat flour in recipes calling for masa harina as they will not produce the same results.

Today, I want to make some tortilla crepe stacks. Crepes as we all know, have always been a hallmark of French cuisine. So the question is, ‘how did they come to be in Mexican cuisine’? In the 1860’s, French forces invaded Mexico. They came, they conquered, they cooked and then they got kicked out. Cinco de Mayo commemorates that victory for Mexico from 1862. However, it took another five years before the French left Mexico for good. During their stay, the French left their mark on the country’s cuisine.

One of the reasons I have always loved crepes, is that they are so easy to make and taste so good. You can either roll the filling inside or just stack them with their fillings and make a ‘cake’.

These tortilla crepes are made with half masa harina and half white flour. Next, I made a mushroom rice & barley pilaf and some guacamole. You can pick and choose when it comes to the extra filling add-ons. I guess it did get a bit more involved but worth it —.


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Tortilla Crepe Stacks

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Instructions
Tortilla Crepes
  1. In a blender, beat eggs with milk & oil. Gradually add masa harina, white flour & salt, beat until smooth. Allow to stand for 1 hour or longer. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter onto griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup, make circles in the batter, gradually enlarge to size of tortilla you wish to make. I made 3 for each crepe stack. Cook each crepe for a few minutes on each side then remove to a wire cooling rack.

Rice & Barley Pilaf
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion, garlic & mushrooms until tender crisp. Add chicken broth & bring to a boil. Add all remaining pilaf ingredients & reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until barley & rice are cooked & liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; place in a dish & set aside to cool.

Guacamole
  1. Mince onion & sun-dried tomatoes & mash avocados. In a small bowl, combine avocados, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, & remaining guacamole ingredients. Blend well, cover & refrigerate.

Crepe Stack Fillings
  1. Cook chicken & shred, Grate cheese & prepare all filling ingredients.

Assembly
  1. Spread 4 tortillas with guacamole, reserving a bit for 'decorating' the top of each stack. Over the guacamole, put a layer of rice/barley pilaf. Top each of them with chicken, green peppers, olives, corn, red onion, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, black beans & a sprinkling of cheese. On 2 serving plates, place one filled tortilla topped by a second one. Complete each stack with another corn tortilla. 'Decorate' each with remaining guacamole, salsa, sour cream & remaining cheese. Heat each crepe stack for a few minutes in the microwave before serving.

Roasted Beef Stuffed Cauliflower

You know the saying, ‘what’s old is new again‘ is one that seems to fit cauliflower. What used to be considered a boring vegetable, less colorful and less delicious than its cousin broccoli, is now an ‘it’ vegetable. I mean, its everywhere — cauliflower rice, pizza crust, roasted, in sandwiches, main entrees, etc. etc. The versatility of this humble veggie has boosted its popularity to become big business for growers and grocers.

Whole roasted cauliflower is an unusual presentation. Cauliflower’s inherent earthy sweetness becomes more pronounced as the moisture inside is drawn out.

January is always a good month to get creative with oven meals. I love the idea of a whole roasted cauliflower with cheese sauce drizzled over it. Although, stuffing it with meat is not a new concept, I, myself have not made it this way. So today’s meal is a nicely seasoned ground beef filling baked inside of a whole cauliflower and topped with a Parmesan cheese sauce. The result is real good! 

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Roasted Stuffed Cauliflower with Beef
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Beef Stuffing
Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Beef Stuffing
Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce
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Instructions
Stuffed Cauliflower
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste, tomato, egg, pepper flakes, oregano, basil, sage, pepper & salt until well incorporated. Set aside.
  2. Remove the whole stem from the cauliflower making sure to leave the head fully intact. In a large pot, boil cauliflower for 8-10 minutes until fork tender. Remove from the boiling water & place on paper towels to drain for a few minutes then carefully remove any remaining stem to make space for the filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Fill the head of cauliflower with ground beef mixture making sure to press the filling into the head. Place inverted head of cauliflower on a buttered, foil lined baking sheet; cover with another sheet of foil & bake about 30 minutes or until beef is cooked through.
Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter add flour, stirring until light brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk & allow to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add grated cheese, salt & pepper & mix until fully incorporated & thickened.
  2. Adjust heat to broil. Remove foil from stuffed cauliflower & cover with cheese sauce. Broil about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Baked Patacones with Guacamole

Until Brion and I had spent time living in Ecuador, I had never paid any attention to plantains. Really more of a vegetable than a fruit, plantains are larger and firmer than their banana relative but not sweet. They must be cooked to become palatable. With their bland, starchy, somewhat potato-like flavor, plantains take well to many cooking methods.

On one of the first meals we ate in a restaurant in Ecuador, I experienced the flavor of ‘patacones’. I had ordered an Ecuadorian ceviche and they were served as a side dish. The taste was like a potato chip but had almost a corn flavor. At the time I didn’t know what they were but the taste was definitely one that stayed with me.

In regions that compete for its origin, this specialty appears under two distinct names depending on the country. They are called  patacones in Ecuador, Columbia, Costa Rica and Peru. In Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Haiti they are called  tostones and in West Africa, just simply plantain chips.

The unripe plantain is traditionally prepared with a deep-frying method. The frying is done twice to ensure a crispy chip. You first peel the green plantains and slice them. Then the chips are fried on both sides, removed from the oil and blotted on paper towel. The tostones or patacones are now flattened somewhat and re-fried to provide extra crispiness. Salt may be used to add flavor to the chips. The thicker version (patacones) should be served hot or warm and are nice eaten with guacamole, garlic sauce, grated cheese or as a side dish.

As always, in my quest to bake rather than deep fry, I decided to make some patacones in the oven today. To add some guacamole = yum!!

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Baked Patacones with Guacamole
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Instructions
Baked Patacones
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice plantain into 1-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven & with the end of a glass, 'squash' each piece down flat. Thinner = crispier. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until crispy to your liking. Serve with guacamole.
Guacamole
  1. In a small bowl, mash avocados. Add minced red onion, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Combine thoroughly & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Just for interest, the special or tradional tool used to flatten plantain slices is called a 'tostonera'.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives

Ricing vegetables has been around for as long as I remember. Maybe not to the degree that is happening today. I recall a utensil my mother had that resembled a large garlic press. It was called a potato ricer and to my knowledge was only used for potatoes to change the texture.

As time has passed, this idea has evolved into so much more. Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions and peas.

The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.

Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or saute and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts or a sprinkle of cheese.

Riced cauliflower can be used on its own, fried, in baked casseroles or as I’m using it today, in a pizza crust. A different texture than traditional pizza crust but loaded with flavor. Its sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I wasn’t sure how well we would like this pizza but it tasted just great with the addition of some homemade bread sticks.

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives
Instructions
Cauliflower Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 14-inch pizza with parchment paper. Process cauliflower. In a bowl, combine all crust ingredients. Pat mixture onto pizza pan & press to form pizza crust. Bake 15-20 minutes; remove from oven.
Pizza Toppings
  1. In a skillet, crumble fry beef & mushrooms with spices until cooked. Drain & cool slightly. Carefully 'spread' cauliflower crust with tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese, meat mixture, red peppers & sliced olives. Sprinkle with grated parmigano-reggiano & bake an additional 7-10 minutes, until cheese melted. Remove from oven & allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Portuguese Pineapple Short Ribs & Rice

It goes without saying that Portugal has a national love affair with pork. Just look through their cookbooks or at a restaurant menu and you can’t help but see the devotion to this particular meat. There are hundreds of recipe variations: roasted, fried, grilled or broiled. Dishes are reinvented over and over again with lemons, dates, apples, oranges, fresh herbs, mushrooms, chestnuts and of course pineapple.

The Azorean pineapple is special. It owes its quality and unique taste to the way it is produced. The Azores archipelago is an autonomous region of Portugal located in the North Atlantic ocean. Since the sub-tropical islands don’t benefit from hot equatorial sun, the small crowned fruits are grown in glass greenhouses, which are intentionally filled with smoke to help catalyze simultaneous flowering. Each pineapple takes two years to mature. Sweeter and more succulent than their larger, tropical grown siblings. Nowhere else in the world is pineapple grown in this manner, making it completely unique to the Azores.

This is one of those kind of recipes that is very basic but tasty.

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Portuguese Pineapple Short Ribs & Rice
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Cuisine American, European
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Instructions
  1. In a resealable, large plastic bag, combine garlic, rosemary, bay leaf & vinegar. Season ribs with salt & pepper & add to marinade. Allow ribs to marinate in refrigerator for about an hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 F. Pour ribs & marinade into a baking dish; top with onion slices & drizzle with oil. Roast slowly for about an hour or until VERY tender. Remove ribs from oven & add pineapple pieces. Return to oven for another 5 minutes or so, ribs should be slightly golden brown. Serve with some steamed rice to which some peas have been added.

Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra

Okra, that seasonal summer vegetable that many love to hate. But, cooked properly it is definitely worth eating. While the origin of okra is often disputed, it grows well in a wide variety of warm climates. It is adaptable to both humid & dry conditions and is largely unaffected by pests and disease.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus and hollyhocks. An upright plant with hibiscus-like flowers gives okra an ornamental value as well.

Probably the most unusual feature that this vegetable has is the gummy, gelatinous substance released from its pods when cooked. The thickening agent makes it a popular ingredient in gumbos and soups. But, there’s much more to okra than soups and stews. Roasting at a high temperature will turn it into crispy, flavorful okra fries.

Since it pairs well with most any meat or seafood, I decided to make some braised beef short ribs with stir-fried okra and Jasmine rice.

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Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
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Short Rib Marinade
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Short Rib Marinade
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Instructions
Short Ribs
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F. In a Dutch oven, place all short rib ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover & place in oven for at least 1 1/2 hours or until meat is VERY tender. Stir periodically, adding more water if needed. If preferred, skim off excess oil before serving.
Okra
  1. In a large saucepan, add oil; when oil is hot add okra & stir-fry for about 8-10 minutes. Okra should be tender but NOT mushy.

Salmon / Artichoke Potato Crusted Quiche

Over the years, Brion and I have vacationed many times in the Carmel / Monterey area on the California coast. As a rule, we make Pacific Grove ‘home base’ and from there do numerous day trips. About a 20 minute drive inland from Monterey Bay is the tiny agricultural town of Castroville. It is surrounded by robust fields of artichokes. When you enter into the town you will see a sign that says ‘Artichoke Center of the World’. 

As the Italians migrated in large numbers to the United States in the early 1920’s, they brought with them some of their cherished and favorite foods. One of them was the globe artichoke. Landowner, Andrew Molera was approached to grow artichokes. The idea was encouraging because they were very expensive and looked like he could make better money than with his current crop of sugar beets.

The loamy, well drained soil and cool foggy summers were a good match for this crop. More than nine decades later, nearly 100 percent of America’s fresh artichoke supply comes from California and nearly two thirds are still grown in Castroville.

Today, I’m using artichokes in a quiche with a potato pastry. This type of pastry was very popular during WWII, as rationing was tightened. It enabled homemakers to stretch their flour ration with potatoes from their gardens. I think potato pastry makes the perfect crust for this kind of quiche. The Red Pepper Puree is the ‘icing on the cake’, as they say.

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Salmon / Artichoke Potato Crusted Quiche
Instructions
Potato Pastry
  1. In a bowl, combine potato, flours & salt. With a pastry cutter, add butter. Knead dough lightly on a floured work surface. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes then press into quiche pan. Preheat oven to 425 F. 'Blind' bake until lightly golden.
Quiche
  1. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Place salmon fillets on a lightly oiled foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes. Flake cooked salmon & set aside. In a large skillet, saute mushrooms, onions for about 5-7 minutes. Dice artichokes into quarters & add to skillet along with garlic; cook 3-4 minutes & remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, fresh basil & spices.
Quiche Assembly
  1. Spread half if the Gruyere cheese on bottom of quiche crust. Top with flaked salmon & sauteed vegetables. Carefully pour egg/milk mixture over all. Top with remaining Gruyere & Parmigano-Reggiano cheeses. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until quiche is 'set'.
  2. Meanwhile, place the roasted red peppers in a food processor & process until almost smooth. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with quiche.
Recipe Notes
  • A nice alternate crust would be one made with cheddar cheese.

Seafood Shepherd’s Pie

Very often, when I’m deciding what to make for our supper, an idea is derived from the taste of a memory. I don’t know if you’re familiar with smoked Haddock fish. I recall a meal my mother made that was called ‘Finnan Haddie’. It was a perfect cold weather meal. Basically, smoked haddock cooked in milk and served with potatoes and peas.

Finnan Haddie is cured with the smoke of green wood, turf or peat. The name comes from the Scottish town of Findon and the slang word for haddock. In the 1800’s, Findon fishwives hung lightly salted haddock in their chimney’s to be smoked gently over peat fires.

Finnan Haddie has a distinct and unique flavor and can be made into many dishes. It can be combined with other seafood where the smoky flavor carries through and influences all the elements such as in a seafood pie.

This brings me back to supper, which is going to be a seafood pie that I’m going to top with mashed potatoes. I guess in essence could be called Seafood Shepherd’s Pie.

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Seafood Shepherd's Pie
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
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Instructions
Mashed Potato Topping
  1. Bring potatoes to a boil & cook until fork tender. Drain; return to pot & add salt (to taste), margarine & cream. Mash & set aside. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Seafood Filling
  1. In a saute pan, melt 1 Tbsp of margarine; add shallots, celery, mushrooms, thyme & a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring often until soft & fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat & set aside.
  2. In another saucepan, add cream, chicken broth, flour, salt, mustard & cayenne pepper. Whisk together to incorporate all ingredients. Bring to a boil, whisking often then turn down heat & continue cooking until thick, whisking for about 8 minutes. Turn off heat & add remaining 1/2 Tbsp margarine along with the vegetable mixture. Blend well, taste & adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
Assembly
  1. Spray or butter a casserole dish. Place cod (or finnan haddie), scallops, shrimp & drained, sliced water chestnuts on the bottom of the dish in an even layer. Sprinkle with paprika & parsley. Add lemon juice & a pinch of salt & pepper. Pour cream sauce over seafood. Top evenly with mashed potatoes.
  2. Bake for about 25 minutes, until bubbly & potato peaks are browned. Allow to rest 10-20 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • For an extra flavor boost you could top it with some grated 'old' cheddar cheese before baking the casserole.