Wilted Brussel Salad

I love Brussel Sprouts; however, throughout the years, if I wanted to fix them, I'd have to do it when eating alone. So one day I decided not to tell any of my dinner guests what I was going to make as a salad. I decided to come up with a different way of presenting and fixing them. Well, I came up with this recipe prior to my dinner party and tried it on myself first. I fell in love with this salad. I was delighted to find that everyone loved it as well. It was then that I knew I had come up with a pretty good recipe for such a hated vegetable! This is a very simple recipe and takes no time to make. Here's what we need:

Serves 4

6 Thick slices of plain bacon
12 Large heads of Brussel Sprouts
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar

1. Cut the stem of each sprout so that you can loosen up each leaf carefully.

2. Once you can remove the leaf, cut the bottom off a little bit more. Continue until you're left with a sprout that's about 3/4 inch in diameter. Save the unused sprout part for a future dish.

3. Rinse leaves in cold water and set aside.

4. Slice bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.

5. In a 10 inch saute pan, spray cooking spray at the bottom and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Heat over medium high heat.

6. Saute bacon until browned but not to a crisp. Drain and set on a paper towel. Clean pan.

7. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the 10 inch pan on medium high heat.

8. Quickly saute Brussel Sprout leaves for a couple of minutes or until they become semi wilted. Salt and pepper to taste.

9. Remove from heat and drain out excess oil. Set in large bowl.

10. Add the bacon to the bowl and toss with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Serve lukewarm. Enjoy.

Meat Loaf En Croute - You've never had it this way!

Bonjour! The weather is changing and evenings are cooling off. You come home from work soaked from the cold Autumn rain. Yes, it is that season again when warm and hearty dinners become the desire. Beef stews, split pea soups, and hearty pasta dishes are once again at the top of the food chain. Oh, but wait! I forgot the meat loaf. Yes, meat loaf is definitely right up there with all the other wonderful Autumn and Winter dishes; however, once you have prepared my version of this dish, you will want to have it throughout all the seasons.

"En croute" is French for "wrapped in pastry". Hence, Meat Loaf en Croute is meat loaf wrapped in pastry. I had this for dinner late last week and it was a hit. The combination of savory meats, onions, and cheese wrapped in a light and flaky pastry crust is just too delicious to describe. You'll just have to make it and try it for yourself. It presents itself very elegantly at the dinner table and the great thing about this dish is its simplicity to make; you've already prepared the meat before, if you tried my stuffed peppers in a previous post. The recipe for the meat is the same, well almost. So let's get started and gather our ingredients:

1 Puff pastry sheet
1/2 pound of ground beef (20% fat)
1/2 pound of plain ground pork (do not use pork saussage or Italian or anything like that)
1/2 cup of either Panko or plain bread crumbs
1/2 white or yellow onion, minced (food processor works great)
1 medium red tomato, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, minced (you can put them in the processor along with the onion)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 whole egg
1/2 cup of finely grated Swiss, Gruyere, or Parm.
2 tablespoon of flour
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons of Tomato Paste
4 pinches of salt
4 pinches of pepper

Remove pastry sheet from the freezer a good couple of hours beforehand. Take and prepare all your ingredients. If you have a smaller food processor, it will work well to mince your onions and garlic. Otherwise, just used a sharp bladed knife. In a large bowl, add the meat, bread crumbs, onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, egg,  tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and using your hands, mix very well until those ingredients are incorporated. Now add half of the cheese and half of the flour, and mix well until ingredients have been well mixed with the meats. Form into a ball.

Take the remaining flour and spread it over a cutting board and begin to roll the meat out into a cylinder shape 2 1/2 inches in diameter by 10 inches in length. Make sure that when you roll it out that the meat captures as much of the flour so that the loaf has a thin coat of it all around. Set aside carefully.

In a 10 inch frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the meat carefully and saute, turning it on all sides until it is well browned and has some caramelization on the surface. I have found that if you turn it a quarter turn every 3 minutes, that tends to work fine. Touching it, there should be a nice semi hard surface and it should have a little give. Remember, 90 percent of the cooking is in your pan. The oven will simply heat it back up and finish the remaining 10 percent cooking. You just want to make sure that it's not going to be dried out. When finished, remove the loaf and set it on a plate and allow to cool.

After meat has cooled, preheat your oven to 425 and  prepare your pastry sheet. Make sure your cutting board is completely clean and dry. Sprinkle flour to cover board surface and also rub flour on your rolling pin. Set the pastry sheet on the board and unfold it carefully. Begin to roll out the sheet, rolling in a single direction. Now if my memory of Geometry still serves me and your meat loaf was the dimensions I specified, you will need to roll out a rectangle of 13 inches by 7.97 inches.... so just round it off to 8 inches wide, ok? Just make sure you don't roll it too thin.

Finally, spread the remaining grated cheese down the length of the sheet, leaving an inch on the borders for your egg wash. You may sprinkle some parsley if you desire. Brush an egg wash (egg and teaspoon of water mix) on all the edges. Take the meat and set it on the pastry sheet lengthwise and carefully begin to roll the pastry while roling the loaf. Once completely rolled, pinch the ends and secure the seam. You can use a fork if you wish, leaving an imprint up and down the seam. Turn the loaf so that the seam is at the bottom. With a sharp knife, make 1 inch slits diagonally, about 1 to 2 inches apart. Brush some of the remaining egg wash over the pastry.  Place on a non stick cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and is a nice golden color. Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

When serving, slice along the slits that you made, that way the pastry won't break up and you will have nice long diagonal slices. Nice corkscrew macaroni lightly tossed in a tablespoon of tomato paste, olive oil, and grated parm works wonderfully. Finish off with a salad of mixed greens. No need for bread or slice of cheese because you already have both in your Meat Loaf en Croute. Try a nice Pinot with this dish. Bon Appetit !

I have entered a photo contest!

This has nothing to do with the kitchen; however, I want to let all of you know that I have entered a photo contest at the Weather.com site. I would be so grateful if you would all vote for my photo. The link is:

Thanks to all of you in advance :)

Dominique Roche (nonchefnick)

Les Escargots de Bourgogne

Now you knew this dish was going to come up sooner or later, right? I want to talk about Escargots for a moment. Once I have shared a few facts about this delicacy, I hope that you will have a renewed opinion. I direct this at those of you who have never tried them. Those of you that have need no introduction or convincing as to how wonderful they are.

Here are some simple facts. Most of the escargots that are eaten come from France. Their cultivation is strictly regulated by the food and safety arm of the government. The escargots are cultivated in a "cage" configuration that doesn't enable any of them to set foot on the ground. The more famous and well known of these species is the Escargots de Bourgogne, which are of the larger variety, and have a subtile flavor with an herbal bouquet. They can be found in most supermarkets such as Kroger's, Albertson's, and Safeway, and are sold in cans of a dozen. Servings should consist of at least 1/2 dozen per person.

I love to prepare Escargots de Bourgogne for my dinner guests. Thankfully, all that attend my dinner parties love these little morsels so I'm a happy camper. All too often, food preparers have a tendency to overwhelm the escargots with tons of garlic. This tends to kill your ability to taste the herbal essence that is so typical of the Escargots de Bourgogne. This recipe that I will share with you is my own creation and after experientation time and time again, I think that I have perfected the dish (at least for my taste). Again, the escargots can be found in most supermarkets and the shells, which are reusable, are usually located right on the same shelf and come with a can of 1 dozen escargots.

For a serving of 4 dinner guests you will need:

2 dozen large Escargots de Bourgognes and 2 dozen escargot shells
1 shallot (finely minced)
3 cloves of garlic (finely minced and crushed)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 cubes of butter (yes, that's cubes. You may not use it all, but we'll spread some on bread)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of "white" pepper
1 tablespoon of dry white wine
2 drops of white truffle oil (if you have it -- try)
2 drops of garlic oil (sometimes it's "garlic truffle oil")
1 French Baguette (might want to get 2 of them)

You are probably going to have to buy a few things that you don't have in your kitchen; however, all these items can be used over again or used in other food preparation. First, if you can find escargots baking plates and they aren't expensive, that is good. Otherwise, you can buy some of the pre-sliced bags of French bread and cut a hole in the center of the slice so that you can place the escargot shell upright in the oven, like the picture illustrates. Then, you might want to buy those little escargot clamps that allow you to grab the shells so that you can scoop out the escargot. I haven't come up with a substitute for that. Scooping them out can be done with the little cocktail forks or.... tooth picks.

OK, now lets get the butter paste together. Make sure the butter has been out of the fridge for a good hour. Place the butter in a bowl and blend until it's a nice smooth paste. Now add the salt and pepper, along with the garlic and truffle oil and blend well. If you find "garlic truffle oil" then use 3 drops and forget the white truffle oil, ok? Mince your shallot, garlic, and parsley very finely. If you have one of those mini food grinders, that'll work great. Once that is done, add it to the butter mixture along with the white wine and mix well until blended.

Preheat your oven to 400. Take the escargots and rinse them in cold water and drain. For each shell, start by adding a little of the butter paste into the opening, then add an escargot and push it in. Now plug the hole with some more butter mixture and set on your escargot baking dish or on the improvised "holely bread". Continue that until all shells are filled. Place on a cookie sheet so drippings to spill into the oven. Bake at 400 for 10 to 12 minutes or until the butter is bubbling. Remove and serve 6 per person along with slices of baguette to sop up the butter sauce. It is best that escargots are served hot, but be careful because they are really hot. Enjoy !!

Who Doesn't Like Stuffed Peppers? Well, You Will Now !

Stuffed Peppers is one of those menu items that is so easy to make and yet when properly presented on a plate, so elegant to serve. Remember when I told you all how we do a lot of our eating with our eyes? This is one of those moments. There is one thing to be aware of, however. Because we want to make sure the peppers are nicely cooked, many tend to overbake and thereby drying out the stuffing, whether it be meat or grain. I will explain how to overcome this so that your Stuffed Peppers will always be moist and flavorful.

Let's talk about preparing the peppers first. I know that "parboil" is a word that everybody knows; however, with the exception of bread products, I don't think "parbaking" is known for preparing of vegetables. If anyone out there knows otherwise, please email me and let me know. I'm not too old to still be learning. So, with that in mind, you will need 6 medium sized red and/or yellow peppers (nice oval shaped). Preheat your oven to 400. Place peppers on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning  them over at 10 minutes. Remove them and set aside to cool. Reduce your oven temp to 350.

Now that you have "parbaked" your peppers, while they are cooling, let's get the rest of the ingredients together and do our prep work. Are you ready?  Let's do it then:

1/2 pound of ground beef (20% fat)
1/2 pound of plain ground pork (do not use pork saussage or Italian or anything like that)
1/2 cup of either Panko or plain bread crumbs
1/2 white or yellow onion, minced (food processor works great)
1 medium red tomato, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, minced (you can put them in the processor along with the onion)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 whole egg
1/4 cup of finely grated Swiss, Gruyere, or Parm.
1 tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons of Tomato Paste
4 pinches of salt
4 pinches of pepper

I want to pause here to let you know the amount of salt used is one's personal preference; therefore, you might want more or less than 4 pinches of it for your taste. OK, put all the ingredients into a large bowl, starting with the meat at the bottom. We now want to mix all of this together and I have found the best utensil for doing this are my hands. Dig in, let's get dirty and use your hands to thoroughly mix all ingredients together. Once you've played long enough with your food, go wash your hands.

Now that the peppers have cooled, take a very sharp knife and carefully cut each one in half with the cut being somewhat diagonal (for effect). Remove the seeds and excess filaments. Remember to NOT CUT OFF the stem! You want to make the pepper look whole for presentation. Once you have prepped all the peppers, using a tablespoon, carefully begin stuffing each of the halves, putting the halves back together and placing them into your baking pan. Bake at 350 in the middle rack of your oven for about 50 minutes. For an additional 5 minutes, you can set the oven to broil so that the tops of the peppers can get a skin browning if you wish.

Once baked, remove the peppers and place them all in a long serving dish. You may want to carefully "reslice" the peppers exactly where you originally sliced them because the meat may have fused the two halves together. There will be pan drippings that we are now going to use as our sauce. Pour the pan drippings in a sauce pan, add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste, 1/4 cup of cream, and using a regular or preferably a spring whisk, mix well over medium low heat until sauce begins to steam. Remove and pour over or around the peppers and serve. So the sauce stays warm, I like to warm my serving dish and the best way to do this is to put the dish and the peppers in the oven after you have shut it off. Just leave it in the oven while you're preparing the sauce, usually about 4 minutes. Take care to use an oven mitten when removing the dish.

I think you will love these Stuffed Peppers. The meats will be perfectly cooked and not dry. A perfect side dish is corkscrew macaroni, cooked al dente, and tossed with a tablespoon of tomato paste and a drizzle of olive oil, just like in Italy. Serve with a nice glass of Syrah or Bolla Chella wine.


If you are a Vegan, throw out the meat and use Bob's Red Mill High Protein TVP (textured vegetable protein). To rehydrate the TVP before using, pour 7/8 cup of boiling vegetable stock into  1 cup of TVP and let stand for about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and mix into the other ingredients as you would with the meat. Also, take a couple of brown mushrooms and 1 medium carrot and mince both, add to the mixture. Add a teaspoon of olive oil. This substitute recipe should produce a very nice moist stuffed pepper without the meat. If you make this, let me know how you liked it.

Crown Mocha Brandy Cheese Cake

I thought I had died and gone to Heaven upon the first bite I took of my latest recipe for cheese cake. I made this yesterday and throughout the afternoon and into late evening, the aroma of that cake having baked in the oven left me with a feeling of being in a pastry shop. So wonderfully intoxicating, I could have inhaled it whole (and ended up at the emergency room) had I not regained my sense of restraint. I compromised, settled in my favorite chair, and savored a slice of what may be the best cheese cake I have ever had.

Now don't get me wrong. I have partaken of some wonderful cheese cakes in my years and I have made them on several occasions, including New York style (one of my favorites). Maybe this time the planets and stars were all lined up properly and I had a stroke of luck. Whatever the case may be this time around, this cheese cake is neither the dry cake like New York style nor the gooey, wetter type. Instead, it is more like a high end velvety mousse au chocolat style. I tweaked my recipe a bit and that may have made all the difference.

This is not labor intensive or complicated to make, so let's get started. You definately will want to make this. For the filling, you will need:

3 packages of cream cheese (8 oz each), room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of Brandy (or 1/4 teaspoon Brandy extract)
2 1/2 tablespoons of flour
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
dash of salt

For the crust, you will need:

1 cup of sifted flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of Brandy
1 cube of butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk

In a food processor, blend the flour and sugar for a few seconds. Next, cut the cube of butter into 8 pieces and blend in one at a time, followed by the vanilla, Brandy, and egg yolk. It should quickly turn into a dough. Remove from processor and form a ball. Set in a bowl and refridgerate for 30 to 45 minutes. Be sure to cover bowl with a paper towel.

About 15 minutes before removing pastry dough from the fridge, preheat your oven to 400. Now remove the dough and roll out a tube shape about 6 inches long. Be sure to flour your cutting board and roller well. This is where I sometimes run into trouble with the pastry dough sticking and it can become frustrating. You probably have found ways to get around the sticking and if so, use your method. Now cut your tube of pastry dough into 3 equal parts, set 2 parts aside. Take one piece and roll it out carefully to make a circle approximately 9 inches in diameter. Take an 8 or 9 inch springform pan and remove the bottom. Make sure the pan is at least 3 inches deep. Carefully lay the rolled pastry dough onto the springform bottom, patching if necessary, and bake for about 12 minutes or until pastry dough is light golden. Watch it carefully as this bakes quickly. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Increase oven heat to 450.

Now you will make the filling. In your food processor, add the cream cheese and blend until it's smooth. Next, add your dry ingredients a little at a time while blending. Once the dry ingredients are well incorporated into the cream cheese, start adding the eggs and egg yolk one at a time. Once well blended, add the Brandy, vanilla, and cream and continue blending well. At the final stage, add the chocolate syrup and pulse the processor a few times. Set mixture aside.

The pastry bottom should now have cooled. Spray the sides of the springform pan with cooking spray (preferably the butter type) and reconnect the pan together. Take the two remaining pieces of the pastry dough and roll out 2 strips about 3 inches wide. Carefully place the dough around the inside wall of the springform pan, making sure it covers the sides to the top. If you need to, go ahead and do patchwork with any remaining dough. Now slowly add the filling and smooth out so it is even all the way across. Pat the pan on the counter so the mixture settles well. The mixture should have filled the pan slightly over half way up.

Place in the middle of the oven and reduce temperature to 400 and bake for about 12 minutes. Reduce temperature to 225 and bake for 55 minutes. When done, remove from oven and set on board to cool for about 45 minutes, then refridgerate for at least an hour, preferably 2 hours. To display, carefully remove springform ring so as not to break the crust and set on a nice large white plate. Slice and set each piece on a puddle of half whipped cream or melted vanilla ice cream. Enjoy, I certainly did !

Cream of Vegetable Potage... A New Twist on Vegetables

I made this soup yesterday and it took me back to when Mom used to make it when I was a kid. It still stands the test of time as one of my all time favorite soups. Mom still makes it to this day. It makes for a wonderful lunch alongside a grilled Swiss and Ham sandwich on a cold, rainy Autumn day while watching your favorite Soap Opera. OK, so you've got a cold and that's why you're home on a Wednesday, stay with me here.

Potage is a French word that comes from the midieval Old French "pottage", which translated to "potted dish". This is not to be confused with porridge which is something very much different and made with grain. Potage is made with fresh vegetables and can also include meat. The method is to slowly boil fresh vegetables until a knife can easily run through a carrot or potato. The vegetables are then removed and pureed in a food processor. Slowly, the vegetable stock is then poured into the food processor and blended until a smooth consistency is achieved to suit your taste. As a final touch, the potage is then returned to the stove and brought to a simmer, all the while adding 1/2 cup of cream and a tablespoon of butter. That's how you make this hearty and warming French soup. You can also cook stew meat or boneless chicken legs or thighs with the vegetables. That all goes into the processor and gets pureed with the vegetables.

In the potage pictured, I chose only vegetables, so this is very safe for vegetarians. Here are the ingredients we need to make this very simple and delicious soup:

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in halves
6 large carrots, peeling still on, cut in 2 inch slices
1 large white onion, diced
4 stocks of celery, cut in 2 inch slices
6 white mushrooms, left whole
1 large red tomato, quartered
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
salt and pepper
6 to 8 cups of water (or enough to cover vegetables by one inch)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon of butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of parsley, chopped

In a pot, heat oil on medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic for about 3 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables and saute for a few more minutes, stirring. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and slow cook for about 40 minutes or until vegetables can easily be pierced with a knife. Salt and pepper, add the tomato paste and Dijon mustard and stir to blend well. Taste for flavor.  If you're happy with the flavors, remove all the vegetables and bring them into the food processor. Puree the vegetables until they are very smooth. Add some of the vegetable stock while processing. Keep adding the stock until a smooth and thick creamy mixture is formed. Now slowly add and pulse the cream and the butter. When fully blended, add the potage back onto the stove and warm back up. Serve and enjoy :)

FOR THE VEGANS !! Portabella and Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna

OK my vegetarians, I have not forgotten you and never will. This Lasagna will certainly pass the test for you as well as all those meat eaters out there. But there is not an ounce of meat in this dish. My Portabella and Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna is absolutely wonderful (even if I say so myself). But don't take my word for it, try it at home and you will see!

This Lasagna is not made in the traditional method you may be accustomed to with a tomato base. Since you now know how to make a Bechamel Sauce, you will also learn how to make a Mornay Sauce by simply melting shredded swiss in the sauce. And Mornay is what we are using today instead of tomato sauce. Finally, I want to let you all know that with the exception of the use of butter, all the rest of the dairy products are either no fat, low fat, or skim. But don't worry, flavor has not been sacrificed. OK, here's what we need:

For the Sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons flour
7 cups fat free half n half or 2 % milk (cold or room temp)
1 8oz package of baby fresh spinach
1 cup grated low fat swiss cheese
salt and pepper
dash of nutmeg

For the Ricotta mixture:

1 large tub of low fat Ricotta cheese
2 egg yokes
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup fat free half n half

...and the rest of the ingredients:

2 packages of Barilla Flat Lasagna pasta (No boiling required, cooks in the oven)
2 1/2 lbs sliced baby Portabella mushrooms
2 8oz packages of low fat shredded Mozzarella
2 8oz packages of low fat shredded Swiss
1/2 cup chopped parsley
8 cloves chopped garlic
6 roasted red peppers sliced lengthwise (or 2 jars of ready roasted peppers)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Now I know what you're thinking about now, that this is going to be quite a complicated task. Please understand this is very easy to make if you just remember to do your prep work first. Chop all the stuff that needs to be chopped and set all aside. Preheat your oven to 375. Have a 9 x 12 or 9 x 13 oven safe Lasagna tray ready. Make sure it's at least 2 inches deep and if you have one that's 3 inches deep that's even better.

The order of preparing each part of this Lasagna is to prepare your Ricotta mixture first, saute mushrooms second, and your sauce third. Fourth is simply assembling your Lasagna in your pan. OK, first add all the Ricotta ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well until everything is incorporated. Set aside.

In a large saute pan (the largest you have), heat 1/2 of the olive oil at medium heat. Add your mushrooms and saute for a couple of minutes. Then drizzle the rest of the olive oil on top and continue to saute until mushrooms begin to brown. Now add your garlic and parsley, stir and continue to saute for another couple of minutes. Never Never salt your mushroom while ccooking. Salt will draw out the moisture and you will get soggy mushrooms. You may pepper however. When mushrooms are nicely browned, remove them from the heat and set aside in a large bowl, salt, and stir.

Now you are ready to make your "Mornay" sauce. In a large sauce pan, melt all the butter at medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir until a nice blonde roux is made. Continue to cook at medium for a couple of minutes taking care not to brown the roux. Turn heat down if you need to. Then slowly add your milk about a cup at a time. Stir constantly so that the first part of the liquid nicely absorbs with the roux and makes a smooth thick semi paste. Continue to add the milk, stirring constantly. When all the milk is added, you should have a smooth silky sauce which will thicken as it reaches a slow boil. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to slow boil for about 5 more minutes. Now you can add your cheese and stir as you notice cheese melting. Sauce will be thickened. If you need to, add a bit more milk. Cook for a few more minutes and then start adding the spinach a handful at a time. Finally, add your salt and pepper and taste for flavor. Lower heat to warm.

You are now ready to assemble. We will be layering our ingredients together. Start by ladling some of your sauce at the bottom of your Lasagna pan to coat the entire bottom. This will keep the pasta from sticking and will also aid in cooking. Now add your first set of pasta sheets. Where you can, overlap the sheets about 1/4 inch. Next, take the Ricotta mixture and spread a nice even  coat about 1/4 inch thick over the pasta sheets.It doesn't have to be perfect! Then add a layer of the mushrooms and roasted peppers and cover that with a layer of the two cheeses (you can mix the cheeses ahead of time). Finally, ladle a layer of sauce so as to completely cover the grated cheese. You have just completed the first layer. Now start all over again... pasta, Ricotta, mushrooms and peppers, cheese, sauce. The top layer should be covered with grated cheese.

Tap the Lasagna pan on the counter a couple of times and bake in the oven for 1 hour, checking it at the 45 minute mark. At 1 hour, your Lasagna should be a golden color with some brown peaks. If you want, you can put the oven on broil for the final 3 minutes. When finished, remove from oven and let sit for about 15 minutes before serving. Bon appetit! You and your family will love this. A nice dinner salad of tossed romaine works wonderful following this dish. Serve with a chilled Rose wine or a Chardonnay. For non alcoholic, try a glass of chilled apple cider.

Shrimp and Scallops in Puff Shells

I love making this dish not only for its simplicity, but also for its delicious flavors and textures. And who doesn't like shrimp and scallops? I guarantee you, there's nothing complicated about this.

This recipe will serve 4 dinner guests as a first course or appetizer. If you have more guests or you want to present this as an entree for 4, then just double the measurements of the ingredients. I have had this as an entree and finished off with a spinach salad and a slice of Gruyere. Yum. Ok, here's what you will need:

1 Puff Pastry sheet
1/2 lb bay shrimp
1/2 lb. baby scallops
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups fat free half n half, or 3.8 milk (make sure it's cold)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup sherry wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup grated hard cheese of your choice (parm, gruyere, or swiss)
1 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Let's start out by  preheating the oven to 425. Take your puff pastry sheet and lay it out on a cutting board. If you have a pastry mold or cookie cutter, cut out 4 rounds about 3 inches in diameter. Put them on a non stick cookie sheet (use parchment paper), with a small brush, brush an egg wash very lightly so the pastry will come out a shiny golden brown. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up really nicely. Please don't overbake!

While the pastry is baking, get your other ingredients together and do your prep work. When pastry shells are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool. Now take a sauce pan and on medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. Heat until butter has completely melted. Now add your shallots and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes till shallots are nicely translucent. Continuing on medium heat, sprinkle the flour over the shallots and garlic and stir well for about a minute. Slowly start adding the milk while constantly stirring. Add the sherry wine. Stir and continue to cook, lowering the heat to medium low. Allow the milk to come to a slow faint boil. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, add another half cup of milk. After 5 minutes, add the tomato paste and blend into the sauce. Your sauce should now start turning a nice pink salmon color. You may now sprinkle about 1/3 of the cheese a little at a time and while stirring, allow it to melt into the sauce. Continue to cook for about 2 more minutes and then add the paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix well and then add your seafood and parsley. Taste for flavor.  Stirring constantly, continue to cook for another 3 minutes. When finished, turn heat off.

Your pastry shells should now have cooled nicely. Take a sharp knife and cut each shell in half horizontally. If you want to, you may flatten down the inside of the bottom half so that it makes a nice cavity. Set the bottom half in the center of each plate and pour a nice ladle of the seafood and sauce, sprinkle a bit of cheese and then cover that with the top half of the pastry shell. You may if you wish, add a bit more sauce over that or around the side. As a finishing touch, sprinkle a little more cheese over the pastry and around the edges of the plate. Serve hot and enjoy!


Since crab season is upon us, a nice twist to this dish (for all you crab lovers) is to use fresh crab meat instead of bay shrimp. If you can get the meat from the legs and pinchers, it would be best. Also, don't add the crab to the sauce until the last minute of cooking. I've had this dish with the crab and I'll tell you, it's wonderful !!

Poached Halibut in a Saffron Jus --- Can you believe it came out of a microwave?

Yes, this wonderful Halibut steak was poach in my microwave.  It is so easy to prepare and makes a very nice presentation at your dinner table. As I have previously mentioned, I have found that my microwave produces the nicest, moist, and succulent poached fish I've ever made. There are a few things to remember, however. First, make sure it's the solid species of fish, i.e. halibut, salmon, bass etc. Second, you really want your piece of fish to be a good inch in thickness. And last, always cook it with liquid and in a container that you can seal with a little opening for steam to escape, otherwise the lid will pop out and all bets will be off. If you use clear wrap, make sure it's tightly sealed and can't loosen up. Cut a couple of little slits to allow steam to escape.

As for the sauce that we will use in this recipe, you will need:

1 cup chicken or seafood stock (seafood stock is best)
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, cut in quarters
2 tablespoons large capers
2 pinches of saffron threads
2 tablespoons of cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter

In a sauce pan, melt your butter with the olive oil at medium heat. Once butter is well melted, add peppers, onion, garlic, and capers and sautee for about 5 minutes. Now add your stock and saffron. Continue to cook for a few more minutes while turning heat to medium low. Finally, add the cream and blend with other ingredients, salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat off.

In your microwave dish, lay your fish in the middle and slowly pour your sauce over it. Don't pour too much sauce into the dish because you don't want your fish to boil. The liquid should come up about 1/3 up the side of the fish. Save the rest of the sauce for plating (keep on stove at "warm" setting). Cover your microwave dish as I instructed and set in the center of your microwave. Since microwaves vary, start by microwaving your fish on high for 4 minutes. If you want a little more doneness, just microwave for 30 to 45 more seconds but no more. If you leave covered and sitting for another minute, the fish will cook a bit more.

Remove fish from container and set it in the center of a heated plate and carefully pour the sauce over the top until the base of the plate has been coated. Serve immediately with thin slices of toasted French bread. Enjoy!

Oh You Little Cream Puff !! Here's A New Twist on Turnovers.

Here's a new twist on turnovers that I tried over the weekend and I experimented with my dinner guests. They loved these little morsels. In keeping with the theme of my blog site, these are so simple to make and so so good!

You will need a pastry bag with a tip. I've included a picture courtesy of Wikipedia below. You can make your own by using a plastic sandwich bag and cutting a small hole at one of the corners. You will need a puff pastry sheet rolled out so that it makes a close to perfect square, but don't roll it thin, it must stay pretty thick. Cut the pastry sheet into 4 equal squares. Wet the edges of each square with either an egg wash (egg with a teaspoon of water) or  a little bit of milk or cream. Take each square and connect opposite corners to make a triangle. Then pat down the edges so they are sealed together. Finally, use a fork and make a nice imprint along the two edges that you sealed. Now you should have 4 empty turnover shells ready to bake. With your egg wash, brush a thin layer on each turnover so that they will bake to a shiny gold color.

Preheat your oven to 425. Set the 4 turnovers on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they have puffed up nicely and have some nice golden mounds. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Now for the filling. You'll love this combination. Here's what you need:

1 cup of creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup of marscarpone (a creamy sweet cheese kind of like cream cheese, only better)
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup Reeser's peanut butter chips
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1 capful of amaretto extract (or 2 tablespoons of the liquor)
1 can of lite whipping cream

Combine all ingredients except the can of whipping cream into a food processor and pulse beat until everything is well blended and creamy. Now take half of the mixture and put it into your pastry bag. Once your turnovers have cooled, stick the end of the pastry bag carefully into one side of the turnover and carefully squeeze about 2 tablespoons into the cavity. Take the nozzle of the can of whipping cream and carefully stick it into the other side of the turnover and very carefully press the nozzle and fill about 2 tablespoons of the whipping cream into the cavity of the turnover. Repeat for each turnover and serve as soon as possible.

These are so delicious and yummy, yet so easy to make. They are quite a treat after a nice dinner. The pastry is so flaky and the combination with the cream and peanut butter mixture will totally satisfy any sweet tooth, guaranteed! And please, just for tonight, forget about the calories!

My First Bread Pudding (And It Turned Out Wonderful!)

I want to start out by letting you all know that I have never made Bread Pudding before; however, I am familiar with the basic ingredients. I have decided to try my hand at this dessert and of course, add my little touches to it so that I can call it my own. Here we go again on a journey where who the hell knows will lead us to. In any case, here are the ingredients we need for this trip:

2 large croissants, cut by hand in 1 to 2 inch pieces
1/2 loaf Challah Bread, cut by hand in 1 to 2 inch pieces
1 large banana, diced
1 cup dried raisins
2 1/2 cups half and half (you may use fat free kind)
2 heaping tablespoons Hart's custard mix (or you can make your own.. yuck)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Brandy (alcohol free you can use brandy extract and orange zest)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash cinnamon powder
2 egg yolks

Let's begin by doing all our prep work with our ingredients. When you dice the bananas, add a couple of tablespoons of orange juice in a small bowl and stir in the banana, cover with plastic and set aside. This will keep the banana from browning. Any citric acid will work. Preheat oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, add the custard mix,  sugar, Grand Marnier, vanilla extract, dash of cinnamon, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the half and half. Mix well. It will start hardening to a real thick mixture, that's ok. In a sauce pan, warm the rest of the half and half on medium low heat.

In another bowl, add the bread and croissant, raisins, and strained bananas, and mix with your hands so that all ingredients are well blended together. Now you can concentrate on your sauce pan of half and half. Do not bring to a boil. Be sure to stir constrantly with a spatula so milk doesn't stick to the bottom.

When half and half is just beginning to steam a bit, remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Now slowly add half and half to the liquid mixture you made and stir as you pour. When finished, continue to stir for a minute and then pour all of that back into the pan and heat back up to where liquid begins to thicken. Bring to a slow slow boil. Stir constantly whilst heat is at medium low. You will notice a thickening process. If it gets too thick, add 1/4 cup of half and half. Constantly stir for about 10 minutes more.

In the large bowl that you have your bread mixture, add the custard and with a large spoon, mix everything well so that all the bread is moist and has absorbed the custard. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Fill the loaf pan with the mixture and be sure to pat it down well so there are no air pockets. Fill to the top. If you have extra mixture (as I did), take a second smaller loaf pan and pour the rest of the mixture in that. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Increase the temperature to 400 and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature.

Be sure your bread pudding has cooled and you're ready to serve before you prepare your sauce. To prepare your sauce, on medium low, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan, then add 1 teaspoon of Hart's custard powder and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. Mix well and then add 2 tablespoons of Brandy or Grand Marnier (or extract) and slowly add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue to heat on medium low until sauce comes to a bubble. Allow to slow boil at low temperature for 15 minutes, constantly stirring. You may add a little milk if sauce thickens too much. You want it to be of the consistency of egg nogg, ok?

Take a serving plate and ladle a small amount of the sauce to cover bottom of the dish. Set a slice of bread pudding about 1 inch thick on top of the sauce and pour a little of the sauce over the pudding. You may sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon and serve. Enjoy!

Mung Chicken Curry... The Way You'll Love It

I originally created this dish last year when I introduced myself to the Mung Bean. It was purely by accident that I came across  these cute little army green beans, as I was actually searching for those other cute little army green beans, the lentils. So, without having a clue as to what to do or how to cook them, I grabbed a package and forgot all about the lentils. I had a good feeling that this was either going to end in disaster or fingers crossed, a triumph.

My curiosity got the best of me and as soon as I got home, I got on the internet and decided to research my little find. Reading that the Mung Bean was mainly cultivated in South Asia, I decided to stay in that region of the world and use the combination of ingredients indigenous to the area. And so, I got out my coconut milk, curry powder, and chicken, and proceeded to start my journey down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Well, I was not disappointed with the result. Out of my experimentation came a wonderful dish of delightful mixes of flavors and textures that I had not previously been exposed to. For its simplicity, I crowned it Mung Chicken Curry.

Now I want to share this wonderful dish with you so that you may partake of the unique flavors that I first experienced last year. Let me introduce the characters in this culinary act:

4 large chicken thighs, fully skinned and all excess "yellow" fat removed
3/4 cup of Mung Beans (make sure to check for little pebbles carefully, as in all small beans)
1 large red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped diagonally about 1/4 inch thick
6 garlic cloves, cut in halves or left whole
3 green onions, chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk (about 14 oz.)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder (preferably the rust color as opposed to the mustard color)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
16 oz. package of SE Asian noodles (Chow Mein Noodles or the curly type Chow Mein) You may use rice
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Spray a large frying pan (10 inches diameter at bottom and at least 3 inches deep) with cooking spray and coat the bottom with all the vegetable oil. Heat on medium high heat. Sautee the chicken thighs until golden, remove and set aside. In the same pan, reducing heat to medium,  add all the fresh vegetables and sautee until onions are translucent. Add the sesame oil and Mung Beans, mix well. Allow to cook a few minutes then add the chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Mix well so all ingredients are well incorporated. Next, add the curry powder and be sure to stir well so that all the powder dissolves completely. Your sauce should be showing a golden rust color. Cook for about 5 minutes. At this time, if you think you need a little more liquid, you may add 1/4 cup more chicken stock; however, I don't think you'll need it. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook for 10 more minutes. Now add the coconut milk and blend all ingredients together, bring back to a slow boil.

Finally, add your chicken, turning and coating it, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring with a spatula every 15 minutes and turning the chicken. Continue to slow cook for about 10 more minutes. Your Mung Beans should be fully cooked. If not, cook for another 10 minutes. Once cooked, shut heat and bring a pot of water to boiling and cook your noodles for about 6 minutes or until cooked al dente (cooked through but still firm). To plate, add a chicken thigh in the center, ladle some sauce and Mung Beans over it, and in a swirling motion, place the noodles all around the edge of the plate. Serve hot and enjoy :)


For a meatless rendition of this dish, substitute Yukon Gold potatoes for the chicken and the noodles. Use large potatoes and boil with skin on until cooked. Cut them in quarters length wise and place 4 quarters on each plate and ladle the sauce and Mung Beans over them. You will need to increase the amount of Mung Beans to 1 1/2 cups and the chicken stock to 2 1/4 cups. The rest of the ingredients can remain the same.

Linguine Espagnol

Pasta has always been one of my favorite ingredients to use in my cooking. In a nutshell, it really is one of those comfort foods and so easy to prepare. There are countless ways that you can include it in recipes and  numerous types as well. I have used the fresh varieties that usually need only 1 to 2 minutes time to cook as well as the dry varieties that take a bit longer, about 8 minutes or so.

Today, I want to introduce chicken, shrimp, and chorizo to a wonderful cream sauce of onion, green pepper, and button mushroom, in highlighting our linguine pasta. The marriage of flavors is delightful and will certainly satisfy every member of the family. Accented with a touch of sauteed chopped bacon, this dish sits just outside of the Carbonara family, since we will not be using eggs. With the Spanish influence of the chorizo in this dish, I have decided to call it Linguine Espagnol.

OK, you know the drill, let's get all our ingredients together and prepare for cooking. First, a word about chorizo. It is important that we use this saussage as opposed to Italian or Mexican saussage, otherwise I would have to call this dish something else. Chorizo has a distinct flavor, with all the different spices that were used to make it. Trust me, you will enjoy it.

 This recipe will serve a party of 4:

16 oz. package of dry linguine
1 lb. chicken breast, sliced (or fresh chicken breast tenders already sliced for you)
3/4 lb. chorizo in casing (about 4 links), sliced in 3/4 inch pieces
3 strips plain, lean bacon, sliced in 1/2 inch slices
1/2 lb medium size shrimp
1 medium white onion, chopped or sliced
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed pepper
(have salt ready; however, I don't think you'll need any)

In a 10" (bottom diameter) or larger pan, saute the bacon over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Discard any excess drippings from the pan. Return pan to medium heat and saute the chorizo with 1/2 of the olive oil for about 4 minutes or until browned. With your spatula, move it over to one half of the pan and add your chicken. Keeping the heat at medium, lightly brown the chicken and then stir both meats together so that chicken gets coated with the oils from the chorizo. Continue the saute for a few more minutes and then remove meat and set aside in a bowl.

Continuing over medium heat, add the other half of the olive oil (if you feel you need to) and saute the onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook until onions and pepper nicely soften and then add your mushrooms. Mix all the vegetables well with your spatula. Now sprinkle the flour over all the vegetables and after flour is well incorporated into the vegetables, add your chicken stock and carefully scrape the bottom of the pan so as to deglaze (the color of the sauce should begin to be turning a light rustic beige) and the sauce begins to thicken a bit. As the cooking progresses, if you feel you need to add a little more chicken stock, go ahead and do so. Stir well and add your crushed pepper and continue stirring. Lower your heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes covered and then add all your meats including the bacon  (but not the shrimp) back in the pan. Stir all together well, cover and cook for about 5 to 7  more minutes. Finally, add the shrimp and the cream, stir well, and cook for a few  more minutes covered. Taste sauce for flavor. If you need salt, add a bit, but I don't think you will.

About 10 minutes before serving, have water boiling in a pot and add the dry linguine, along with a teaspoon of salt and some olive oil. Cook the linguine in boiling water (stirring every couple of minutes) for about 8 to 10 minutes for al dente (meaning just done, firm but cooked through, not mushy). Plate by placing the linguine in a circular pattern at the center and carefully spooning  the sauce over the top. Top off with a little bit of chopped fresh basil or parsley and sprinkle grated Swiss or Parm over the top. Serve hot and enjoy!

Clams and Mussels In A Saffron Cream Sauce... Need I Say More?

What can I say about the fruits of the sea that nature hasn't already said in its display of variety, vivid colors, and mouth watering flavors? I can't think of anyone who has not included jewels from the deep in their list of top 10 foods. And if there is, that person has not been in my kitchen yet.

One of the all time favorite dishes that I like making is my Clams and Mussels in a Saffron Cream Sauce. Whether you choose to present it as a first course or the entree, its presence, aroma, and flavor is sure to impress your dinner guests and they will be tugging at your sleeves for the recipe. The wonderful thing about this dish is that it is so simple to make and takes less than 30 minutes from prep to dinner table.

Let's start by getting our ingredients together:

1 1/2 lbs. fresh clams (the bigger the better)
1 1/2 lbs. fresh mussels (debearded)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of large capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon of coursely ground pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 pinches of saffron threads
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
1 3/4 cups of seafood stock
1/4 cup of cream
2 tablespoons of anise liquor (Ricard, Pernod, Ouzo) or 1/2 teaspoon of anise extract

Prepare all of your ingredients before you start cooking, making sure the clams are washed in cold water and the mussels are washed and "debearded". The hairy mossy growth on the mussels needs to be removed. Just grab it and pull it out. I think the Old Man In The Sea came back as a mussel.

Get a pan that is at least 10 inches in diameter at the bottom and 3 inches deep, with a lid. Spray Pam and add your olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and red pepper, stir, and saute for about 2 minutes or until onions get translucent. Next, add your garlic and 1 tablespoon of butter, stir, and continue to cook for another minute. Now you want to add your shellfish and stir so that everything is coated.

Stir for about a minute and add your fish stock, anise liquor or extract, tomato paste, ground pepper, saffron threads, and capers. Bring to a vigorous boil, cover tightly, and lower heat to low. Cook covered for 5 minutes, then remove all the clams and mussels and set aside in a deep (2 inch) serving dish. Now add the cream and the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan with the liquid and stir until butter has completely melted and sauce has begun to slightly thicken. This should take only about a minute and begin to bubble. Taste for flavor. There should be no need for salt, trust me, it should be just right. Turn heat off and spoon over the clams and mussels and present it to your dinner guests.

This will serve 4 dinner guests as a first course and 2 if presented as an entree. When serving, make sure to spoon some sauce in each plate and have some bread of your choice to sop up any remaining sauce. This dish is so wonderful you won't believe it. I can't encourage you enough to try it at your next dinner gathering. Just close your eyes and you'll think you're having dinner at a seaside restaurant in the South of France. Bon Appetit!

You Won't Slave In The Kitchen With These Appetizers - Crusteons

The first time I came up with these was about 48 hours ago. I had an idea of combining small pitted black olives and garbanzo beans in an easy to make appetizer. Realizing that garbanzo beans had a propensity to be dry, they would soak up the moisture of the olives and as the saying goes, opposites attract, I would have a delicious morsel in my hands. Well, these two ingredients did not fail me and along with a few enhancers, I had come up with a wonderful tasty treat that I have decided to share with you. Oh, that first batch I made? I ate every one of them! Oink Oink.

OK, let's get started. We will need to get all of our ingredients together so here they are:

1 can of small black pitted olives, left whole
1 can of garbanzo beans
3 cloves of garlic, minced (that means tiny tiny pieces)
1/3 cup of parsley chopped
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 splashes of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper
1 French Baguette, sliced in 1/2 inch thick slices
2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese

Did you notice there was one ingredient that I did not include? It was salt, because I think there is enough sodium in the ingredients to render this appetizer plenty flavorful; having said that, if you desire a bit more saltiness, you can add additional salt OR if you have anchovies, crush one up and add to the mixture.

Add 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese and all the other ingredients (except the bread) in a food processor with the chopping blade. Start with the garbanzo beans, then the olives, and finish up with the cheese at the top. Pulse chop until mixture has the consistency of what cooked ground beef for tacos looks like (do you get what I'm seeing?). You don't want to turn this into a puree or paste. Make sure all ingredients are well mixed together.

Now take a teaspoon and start spreading a liberal amount of the mixture on each of the slices of bread, making sure to pat it down so that the mixture doesn't fall off the sides. Once you've done that, sprinkle enough of the Parmesan cheese on each piece to cover completely (you may pat the cheese down a bit also). Place each of your slices on a cookie sheet and cook under the broiler in your oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese has melted and has golden brown peaks. Remove and set aside for a few minutes, plate, and then serve to your guests, along with a sweet vermouth and orange martini. If you don't consume alcohol, try a cocktail of clamato juice, a splash of club soda, and a lime twist, poured into a salt rimmed martini glass. Enjoy this appetizer I call Crusteon for it's crunchy, Southern European flavors. Bueno Appetito.

At Last... Boeuf Bourguignon Made Simple

Boeuf Bourguignon is a very traditional French dish that can be as involved, complicated, and intimidating as that made by the late Julia Child. I will let you in on a  little secret however, most French home cooks don't go through all the trouble of cooking each item separately, straining the sauce, and so on. Julia taught us how great restaurant chefs make it in the official authentic tradition. Don't expect the average French cuisine (kitchen) to follow suit. And in keeping with the tradition of this blog, we are going to make Boeuf Bourguignon the way the average French home cooks do it, nice and simple.

We must first get all of our ingredients together and prepared. The measurements I will use today will suffice for a dinner party of four, so if you have more "invitees", you'll need to increase your supplies, and if you have fewer for dinner, you're in luck and will have leftovers! Here we go:

1.5 to 2 lbs of Top Sirloin, cut into 2 x 1 inch pieces
1 large white onion coursely chopped (ideally, 1.5 cups peeled pearl onions)
2 cups of peas (you can use 2 cups of carrots cut into 1 inch pieces if you prefer)
1/2 lb white button mushroom caps
2 cups Burgundy red wine
1 cup beef broth (or bouillon)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 soup spoon tomato paste
salt and pepper
2 table spoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter
2 small yukon gold potatoes per person (8)

Spray Pam on the bottom of a 10 inch pan (pan should be at least 3 inches deep. Add the olive oil and make sure the bottom is well coated. In a bowl, toss the flour and the meat together until meat is well coated. Don't discard excess flour as you might need a little bit of it if you need to thicken your sauce more Heat your oil at medium high and when oil is well heated, add the meat and saute until it is golden brown. Now add your onions and garlic and stir well. Continue to cook about 5 minutes, turning heat down to medium. Add your wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan, letting wine come to a boil so alcohol evaporates nicely. Let cook another 5 minutes and add the beef broth, return to a boil. Now turn the heat to low, cover and let cook slowly for about 40 minutes. Check back every 15 minutes or so and stir. The sauce should begin to be thickening a bit now.

Have a large pot of boiling water ready for the potatoes. After 40 minutes is up, add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until ready. Make sure the potatoes are whole and with skin on. Now add to your meat, the tomato paste and butter, stir well. Next add your peas, mushrooms, and pepper, stir in well. The sauce should be a nice dark brown rustic color and should have thickened a bit. You don't want the sauce too thick, but it should nicely coat a spoon. Cover and cook for 20 minutes more and then it will be ready. BEFORE YOU ADD ANY SALT be sure to taste first! It will be most likely just about right. If you need to salt, do it at the very end. The wine and broth, along with the meat add a lot of flavor alone.

Your potatoes should be ready now (about 30 minutes). If they're not quite ready, that's ok. Just keep the Bourguignon on warm until they're done.  When plating your dish, slice the potatoes in wedges of 4 each, add them to the plate and gently pour the Bourguignon over them, making sure there's enough sauce. As a final touch, sprinkle some of the chopped parsley over the dish. Boeuf Bourguignon offers a wonderful rich flavor and a nice Burgundy red or full bodied Merlot wine will go nicely with the dish. And it's ok to sop up the sauce with some nice crusty French or Italian bread. Finish with a refreshing course of delicate butter lettuce tossed in extra virgin olive oil with a slice of Gruyere or Swiss cheese on the side, just like the French. You will be delighted as to how nicely the salad will clense the palate having it at the end of the meal. Just try it! Bon appetit :)