New Year’s Eve, that last little bit of recklessness before the new year takes hold and we start to feel all responsible and such. Whether I am sitting around in sweatpants with friends or dressed to the nines, I love the feeling of being carefree and not thinking about what looms (back to work, resolutions) after the first.
The Eve itself is such a weird dichotomy. On one hand, I think it is overrated and amateur night. On the other hand, I love permission to indulge in the decadence of food, drink and of course getting all glammed up.
Decadence takes many forms and it is up to you to decide what that means for you. Maybe you want to have a pajama party and have breakfast for dinner. Maybe for you, it means eating all the rich, fatty foods you plan to give up the next morning and getting all dressed up. Or maybe it means, wearing your favorite jeans, not seeing a ton of people and having a good old-fashioned burger and fries and bathing in multiple glasses of La Marca Prosecco. It’s all up to you to decide.
Of all the New Year’s celebrations, I’ve been a part of, the one thing that has been pretty consistent is the menu. It usually includes some kind of steak, cheesy potatoes and lobster. And ALWAYS a lot of champagne. I spent many a year with close friends dining on that exact menu. It makes me smile each time I think of those nights.
So let’s think about that champagne and lobster and how we can make it extra special for 2017-2018. You do not need me to tell you how to make a steak. Everybody has their own trade secret and potatoes are pretty simple (HINT: these days you can even buy great Scalloped Potatoes at Trader Joe’s). That leaves me with Lobster and Champagne. How should we cook them? How about lobster poached in champagne and served over linguine? Fabulous! This dish is going to be the epitome of simple elegance. Some ingredients do all the work for you.
The first rule is never to cook with champagne or wine that you wouldn’t drink. Second is it’s ok to use champagne, sparkling wine or prosecco. They all work. And its’s okay to sample as you cook!
Combine Champagne, shallot and salt in a deep skillet.
Bring to a boil then reduce to a medium-low heat and add lobster.
Cover and simmer until lobster is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove lobster to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Stir cream into Champagne reduction and bring back to a boil.
Reduce heat and let cook until sauce is reduced to 1/3 cup, stir occasionally.
Whisking constantly, over low heat, start adding butter, one cube at a time.
Make sure that each cube is fully incorporated before adding next. The sauce should be smooth and coat the back of a spoon. See note below.
Remove lobster meat from shells and cut into medallions.
Place medallions over lightly buttered, cooked, linguine. Spoon sauce over lobster and noodles.
Garnish with fresh tarragon or parsley, chopped. Serve immediately.
Can use up to 1/2 cup of butter. You want to have a thick smooth consistency, so stop when you have that.
Sorry about the stock photo. I am making this for NYE and will post pictures after.
In case you haven’t heard it’s been raining here in California, A LOT! So it was a great weekend to stay home and make all sorts of comfort food. It doesn’t get more comfortable than homemade pasta.
I love that you and I both probably have everything we need to make pasta, already, in our kitchens. Are you ready for the long list; Flour, salt, eggs, water and olive oil. I have a hand cranked pasta roller, but you really don’t need it. Pasta has been made for centuries, certainly long before standing electric mixers were adding attachments and even before my hand-cranked roller. If you have a wooden roller pin and a knife you can make your own pasta.
Keep in mind you can search for basic pasta recipes and find dozens of variations. Start with mine but if it s not a good fit, you can play around. Add more water; use just all-purpose flour, more oil (not too much). I did make mine in a standing mixer, with a dough hook; you can do everything by hand in a large bowl.
I want to say that, even not so great, homemade pasta will taste better than any pasta you will ever buy in a store. Once you get this pasta made, go over to March 1, 2015 and make the Marinara Sauce!
In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Make a well (indentation) and add eggs. If you are doing this by hand, start to fold your flour over the eggs and mix, adding water and oil, until you have a stiff dough. I used a standing electric mixer with the dough hook attachment. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides.
As you are mixing and adding water & oil, keep pinching the dough. When it starts to stick together easily, its ready. You do not want it too sticky.
I used Durum Semolina, which is traditionally Italian. It has a coarser texture, almost like corn meal, it will need more water and olive oil. The texture smooths out in rolling and cooking. All-purpose flour will NOT need nearly as much liquid.
Once the dough is all mixed. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes on a lightly floured board. Then form a disk and wrap in plastic and let rest, in refrigerator, for 30 minutes.
When ready to roll, cut disk into quarters and flatten. If you are using a pasta machine or roller, start on a zero setting and run the dough through once or twice and fold in half and lightly flour each side and run through again. Repeat this process gradually increasing setting to higher numbers and ultimately increasing to desired thinness and length. Or follow the directions provided, with your machine.
If you are hand rolling, lightly flour a board and use a rolling pin to roll dough out to desired thinness and length. I like to roll between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Too much flour can make the pasta too chewy.
At this point you would switch to the cutting shape, you want on the machine. If you are cutting by hand use a knife or pizza cute to cut your dough.
Once your dough is cut, it is IMPORTANT to let it dry/set for a while before storing or cooking. If you don't it might be gummy. If you have something to hang your pasta over, even a towel rack will do, that's ideal. if not just let it lay straight on board or parchment lined pan. Don't let it sit bunched up, like in the picture.
Once it is a little dry you can store it, folded, in an airtight container, with a little semolina or cornmeal, to keep it separated.
To cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it, liberally. Add you pasta and cook 5 - 7 minutes. Do not over cook. Serve with your favorite sauce or none at all. It's that good,
I have returned from Julia’s, La Peetch! It was everything I thought it would be. It was so much more and a little less at the same time.
For anyone that fancies themselves a good cook. For anyone that has ever watched a black & white episode of The French Chef, on PBS; walking into the kitchen at Julia Child’s home in the south of France and seeing the peg board wall still adorned with every kitchen utensil imaginable is awe inspiring. Somewhere in your mind you understand that these can’t all be original pieces but it doesn’t seem to matter. YOUR IN HER KITCHEN!!! As you “tour” her approximately 10X13 kitchen, you can feel her, you can smell the remnants of meals past and your fingers want to graze over every edge.
Our first evening there we were served appetizers on her cottage table. They were simple, as I thought they should be. We had a little cheese and both green and black olive tapenade on crostini. Each of us explored the home and compared it to pictures on our phones. We sat on the green velvet couch and walked the grounds imagining Julia and Paul walking every step with us.
The next morning, we met again at that cottage table for coffee and “morning pages”. We were given a prompt and our writing began. For me, this is where I think my separation from Julia began. I had a crazy expectation that she would work through me and I would suddenly have words flowing from my fingertips. Not so much. As the week went on and this exercise got more frustrating for me, the bloom fell of the rose, as they say. But, in a good way. I became less focused on Julia and more focused on the women I was with. I started listening to their words. I paid more attention the food and beverage I was consuming, in the moment, instead of what Julia would have been eating and drinking. As I did that the words started to come for me. The drink started to taste sweeter and I had a keener sense of how our food tasted. I was able to enjoy even the simplest meal of pasta with Roquefort sauce.
It was last day and I had yet to find my perfect magazine pitch or outline for my breakout cookbook. Some had already began their journey home and others were taking in a sunny day at the pool. Some had gone exploring in St. Paul de Vence. I decided to take my camera and journal and explore the property practicing my new camera skills. I was composing some artsy photo of an olive or a leaf when the piano started. It was so beautiful and magical. It stopped me mid-shot and I started to write. In that moment I found the soul of Julia I had been looking for. It wasn’t her words but her inspiration that came through me.
On the very last day, I found my words and started my project. So while I continue to walk with you on your journey to good cooking I will share some peeks into my project along the way. Here is my version of the Roquefort Pasta we had a La Peetch. Bon Appetit!
Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Note: I cook my pasta in a well salted boiling water. As the saying goes the water should taste like the sea.
Reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water for the recipe.
Right before putting everything together, while the water is still boiling hot, swirl it in your serving bowl, to warm it, then toss out.
In a small bowl combine Roquefort and butter with a fork until well blended and soft.
Put pasta in warm bowl with butter mixture and toss slowly so pasta can absorb flavors of cheese and butter. Slowly add cup of cooking water until "sauce" forms and pasta is coated (you may not need whole cup). Season with nutmeg. I use a good amount. There's something about cheese and nutmeg.
Toss with lemon zest and rosemary. Taste and adjust seasoning with fresh ground pepper.
Serve with fresh greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette and fresh bread with butter. Don't forget the wine ENJOY!