Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shrimp and Pancetta over Polenta

Shrimp and Pancetta /Polenta

Shrimp and Pancetta over Creamy Polenta 
Originally a recipe that I stumbled across and the list of ingredients intrigued me. I decided that it needed some modifications to make it mine and tried it for the first time a few weeks ago. The result was an overwhelming success from the hubby and three year old. I've done enough modifications to this recipe that I can successfully call it mine and one that will be a repeat on the menu.
Makes 4 servings
  • 3/4 cup instant polenta
  • 1/4 pound (110 grams) pancetta, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion finely chopped 
  • 1/4 tsp (cc) pepperoncini  (depending on hot you like it), pepper flakes can be substituted
  • 3 tablespoons (cs) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (14-ounces) (450g) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 pound  (450grams) cleaned large shrimp
  • 2 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiana 
  • 2 tablespoons (cs) of butter

In a non stick pan, cook pancetta , onions, garlic and pepperoncini over medium heat until pancetta is crispy and garlic and onions are pale golden approx 3-4 minutes. Increase heat to high and add shrimp and cook until it turns pink.  Decrease heat to medium and add tomatoes with their juice and simmer until liquid is reduced and sauce becomes thick.

While sauce is simmering, cook polenta according to package instructions, my hint is to use 1/2 cup minus 2 tbs of polenta and once its starts to get thick turn off the stove. Add in butter and grated cheese stir to combine, taste and recifty salt.

At this time the shrimp should be finished, taste for salt & pepper (be careful as pancetta can be salty)

I like to serve this in shallow bowls so that the polenta can really absorb the tomato sauce top with reserved parsley.

A Riesling would be a good choice to accompany this dish.

What's being served this week ?

Ah Saturday mornings :) This one started a little earlier as my 11mth old decided to wake up at 7am this morning, I know that many parents wake up even earlier than that, but we are not used to this, especially after going to bed quite late last night.

Anyway, the menu was done, market checked off the list and now I'm eagerly waiting on my after lunch expresso, so, while I wait here is what's being served at our house this week.

Saturday: My son chose this - entrecôte (prime rib) & fries ( no doubt a green salad will be served on the side)

Sunday: Trying out a new recipe here:  Fresh corn soup topped with roasted corn guacamole ( admitting up front that I will use frozen corn)

Monday: Steamed fish with green beans

Tuesday:  Pan roasted noix st jacques (scallops), with roasted green asparagus and red potatoes (My daughter's 1st birthday so having a special dinner served with Veuve Clicquot Champagne to honor her)

Wednesday: Grilled lemon/garlic chicken with carrots and fresh peas

Thursday: Ham & Manchego cheese sandwhiches/ green salad
Friday: Tacos with homemade salsa and guacamole

Bon Appetit !  (and still no sign of the café - hubby is looking after the salad for the week - I'll post our tips on how to have fresh, crisp salad and herbs for the week in another post)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Birthday cake or cakes ?

Neither, we did Cake Balls à la Bakerella upon request from the hubby for his birthday cake this year.

Chocolate Covered Cake Balls

They really are quite easy to make and the effect is amazing on young and old. Before I list the recipe no need to get scared they are not as sweet as they look and you can actually modify the level of sweetness by adjusting the frosting.

Chocolate Cake Balls
  • 1 chocolate cake either homemade or mix ( I prefer homemade but your choice)
  • 2 cups of your favorite frosting (This is where you can adjust the sweetness level)
  • 1 package chocolate bark or baking chocolate (just remember baking chocolate requires that this be refrigerated)
  • wax paper

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl ( Its easier to use your fingers to do this however make sure they are clean)
2. Add one cup of frosting and mix thoroughly you essentially want it to be able to bind easily to hold its shape, once it gets to this point stop adding frosting.
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50.
4. Chill for several hours, they can actually be kept overnight covered in plastic wrap until you get ready to do the covering. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer, however if you do this they only need a few minutes to firm up.)
5. Melt chocolate in bain marie ( you can use the microwave but I'm rather against this)
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

If you used baking chocolate you will need to refrigerate these so that they harden, if not they will remain "soft". We prefer these little treats refrigerated mainly to have that firm texture. However if you used candy melts or the bark then they can keep for a week in a well sealed container.

Warning, one is more than enough even though you may have second thoughts :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Compote or Applesauce ?

In France just about every cooked pureed fruit is put under the heading of "Compote" in anglo saxon terms cooked Apples fall under Applesauce.
Both my kids like just about every average French baby/toddler start of eating compote for dessert and this continues to their adult years. Not to get sidetracked but a thick apple compote cooked with some rum and served over yogurt can be a very delightful comforting dessert and one my hubby's favorite desserts. Ok I'll go back to my original post now.
I like many mums choose to make both my kids compote myself, its rather easy and has become a Sunday tradition for me. Our "compotes" are made with fruit of the season, so for now my two kids are probably getting rather tired of Apples and Apple/Pear combinations.

The recipe for this is fool proof really but the results are amazing

Apples, Pears & Raisin ( Raisin sec)Compote

  • 1 kilo (approx 10 ) apples (Chantclair)
  • 1 kilo (approx 10)  pears (Conference)
  • 1 tsp (cc) Cinnamon
  • 2 tbs (cs) Raisins (Raisin Sec)
  • 2 tbs  (cc)of water
Any pot will do but I prefer either a cocotte or a dutch oven (heavy pan) to do this in.
  • Peel apples and pears and put in pot
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins
  • Add water just so that the sugars that are released from the apples don't cause it to burn
  • Cook until soft on medium to low heat for approx 45mins but depends on fruit
  • You could at this stage leave it like this or purée it. The simplest way to purée it is with the blender attachment for your hand held mixer
  • Purée until you reach the conistency that yo like
  • I like to continue to let it simmer for the juices to evaporate and the taste to become even more pronounced
I tend to reserve half of the compote for immediate use the beginning of the week and then I freeze in ice cube trays the remaining, this way I have easy sized portions that I take out the morning and by snack time its ready to eat. An additional teething tip: the ice blocks may good teething rings for soothing those tender gums.

Let me know if you try it ?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What's being served for dinner this week ?

Its once again Saturday and that means that I've already planned my menu and that hubby is out at the farmers market as we speak. I'm somewhat behind on posting but hopefully will catch up this weekend. Planning the menu this week was a bit difficult I have to admit, though you would think with spring being here that it would be easier ? Well not so, it all depends if the market is ready to show us all the spring jewels that it has been hiding so I had to remind myself that I would have time in the coming weeks to reacquaint myself with the bounties of spring.

Saturday - Shrimp and Pancetta severed over creamy polenta. The insipration behind this dish is that my son loves shrimp and pancetta and I'm trying to get him to eat polenta so will be making a tomato based sauce for the shrimp and pancetta.

Sunday - Entrecôte (prime rib) served with a fresh green salad and corn on the cob (rushing the seasons a bit here)

Monday -  Fish (waiting to see what hubby bring back from the market) with semoule (will probably add some dried apricots and chili to the semoule to add some variety to it)

Tuesday -  Ahh the first tastes of spring - Omelette's with mushrooms (girolles I hope) and green asparagus

Wednesday - Beef & Broccoli  with Rice

Thursday - Velouté of carrots with grilled brie sandwhiches

Friday - Not sure as yet but it will  be worthy of Friday fun  

Bon Appetit

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Le Chiberta

Its high time that I gave a review of the restaurant that we celebrated Eric's birthday at - Le Chiberta a restaurant from Guy Savoy. Exquisite is about the word that best describes our experience - from the minute we walked in to when we left it was a dining pleasure. Now its true we don't make a habit of treating ourselves to a restuarant like this but special occasions call for some bells and whistles.  Hubby has asked that I recreate this menu at home but more of a bistro style as the tastes are so subtle that I'm not sure to do it justice.

Below is the menu that we had along with the wines that were served at each course, we started off lunch with deux coupes de champagne to celebrate and then waited in anticipation.

Its hard to say what dish we/I preferred because they were all so good. The soup perhaps stands out as it was just the right balance of savours that you coud not discern the ingredients except for the hint of ginger at the end. The roasted pigeon /risotto/foie gras was also noteworthy, not too heavy just enough to make you happy that there were still some remaining. The pre-dessert was with perhaps the most refreshing dessert that I've had in a very long time - clementines, with a lime sorbet and little blocks of something that I can't put my taste on. Each dish was a star on its own and we throughly enjoyed every minute of it. The wines were delicious we were especially in awe of the white and the dessert wine .

Amuse Bouche

Velouté of carrot lemongrass and ginger, king prawns and spices
Saint-Aubin, 1er cru  En Remilly 2007, Marc Colin
Green lentils and truffle juice
mâche salad and parmesan

Bass "à la plancha"
swiss chard gratin and buckwheat emulsion

Roasted filet of pigeon
risotto and sautéed duck foie gras
Château Peyrat Fourthon 2004

Saint Félicien (goat) and walnut, mesclun salad

Maury Mas Amiel 2006
Pré dessert
Chesnut and pistachio entremet

We left with happy stomachs, a lighter wallet and a very memorable lunch that won't soon be forgotten.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dinner this week and a special thank you

Before I list our menu for this week, I have to give a very special thank you to a very good friend of mine for redoing the design of the blog. Her name is Bethany and she created my header and images for the blog. You can find her work at Scrappin Daisies so if you have a moment check her out. I'll be putting a permanent link to her blog on the site later on today.

Saturday once again started off very hectic here and it will continue to be like that because as of next week my Yoga classes start back at 11:30 so bye bye to long lazy Saturday mornings. This week is the hubby's birthday celebration weekend and so he chose the menu for this weekend. We are going out for lunch the actual day of his birthday to a restaurant - Le Chiberta  that has been given a one star rating by the Michelin guide. Needless to dinner that night will be light and it will most probably be my three year old that may choose what we eat that night.

So what's on the menu this week ?

Saturday: Just my son and myself for dinner tonight our babysitter canceled at the last minute, we were supposed to have dinner with friends but the hubby will be going by himself instead. I asked my son what he wanted and like any three year old he said FRIES ! so we'll have oven baked fries (shhh don't tell him) and crispy baked chicken.

Sunday: This is where the hubby mentioned what he would like to eat :) and you can see that he is French :) Canard ( thinking of doing a pink peppercorn sauce to go with it -still undecided) with red thym potatoes. Planning a surprise for the entrée (appetizer) so need to see if I can first get the ingredients

Monday: After our lunch not sure how hungry we will be but we will of course have dinner, champagne and cake with our two kids

Tuesday: I tend to work late on Tuesdays (I don't work on Wednesdays) so pasta with homemade tomato sauce (need to post the recipe for this)

Wednesday: Chile coated salmon with creamy lentils

Thursday: Grilled lemon/garlic chicken with haricot verts (string beans)

Friday: As you probably guessed, Friday nights are pretty calm here so we'll be having tacos, with homemade salsa and guacamole

Let me know what you are eating this week ?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunday night dinner

I know, its Wednesday but this week started off with a rough start so somewhat behind. I think one of the meats that I love most has to be lamb and until I arrived in France nearly 8 years ago I thought just about everyone loved lamb. In my 8years I have come across at least 20 people that don't like lamb and at the risk of being stereotypical they are all female. Oddly enough I always imagined lamb being the feminine meat, where this stems from I don't know just something that I've always thought.

I admit its not the healthiest of meats to eat but my motto of "Everything in moderation" definitely rings through here. Its not often that it appears on the menu but when it does its treated with the pomp and circumstance that it deserves.

I've searched and searched for the perfect Leg of Lamb recipe and though I've tested some delicious ones I still prefer my "recipe" if you can call it that.

Roasted Leg Of Lamb 
Serves 4-8 depending on how hungry your guests are, and if like me you plan on making cold lamb sandwhiches later on in the week

  • 1 leg of lamb (about 4lbs or 1.8kilos)
  • 2 tablespoons Mustard (My preference is Maille Dijon Mustard, any brand will do but you need to use the "real" Dijon mustard)
  • 1 head of roasted garlic (see below for receipe)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Rosemary + 1 Rosemary branch
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (no need to use the extra virgin here) 
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper 
  • 2 tablespoons honey

To make the roasted garlic
  • 1 head of garlic (make sure its a fresh one, not one that has been sitting in the pantry for a few weeks)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Sprig of thyme 
Preheat oven to 200c or 390F
  • Cut tops off head of garlic so that all the cloves can be seen.
  • Place garlic on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil (I tend to put this on a baking pan to avoid any accidents)
  • Pour olive oil over garlic.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over it (be generous with the black pepper)
  • I like to place a spring of thym over the garlic and then make a little package with the foil
  • Bake for 20mins , remove from oven and set aside for a few minutes for it to cool down
  • Open the wonderful smelling package, this is the part that I love because the aroma is like no other and you see the little golden cloves all shiny just waiting to be devoured. 
  • Resist the urge to eat the garlic as we need it all :) The cloves should come out of their shell quite easily when pressed. In a bowl mash the garlic to make a paste and reserve for the rest of the recipe.
NB: The garlic can be smeared on slices of a grilled baguette and serve as a canape, it can also be smeared on steak, or on baked potatoes (but that's another recipe)

Roasted leg of lamb
  • Preheat oven to 240c or 460F
  • In the same bowl with the mashed garlic mix in the remaining ingredients except honey and rosemary branch
  • Massage the lamb with this mixture making sure that everywhere is covered and place on roasting rack.
  • Roast for 50 minutes (this gives you a beautiful medium pink color - the way that Lamb should be eaten) turning mid way.
  • 5 mins before the end, baste lamb with honey using the rosemary branch as your basting brush.
  • Monitor the meat carefully because the honey can burn, we are looking for a gentle caramelized crust that will contrast with the mustard.
  • IMPORTANT: When you remove the meat from the oven place on cooling rack and cover with loose tent of foil and let rest for at least 15 minutes. The lamb needs this time for all those delicious juices to go through the meat and this is what makes it tender.
Carve, Serve and Enjoy :) I served it with smashed potatoes and a simple Green Salad (favorite type of lettuce, shallots and mustard vinaigrette)

Still planning next Sunday's menu and it will be a 'celebratory' menu as my hubby's birthday is Monday and I'm one to celebrate for at least 2 or three days :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Old Fashioned Chicken and Corn Stew

was very yummy I have to admit. Well there were some modifications (like you did not see that coming)  I made it into a mock pot pie instead of a stew added some carrots and peas into the base to add some color and sneak more veggies into my son. I also had some left over pancetta so added that as well and replaced the water with white wine. The receipe called for lots of cream and though I'm for everything in moderation this was a bit excessive to I used about 1 tablespoon of cream just for that that extra touch.

Where does the mock pot pie come in, again I wanted something light, I had puff pastry in the fridge and so I rolled it out and then with a large cookie cutter made 4 big circles. I did the typical egg yolk wash over this and then grated fresh parmigiano cheese over it. Popped it into the oven at 200c for 20mins and that was my crust.

Old Fashioned Chicken and Corn Stew via Epicurious with my amendments

  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts and thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces- I rarely use thighs for anything as it will end up on my thighs chicken breasts worked just fine :)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound boiling potatoes
  • 1 large onion, halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (14 ounces) - Homemade definitely makes a difference but use what you have
  • 3/4 cup water Replaced with white wine
  • 2 ears frozen corn, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces I only had the ones in a can so used that and well the 3yr old preferred that
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream- I used 1 tablespoon, 1/4 cup really is too much
My add on - 1/4 cup chopped pancetta (thickly sliced), 1/4 cup chopped carrots and  1/4  peas

Pastry Topping
Preheat oven to 200c or 390f
Roll out pre purchased puff pastry and using a large cookie cutter make cutouts. Brush cutouts with a egg yolk wash (whole yolk, salt and pepper ), after which sprinkle freshly grated Parmigiano cheese. Bake for 15 - 20mins

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What's being served for dinner this week ?

I have to admit this week's menu is not very glamorous or adventuresome:) We had a great evening last night with friends that made waking up this morning a little difficult, not to mention I had a dentist appointment so we were pressed for time this morning. All of which translates to mean that I passed on my usual foray into the recipe world and just wrote down what came into mind. So here we go ...

Per my son's request we are having soup ( and since winter is still unfortunately with us it fits the bill)
Old Fashioned Chicken and Corn Stew / served with a green salad

Roast leg of lamb with some sort of potatoes (inspiration will hit tomorrow I'm sure)

Grilled chicken breasts with balsamic roasted carrots

Lamb sandwhiches with a rosemary mayonaise

Tacos / Salsa / Guacamole

Pasta with homemade tomato sauce


And there you have it, next Saturday morning will be another busy one so may need to start the menu planning earlier.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tuscan Bean Soup

Well today was the first try on the recipe Tuscan Bean Soup, a very humble dish with simple ingredients which actually on first view appears to be bland but is a very good marriage of flavors. I have had this recipe on my list for a few weeks now, and it always got replaced whether it was subconscious or not I'm not sure but I took the challenge tonight. From start to end it took about 40 mins which is not bad for a week night dish (at least in my house). This was originally planned to be served with a green salad but hubby came home late and we just had the soup. Soup is usually on our menu at least once a week during winter and I think we've tested and tasted at least 20 new recipes this winter, so needless to say I'm looking forward to Spring (March 21st) to officially hibernate these recipes.

In the meantime Bon Appetit !

Tuscan Bean Soup via Cooking Light with my amendments (yes there are a few)

  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 1/2  cup  chopped prosciutto or ham (about 2 ounces) I used thick slices of pancetta cut into tiny cubes, thought that prosciutto may have been too salty
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 3/4  cup  chopped celery I omitted this as I love raw celery but I'm not a fan of it cooked
  • 3/4  cup  chopped carrot
  • 1  garlic clove, minced Upped this to 3 cloves as we love garlic
  • 1  cup  water
  • 2 1 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans or other white beans, undrained - I used 1 and this was largely enough for 4-6 servings, can't imagine using 2 cans and I drained the beans
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 1  (15.75-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth - I used homemade chicken stock
  • 2  tablespoons  minced fresh parsley
  • 2  tablespoons  sherry (optional) believe it or not I don't have this at home so I substituted balsamic vinegar and it was excellent
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • My add on - Grated Parmigiano cheese it thickened the sauce and it just rounded out the taste


Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the prosciutto, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic; sauté for 2 minutes or until soft.
Add the water, beans, bay leaves, and broth, and bring soup to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer soup for 20 minutes.
Add the parsley, sherry, and black pepper; cook for 1 minute. Discard bay leaves.

(Serves 4 -6) 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pappardelle with veal ragu

I was so very excited about this dish, I went out and got my favorite brand of pasta - Cipriani Pasta I'll admit that its more than you would ever expect to pay for dried pasta but this pasta tastes as though you just made it  and with its paper thin quality it just melts in your mouth. Part of what makes it so special is that there  are 7 eggs in every kilo of pasta, and the dough is passed through the machines at least 30 times (most commercial pasta gets worked once or twice). I should also add that the box is beautifully wrapped and the pasta is nestled in between sheets of rice paper to protect the fragile pasta.

But back to the dish, however you really should try this pasta. Overall the dish was good the sauce was rich and it was topped with just the right amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese however it was not what I was expecting.  Will I make this again ? Probably not, there are too many recipes out there to try. Which reminds me a few years ago I received  an encyclopedia of Italian recipes so may dive in there for another ragu recipe.

I'm thinking the next Italian pasta dish will again feature Cipriani Pasta mixed in with some parmiagiano cheese, garlic and a heavy dose of black pepper with just enough olive oil to coat, can you tell that we had a glimpse of spring weather here in Paris today ?