GAIL MONAGHAN

COOKING - ENTERTAINING - LINENS

October

Gail Monaghan

OVERSIZED CHEDDAR + CHIVE BISCUITS

About the Recipe

These utterly divine biscuits are good all year ‘round but I particularly like them in fall and winter. Their warm, rich comfort-food quality is particularly satisfying as the air chills.

 

I’ve been making them since the 1990s when I picked up a freebee recipe card at Manhattan’s BLT Steak. Although I immediately lost the card, I did the best I could to recreate these savory treats based on taste memory. I no longer remember how much they taste like the original, but I do know that they are VERY good.

 

Serve with basic steak, fish or roast chicken, and turn basic weekday fare into dinner for company. If you prefer,  replace the cheddar with Gruyere, Manchego, or even a good blue cheese. It’s hard to go wrong. 


Oversized Cheddar + Chive Biscuits

Yields 10-12 Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Scant 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1 heaping cup grated sharp cheddar cheese 

  • 3⁄4 cup very cold heavy cream, plus more as needed 

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


Method

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric handheld mixer set on low speed, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. 

  2. Add the butter and mix on low speed for about 30 to 60 seconds, or until the butter pieces are the size of small peas.

  3. Add the cheese, cream, and chives. Mix until the dough just begins to come together. Do not overmix. The dough should be relatively dry, but if it’s really too dry to come together, add more cream, 1 to 2 teaspoons at a time, as needed. 

  4. Turn out onto a floured work surface and gently pat (do not roll with a rolling pin) the dough until it’s about a 1⁄2 inch thick. Fold the dough layer over 5 times and then gently press it into a rough rectangle about 1 inch thick. 

  5. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 squares. Alternatively, cut into 10 to 12 circles with 2-inch round biscuit cutter. Place the raw biscuits at least 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover, and refrigerate. 

    OR:  Instead of following Step 5, the dough for the biscuits can be patted out into 1 large 3⁄4-inch-thick circle, and then cut into 12 wedges; or rolled into logs about 2 inches in diameter and cut into 1-inch thick slices.

  6. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove biscuits from the refrigerator.

  7. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. (If baked straight from the freezer, increase the baking time by at least 5 minutes.) 

  8. Remove from the oven. Serve warm, within 15 minutes, if possible.  

     

    TIP:  If you must wait longer than 15 minutes before serving, you can certainly serve the biscuits at room temperature. However, they’re better warm. Simply pop them into a 350°F oven and reheat for about 5 minutes. The biscuits can be baked up to 6 hours before serving. 


September

Gail Monaghan

CARAMELIZED PLUM + ROSEMARY POLENTA POUND CAKE

About the Recipe

Plums tend to have a deeper and more complex flavor than peaches and nectarines, their what-you-see-is-what-you-get cousins. Plums are far and away my stone fruit of choice in regard to dessert.

Plums come into season in early summer and abound for at least a month after peaches and nectarines have gone by the wayside. However, plums peak in late summer and early fall. As days shorten, I push to eat outdoors while I still can. And make as many plum desserts as possible. Light-sweater dinners are perfect occasions to pull warm yummy, plummy concoctions out of the culinary hat.

When a recipe calls for cooked plums, roasting, stewing or grilling will do, but nothing beats the luscious richness achieved by caramelization. This may sound complicated but in reality involves nothing more than a few minutes of sautéing the plums with butter and sugar until their juices thicken and darken in color. 

With its hint of corn and grainy texture, the polenta in this caramelized plum pound cake offers a complementary contrast to the sweet-tart and slightly yielding quality of the cooked plums. The recipe begins with a plum and citrus sauté, unexpectedly including rosemary. The woody herb adds gusto to the dish and pairs surprisingly well with the plums. The rosemary-infused cooked fruit is alternated with layers of cake batter (to which a few tablespoons of cognac have been added for an extra tender crumb)in a loaf pan and baked until golden. Served warm with whipped cream or vanilla creme fraiche and some extra plums on the side, this dish is my favorite early fall sweet treat. 


Caramelized Plum and Rosemary Polenta Pound Cake

Serves 8-10

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

Prepared Plums:

  • 6 large plums, pitted and cut into 6-8 wedges each

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary 

  • 2 tablespoons cognac (or rum or any brandy)

The Pound Cake:

  • ½ pound unsalted butter, plus more for buttering loaf pan 

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary 

  • Zest of 1 lemon 

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 eggs 

  • 2 tablespoons cognac (or any brandy)

  • Prepared plums (recipe below)

    Note: All ingredients should be at room temperature


Method

Prepared Plums:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cook plums with sugar, salt, lemon zest and rosemary over medium heat until fruit is very soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes.

  2. Remove from heat.

  3. Add cognac.

The Pound Cake:

  1. Butter a 5½x10-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter paper. Set pan aside. 

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, cornmeal and salt. 

  4. Cream together butter, rosemary, lemon zest and sugar until very light and fluffy. 

  5. Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

  6. Beat in flour mixture, alternating with cognac, just until well-combined. Spoon 2/3 of batter into pan. Evenly distribute one-quarter of prepared plums over batter. Add rest of the batter. Spread remaining fruit over the top and, using a spoon or fork, push pieces down a little. 

  7. Bake for 60 minutes or until done, testing with a toothpick after 50 minutes. Cake should be nicely brown, pulling away from the edges of the pan and not too dry. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto your hand or a rack and quickly re-invert it onto another rack. 

  8. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The cake is also delicious sliced and toasted.)


August

Gail Monaghan

BAR BAHIA’S GAZPACHO ANDALUZ

About the Recipe

Whether chunky or smooth, light or robust, gazpacho is a delightfully refreshing way to start almost any summer meal. Often described as “liquid salad,”  Andalusia’s most famous dish first appeared during the Middle Ages. The name most likely derives from the Roman caspa meaning “fragments” or the Hebrew gazaz meaning “to break into pieces,” both words alluding to the broken bread which held center stage—the supporting roles played  by water, vinegar and garlic--in all early versions of the soup.

The starchy amalgam represented lunch for local field workers until the 19th century when raw vegetables—typically tomato, onion, cucumber and bell pepper—joined the mix, eventually replacing most or all of the bread. Each Andalusian province developed a signature version; and in no time, the popularity of this nutritious-delicious, multi-purpose answer to V-8 juice spread throughout Spain where it’s still served before, after, or alongside many meals. For me, it's a perfect snack or pick-me-up as well. Long ago, taking my cue from Penelope Casas’ 1996 cookbook, Delicioso, I started keeping a cooling pitcherful in my fridge all summer long.  It’s a huge hit and goes quickly, but constant replenishing is child’s play as it's  thrown together in minutes.  Get a head start and make dinner party versions several days in advance.  The soup mellows and flavor deepens while waiting in the fridge.

The recipe below is adapted from Delicioso.  Casas gives us Bar Bahia’s legendary take on the traditional tomato dish which she describes as “the standard by which all other gazpachos in Cadiz are measured.”  Here--as in many of her recipes-- Casas uses a combination of white wine and sherry vinegars to simulate the taste of a local golden variety. Include lump crabmeat or diced shrimp for a heartier starter or light main course. Scattering the selection of minced veggies atop either version further enhances and beautifies. 


Bar Bahia’s Gazpacho Andaluz

Serves 8

Time: 5-10 minutes  

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds very ripe, flavorful tomatoes, quartered

  • 3 green frying peppers (approximately 6 ounces total), seeded and coarsely chopped

  • 1 medium organic Kirby cucumber, coarsely chopped (peel if not organic)

  • 1 medium sweet or yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled 

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 6 tablespoons best quality white wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons best quality sherry vinegar

  • 1 cup ice water (or part ice, part water)

  • Finely chopped tomato, green pepper, and/or cucumber for garnish (optional but highly recommended)


Method

  1. Place all ingredients except the water and the garnish vegetables in a blender. Process to as smooth a consistency as possible

  2. Add the 2 cups water

  3. If needed, stir in more salt and vinegar a little at a time until the flavors are completely developed.   Chill thoroughly.  Add more ice water if too thick and readjust salt and vinegar. Serve in chilled bowls with an ice cube—or several small ones—in each bowl to keep the chill. 

  4. If using, sprinkle each portion with the chopped vegetables or pass them in small bowls.


July

Gail Monaghan
2019_July_Scones.jpg

RAISIN CREAM SCONES

(plus variations)

About the Recipe

Summer breakfasts--especially on the weekends and often including houseguests--can be lazy and luxurious. Bacon and eggs, sausage, smoked salmon with bagels and cream cheese, waffles, berry pancakes and muffins, croissants and coffee cakes are all divine.  But my favorite breakfast treat is a basket of these special scones, warm from the oven served with lots of sweet butter. The mix-ins provide plenty of flavor so no jam required (though gilding the less sweet nut variety with raspberry jam is highly recommended).

I've made these scones for many years. They seem to have a life all their own. When my children were little, sugar-sprinkling the raw product before baking was their favorite household "chore". I sold the confection by the pound to tearooms for years and had the recipe published several times including in the The New York Times. 

A bit of a cross between a scone and a cookie, these are not the traditional English teatime fare.  Moister and sweeter, they also contain a hefty handful of mix-ins-- raisins, nuts, chocolate chips or candied ginger--and are topped with a thin layer of buttery sugar crunch. 

Serve them straight from the oven, warm (they reheat perfectly in a 350F oven) or at room temperature. Ideal first thing in the morning or for snacking all day long, they also easily become dessert:  split horizontally--warmed, toasted, or as is--they make instant shortcakes, berry or peach, nectarine, or plum in summer. While in winter, serve caramelized pears with the ginger scones or apples with the nut or raisin variety. Add dollops of ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche all versions. Easy and rave-worthy.


RAISIN CREAM SCONES (PLUS VARIATIONS)

Makes approximately 20 scones

Time: 20 minutes active time. 15 minutes to bake.  

Ingredients

  • 12 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup sugar plus 2 to 3 extra tablespoons for sprinkling

  • 1 1/3 cups raisins

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter


Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

  2.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in raisins.

  3. Pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl. With the mixer on low or with a fork, mix the ingredients until just combined.

  4. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead very briefly. Roll the dough to a 1 inch thickness. Using a 1 to 1 1/2 inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out the scones. Place them an inch apart on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Reroll the scraps until all the dough has been used.

  5. Paint the scone tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place the scones in the middle of the preheated oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.

  6. Cool on a rack. Serve the scones warm or at room temperature with butter and jam. Store the scones in an airtight container for 24 hours or freeze for up to 6 weeks.

    *To vary the flavor, replace the raisins with 1 1/3 cups toasted walnuts, pecans, mixed nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, or almonds; or chocolate chips, chopped mixed dried fruits or 1 1/3 cups chopped candied ginger plus 1 teaspoon powdered ginger.


June

Gail Monaghan

BLACK RICE PAELLA

with shrimp, scallops, lemongrass and ginger

About the Recipe

This Filipino take on Spanish paella is one of my favorite seafood dishes on the planet. I used memory to recreate a dish I ate in the 1980s at Cendrillon, a fabulous, hole-in-the-wall restaurant then in Soho. I imagine my invention is quite different from the original but I did the best I could. In any case, I promise it is absolutely delish.

And, if you're not familiar with it, black rice---chewy and flavorful-- is fabulous all by itself, let alone enhanced by the seafood and complex, enigmatic sauce.

I admit that this "paella" is a bit of a hassle to prepare, but I find it more than worth the effort, especially when entertaining a crowd: the perfect solution to dinner for 20 or even more. However, if doubling or tripling the recipe, do use 2 or 3 large baking dishes rather than trying to cram everything--piled high--on to one.

This is essentially a one-dish meal though I like to serve a big salad on the side. A fresh fruit and meringue dessert of some sort--a Pavlova would heaven-- is the ideal finale. Though--for those of you who don't have the energy to make meringue--- a huge fruit salad--without the meringue--is perfect in summer. And in winter, tangy citrus or even a simple pear or apple tart fits the bill nicely.

Any version of cold yogurt soup makes a great first course in summer. And in winter I like to surprise people and serve fragrant, light and refreshing spring rolls.


Black Rice Paella with Shrimp, Scallops, Lemongrass and Ginger

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups black rice

  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 4-6 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (such as canola), divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2  cups vegetable stock

  • 1 ½ cups  fish stock or clam juice or more vegetable stock 

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, pounded and cut into 4 inch lengths

  •  8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1 red onion, peeled and minced

  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, minced

  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced

  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

  • 1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk 

  • 4 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce (or more to taste)

  • juice of 1 lime (or more to taste)

  • honey to taste (1-3 teaspoons)

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

  • 1 pound sea scallops

  • 2 pounds shrimp

  • neutral vegetable oil plus garlic plus red pepper flakes for searing seafood

  • Fresh cilantro and scallions for garnish


Method

  1. First prepare the rice: rinse the rice in a sieve. Heat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the oil and heat. When it is hot, add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir, cooking for about 1 minute. Add the stocks and vanilla with the lemongrass pieces. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer until al dente, about 25 minutes.  When it is cooked to desired chewiness, drain any excess liquid from the rice and replace rice in the pot. Cover with a lid and keep warm until ready to use or reheat later.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. While the rice is cooking, heat a deep skillet or wok over medium heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil and heat through. Add the red onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and bell pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring. Add the coconut milk,  fish sauce and juice of 1/2 lime. Taste for more lime juice, fish sauce, and some honey to sweeten. Let  simmer for 5 minutes or more to let the flavors meld. Stir in the tomatoes. Taste once more for the 3 seasonings--sweet, salty and sour.

  3. Grease a large baking dish. Layer the rice in it (remove the lemongrass if you do not want to pick it out later). Pour the coconut sauce over that. Cover the casserole tightly with foil and place in the preheated oven until very hot, about 25 minutes.

  4. While the casserole is baking, prepare the seafood.

  5. Toss the seafood with salt and pepper. Add oil to a nonstick skillet, heat to sizzling and sear the seafood in batches. After the casserole has baked for 15 minutes, turn the oven heat off. When you are close to finishing the seafood, remove the casserole from the oven (do not let it stay in the oven for longer than 25 minutes), but leave it covered until you are ready with the seafood. Serve the seafood on top of the rice and vegetables. Strew with lots of chopped cilantro and scallions.


May

Gail Monaghan

CLASSIC CHICKEN INDIVIDUAL POT PIES

with a Seafood Pot Pie Variation

About the Recipe

Even the ancient Romans found it hard to resist succulent ingredients lusciously sauced and encased in flakey, golden pastry. They concocted savory pot pies brimming with game birds, chicken, venison and/or rabbit even before inventing their sweet-version cousins. 

My personal pot pie memories are more basic.  As a small child, my favorite dinner was classic Swansen’s eaten in front of  the Mickey Mouse Club on “maid’s night out”. Though my addiction to The Mouseketeers and Swansen’s was soon outgrown, my basic love of crusty treats was not.

Just out of college, assisted by The Joy of Cooking, I taught myself to make chicken pot pies and then moved right on to variations. A fortuitous discovery was how cleverly the pot pie dealt with leftovers. Favorite stews, fricassees, roast vegetables, and even pastas were crowd-pleasers when redished inside crust.

These homemade creations were well-received, but two imperfections persisted. Bottom crusts absorbed liquid from fillings and turned limp. In addition, getting the filling piping hot and and the pastry simultaneously baked to golden, crispy perfection was above my pay grade. 

Seeking solutions, I recalled The Brown Derby’s signature pot pies from my California childhood and checked out the legendary eatery’s 1949 cookbook. An ah-hah moment came when I read that they eliminated the bottom crust entirely. Less was more and sogginess averted. Even more user-friendly, their top crust was a simple piece of cut-out pastry that could be brainlessly baked up to a day ahead, reheated last minute, and laid atop the bubbling filling just before serving.

Whether planning an intimate Sunday supper, a elegant extravaganza, or something in between, individual pot pies or generous portions taken from a larger whole are the quintessential one-dish main course. Easy as pie: Just follow with cheese and a salad before dessert.

The chicken classic below—chock full of freshly cooked poultry and vegetables in a subtly seasoned béchamel--evokes a spring garden. The Cote d’Azur seafood pie is robust and also gorgeous, with pale pink shrimp, creamy scallops, and taupe mushrooms all set off by saffron-yellow sauce and green peas. 

Try one of these recipes or be creative with fridge leftovers (adding a bit of liquid if the rejiggered filling seems to dry). You can’t go wrong. Everything tastes better topped with crust.

NOTE: Both recipes can be made as one large pie if desired.


My Classic Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 10-12

Time: about 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 recipes ‘The Brown Derby Crust for Pot Pies’ (below)

For poaching the chicken:

  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs

  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

  • Several sprigs of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

For the mushrooms:

  • 4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2  pounds white button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the vegetables:

  • 6 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 3 large onions, peeled and diced

  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds

  • 3 ribs celery, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise

  • Several sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • One 10-ounce bag frozen pearl onions (thawed)

  • One 10-ounce bag frozen green peas (thawed)

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 6 tablespoons brandy or sherry or a mixture

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or to taste

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

  • Large pinch cayenne pepper

  • 1/3 cup minced chives and/or fresh parsley

NOTE: You will need 10-12 ramekins that are approximately 4 inches high and 5 inches across.

Method

  1. Place the chicken pieces in a large saucepan. Pour the stock over. If it does not cover the chicken, add more till it does. Add smashed garlic and thyme.

  2. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is done, about 8 minutes. Don’t overcook.

  3. Transfer the chicken and garlic to a large platter, and reserve the broth in the saucepan. Add or subtract broth so you have exactly 4 cups.

  4. While the chicken is cooking, start the mushrooms: put 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet set over high heat. When melted, add sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper. Add more butter if needed. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are very tender, about 15 minutes. Add tablespoons of water along the way if too dry. Add cooked mushrooms to the chicken on the platter.

  5. Wipe out skillet and add 4 tablespoons of butter. Set over medium –high heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and beginning to color, about 15-20 minutes. Add pearl onions and peas and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add vegetables to the platter.

  6. While the vegetables are cooking, bring the reserved broth to a simmer,. Place the remaining 1 stick of butter in a saucepan—large enough to everything on the platter plus the sauce—over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and cook, stirring for two minutes. Whisk in the hot broth vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook 1 minute and then add the milk and any accumulated juices on the platter. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce fully thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the liquor and cook 1 minute more. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and cayenne.

  7. While the vegetables are cooking, bring the reserved broth to a simmer,. Place the remaining 1 stick of butter in a saucepan—large enough to everything on the platter plus the sauce—over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and cook, stirring for two minutes. Whisk in the hot broth vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook 1 minute and then add the milk and any accumulated juices on the platter. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce fully thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the liquor and cook 1 minute more. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and cayenne.

  8. Place the pot pie covers on a baking sheet and place in the oven to warm.

  9. Divide chicken mixture among ramekins or pot pie dishes. If the mixture is no longer hot, turn the oven up to 350 and return the filled ramekins to the oven until they are. Cover with the reheated pre-baked pastry covers. Serve immediately.


SEAFOOD POT PIE

Serves 8

Time: about 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter divided into three 1/4 cup portions

  • 3 celery ribs, thinly sliced

  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered

  • 12 large white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black paper to taste

  • 2 cups frozen green peas, thawed

  • 18 large raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and split lengthwise

  • Six 2-ounce pieces of halibut, monkfish, or cod 

  • 9 large sea scallops, halved horizontally

  • 18 large fresh oysters removed from their shells

  • 2 tomatoes diced

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives

  • 2 cooked lobster tails, each cut into 6 equal pieces to produce 12 pieces in all

  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives

  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon plus more to taste

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup light cream

  • Large pinch of saffron dissolved in 1 cup strong fish or shellfish stock

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • a few drops of Tabasco sauce to taste

  • The Brown Derby’s Pastry for Covered Pies (recipe follows)

NOTE: If you cannot find all the seafood, you can substitute with more of the ones you do find. You will need 8 ramekins or pot pie dishes 4 inches high and approximately 5 inches across. Or this can be made as one large pot pie

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200. Melt 1/4 cup of the butter in a large skillet or saute pan set over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and the garlic and cook, stirring frequently until softened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper, and cook about 10 minutes more until all vegetables are tender. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large heatproof bowl. Place in the oven to keep warm.

  3. Melt the second 1/4 cup of butter in the same pan over high heat. When the butter foam begins to subside add the shrimp and the fish and sauté, stirring until the fish begins to color and the shrimp turn red. Add the scallops and salt to taste and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Then add the oysters and lobster pieces and cook for 1 minute more. Make sure all the seafood is just cooked through.

  4. Transfer the seafood mixture to the bowl containing the cooked vegetables and toss together with the tomato, chives and lemon juice. Keep warm in the oven.

  5. Place the pot pie covers and the ramekins on a baking sheet and place in the oven to warm.

  6. Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring for 3 minutes. Whisk in the cream, saffron-infused stock, and thyme and cook, stirring until thickened. If too thick add a bit more cream. If too thin, whisk in one or two eggs yolks. If yolks are added be careful not to boil or the sauce will curdle. Off heat season with salt, pepper, Tabasco Sauce and lemon juice. Fold the sauce gently into the cooked seafood and vegetables. Adjust seasoning. At this point you can continue with the recipe or cool the mixture and refrigerate for up to 24  hours before continuing.

  7. Divide the seafood and vegetable mixture among ramekins or pot pie dishes. If no longer hot, turn the oven up to 350 and return the filled ramekins to the oven until they are. Cover with the reheated prebaked pot pie covers. Serve immediately.


BROWN DERBY PASTRY FOR COVERED PIES

Makes enough pastry for 8 individual pot pies

Time: about 20 minutes plus resting time and 20 minutes to bake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour (I like to use 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour ½ cup whole wheat flour)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water

  • 1 egg yolk whisked together with 1 tablespoon cream

Method

  1. Place the flour and salt together in a food processor and process fifteen seconds to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are the size of small peas.

  2. Add 4 tablespoons ice water all at once through the feed tube, and process until the dough just begins to come together. Do not let it form a ball. If dough is too dry to come together, add more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time.

  3. Form the dough into a ball and then press into a disk. Place the disk between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper and roll to about a 1/3-inch thickness. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

  4. Using a 5-inch saucer or bowl rim as a template, cut the dough into eight circles. Refrigerate the cut circles for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer or overnight.

  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 F. Place the circles on 1 or 2 baking sheets, paint them with a bit of egg yolk mixture, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Once cool, these pie tops will keep 2-3 days at room temperature.

NOTE: Well-wrapped, the circles may be frozen for up to two months. They can be baked right from the freezer. If frozen, baking time will be a few minutes longer.

April

Gail Monaghan

MATZOH BREI

(Fried Matzoh)

About the Recipe

If you aren’t already a fan, take one buttery bite and you will be. Matzoh brei—or fried matzoh, the literal translation from the Hebrew—is a supremely satisfying, buttery scramble of eggs and crumbled matzoh, a Passover favorite for Jews the world over. And, if a small polling of personal friends means anything, it's a huge hit with non-Jews too. Traditionally breakfast fare, this simple substitute for French toast is makes an equally comforting lunch or supper as well.

Some insist that Jews fleeing Egypt invented fried matzoh the minute they hit the Sinai; but in actuality, the basic recipe-- moistened matzoh mixed with a couple of beaten eggs and fried--was invented just 150 years ago--or in Jewish terms, yesterday. Although the recipe remains more or less unchanged, the exact method of preparation varies from family to family. One (probably Sephardic) version treats the mixture like a frittata or big pancake. Brown one side, flip and brown the other, and then cut into wedges to serve. Some cooks add fridge leftovers and/or favorite spices or cook their brei in chicken fat (schmaltz) instead of butter.

A purist, I prefer like my matzoh brei straight up, but my kids eat theirs with maple syrup and various aunts, uncles and cousins swear by garnishes of applesauce and sour cream, jam, jelly or a hefty sprinkling of sugar. Another popular option is to add vanilla, cinnamon and sugar to the egg mixture as though making French toast.

Whether sweet or savory, scrambled or frittata-like, or soft or crunchy, try matzoh brei during Passover, and you’ll discover a million reasons to eat it all year long.


MATZOH BREI (fried Matzoh)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 8 sheets plain matzoh, broken into quarters

  • 8-10 tablespoons unsalted butter


Method

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Break the matzoh into irregular, smaller pieces and place in another bowl, add hot water and swish the matzoh around in the water for 20- 30 seconds until softened but not mushy.

  2. Strain well and add the strained matzoh to the egg mixture, tossing gently to coat (trying not to break up the matzoh), set aside.

  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam begins to subside, and add the eggy matzoh to the hot skillet. Cook undisturbed for 60 seconds and then gently scramble until some bits are brown and some remain soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.


March

Gail Monaghan

PASTA SALAD WITH ROAST CHICKEN, ROQUEFORT, PEARS, RED GRAPES AND WALNUTS

About the Recipe

I've always loved a good pasta salad.

Until a year or two ago, as in Italy, I saw these salads as firmly ensconced in the carbohydrate camp and I made them accordingly. In Italy, rice and pasta dishes are all about the starch with other ingredients thrown in for flavor, nomenclature and a bit of variety. I followed suit especially as that was back in the 1990s when starch was king, and medical professionals believed that limitless carbohydrates (even the white ones) were the key to good health.

Decades have passed and opinions have changed. Whether to remain au courant or simply because I’ve always preferred a bit less starch, lately I’ve been flipping the ratio and loving the results.

A pasta salad is the ideal repository for extraneous bits and pieces. If you’re even marginally imaginative, any combination of leftover meat, poultry, fish, seafood, sausage, legumes, and vegetables—cannily tossed with olive oil and seasonings or with a first-class vinaigrette—results in a must-eat dish. Now, however, I include only about a quarter of a box (4 ounces) of pasta for 6 generous main course servings, the rest of the bowl consisting of veggies and/or proteins. For even lighter salads, add shredded lettuces or cabbage and extra vegetables.

For those who prefer following a recipe, try my Pasta Salad with Roast Chicken, Roquefort, Pears, Red Grapes and Walnuts. It's divine as written, but welcomes substitutions too. Replace the chicken with smoked turkey, duck or goose or omit. Again, nothing is set in stone so play around; replace the Roquefort and walnuts with chevre and pistachios, or the pears with Granny Smith apples. It’s hard to go wrong here. Extra dressing will keep in the fridge for at least a month. Drizzled over grilled chicken, fish or vegetables, it’s addictive.

And experiment with flipping the ratio with risottos and hot pastas as well. Your Italian nonna may frown, but I think you'll be pleased with the results.


PASTA SALAD WITH ROAST CHICKEN, ROQUEFORT, PEARS, RED GRAPES AND WALNUTS

Serves 8 as a main course or 12-14 as a first course

Ingredients

  • 8 cups roast chicken, cut into bite-size pieces

  • 5-6 ounces penne, rotelle (wheels) or farfalle (bow-tie) cooked al dente according to package directions

  • 1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed and coarsely chopped

  • 3 heads Belgian endive, trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

  • 3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved vertically

  • 1 cup crumbled Roquefort or other blue cheese

  • 1 cup thinly sliced (crosswise) celery

  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint

  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley

  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced into paper thin half rings

  • 2 Bosc pears, ripe but still firm

  • 1 recipe Walnut Vinaigrette (see below)

  • fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Method

  1. Place all the salad ingredients, except the pears, in a large salad bowl

  2. Core the pears. Slice them into 1/4-inch-thick wedges and add them to the salad

  3. Toss with just enough of the Walnut Vinaigrette to moisten and flavor. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve.


WALNUT VINAIGRETTE

Yield: 3/4–1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup walnut oil


  • 2 tablespoons Sherry or balsamic vinegar


  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
 or more to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste

  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced


Method

  1. Place all vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar and shake vigorously until well combined. Set aside for at least 1 hour to let flavors marry. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

  2. Use right away or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature and re-shake the jar before using.

February

Gail Monaghan
2019_Ferbruary_Caramelized+Pears.jpg

GINGER-CARAMELIZED PEARS WITH VANILLA CREME FRAICHE

About the Recipe

This is one of my favorite winter dessert recipes and one of the easiest. You don't even have to peel the pears. I've tweaked a recipe given to me a year or two ago by my close friend Eric Boman, one of the best home cooks (and the very best photographer) I know. If you prefer, serve vanilla ice cream alongside. But for me, the the tang of the creme fraiche is the absolute perfect foil to the caramelly sweetness of the pears.

And if you prefer vanilla-flavored pears to ginger, substitute and a sliced-open vanilla bean for the ginger coins.


GINGER-CARAMELIZED PEARS WITH VANILLA CREME FRAICHE

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup sugar

  • pinch of fine sea salt

  • 6 hard-ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears, halved lengthwise

  • 2-3 inches of fresh ginger, trimmed, peeled and cut into rounds about ¼ inch thick

  • 1 ½ cup crème fraiche or sour cream mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoons Williams Poire (optional)


Method

  1. Choose a large lidded skillet that will hold all the pear halves in one layer. Cover the bottom with 1/8 inch of water and place on a burner over high heat.

  2. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the water. Tip skillet to mix. Don’t stir.

  3. The sugar mixture will boil and become clear. When browning begins, turn the heat down to low and continue to tilt the skillet to mix. Continue to tilt and mix until the sugar is deep caramel. Take the skillet off the heat.

  4. While the sugar is cooking, use a melon-baller or a sharp knife to remove the seeds from the pear halves. Leave stems and core intact and do not peel.

  5. Place the ginger “coins” in the caramel and the pear halves cut side down on top, in a concentric circle beginning from the outside with the pear halves pointing inward, and then fill in the middle as best you can.

  6. Place the skillet over very low heat and cover. Check after 35 minutes though the pears will probably take longer to cook. The pears are done when a small sharp knife sinks into them without resistance, but if you should overcook them they shrivel up bit but remain every bit as delicious.

  7. Transfer pears to a large platter, cut side up. Discard the ginger (though it's quite delicious if you want to eat it)

  8. Deglaze the skillet with a couple tablespoons of very hot water and 2 tablespoons of Williams Poire if desired. Pour the caramel over the pears on the platter.

  9. Serve warm or at room temperature with Vanilla Creme Fraiche or sour cream on the side.

JANUARY

Gail Monaghan

SEMOLINA GNOCCHI

or Gnocchi alla Romana

About the Recipe

Potato gnocchi is a beloved Italian staple, but after one too many disastrous stabs at making my own, I abandoned ship and instituted a restaurants-only approach to the dish, a policy that remained in place for years until last year when a plate of Italy’s original semolina gnocchi (also called gnocchi alla romana) served at a trattoria just outside Rome caused me to view the concept of the national dumpling in a whole new light. I was told that northern Italians were forming this cucina della nonna specialty from semolina-- a soft yellow durum wheat flour-- long before tomatoes, corn, and potatoes arrived from the New World. Baked instead of boiled, these custardy-within-while-crustily-golden-without delicacies --rich with milk, eggs, butter and cheese--are divine, a surprisingly different animal and infinitely simpler to prepare than their Johnny-come-lately, spud-centric cousins. I was hooked.

A cooking lesson later in the week showed me that making semolina gnocchi is child’s play. Hot, sticky, polenta-like dough is spread on a baking sheet and chilled. Traditionally, round gnocchi are then cut out with a cookie cutter, but I find makeing square ones using a pizza wheel or sharp knife to be quicker and more efficient as there are no leftover scraps to re-use or discard. Round or square, the dumplings are placed on a baking sheet, sprinkled with cheese and baked in a hot oven until sizzling and crusty-edged. Although semolina gnocchi are often baked shingle style, I prefer laying them flat as they bake more evenly and develop more crunchy, crispy bits which for me are the jewels in their crown. And for make-ahead cooks, once ready to bake, the gnocchi can be refrigerated for 2-3 days--or frozen for at least six months--requiring only heating and browning to serve.

Experiment with various seasonings -- thyme, rosemary or sage instead of nutmeg. As for toppings, the gnocchi pair well with traditional tomato, béchamel, Bolognese and mushroom sauces and virtually any pesto or meat ragout. This dish is winter-perfect but when the weather turns warm, they are divine served straight up with nothing but a cold and crispy green salad alongside.


SEMOLINA GNOCCHI/GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA

Makes approximately 54 gnocchi

TIME: About 20 minutes active work time. 1 ½-2 ½ hours for chilling and baking.

This is a large recipe. It can be scaled down and/or extra gnocchi can be wrapped well and refrigerated for several days or frozen for at least 6 months.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups whole milk

  • a scant ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 2 ¼ cup fine semolina

  • 11 tablespooons unsalted butter, divided--8 tablespoons and 3 tablespoons--- cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the pan

  • 11 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyere or a mixture of the two, plus approximately 3 ½ cups more for sprinkling.

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or more to taste

  • ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper or more to taste


Method

  1. Bring milk and nutmeg to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.

  2. Off heat, whisk the semolina in a steady stream.

  3. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the semolina pulls away from the sides as a mass and a skin forms on the bottom of the pot, about 2-3 minutes.

  4. Remove from the heat and stir in 6 tablespoons of the butter, the grated cheese, and egg yolks. Stir well between additions to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  5. Pour the hot mixture onto a buttered aluminum foil-lined half sheet pan (approximately 18”x13”). If you don’t have an pan the right size, you can use multiple smaller pans or just spread a large piece of greased aluminum foil on the counter and form a rectangle approximately 18x12 on it.

  6. Spread--preferably with an offset spatula--to an even thickness somewhere between (½ inch – 1 inch). Let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

  7. Preheat the oven to 500 with rack in the highest position.

  8. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut the semolina into 2-inch squares.

  9. Lay the cut gnocchi at least 1/2-inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan or baking dish.

  10. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with approximately 1 tablespoon of grated cheese per gnocchi. Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes Pour off any excess butter and serve, 3 per person, optionally accompanied by quick tomato sauce or another sauce of your choice.


QUICK TOMATO SAUCE

Makes approximately 5 cups of sauce

Time: About 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • large pinch red pepper flakes

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 28-ounce cans chopped tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt or more to taste. Don’t undersalt

  • Large pinch of sugar

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup roughly chopped basil


Method

  1. In a large skillet sauté the onion until golden. Add the pepper flakes and stir for 30 seconds.

  2. Add everything else and cook over high heat, stirring frequently and vigorously--be careful that the bottom does not scorch--for 10-15 minutes or until enough water has evaporated that a good sauce consistency--a bit thicker than heavy cream-- is reached.

  3. Remove from heat and stir in basil. basil at the end. Adjust salt and pepper.

TIP:

Sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for at least a week or frozen for months. Reheat before serving

DECEMBER

Gail Monaghan
IMG_8700.jpg

CURRIED CAULIFLOWER AND APPLE SOUP with Holiday Garnish

About the Recipe

This tasty soup is my first choice holiday starter. Actually it's my first choice winter starter flat out, with its chive, green apple (WITH skin) and pink peppercorn garnish shouting out Christmas Dinner red and green.

Color scheme, however, is only one of its many attributes. First of all it is replete with exotic deliciousness. Everyone--dinner guests and cooking students alike--loves it (even cauliflower-haters), but no one can quite figure out what's in it. Cauliflower, apples, onions, garlic, curry powder and saffron threads combine to create a mouth-watering mystery, a luscious result not resembling what it "should" taste like.

Another plus: this seemingly super rich and filling soup is virtually calorie-free, containing nothing less than 1/4 teaspoon of butter per serving. Loosely adapted from Daniel Boulud, my recipe replaces his cup of cream with stock. Surprisingly, the substitution barely diminishes creaminess while dramatically enhancing flavor. Even when you insist, no one will believe it's a diet dish. And not to be sneezed at, the low-calorie profile is particularly appealing before a holiday goose or prime rib.

Last but certainly not least at this too-busy time of year, this award-worthy starter can be made several days in advance, refrigerated and then reheated for serving. AND it freezes brilliantly. I always double or triple the super easy recipe and freeze to thaw for a soup and salad Sunday supper or as a first course before a simple roast chicken or a steak work week dinner. In the short run, however, it is highly recommended for your Christmas Dinner table!


CURRIED CAULIFLOWER AND APPLE SOUP with Holiday Garnish

Serves

Ingredients

  • 6 cups or more good chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 medium onions, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 4 teaspoons Madras or West Indian curry powder (or more to taste)

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads or 2 pinches saffron powder

  • 2 large apples, cored and cut into large dice

  • 2 large heads cauliflower, greens and stem discarded, head broken up

  • 4-6 tablespoons minced chives (garnish

  • 2 organic Granny Smith apples cut into small dice (skin left on)

  • about 3 tablespoons pink peppercorns, crushed (for color but also for taste) 6 tablespoons pomegranate seeds can be substituted.

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional


Method

  1. Melt the butter in a large sacuepan over medium-low heat.

  2. Add the onions, curry powder, and saffron and sweat for 2 minutes, stirring often.

  3. Add the garlic and sliced apple and sweat for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

  4. Add the cauliflower and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Boil until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a knife, approximately 20 minutes.

  5. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender and purée at high speed until very smooth.

  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  7. Keep warm until ready to serve or refrigerate when cool and reheat just before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a bit of lemon juice if desired

  8. Garnish with chives, apple dice and crushed pink peppercorns.