Monday, 30 December 2013

Bailey's Blue Cheese Sauce (with a side of Jaded Embitterment)

There are two types of people in this world- people who go out for New Year’s Eve, and people who do not. I am quite firmly the latter. I have attempted to be the former several times, namely last year, when I went to the Lakeshore in Toronto and saw a band. The band, Dwayne Gretzky, was awesome. My company was also amazing. I left at 12:30 and made it home without a DUI. Had it been any other night of the year, it would have been a perfect night.

But of course, it wasn’t any other night of the year. It was New Year’s Eve, so an awesome night isn’t enough. Are you really going to bring in the new year with just an awesome night?! You can’t do that. You fail at life if you do that. Your night has to be super perfect awesome, obviously. Your one true secret love must reveal himself to you, kiss you at midnight, and tell you how all along he knew how truly incredible you are, and in fact he didn’t love that other girl the whole time you’ve been secretly pining for him, because this is actually a teen movie and of course later in the night at 5 a.m. while you eat breakfast together swooning, Simple Minds will come on and then you’ll dance in the diner together much to the dismay of every other broken hearted girl in the diner, who will enviously promise herself that next year, HER night will end as perfectly as yours.

But of course, that will not happen this year. You know what will happen? That guy will show up with his girlfriend to the bar you paid $745,393.00 to get into, you’ll get drunk and cry in a corner at midnight, your text to your back-burner booty call won’t go through because EVERYONE texts their back-burner booty call at approximately 1:34 am when they realize life is not a Richard Curtis movie, and then you won’t be able to find a cab to save your life. If you live in the frigid north like I do, you’ll wait in a diner out of desperation until 5 a.m. surrounded by incredibly intoxicated people, reeking of desperation, until you see some obnoxiously in love couple get up and dance to an 80’s power ballad playing on the radio. At which point you’ll cry again and promise yourself next year will be different.

You know what? It can be. I realize the previous two paragraphs painted a picture of me as an embittered, sad, and lonely spinster, naysaying what could possibly be the most fun night of the year (whilst simultaneously chagrining my grade 10 English teacher with my grammatical errors). But I’m here to present a second option: Staying In. Much loved by crazy cat ladies and jaded 28 year olds alike; the old-fashioned Staying In presents a night of nostalgia-filled board games, drinking champagne that did not cost you half your tuition, and the opportunity to take advantage of that eHarmony free communication weekend, where you can meet other like-minded people who also enjoy staying in on the biggest party night of the year.

If you stay in, perhaps you will invite other human companions over to partake in the rejection of this pressure-cooker of a night, and then you may also want to feed them. If you decide Albert Burneko’s poached lobster tails are not for you (although I urge you to try them at some point), perhaps you’ll opt for the easier, if not cliché, red meat varietal.

Should you happen to go for this, you’ll want to jazz it up a little with something special. Nothing is better with red meat than blue cheese and great red wine. So, here’s a nifty little sauce that you can serve with your meal that will provide some acknowledgment to your guests that this is, in fact, The Most Special Night EVER.

Start with a finely chopped shallot in about a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan. The jury is still out on whether or not to make a roux for this sauce, so I’ll leave it up to you. If you like a thicker sauce, also add a tablespoon of flour to the shallot and butter and stir that around until it gets golden. Now add a splash of sherry and reduce it by half. Add a cup of cream (real cream, don’t chintz and go with milk. The resolution diet starts the next day.) Bring the cream just to a boil and then turn down your heat. Finally, crumble in a cup of blue cheese and whisk until it melts into the cream. Finish with salt, pepper and the juice of one lemon.

Enjoy your evening whatever you do- but if you can’t get a cab at 3:00 a.m., don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Happy 2014!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Coquilles St Jacques

Are you ready for another one of my retro, oldie but goodie recipes? This is another one where there are dozens of variations, so experiment around with it until it's to your own liking, and then you'll have a treasured family recipe of your own! And because it's French, there seems to be a rivalry as to whether the a la Parisienne or the Provencal recipe is superior. I'm not sure which this one leans to, and I try to stay neutral in their culinary squabbles! And further to that, they would be appalled to know that I often serve this as a main with a rice pilaf and asparagus! But in fact, to stay true to the recipe, you would serve it as an appetizer, and in a shell shaped ovenproof dish. Since I've been breaking all the rules my whole life, I'll blaze my own trail here too and serve it as a main. Especially since I can't find my shell shaped dishes.

And this is another one of my recipes where we go in stages. First we are going to poach our scallops in a wine based bouillon. Then sauté our mushrooms and shallot. And then on to the sauce. At that point you would assemble in your shell shaped dishes and broil them for a minute or two just to brown the tops. So it's easy and fast and makes for a wonderful hot appetizer for special dinner parties.

For the bouillon you'll need:
half an onion sliced
1 stalk of sliced celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 a lemon sliced
1 cup of white wine
about 10 or 12 peppercorns
1 pound of scallops, washed and dried, and remove that little muscle on the side of them. Cut them into bite size pieces if you get the jumbo size.

For the rest you'll need:
1/2 cup of butter
1 finely diced shallot
1 pound of sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 small sprig of fresh thyme, leaves removed
1/4 cup of flour
a pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cup of half and half cream
1 cup of grated gruyere cheese
a little splash more of white wine
chopped parsley (which you won't see in this photo since I forgot to get some)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs

Prepare your bouillon and let it come up to the simmer for a few minutes. Add your scallops. If you don't have enough liquid to cover the scallops, add a bit of water to cover. Let them simmer for 10 or 12 minutes until they are white. Remove the scallops and set aside. Strain the liquid through a sieve and reserve. You need 1/2 a cup of it.

Melt all but 2 tablespoons of your butter and add the shallot and let it soften. Add your garlic and let it sauté just for a minute or two and add your mushrooms and thyme. Saute until your mushrooms are golden brown. Take it off the heat and add the flour and stir it around for a minute and add that little splash of wine to deglaze your pan, scraping up all the bits on the pan. Put it back on the heat and whisk in the cream and let it thicken. Whisk in your reserved bouillon (1/2 a cup) and let it come up to the simmer. Remove from the heat and add half of your grated cheese. When it melts, gently fold your scallops in. Season with salt and pepper. Now here is where you would divide the mixture into your shell dishes set out on a cookie sheet. Melt your 2 tablespoons of butter and stir into your breadcrumbs. Sprinkle some of the breadcrumbs onto the top of each dish and then the remainder of your cheese. Put them under the broiler just for a few minutes (watch it like a hawk here!) until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Et Voila! Serve it up and enjoy my friends! This recipe is a dinosaur, just like me, but oh so delicious!