I have to admit that as much as I am seduced year after year by the fabulous menus in Gourmet promising the most delectable of Easter meals, I always end up making what I grew up with (with a few tweaks, of course!). This year (and the year before that, and the year before that etc. etc…) we had ham, a potato gratin, pineapple souffle, and asparagus. The ham I must comment on. We happened to buy this year, for the first time, an Applewood Smoked Petit Heritage Ham from D’Artagnan. It was fabulous! We simply heated it and that was it (we wanted to see how it stood on it’s own and leave glazes etc. for later). It was tender, flavorful and not fatty at all. I’m a picky ham person, and I have to say that we will certainly be buying this one next year.
Now, Easter dessert doesn’t fall under any traditional parameters - the only one that I can remember is a yellow cake with crushed pineapple mixed into the whipped cream frosting, which was just fine, but not really worth the calories. So this year, I decided to make the Marscapone Cheesecake with Rhubarb Glaze and Chocolate Covered Strawberries from Epicurious.com I followed the recipe, but omitted the Chocolate Covered Strawberry part. The cheesecake itself was lovely - a little bit fluffy and not too sweet. Typical graham cracker crust that was fine, but nothing special. But the rhubarb glaze - it was so delicious and so beautiful! I have a picture below, but honestly, the color pink was almost iridescent! A wonderful way to add a little something different to a typical cheesecake.
So Easter was great fun - I hope you had a nice holiday, too! I’m working on ideas for the wonderful leftover ham. We’ll get to that tomorrow!
There is a recipe on Epicurious.com for Creme Brulee french toast that is just outstanding. It’s really no more difficult than our easy version posted below, but more appropriate for a special (non-kid) occasion. I give it a high recommendation - enjoy!
This morning we were all in the mood for something a bit more substantial than the usual Cheerios and banana. Cate is a huge fan of french toast, and it’s on the hit list at our house. However, french toast can become a bit time consuming when the whole family wants in on the fun - the time it takes to cook the individual pieces on the griddle may not be conducive to a morning full of activities. The following is a basic baked french toast recipe that we used today. Please note that any type of bread can and should be used (barring something savory like garlic, of course…), and it’s even better if you let the bread soak up the milk/egg mixture overnight. But, if you’re like me and don’t exactly plan ahead for these types of things, just flip the bread over frequently while it’s soaking. When it’s out of the oven, top the french toast with syrup, fruit, or a bit of powdered sugar. It looks fancy enough to serve to guests, but is easy and hands off enough to not overwhelm the cook (and leave plenty of time for a latte and the morning paper)!
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr. 15 minutes (less or more depending on how long you soak the bread)
Easy Easter Breakfast
1/2 loaf of bread, sliced (any kind will do, day old is better than fresh)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream (heavy, light, half and half, whatever you have on hand)
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
3/4 cup sugar
** for a grownup version of this dish, add a shot of Grand Marnier into the egg/milk mixture! Serve with a mimosa and you’re in for a treat!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking dish large enough to hold the bread. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, cream, sugar and spices until thoroughly blended. In a separate (non-buttered) baking dish, lay out the bread slices and pour the egg/milk mixture over. At this point, you may cover and soak overnight, or soak at least 30 minutes, flipping the slices over frequently in order to absorb the most liquid.
After the soaking period is up, lay the slices in the buttered baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top of the dish is golden brown. Serve with syrup, butter, powdered sugar, fruit, etc.!
For no particular reason, tonight was a costume party dinner at the Callahan house, per my daughter
Cate’s direction. All the ladies of the family were dressed up as Princesses, and my brave husband was a dashing deep sea diver (again, per Cate’s request). Once again, seafood was in order - but something super quick and easy…it’s tough to pull off any culinary feats in a tiara and a tutu. Something pink was in order, too - so we ended up with a shrimp pasta with a pink sauce. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, but two important points to remember: 1) When cooking shrimp, be sure to not overdo them. They will go from translucent to pink and then curl. When they curl, it’s time to take them off the heat. Otherwise, you might end up with tough shrimp, which is just a shame. 2) After cooking the shrimp, be sure to use some wine to deglaze the pan (which just means getting the brown bits off the bottom of the pan so that they can become part of the sauce - it’s the best part). I’ve included a few pictures of the process to help you along. Cate seemed to like the result - so that’s success enough!
Princess Party Pasta
3 T olive oil
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 garlic cloves minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 onion chopped
1 cup white wine
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained**
1 cup heavy cream
2 bunches arugula chopped and divided into two parts
1 lb linguini
In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot but not smoking add the red pepper flakes to infuse the oil for 1 minute. Add shrimp and saute just until pink and curled. Remove shrimp from the heat and reserve in a bowl. Add onion to the skillet and cook until translucent. Add garlic and stir one minute. Deglaze pan with white wine, and cook until reduced by half. Add tomatoes and cream and simmer until reduced to a creamy consistency (coats the back of the spoon). Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Add 1/2 of chopped arugula and wilt. Toss cooked pasta with sauce, and sprinkle each serving with remaining arugula and parmesan cheese.
** use fresh if they are in season.
We’re really enjoying this our new seafood source, the Star Market in Guilford, CT. Maybe it’s the proximity to the water, but the craving for all things seafood hasn’t abated in our short time in Madison. Alas, with two under 2 1/2, we can’t get too adventurous in the recipe department. The following is my riff on the recipe for Breaded Fish on the back of the Ian’s Panko Breadcrumbs (original) bag. It’s influenced by my Grandmother’s take on the the recipe - she and my Grandfather owned a fish market many years ago, so I would call her an expert on the subject. It’s simple and delicious - paired with wild rice pilaf and some steamed asparagus, you can’t go wrong. Speaking of asparagus, we noticed that asparagus today was ridiculously inexpensive and looked just glorious! Tis the season, be sure to take advantage of it! More on that later -
Callahan Cod (with a respectful nod to Ian and Grandma Dranginis)
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
3 T lemon jiuce
2 cups Ian’s Panko Original Breadcrumbs (Grandma D would use stale poppyseed rolls for this part…)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (store bought is just fine for this recipe)
2 t paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
2 lbs cod
Fresh parley, for a garnish
Preheat oven to 375. Combine melted butter and lemon juice in a shallow bowl (with enough room to dip your cod fillets). Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan, paprika, salt and pepper in another shallow bowl. Please check this mixture for seasoning (add more salt and pepper if needed). Dip the cod into the melted butter, and then dip the fish into the panko mixture, pressing to coat. Transfer breaded cod into a Pyrex baking dish. Sprinkle any remaining bread crumbs mixture on top of the fish, and drizzle any remaining butter mixture on top of that. Back for about 25 minutes, until fish is flaky and the bread crumbs are golden. Garnish with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon.
For over a year, we’ve been trying to determine what our permanent address should be. The result wasn’t all that unexpected and we’re delighted with the result; we needed to be by the water and ended up in Madison, CT. After a week hiatus from the kitchen, I finally put away the bubble wrap and broke out the All Clad. What to make? Seafood, of course. But not too complicated and not too time consuming, but still a bit celebratory. Paella fit the bill perfectly. For this meal, I used Nodine’s Chorizo (nodinesmokehouse.com) and shrimp and littlenecks from the Star Fish Market in Guilford. Easy, fun, smelled great, and the girls liked it, too! There’s no place like home-
Chorizo and Seafood Paella
1 T vegetable oil
1 package of chorizo, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
1 small jar pimentos, drained
1 T smoked paprika
1 cup spanish rice
1 generous pinch saffron threads
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock/broth
1 tomato chopped (or 1 can diced tomatoes, drained)
1 cup frozen peas
1 pound littlenecks
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled
**use whatever seafood you have on hand, mussels, lobster etc…
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large heavy skillet (or paella pan, if you have one), brown the chorizo in the oil over medium heat. Remove chorizo and store in a small bowl. In chorizo drippings, cook shallots until tender, about three minutes. Add rice to skillet and stir, coating rice for about 2 minutes. Add paprika and stir to coat rice. Deglaze pan with white wine and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, saffron, pimentos and chorizo. When this has come to a boil, check for seasoning - add salt if necessary. Place clams and shrimp on top of rice and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and top is lightly browned. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread, some good olive oil, and a nice bottle of white or rose (our go-to Rose is the Chateau La VillaTade Rose from AOC Fine Wines in Old Greenwich, CT).
I have used, for the past several years, the BEST soda bread recipe that I have come across - Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway on Epicurious.com. The perfect amount of sweet with the richness of butter and tang of that buttermilk. It’s a winner. And, if you have the patience and fortitude, worth making the day before as it gets better as time passes. Great with the St. Patrick’s Day dinner and the morning after, and the morning after that, but what to do with what’s left (it’s way too good to throw out)? Here’s my solution - a last hurrah in the heavy dessert department…and a lovely way to celebrate the Irish for one more night. If you want to serve this for a more formal event, use a biscuit cutter to cut out a nice round of the bread pudding and drizzle the sauce over the circle and around the plate. Enjoy!
Irish Soda Bread Pudding With Whiskey Sauce
1/2 loaf Irish soda bread, cubed
1 1/2 cups light cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Butter to generously grease a baking pan
Whisk together all ingredients (except for the bread) in a large bowl. Toss the bread into the mixture and allow it to soak until the milk has been completely absorbed, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease a shallow baking pan with the butter. Pour in the bread mixture, spreading it evenly. Bake until the pudding is brown and firm, about 30 minutes.
Irish Whiskey Sauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Irish whiskey
While the pudding is baking, combine the sugar, butter, and cream in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Stir in the whiskey and cook until some of the alcohol has cooked off and the flavors are blended, about four minutes. Remove from the heat. To serve, slice or spoon out the pudding onto plates, and top with sauce.
Makes four servings
One of the best parts of living in New England (and it’s hard to be thrilled with New England life in March) is the slow but steady approach of spring. Forget January 1st, the coming of spring is our New Year in the Callahan kitchen. As much as I love the aromas of a all day braise, the snappy flavors of spring are so much more seductive when the weather starts to turn. Here’s one of our new favorites to start a meal - a salad that suggests the coming grill season while still utilizing what’s abundant in the grocery store.
In Between Seasons Chopped Salad
1 head of Raddicchio, chopped
1 Romaine Heart, chopped
1 pear, cut in half and seeded
2 Tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 clove mined garlic
Get the grill fired up (finally!) Grill pear halves over medium heat, about four minutes per side, until brown (think the top of a creme brulee) Let cool completely. When cool, slice lengthwise.
Combine all ingredients for dressing and whisk together. In a large bowl, toss the dressing and the chopped radicchio and romaine. Divide radicchio and romaine between two plates. Sprinkle with gorgonzola. Fan the pear slices on top of salad. For a crunch, you might try adding candied walnuts or toasted pine nuts -Enjoy!