From today’s food section of the Los Angeles Times, a very interesting article on the best recipes of the past 25 years.

To read the article, click here

I wonder how many of those will be on my endless list “to try soon”  😉



Most couples have a song, we have a dish, … Beef Wellington.    It was the first special meal that we cooked together, and it’s the recipe that we remember when a festive mood strikes.   For something that’s surprisingly simple to put together (if you use commercial puff pastry), Beef Wellington is an elegant gastronomic statement.   The  rich combination of  mushroom duxelles and foie gras raises the most delicate cut of beef to culinary heaven.  Here’s a crucial piece of advice: use a meat thermometer to determine the cooking time, because overcooking will ruin this dish.

This year we  chose Beef Wellington for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner, served as Evelyn George used to do it in my husband’s favorite restaurant,  “The Carriage House” of South Bend, Indiana: with duchess potatoes and a wine reduction sauce.  Fresh asparagus completed the meal.

(adapted from many different sources)

4 beef tenderloin filets,  1.5 inch-thick
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper

for the mushroom duxelles
4 ounces mushrooms
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 T olive oil
1 T butter
salt and pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 T Madeira wine (or Sherry)

puff pastry (home-made or good quality store-bought)
slices of foie gras
egg wash (1 egg beaten slightly with 1 tsp water)

Heat oil on a large skillet until it starts to smoke, season the meat with salt and pepper, and sear the filets on both sides over high heat; 2 minutes per side. Reserve.

Prepare the duxelles: finely dice the mushrooms (preferably by hand)  and squeeze 1/4 cup portions at a time in a fine cloth (twist the cloth to tighten the squeeze) to release their bitter juices. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet, add the shallots and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the squeezed mushrooms, saute until fully cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, add the nutmeg,  Madeira wine,  and cook for a couple of minutes. Reserve.

Assemble the Wellingtons: roll out the puff pastry to enclose each individual piece of meat.  On the center of the pastry, add a slice of foie gras,  2 tablespoons of duxelles, and set the seared filet mignon on top. Enclose it in the pastry, with the seam facing up, then invert the whole package, so that the duxelle layer is on top.  Brush the surface of the wellingtons with egg wash, placing small cutouts of pastry as a decoration, if you wish. (Wellingtons can be assembled 6 hours in advance, keep refrigerated).

Cut some slits through the pastry, and place the packages in a 400F oven until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 125-130F for medium-rare – about twenty minutes (it will continue cooking a little more while it rests).  Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

(to print the recipe, click here)

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1/2 shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup veal stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 T butter, cold, in small pieces

Remove most of the fat in the pan that you used to sear the filets, leaving about 1/2 tablespoon.  Sautee the shallots for a couple of minutes, then add the red wine and deglaze the pan well.   Add the veal stock and boil gently until the sauce is reduced by half and slightly thickens.  Season with salt and pepper. Add the butter in pieces, a few at a time, swirling the pan over low heat.   The sauce will get a smooth shine from the emulsion with butter.  Remove from heat and serve alongside the Beef Wellingtons.   If necessary to re-heat, do it over very low flame.

(to print the recipe, click here)

for comments and more photos, jump to next page


Post #100 at Bewitching Kitchen!   Pop the Champagne and toast to food!

It’s hard to believe that only NINE breads remain in the BBA Challenge…   If you haven’t been following it, Nicole launched the event months ago with the idea of baking her way through the Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart, and invited other crazy bakers to join in.  We bake’em and blog’em, but if you want the recipes, then you’ll have to get the book.

I wasn’t too wild about making a pumpernickel bread, but I prepared my rye starter and mixed the dough. I couldn’t find pumpernickel flour, which is a particularly coarse grind of rye, so I had to use regular rye flour in its place. Sorry, Mr. Reinhart! 😉

I am glad to report that this bread was a winner, even without the correct flour!

I halved the recipe, mainly because I didn’t expect us to love it, but, in retrospect, that was a mistake: two of these loaves would be more than welcome in our home!

I had no problems whatsoever with this recipe.   I skipped pictures of the dough rising, because it didn’t seem to rise much, but this photo shows the slashed loaf, just before the oven.

The bread did have some oven bounce, which always makes the baker happy!   The crumb was tight and  lighter than that of the bread in the book .  I used instant coffee in the dough, maybe cocoa powder would make it darker.  It was tender, moist,  and had perfect balance of sweetness and sourness.  A piece of sharp, aged Cheddar cheese was declared the winning match for this bread …

Note to self:  next time, make the full recipe!  😉


The BBA Challenge arrives at the “King of Breads”,  Pain Poilane, the most traditional bread in Paris!

Of course, pain Poilane brings us great memories! Every couple of weeks, we slightly changed our normal walking route from home to work, in order  to stop at the Poilane Boulangerie on Rue Grenelle in the 15th  arrondisement, and grab one of those huge “boules”, that we enjoyed to the last crumb on the succeeding days.

Lionel Poilane himself  trained each of the bakers that worked in his boulangerie, a process that started by making sure they could not only properly light their wood ovens, but also know when the oven temperature was correct for baking without a thermometer,  by using just their bare hands to “feel” the heat inside.    Each baker was responsible for the entire process of making each loaf, beginning to end.    This kind of passion and commitment fascinates me.

To mimic the great Poilane bread, Peter Reinhart uses 100% whole wheat flour, and a sourdough starter fed with whole wheat flour before being incorporated in the dough.  It makes a huge loaf, but I divided it in two and baked them on consecutive days, retarding one of the “boules” in the fridge overnight.  Kneading this dough is not for sissies.  It’s impossible to knead the full recipe in a KitchenAid mixer, no matter how powerful.  He recommends kneading by hand – which I’ve done in the past, but had to reconsider this time – my wrists simply could not take handling such  a large amount of dough.

So, I improvised – divided the dough in 4 small portions and… used the food processor to knead it.  Twenty to thirty seconds per portion did the trick, the dough ended up very smooth and elastic, with clear gluten development.

Here are some photos of the process, which, fortunately, went quite smoothly….

The whole wheat starter….

The dough, ready to rise for 4 hours….

The final shaping and slashing…. right before going into the oven…

And the result: a dough with impressive oven spring (I wasn’t expecting that, because I was a little too enthusiastic with my blade and probably slashed it too deeply), tight crumb, complex flavor  (you’ll have to take my word on that one…)…

Don’t you love a happy ending? 😉

as to the second bread:   it did not have as much oven spring, even though I kept it at room temperature for a full 4 hours before baking.   But the flavor was better than the first loaf.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting….

If you want to see the “real” Poilane…. jump to next page….

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