Black and yellow black and yellow…..and purple, red, and white potato salad with homemade mayonnaise

Although I suppose I could have easily created some sort of simple corn and black bean dish in honor of the Bruins last week, I decided on this more delicious and equally colorful potato salad–complete with homemade mayo!  Perfect for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, I paired this side dish with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and salad one night for a cold supper, grilled sausages on another, and even munched on it for lunch alone one day.

If you haven’t made your own mayonnaise before…

I highly recommend it!

Particularly if you’re using farm fresh eggs like I did, homemade mayo has infinitely more flavor than the store-bought stuff, so I encourage you to use it in dishes like this where the mayonnaise essentially acts as the sauce.  Even though most people don’t think of using mayo as a dip or sauce, it is so easy to add variations of spices, herbs, citrus, and even vegetables to create the perfect dollop for a crostini, dip for crudité, or personalized tartar sauce.

Potato salad with lemon mayo 

For roughly 4 side servings: 1 lb. (at least!) small, whole potatoes or larger potatoes diced, skin on and blanched in boiling salted water, drained, and cooled

2 stalks celery, cleaned and finely diced

1 large farm fresh egg yolk

1 lemon, zested

squeeze of lemon juice

handful of chopped basil, parsley, or other herbs of your choice

pinch of salt

pinch of cayenne pepper or dry mustard (not for flavor, but for emulsifying properties)

1 cup canola oil

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolk and cayenne/dry mustard with a whisk or beaters until it becomes pale and increases in volume.  Whisking/beating constantly, slowly add the oil, teaspoon by teaspoon, forming an emulsion.  After about half of the oil has been incorporated, slowly pour the rest of the oil into the mayonnaise in a steady stream.  Beat until fluffy and pale yellow in color.  Add salt and lemon zest and juice.

Combine cooled potatoes with mayonnaise, chopped celery and herbs, and adjust seasoning as needed.  Lasts several days in the fridge.

Posted in eggs, entertaining, potatoes, summer | Leave a comment

Culinary school redux


Best part about culinary school?  

You learn to make doughnuts. 

And croissants.                                                                                                                          

And butterflied, de-boned, anglaised sardines with orange beurre blanc, braised pheasant with Calvados, cider, and creamy wild rice……..and let us not forget the profusion of mother sauces: hollandaise, velouté, bechamel, espagnole, and the much debated “is it really a mother sauce” personal favorite, mayonnaise.

It’s difficult to sum up the last few months of food in several, let alone one blog entry, but let’s just say that it was one of the best learning experiences of my life.  It was unusual compared to my previous academic background in the sense that I was in “school,” being graded and critiqued, but based on my performance in the kitchen and my ability to understand and execute the techniques I so loved learning.  Being graded on doughnut and mayonnaise-making was like a dream come true. 

Now the challenge remains to continually use and develop the basic techniques I learned over the past five months.  Towards the end of my program, between school and a busy life in general, I actually cooked less than I have in a very long time.  And much like when I have returned from long vacations abroad, I missed my own kitchen and being able to eat my own food. 

Time to make the doughnuts.

Posted in culinary school | 1 Comment

Life is sweet: Bean’s sea salted caramels

My life just got a whole lot sweeter.

Meet Bean.  Our precious, ten-week old flat-coated retriever puppy.  My life is forever changed. 


Even though I’m not a newcomer to dogs or this breed in particular, I truly can’t find words to describe the instantaneous love this puppy generated and the bond that formed.  One of his best assets?  That he loves lounging in the kitchen.     

I’ve decided to name these delicious sea salted caramels for Bean, in honor of their sweet and salty bite, and the fat vanilla bean I used.

Bean’s Sea Salted Caramels (adapted from Le Bernardin’s Michael Laiskonis, in Saveur)   Makes about 50 bite-sized pieces. 

1 3/4 c. heavy cream

3/4 c. light corn syrup

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 vanilla bean, halved length-wise and scraped of seeds

1 3/4 c. sugar

high quality sea salt or fleur de sel for garnishing

Combine and heat cream, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla seeds in a large sauce pan over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer.  Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.  Line bottom and sides of an 8″ square baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Stir together sugar and 3/4 c. water in another saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the mixture turns to lightly ambered caramel and a candy thermometer reads 370F.  Remove pan from heat and slowly pour cream mixture into caramel.  Return pan to medium heat.  After the caramel dissolves (within a few moments), transfer mixture to original saucepan that contained the cream and syrup.  Cook mixture without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 246F.  This takes roughly 15 minutes and bubbles fiercely.

Carefully pour mixture into prepared pan.  Let cool completely, then cut into small squares.  Sprinkle with sea salt and wrap individually in parchment or wax paper.  Store at room temperature. 



Posted in dessert, dogs | 5 Comments

Farnum Hill Cider and apple chutney


I recently had the pleasure of hosting a fantastic event on behalf of my company, Farnum Hill Ciders.  It was an evening of cider and delicious pairings like fried olives, duck pastrami, smoked salmon in choux puffs, and an apple chutney I made using, among other things, our own Extra Dry Still Cider.  You may remember when I also used the Extra Dry Still in my cider braised chicken.  I love to use this non-sparkling variety when cooking because its rich fruit and absolute dryness reduce and concentrate well.           

What was once a common (and always alcoholic!) American beverage, cider’s flame was nearly extinguished with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, followed by Prohibition.  At Farnum Hill, cidermakers Steve and Louisa Spencer have brought back this traditional American craft with a celebrated selection of dry, fruit-forward, and distinctively fragrant ciders that are versatile in nearly any occasion.  Contrary to popular belief, cider is enjoyable far beyond autumn’s realm, and with a much wider breadth of cuisines than you may think.  Sushi, Thai food, fish and chips, pulled pork, spicy kale and white bean soup–a few months ago, these were all foods I probably wouldn’t have considered eating with apple cider and are now some of my favorite pairings.  These Scotch eggs we made in school would also be divine!

In the spirit of the “Uncommon” heirloom varieties grown at Poverty Lane Orchards (home of Farnum Hill Ciders), I came across some Esopus Spitzenberg apples that I decided would be perfect for my chutney (rumored to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, who knew?).  Although the chutney appears on the sweet side, there are nice savory notes from the bay leaf and acidity from the cider and hint of fig vinegar (red wine vinegar may be substituted).  The chutney deliciously complimented the cheeses of the night: a creamy Anton Liebe Rot (German cow’s milk), Twig Farm Fuzzy Wheel (Vermont cow and goat blend produced only in early spring), and the Tomette de Brebis Azkorria (French sheep’s milk cheese with a hint of saffron in the finish).  It would also be delicious in a chicken salad sandwich!      

Apple and Pear Chutney

2 sweet apples of your choice, peeled and finely diced

1 red d’anjou pear, peeled and finely diced

half a red onion, finely diced

1/3 cup Farnum Hill Extra Dry Still

3-4 tbsp. sugar

1 bay leaf

few drops of fig vinegar

pinch of salt

1 tbsp. butter

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion, sweating until soft and translucent (do not color).  Add the apples, pear, sugar, and cider, increasing the heat and stirring frequently for at least 30 minutes.  After about 10 minutes, add the bay, vinegar, and salt, and continue cooking until desired consistency and taste.  Remember to err on the side of caution with seasoning at the beginning, as reducing will concentrate flavor.  You can always add more sugar if your fruit isn’t as sweet.

Posted in appetizers, apples, cider, entertaining | 3 Comments

Mussels with tarragon and tomatoes

I both love and hate the fact that sometimes when you least expect it, you whip up something unexpectedly delicious. 

Like, really delicious. 

I love when this happens because, well, I love eating delicious food.  But I hate how easy it is to create such a beautiful dish on a slow Friday night in my sweatpants, and how that isn’t always the case when I’m entertaining or really trying to wow someone.  Even when I’m making something I’ve prepared a million times before, there is the possibility that something can go wrong.  I think when I entertain and there is more pressure of timing and presentation, and I’m not usually as relaxed as I was last Friday (maybe cooking in sweatpants is the key?).  In any event, this dinner unexpectedly and quite effortlessly took me by surprise.

I was also thrilled that this new favorite meal paired so well with my new favorite wine of the moment, Castell del Remei’s Blanc Planell 2009.  I am on a tear with Spanish whites, in search of something perpetually dry, but fruity or minerally and clean.  Although I enjoyed so many wines like this on our journey through Spain last summer and I used to associate Spanish whites with hot summer days, this wine perfectly cuts through hearty winter fare and beautifully elevated the sweet Maine mussels and aromatic broth.   

Mussels with Tarragon and Tomatoes                                                                           This generously served 2, but could be a starter for 4-5.  I think polenta is the way to go here, but you could definitely serve over pasta instead, or just as is with lots of crusty bread. 

2 lbs. mussels, cleaned and debearded (I soak them in cold water and a few tablespoons of flour for about 20 minutes to release some of their grit)

1 shallot, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1/3 c. dry white wine

heaping tablespoon marscapone cheese

1 tsp. chopped tarragon leaves

salt and pepper

In a hot Dutch oven or very large sauté pan with a lid, sweat the shallot for a few minutes until soft.  Add the minced garlic and sweat for another minute, adding the wine and reducing for a couple of minutes.  Add the mussels, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and all their juices.  Cover the pan and cook until the mussels open, stirring occasionally.  Once the mussels are open, turn down the heat and add the tarragon and melt in the marscapone.  Adjust seasoning.  Serve hot.

Posted in seafood, wine | Leave a comment

Pan fried haddock with hollandaise


A big part of the reason I haven’t written much lately is due to the increased number of hours spent in the kitchen and away from my computer–at culinary school! 

It has been a whirlwind month filled with soufflé, hollandaise, puff pastry, cream puffs, pastry cream…you get the picture.  With one day devoted to savory cooking and one to baking each week (and also a seminar featuring something exciting like plating and finishing, food safety, and butchering), I have certainly eaten my share of our “schoolwork.”  But the thing about culinary school is that it is like any other academic program where you have to study the subject matter, which in this case means making more soufflé, hollandaise, puff pastry, cream puffs, pastry cream.  Luckily, the hubby doesn’t seem to mind my “studying” at home, particularly when it involves hollandaise. 

You have to have courage in the kitchen.  I’ve found that results usually improve when we stop worrying about how daunting gravy, pie crust, and hollandaise are and just do it.  More importantly, we need to learn to identify the whys of failure and success–why did the gravy fail, why did the hollandaise break, why was the pastry tough this time but not last week–so we can identify the problem, adapt, improve, and in some cases, improvise right on the spot.  

I recently had an amazing opportunity to cook at Chef Louie Night, a fantastic collaboration and fundraiser showcasing some pretty important Boston chefs (Louie DeBiccari of Sel de la Terre and Jamie Bissonnette of Toro and Coppa).  Rewarding and exhausting, this was one of my first professional events in a commercial kitchen (the event was hosted at Petit Robert Central).  Besides the thrill of working next to these acclaimed chefs, one of my biggest takeaways of the day was how even chefs at this level mess up and have to fix a dish or improvise with only ten minutes before service.  Sometimes your ingredients spoil or you break too many soft-boiled eggs so that you are short, and in both instances, we had to make do and fix the problem. 

Hollandaise is like this.  Forget about the fact that it is one of those classic, fear-inducing sauces that most people never think about trying to make on their own.  The biggest trick about hollandaise is recognizing when it is about to separate, or “break,” and then adding a few drops of water to make it come back together.  The biggest reward of hollandaise?  Smothering it over whatever you want!

Here is the Dill Hollandaise Sauce I served over a quick, pan-fried haddock fillet, but you could certainly leave out the dill or substitute in another herb.  This sauce would be delicious over so many things: the obvious poached eggs, savory soufflé, white fish, salmon, chicken, or just plain vegetables like blanched asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower for an elegant side.  Be patient with the entire process, as it takes some time to incorporate all that butter!     

Dill Hollandaise Sauce (makes enough to generously cover 4 fish fillets)

1/3 cup water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

4 tbsp. finely chopped dill

2/3 tsp. salt

freshly ground white or black pepper

pinch of cayenne

3 large egg yolks

1/2 lb. unsalted butter, melted but warm

extra water

Combine the water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and reduce to 2 tbsp.  Let cool a few moments while you add in salt, pepper, and cayenne.  Add the yolks over low heat (even moving pan on and off heat if you think it is getting to hot–you don’t want to scramble the eggs!) and vigorously whisk the mixture until thick and creamy and doubled in volume–this takes a few minutes, so be patient!  Start to whisk the melted butter, one teaspoon at a time, into the yolk mixture.  Do not add the butter too fast.  On and off the heat, continue to add the butter this way until half has been incorporated and then continue adding butter by the tablespoon.  If the mixture gets too hot and too much water evaporates, the sauce will begin to appear oily and separate.  If this happens, add a few drops of water and mixture should come back together, with a creamy, pale yellow appearance. 

Once all the butter is incorporated, add in dill and season to taste with extra salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve immediately or keep warm in a hot water bath.

Posted in culinary school, eggs, seafood | 3 Comments

Ultimate winter meal: cheese fondue

One crucial part of my food development is the five months I spent in Grenoble, France during my junior year in college.  As a matter of fact, it is where I met the one and only Lady Gouda, our friendship cemented over many, many meals.  Grenoble rests at the foothills of the Alps, so between hiking from centre-ville to skiing in Albertville, the mountains were a big part of my experience.  Having never seen the Rockies or any other comparable mountain range, I was stuck by how something so physical could resonate so emotionally.  And although I had some incredible outdoor experiences in France, the next meal was never far from my mind.  Probably the most impressionable meal I ate (many times) in Grenoble, and now one of my all time favorites, is fondue. 

I recently managed to squeeze in a girls’ trip to my friend Sadie’s mountain home in the Adirondaks in upstate New York.  With another formidable mountain range as a backdrop and the temperatures hovering around zero, a serious cheese fondue was almost a necessity.  Sadie’s family takes their fondue quite seriously, so I was honored to be asked to select the cheese.  Instead of the usual Emmenthaler and Gruyere combo, I added to Emmenthaler with some salty Swiss raclette and Chällerhocker, another Swiss cow’s milk cheese that is wonderfully creamy and meaty.  The combination was a knockout, if I do say so myself, but the fondue was taken to new heights by Sadie’s father, the fondue master.  While kirsch is traditionally used as the liquor of choice in fondue, Heiny (as he is fondly known) used some pear brandy and tons of white wine.  I myself stick to the kirsch that I usually have on hand, but both the pear (think Poire Williams) and kirsch (which is cherry brandy) can work.  Neither lend a fruity flavor by any means, but rather add depth and brighten up the heaviness of the cheese.


Although cheese fondue is traditionally served with stale baguette, Sadie’s family has enlightened me to the fact that so many other morsels taste delicious when dipped in melted cheese!  Bread, boiled potatoes, broccoli, apples, hard salami, and even my beloved cornichons that typically accompany fondue–we plunged them all straight in.  Just remember that seating arrangements are important at a fondue party, as you have to kiss the person on your left (or is it the right?) if you drop your bite into the cheesy depths–only to be recovered if you manage to eat enough to scrape the bottom of the pot. 

Cheese Fondue (serves 4)

Note: I tend to overestimate the amount of cheese needed, but in general about a half a pound per person is the way to go, assuming fondue is the main course.  I serve with cornichons and a green salad. 

2 lbs. roughly equal parts Emmenthaler and Gruyere (Chällerhocker and raclette cheese work well and melt beautifully, if you can find them), shredded

2 tbsp. cornstarch or flour

pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)

pinch of freshly ground black or white pepper

1 1/2 c. dry white wine

1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

1 shot of Kirsch (cherry brandy)

Place cheese in a large bowl and sprinkle to coat evenly with cornstarch or flour.  Heat wine in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbling gently.  Slowly start to add cheese to wine in handfuls, stirring with wooden spoon to melt before adding the next handful.  Once all the cheese is melted, add kirsch.  Season with pepper and nutmeg. 

Rub the inside of your fondue pot with the cut side of the split garlic clove.  Transfer cheese mixture to fondue pot and adjust the flame (or dial–mine is electric) so that the cheese stays warm, but not boiling.  Serve immediately with pieces of crusty bread, apples, pears, cooked potatoes, broccoli, hard salami, kielbasa, etc.

Posted in French cheese, travel, winter | 1 Comment