Search This Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Scotch Dinner

We are blessed with some of the most wonderful friends.  And, once in a while we get to celebrate something really fun with some of them.  Like Mark's retirement.  Time for Scotch and dinner. 

And, you can see our furry kids really wanted to join us.  But, they know better than to come in a room where humans are eating...

Dinner was to be pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon and served with a bourbon glaze, sweet potatoes and cauliflower gratin.  Except that Connie and I didn't communicate well.  He thought I had a pork tenderloin thawed so he put the ones from the grocery into the freezer.  Then, thanks to a big project at our office that HAD to be finished, he got to the house well after we'd started the other dishes.  There was simply no time for thawing pork tenderloins.  Thank goodness for buying and freezing chicken thighs.  Those are easy to thaw.  Not quite as easy to wrap with bacon, but easier to thaw :-)  Since we were celebrating Mark's retirement with a really nice bottle of Scotch, my intent was to use Scotch (our regular brand, not the really good stuff) in the glaze.  The recipe below reflects the way I actually made the dish.  Which turned out to be a fabulous dish in spite of the substitution.  And, in spite of the fact that the bacon simply wouldn't stay on the chicken...

I wanted to do something with cranberries and apples for the sweet potatoes.  A hunt through recipes I've saved didn't bring up anything I wanted to make.  But, there was a recipe on that I could use as inspiration.  The cauliflower gratin was a recipe that I'd clipped from a magazine and tucked into an envelope of recipes to try soon.  Eons ago.  I have NO clue which magazine it came from.  I do wish they'd identify their recipes at the end of each because I really try hard to give credit as credit is due...  I'm assuming the bacon wrapped pork tenderloin/chicken is from Midwest Living.  It's credited to Chef Beth Murphy, Old Town Ale House. 

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs with Scotch Glaze


4 chicken thighs (I'd recommend removing the skin)
8 strips thick cut bacon
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1 t Chinese five spice powder
1/2 c Scotch (we use Dewar's)


Preheat your oven to 350. Par cook the bacon in an oven proof skillet just until it starts to brown.  Leave the bacon fat in the skillet.  Wrap the chicken thighs with the bacon and secure it with tooth picks.  Mix the brown sugar and Chinese five spice.  Pat the chicken thighs with the brown sugar mix.  Saute in the bacon fat until the bacon is browned.  Remove the skillet to the oven until the chicken is cooked through.

adapted from Chef Beth Murphy

Cauliflower Gratin with Almond Crust


1/4 c butter
1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T flour
2 t chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t salt
1/2 c whipping cream
1 c grated Gruyere cheese
2/3 c panko
1/4 c sliced almonds
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese


In a large skillet, melt the butter.  Add the cauliflower and onion.  Saute for about 8 minutes, then add the garlic.  Stir in the flour, thyme and salt.  Then, once the cauliflower is thoroughly coated with the flour, pour the mix into a greased casserole.  Drizzle it with the cream.  Then, top it with the Gruyere, followed by the panko, then the almonds then the Parmesan.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole with Cranberry Relish


1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced about 1/8" thick
2 apples, sliced about 18" thick (I didn't peel them)
1 12 oz package cranberries
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c orange juice concentrate
1/4 c Scotch
1 t Chinese five spice powder
1/4 c butter
1/2 c chopped pecans


In a medium saucepan, par cook the sweet potato until it is slightly softened but not mushy.  Ours took 5-8 minutes.  Drain the sweet potato.  In a casserole, layer the sweet potatoes and the apples.  I used three layers of each.  In a medium saucepan, mix the cranberries, brown sugar, OJ, Scotch and five spice powder.  Cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop.  Stir in the butter.  Once that's melted in, pour the relish over the sweet potatoes.  Top with the chopped pecans.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 

adapted from

Chicken Grand-mere Francine

Somehow our schedule has gotten REALLY busy.  Seems busier than normal.  In the span of eleven days we've had a wine dinner, two trips to the theatre, a football game, a party, dinner with a friend, sushi with the crew from Chef Joseph's, dinner with two different couples and a birthday party.  Yes, that's right, something planned ten days out of eleven.  That meant that actually getting home and being able to fix dinner was a good thing.  I was exhausted from a crazy workload at the office and some big projects at the house.  So, I wanted to fix something easy.  Usually nothing from Weekend in a French Kitchen qualifies as easy AND has an ingredient list that's on hand.  My friends had been raving about Chicken Grand-mere Francine.  I either had everything or a close substitution.  Chicken it was.

Now, first let me tell you about the yard...  We never dreamed when we moved in that the yard would basically be a layer of sod over fill.  We tried to plant a couple of the starts we'd brought along and had to chisel out holes.  It was miserable.  Two of the areas where we wanted to plant had some pretty good slopes.  That meant we could have retaining walls built and topsoil tilled in.  One's shaded by a locust and a pear.  Pear trees don't have a terribly long life span so we don't know how long that one will last.  The locust is a bully.  The roots are upending our driveway and the sidewalk to the front porch.  And, they're right on the surface.  Plus, it's a filthy tree.  There's always some detritus from it.  But, it's huge and having it taken down would be really expensive.  So, replacing it will just have to wait.  Given all that we decided to work with the trees we have.  The guys put some big boulders in to match the one that was already there.  Then, they lined the rest of the bed with stones.  We proceeded to put almost all of our hosta in.  And, the Solomon's Seal, epimedium, astilbe, columbine and meadow rue.  We'll want to fill in with more of everything next spring.  But, for now it looks great.  The other part of the shade garden will be hellebore, heuchera and some daylilies in the partial shade.  The sun garden has two tiers.  I've put in rhubarb and red sorrel.  Space has been left for more rhubarb plants along with kale and Swiss chard.  Then, we've got bee balm, Echinacea, rudebeckia, lilies, iris, daylilies, Siberian iris, horseradish, daisies, peonies and loads of other sun plants.  Here's how everything looked and looks. 

Back to chicken.  We didn't have celery root.  It's always a challenge to find at the grocery and we didn't want to start the hunt.  So, we decided to leave it out.  I had red potatoes and not Yukon Gold.  They'd work just fine.  No Cipollino onions so a large onion cut into chunks would have to work. So, the dish began.  First, you sauté the skin side of the chicken until it's golden brown.  We prefer thighs so that's what I used.  You remove the chicken to a plate and pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat.  Then, you add butter, onions, shallots, garlic and thyme.  Now, the recipe called for something I'd never done.  You separate but do not peel the garlic cloves.  Ok, I'd try it.  After everything gets a little browned, you add the potatoes and bacon.  Cover the pan and cook for ten minutes, stirring a few times.  Then, the chicken goes back in along with some chicken broth.  The whole shebang goes in the oven for 25 minutes.  You proceed to either putter in the kitchen and drool or sit in the living room reading the paper and drooling.  Yes, it smells that good.  And, it tastes as good as it smells!  When we post dishes for Weekend in a French Kitchen, we don't include the recipe.  But, you'll be able to tell a LOT from the photos!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Five Spice Apple Pie

Finally.  The frost is on the pumpkin.  We've had the longest, latest Indian summer I remember.  And, now I'm finally ready for some fall foods.  Like pie.  That's the theme of our Blogger C.L.U.E. Society this month.  And I got assigned one of my all time favorite blogs.  By one of my favorite bloggers!  Deb and I got to be friends almost as soon as I started blogging.  She and her hubby are wonderfully adventurous eaters who love to travel and garden.  Two of our favorite things.  Her blog is named after her cat, Eliot.  Isn't that a purrfect name for a kitty?  For years I've poked around on her blog making yummy dishes.  Too many to count.   One of Deb's recipes that's on my list is her version of Bee's Knees.  It's a cocktail typically made with honey and either gin or vodka.  We've made some version eons ago and I can't remember which Connie used.  But, her version has lavender in the honey simple syrup.  I'm waiting for my lavender buds to dry a bit.  Keep checking the things weekly and they're just not cooperating.  Here's a link to the recipe in the event you've got lavender calling your name:  Bee's Knees.  I wish I'd listed recipes made by each blogger so I could give you a list of the recipes I've tried.  But, alas, they're part of a huge pile of recipes that I've printed, made and put in a pile to organize...  I've finally started a scanned file of recipes.  But, they too need to be organized.  The story of my life.  Too much information needing too much organization!

Speaking of cooperation...  Our local grocery just hasn't been cooperating.  They've been eliminating items that we regularly buy - like frozen chopped broccoli for Chicken Elegante.  And, it's been tougher to find things we don't buy regularly but we do on occasion.  Like Cornish Game Hens.  This time it's frozen sweet cherries.  They've not had them.  And, with our wacko crazy schedules heading out on a mission to find specialty items hasn't been possible.  So, I've changed menus or substituted.  This time, I had to totally change recipes.  You see, I had my heart set on Vanilla Cherry Pie with Almond Crumb Topping.  I know.  Doesn't the name alone make your mouth water?  Then, you read the recipe and swoon.  I so want some of that pie.  And, I've wanted it since the day I found out I was assigned Deb's blog and went pie hunting. 

No cherries meant I was on to a different pie recipe.  Connie was voting for the Frito Pies but I explained this was a pie for Thanksgiving dinner.  Evidently, he loves Frito Pie so much that he'd eat it for Thanksgiving dinner.  I really need to get those on the menu for some Sunday night football!  Then, there's onion pie.  Not quiche, Deb says, but true onion pie.  It's a bit like the famous French onion tart, pissaladiere.  There's one twist to it that I'm so going to try - mustard on the pie crust before you put the rest of the ingredients in.  Doesn't that sound fabulous!

But, I digress, Thanksgiving pie is the subject here.  There were several other choices:  wine and raspberry cream, stone fruit, nutella, pears and apples, and five spice apple.  Now, we've grown to love five spice powder.  It used to be one of those specialty spices rarely used.  Not these days.  I use it in all kinds of recipes.  So, I was intrigued.  And, I was running out of time...  Heading for a conference and my pie had to be made, photographed and blogged before I left town.  We had no time to bake over the weekend.  I thought I'd seen a box of pie crusts in the fridge.  It was a cold, rainy night and traffic was horrid.  So, I broke one of the cardinal rules of the Blogger C.L.U.E. Society.  I changed the recipe.  The box of pie crusts wasn't.  I didn't have shortening.  One of the things I used up before we moved and have never replaced.  Hunting, hunting, hunting.  Ahhh, graham crackers.  Maybe stale, maybe not.  But, something to make a pie crust out of.  What about a topping???  I kept picturing that wonderful vanilla almond topping for the cherry pie.  What if I made one of those and put some more five spice in???  Let me tell you...  This was the BEST apple pie I've ever had. Who would have ever thought that replacing cinnamon with five spice would make such a difference?  But, that's the kind of cooking Deb does.  Creative, inventive, fun.  And, it tastes so darned good!  Here's the link to her recipe and some more photos of mine...  Five Spice Apple Pie.  Please remember to head to the cherry pie recipe for the topping...

Now, here are links to the rest of my friends: