Monthly Archives: April 2011

Forever Nigella: Royal Street Party!

I’m big on any excuse for a food holiday. Couple that with wanting to participant in the Forever Nigella blogging event: a Royal Street Party (hosted this month by the incredibly talented and inspiring Mardi at eat. live. travel. write.). The challenge was to make finger food, selected from any of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. This all came together around a mini-royal wedding reception / barbeque I had last night in honor of the happy couple, William and Kate.

I remember the Royal Wedding of the last century: Charles and Diana. That summer, I was living in a fraternity house at the University of Pennsylvania with my friend Gail, her sister Linda, and some of Linda’s friends, and there were some boys, of course. Linda and her friends were students at Penn. I lived the first half of that summer with my grandmother in her apartment a dozen blocks away. While I enjoyed hanging out with my Gram at the end of my days working as a secretarial temp, I craved the company of my peers. When a room opened up at the frat, I moved in.

Diana and I were the same age, so I felt some connection with her. I remember we girls woke up oh-so-early and watched the entire wedding on a black-and-white television set with a screen the size of an iPad. We marveled at the bride’s dress, the pomp and circumstance, and the hats, of course. Some things just don’t change. As William and Kate embark on their royal lives together, I hope that their fairy tale will end with “happily ever after”.

For our home celebration, I picked a savory appetizer and dessert from Nigella Express. Subtitled “Good Food, Fast”, the recipes in this book live up to their billing. Both of my choices were incredibly quick to put together, less than an hour of effort on the wedding eve.

We started with Smoked Trout Pâté. I served this smooth fishy spread with toasts and cucumber slices. It was the perfect accompaniment for our Pimm’s Cups. I miscalculated the amount of cream cheese I had, but substituted Greek yogurt to make up the difference. I suspect this didn’t change the flavor significantly.

Dinner was lamb burgers with a quinoa, tomato, olive, and feta salad (my recipe, not Nigella’s) and steamed asparagus. To continue to royal theme, we drank kir royales, champagne with crème de cassis.

Nigella reappeared for dessert. I adapted her Cherry Cheesecake to mini-cakes topped with multi-berry conserve for eating out of hand (Street Party style). The cheesecakes tasted fine, though they were a little messy for eating as little tastes. For this recipe, I think the original rendition, as a whole cake sliced to serve, would have been easier to eat.

Overall, we enjoyed having special, though informal, food for a special occasion. It was an fun-filled evening of lively conversation and good company. Who could ask for a better way to end the week?


French Fridays with Dorie: Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie taught me an new technique for cooking a steak. At our house, steak is always grilled or broiled. We never have it any other way. However, I tried Dorie’s way of making steak, bistro-style.

The steak is rubbed with a generous amount of coarsely crushed peppercorns (I didn’t have Sarawak, but used India Tellicherry from Penzeys Spices) and then seared in a hot cast-iron skillet with a little added butter and olive oil. Dorie’s recipe called for filet mignon, but I try to eat only meat whose provenance I know, so I used a thick boneless sirloin steak from our CSA share from Chestnut Farms. I’m sure the sirloin wasn’t as tender as filter, but it didn’t ruffle my conscience.

Searing the steak was rather smoky. Even running the exhaust fan on high couldn’t keep the smoke at bay. It didn’t help that the potholder caught on fire. I also made the brandy cream sauce, choosing to ignite the brandy, which seemed like a more fun option than boiling it down. It turned out that the flavor of the sauce wasn’t for me. Overall, I did like this recipe.

For me, my takeaway from this recipe was similar to the Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce. I learned a new cooking technique that I will use again, even though I won’t repeat the accompanying sauce.

For accompaniment, I made my new favorite potato recipe: Roasted Potatoes (from The Essential New York Times Cookbook) and the classic steakhouse vegetable side, Creamed Spinach. It was a hearty and delicious meal.

As a bonus recipe, here’s my version of Creamed Spinach. I’m always surprised by how cooking drastically reduces the volume of greens. This dish is rich, so it goes farther than it looks like it will.

Creamed Spinach
Serves 2-4

1 lb fresh spinach, coarse stems discarded, torn into 1-2 inch pieces, washed very well, and drained
½ small onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
¼ cup heavy cream (also works with light cream or half-and-half)
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Saute the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, with any clinging water. Stir to distribute onion throughout the spinach. Turn up the heat to medium-high, cover, and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in cream and nutmeg. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Check out how my fellow FFwD bloggers interpreted this week’s recipe here. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. You’re always welcome to join in the fun!