Crème de Tomates en Croûte

Cream of Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry

Crème de Tomates en Croûte
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Cream of Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry

Crème de Tomates en Croûte is a jaunty soup inspired by Bistro Jeanty, a charming French restaurant in Yountville, CA. Warm spices and smoky chiles elevate my humble tomato soup recipe. Crowned with a golden dome of  buttery-flaky puff pastry…this is an elegant, yet easy first course for a dinner party or perhaps even Valentine’s Day?

Recette de Crème de Tomates en Croûte

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Jacques Pépin’s Salade à la Crème and Limited Edition Signed Print

Jacques Pépin's Salade à la Crème and Limited Edition Signed Print

Jacques Pépin’s Salade à la Crème
and
His Limited-Edition Signed Print Called
“Roses”

In another one of his ever-charming Facebook videos taped in the kitchen of his Connecticut home, Jacques Pépin prepares a simple salad in the style of his maman, using cream instead of oil for the dressing. In it he makes the point that many are alarmed by using cream, but he notes that oil is actually much higher in calories… It reminded me of a hilarious and now famous quote by his meilleure amie, Julia Child, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

The salad is delightful in an old-fashioned French way, and since the dressing is very simple, I like to serve interesting salad greens with it. These were Radicchio, Petite Red Oak, Green Tango, Green and Red Little Gem.

Jacques began painting in the 1960s when he moved to New York City to work in the restaurant business. He enrolled at Columbia University to improve his language skills and also signed up for an elective in painting.

On The Artistry of Jacques Pépin, he offers some of his original artwork and signed, fine-art prints for sale. A portion of sales go to support culinary education and sustainability.

Inspired by the Chef/Artist, I decided to photograph the salad in the style of a still life painting with roses, including one of his pieces from my growing collection.

Jacques Pépin's Salade à la Crème and Limited Edition Signed Print

Jacques’s Salade à la Crème Recipe

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Chilean Sea Bass a la Veracruzana

Chilean Sea Bass a la Veracruzana

Chilean Sea Bass a la Veracruzana

Decades ago, I prepared Chilean Sea Bass a la Veracruzana at our home for an important business dinner party for 14 colleagues. The meal turned out to be a super success. But not because I was a stellar cook back then, but because rich, melt-in-the-mouth Chilean Sea Bass aka Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is simply delicious and almost impossible to overcook due to its flesh high fat content.

The pan sauce was a heavenly combination of olive oil, fish juices, lime juices, chicken stock, garlic, bay and oregano. The tomatoes, olives, capers, and jalapeño complemented the fish with flavors from the Mediterranean along with a Mexican-style pizzazz.

Prior to the 1990s, we had never heard of Chilean Sea Bass. But once it started showing up on restaurant menus, it became a culinary darling. Thanks to that and basically good ol’ luck, I chose Sea Bass Veracruz for my evening’s main course…

Ha! Well, now with many years of cooking under my toque, guess what? My recipe is not much different than the one from a long time ago.

Populations went from sustainable, to overfished, and now back to sustainable again according to the Marine Stewardship Council. And although the fish I am using is called “Chilean” it is actually a product of Australia, fished in the Southern Ocean. It has met the global standard for sustainability where there are enough fish left in the sea to reproduce indefinitely.

So it’s high time to resurrect that Sea Bass Veracruz recipe!

Chilean Sea Bass a la Veracruzana

Sea Bass Veracruz Recipe

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Crispy Duck Panang

Crispy Duck Panang

Crispy Duck Panang

We recently had an extraordinary dinner at their newly opened location in the Red Rock Casino…at what is widely agreed to be the best Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, Lotus of Siam.

Since 1999, Chef Saipin Chutima and her family have owned and operated this world-renowned restaurant. Chef Saipin’s cooking revolves around the Northern Thai recipes passed down from generations of her family. She received the coveted James Beard award for Southwest Region Chef in 2011.

Lotus of Siam’s 3rd location at Red Rock Casino Resort opened in November 2022, with Saipin’s daughter, Penny, at the helm. The design of the restaurant is casual yet breathtaking, and everything one would expect from a new Red Rock concept. Eater Vegas chose their Chiang Mai-inspired style as the Best Design of the Year.

The elevated food is obviously not your local hole-in-the-wall Thai menu (although there is nothing wrong with that!).  And the award-winning wine list and service are impeccable. We enjoyed a bottle of the lovely HeavenSake with our meal.

We shared several dishes – all excellent – some highlights included Chilean Sea Bass with Sweet & Sour Sauce, Penny’s Ceviche, Garlic Prawns, and of course the Crispy Duck Panang.

By the way, their base sauce recipes are a secret. Only three people know the recipes according to Chef Saipin in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Craving the exotic flavors of Lotus’s stellar dish, I set out to create my own version of Crispy Duck Panang.

Lotus of Siam, Red Rock Casino

Lotus of Siam, Red Rock Casino

Lotus of Siam, Red Rock Casino

Crispy Duck Panang Recipe

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Russian Shuba Salad Verrines

Russian Shuba Salad Verrines

Russian Shuba Salad Verrines
AKA Fur Coat Salad

My Nana (paternal grandmother) was born in Kiev in 1894. She was an excellent cook, but she never served a Shuba Salad…most likely due to the fact that it was invented after the time her family fled to escape the pogroms when she was a young girl.

The story has it that sometime in the early 1900s, a restaurateur in Moscow named Anastas Bogomilov created the dish to calm and satiate his rowdy vodka-drunk customers.

Striking, super-flavorful, layered Shuba Salad is often served for Christmas and New Year’s now, and traditionally made with chopped pickled herring. Although I am a fan of pickled herring, here I substituted an appetizing fish with broader appeal, smoked salmon. Today, January 7th, is Orthodox Christmas – celebrated in Russia, Ukraine, and many central and eastern European countries as well as other parts of the world. It’s time to enjoy some Shuba!

The dish’s intriguing name “Herring Under a Fur Coat” is translated to English from seledka pod shuboi or shuba.  Shuba means fur coat in Russian, here the fish is nestled under a coating of fluffy soft vegetables and dressing.

Nana did wear a fluffy Russian Sable Fur Coat to protect her against Chicago’s harshest winters, but alas, despite my Russian ancestry, there was no Shuba Salad in my youth…but I am more than happy to have discovered it now.

Fur Coat Salad Recipe

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