Category Archives: Jack Ahearn

A Little Piece of Paris in Austin

 

The Best French in Austin!

I made un horrible mistake in my last blog posting. I recounted my favorite restaurants in Austin and completely forgot Chez Nous – Quelle Horreur! I will proclaim something I am sure some Justine’s fans will hiss and spit at – Chez Nous is the best French restaurant in Austin. They not only have fantastic food, a stellar and not too expensive wine list they also have a real Parisian cafe atmosphere – the waiters will even sometime speak to you in French! But what they have that is the best of all is their prix-fixe menu that changes daily. They charge about $27.50 per person and you get a 3-course meal. The starters are usually a choice between a salad Lyonnaise, pate and some type of soup of the day.

Salad Lyonnaise

pate

potato leek soup

For the main course you can usually choose from a red-meat dish either lamb or beef and then there are usually two fish dishes. I love red meat, but Chez Nous does fish so well that I almost always choose one of their fish dishes. My mother who absolutely detests fish (I know, so sad), actually really liked the fish she tried. Of course, their fish is usually covered in a butter and/or cream sauce, so it’s kind of cheating. That’s fine by me.

Sole with mushroom sauce

Steak with a shallot butter sauce

Salmon with a cream sauce

Last, but not least there is the dessert course. In the prix-fixe menu you can choose between mousse, creme caramel and a cheese platter. Or, you can spend a couple bucks more and get other desserts. I always want the creme brulee, so I always order off the main menu for dessert. All of their desserts are excellent though.

Normandy Crepes

Creme Caramel

Creme Brulee

Chez Nous, you will be sorely missed. I guess I just have to try and eat at French restaurants here in Portland to try and find a replacement.

Au Revoir!

Travels to Oregon, Part 1 – The Portland Edition

Pastries, Croissants and Bread, oh my!

Pastries, Croissants and Bread, oh my!

In honor of our second wedding anniversary Chris and I took an early trip out to Portland and Bend. We also invited most of my family – including my brother John, sister-in-law Ginger and my mom and dad. Missing was my little sister Kara and her boyfriend Eric Lee.  The first night Chris and I arrived we got our rental car and headed to the house we rented in the Alberta Arts District. I have only high praise for this rental. It was only a couple of  block away from Alberta and we were walking distance to restaurants, bakeries, markets and coffee shops.  Chris and I fell in love with the house and the neighborhood. That first night we walked to a cute French restaurant on Alberta called La Petite Provence.  The restaurant definitely had a very authentic bistro vibe inside including very bright lights. So while it was quaint, it was not exactly a romantic setting. Which was ok considering it was me, Chris and my parents. After much mulling over the menu we all ordered. I got the goat cheese salad with salmon. Chris ordered the Salmon special , which was a poached salmon filet with sautéed vegetables, rice and a basil pesto. My parents split the couscous salad and the chicken cordon bleu.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Couscous Salad

Couscous Salad

Salmon Special

Salmon Special

Salmon Salad

Salmon and Goat Cheese Salad

My salad was ok, but a little bland. The pears and goat cheeses were a lovely touch though. Chris’s special was nice and light, but also a little bland. The two winners were my parents dishes – the couscous salad and the chicken cordon bleu were both fantastic. Both had a lot of flavor and richness.

Overall, I did enjoy the food and the experience. But there were a few cons to this place.

  • The service was not very good, but I have heard that service in Portland is iffy.
  • Chris did not receive his meal until we were all done eating.
  • The salmon was not super fresh.

And while they obviously forgot Chris’s meal, they did reward us with a free pastry sampler, which adequately made up for the forgotten meal!

Oregon's Williamette Valley Wine Region

Oregon's Willamette Valley Wine Region

The next day, everyone had arrived. John and Ginger’s plane had gotten in from LA the night before very late. We all got up and had a yummy breakfast at the house. And then we headed to the Willamette Valley to do some wine tasting. As most of you know I am pregnant, so it was mainly wine sipping for me. We went to a number of wineries including Erath (avoid), Torii Mor (pretty good), DePonte Cellars (also pretty nice) and Penner Ash (good wine, GREAT winery, beautiful scenery). I was a little disappointed in the Willamette Valley wines. They mostly produce whites and pinot noirs that are not very complex and a little flat. I am told it’s because of the rain and lack of intense sun, which makes a lot of sense. It was still a beautiful day and the scenery at these wineries was unbelievable. Even more beautiful than Santa Barbara wineries.

The family!

The family!

In the midst of this wine tasting everyone needed some food. So we stopped at Farm to Fork, an adorable restaurant in Dundee, Oregon located in the Inn at Red Hills. The place was filled with preserves and specialty vinegars and the food was not too shabby either.

Draper Farms Chicken Salad Sandwich on House Baked Brioche

Draper Farms Chicken Salad Sandwich on House Baked Brioche

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur

Crispy Duck Confit Salad

Crispy Duck Confit Salad

 House Roasted Top Round of Beef

House Roasted Top Round of Beef

Everyone’s meal was outstanding. My top round of beef sandwich was tasty and the combination of the earthy beef and au jus mixed with the gorgonzola dulce, arugula and pickled onions was a delight. Ginger’s duck confit salad was a clear winner. Not only was there duck confit on it, it was also topped with wine preserved figs and roasted grapes as well as hazelnuts! My parents split the croque monsieur, I was not able to eat this since there was an uncooked egg on it, but how can you mess that up? And according to my parents, they did not. John and Chris both ordered the chicken salad sandwich. I would have to say that was the most boring item, but it was still very fresh and tasty. It was served open-faced with celery root-apple remoulade, grapes and hazelnuts.

Cabezon Mac and Cheese

Cabezon Mac and Cheese

After driving back into Portland we all freshened up and headed to dinner at Cabezon. John and Ginger had a few friends in town from Corvallis and an old family friend also met up with us there. So our big group took up a large table in this small and intimate seafood restaurant located near both Portland’s Hollywood and Rose City Park neighborhoods. I had done a lot of research on restaurants in Portland. And in the end we mostly cooked, but I insisted that we go to this place. I had read some stellar reviews and the menu looked great as well as the prices. One thing I really try to do when recommending restaurants is find places that I think are steals. And this place fit that to a T. This was the best service and food we had dining out while in Portland. And I highly recommend it. Now on to the food!

Ginormous Caesar Salad!

Ginormous Caesar Salad!

Arugula and Frisee Salad

Arugula and Frisee Salad

House made Paté with crostini, pickled, pears, wild plums and red onions

House made Paté with crostini, pickled cherries, wild plums and red onions

Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin

Mussels with French Fries

Mussels with French Fries

Homemade Pappardella with Braised Lamb

Homemade Pappardelle with Braised Lamb

Sturgeon with a tomato and pepper sauce

Sturgeon with a tomato and pepper sauce

The menu at Cabezon changes daily and they are really into local, fresh and seasonal items. While this is pretty awesome, it meant the dishes I loved on their website were not on their actual menu. This ended up being fine as one of their specials was pappardelle with a braised local lamb sauce. It was excellent! If you go in and this is a special definitely get it! If you don’t like celery I would not order it though. For my starter I ordered a delicious frisee and arugula salad. The truffled goat cheese absolutely made this salad and I believe this might be a more permanent item on the menu. I loved it! I did not get to try all the dishes as there are lots of things off-limits to pregnant ladies – caesar salads, pates, shellfish and the list goes on. But the sturgeon dish was lovely and light. I was also surprised at how flaky and white it was. Sturgeons can live a long time and grow to be huge, so I was expecting something a bit more steak-like. Chris’s pork tenderloin was awesome and it was served with a pickled cabbage side that was out of this world!

Almond cake with berries and mascarpone caramel sauce

Almond cake with berries and mascarpone caramel sauce

Local peach crisp with house made vanilla ice cream

Local peach crisp with house made vanilla ice cream

Dessert at Cabezon was also a home run. Chris and I ordered the almond cake and it was so moist and flavorful! And the mascarpone was a perfect accompaniment to the berries. My dad ordered the crisp and it was also delicious. The homemade vanilla ice cream was perfection!

As we left the restaurant the chef came out to say hi and check on how our meal was. I always love it when a chef comes out and asks you about your meal. I think it was a nice touch to an already nice meal.

Our Cornucopia from the King Portland Farmer's Market

Our Cornucopia from the King Portland Farmer's Market

The night before we all left to go out separate ways, we decided to cook a meal at the house (another awesome bonus to renting). In preparation for the meal a few of us went to the King Portland Farmer’s Market, which was just a 10-minute walk from the rental. I am just so used to the farmer’s markets in Texas where there is about five things in season and all vendors are selling the same things. Not here in Oregon. There were fava beans, artichokes, fennel, peppers, garlic, heirloom tomatoes and much more! Visiting the farmer’s market was one of my favorite foodie experiences in Portland. If you go find a farmer’s market near you and pay a visit.

After the farmer’s market we went to a local chain grocery store called New Seasons and got some yummy salmon, lamb and sausage.

Dad and John Versus the Grill

Dad and John Versus the Grill

Lovely Cheeses Brought By Kevin and Anat

Lovely Cheeses Brought By Kevin and Anat

The Final Product

The Final Product

The Sundae Dessert

The Sundae Dessert

The final dining event ended up being my favorite of the trip. Maybe it was that we had all of our family and some friends over and it felt like we lived there or if the food was just so fresh it stood out. I do not know, but it was a wonderful experience. To start off John and Ginger’s friends Kevin and Anat come up from Corvallis again and brought with them a bevy of yummy cheeses and homemade wines and champagne as well as some delicious Pinot from the vineyard where Kevin worked. For the main course John and Ginger made an unbelievable fava bean salad with grilled fennel, artichokes and feta cheese. There was also a regular salad with heirloom tomatoes and grilled peaches as well as fresh corn and the grilled salmon, lamb and sausage. The salmon was the best salmon I have ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly! For dessert we made sundaes with crushed chocolate, ice cream and fudge sauce.

The perfect meal made the parting even sadder!

Biscuits and Mushroom Gravy at Helser's on Alberta

Biscuits and Mushroom Gravy at Helser's on Alberta

But it wasn’t anything a yummy breakfast couldn’t partially fix. After the family had all parted Chris and I made our way to Helser’s on Alberta for breakfast. We both ordered the same thing – biscuits and mushroom gravy. And it was yummy. It was a fairly overcast chilly day – the first we had while in Portland, so this nice hearty breakfast hit the spot. This was the only meal we had here, but the rest of the menu looked awesome. So when we come back I would love to try some other dishes.

Alas, we were out of time and headed to the Part II of out Oregon adventure – Bend! Stay tuned for our eating adventures in the outdoorsy town of Bend.

St. Pauli N’awlins aka my foodie adventures in New Orleans while pregnant

Here's what I got to drink!

Here's what I got to drink!

We recently took a family vacation to New Orleans. We all got hotels right in the French Quarter. Normally, this would be pretty awesome. But normally I am not pregnant. And let me tell you all this –  New Orleans is not the city for pregnant people. At 5 p.m. when most people are getting off of work and just hitting the bars, most of New Orleans is passed out puking in the streets from drinking all day long. Also, New Orleans is crowded and humid! I took about three baths a day to just rinse the sweat off. Despite all this I love New Orleans. It’s a city with a personality, a smell and a sound. But does it have a taste??? While most people automatically say Cajun, New Orleans has a very innovative and at times sophisticated palate these days.

Not really sure what this is!!!

Not really sure what this is!!!

Delicious Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Delicious Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

That being said our first stop on the New Orleans road trip was a stop at Bourbon Street Cafe in Jennings, Louisiana – a casino/truck stop/Cajun restaurant.  This place might have been the culinary highlight of our trip. It just goes to show you that sometimes the best stuff comes in the most surprising packages. The gumbo was amazing – big chunks of flavorful, dark meat chicken and loads of smoked sausage. On the side were rice and a very tasty potato salad.

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Shrimp Po Boy

Shrimp Po Boy

We also ordered a shrimp po boy which came with a side of sweet potato fries. Both were very good, but it can be hard to mess up fried foods. I would recommend this place just for the gumbo alone!

Once we arrived in New Orleans we had dinner reservations at a highly recommended restaurant called Jacques-Imo’s Cafe. I thought the restaurant had a lot of character and about 3/4 of the table loved their meal. I unfortunately was a part of that 1/4 that did not.

Super Yummy Garlic Corn Muffins

Super Yummy Garlic Corn Muffins

It started off great with a complimentary plate of their delicious garlic, corn muffins. You could feel the butter on your hands – pretty awesome. For me it started going down hill with the salad.

Salad with Worcestershire Sauce

Salad with Worcestershire Sauce

I love salads. I really do. This salad was gross. It was essentially spinach (awesome!) topped with Worcestershire sauce. That was it. I had two bites.

Grouper Imperial

Grouper Imperial

Yummy Lamb Dish

Yummy Lamb Dish

My father and I ordered the grouper. Which he liked. I was disappointed. The description of the grouper did not mention that it was covered in a cream sauce. I really enjoy simple fish dishes, especially with a fish as yummy as grouper. Eric, my sister’s boyfriend ordered a lamb dish with red wine that was fantastic. My husband and sister ordered the soft shell crab special atop friend green tomatoes. They both loved it. My mom ordered an eggplant dish that was sub par, very salty and topped with a too rich cream sauce.

All in all people are going to tell you how great this place is, I say take that with a grain of salt. But give it a try.

Stanley's Awesome Bloody Mary

Stanley's Awesome Bloody Mary

The next morning we all got up to get some beignets at Cafe du Monde. Well, so did everybody else in New Orleans. So we picked a close by brunch place called Stanley, it is also in Jackson Square. I loved Stanley. It was a simple brunch menu, with some nice New Orleans twists.

Mixed Baby Green with a Raspberry Champagne Vinaigrette

Mixed Baby Green with a Raspberry Champagne Vinaigrette

Eggs Benedict Po Boy

Eggs Benedict Po Boy

Eggs Stanley

Eggs Stanley

Eric Lee eating his Big Stanley

Eric Lee eating his Big Stanley

Let’s start with the salad. It tasted like a salad should – healthy, not like a lettuce leaf soaked in sodium water. And the dressing was yummy. I also ordered a plain burger and it was delicious. The table ordered a small order of fries and that was enough, the order was huge. My sister and dad ordered the Eggs Benedict Po boy and it was lovely. I could not eat too much because of the raw egg factor, but they both loved it. And my husband ordered the Eggs Stanley, which had cornmeal-crusted P&J’s Louisiana oysters, poached eggs, Canadian bacon and Creole Hollandaise on a toasted English Muffin. I would also highly recommend this dish. There was actually nothing that I can caution anyone against ordering at Stanley. It was all good.

Nola Brewing Tour!

Nola Brewing Tour!

I am not going to go into this portion too much. Because there was not a lot of food consumed, unless you consider hops a meal. But we were lucky enough to get a private tour of the Nola Brewing Company. And I believe they give tours on the first Fridays of the month. Do yourself a favor, if you are beer lover, make a trip here!

Cochon Sign

Cochon Sign

For Saturday night we celebrated my brother’s 33rd birthday at Cochon a restaurant that specializes in making cuisine out of random pig parts. While I am inspired by their innovation, when you are nine weeks pregnant pig parts don’t sound very appealing. But it was my brother’s choice, so we all went. It was a very large group that included our immediate family, a couple of my brother’s friends and my Aunt Mary and our cousins Anna and Clare. Hence, I will not be going over everyone’s meals. I will pick a few to highlight.

Squash salad with goat cheese and fresh herbs

Squash salad with goat cheese and fresh herbs

Delicious squash blossoms with pickled vegetables

Delicious squash blossoms with pickled vegetables

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Birthday Boy Dessert!

Birthday Boy Dessert!

What’s interesting to me about Cochon is their inspiration appears to be derived from meat, but their vegetables are what really stood out for me. I did have a side of ribs, but to me they were just so-so, nothing special. Also, Chris ordered their signature dish which was their Louisiana cochon with cracklins. Essentially it’s pulled pork. And he found it to be very boring.  But my word, their squash salad and squash blossoms were out of this world. The salad was fresh and summer-y and full of flavor. The squash blossom was delicious itself, but the pickled vegetables on the side were an incredible complement to blossoms.  Another standout was the macaroni and cheese. It was lovely, it had a homemade cheese sauce that was crispy brown on the top and was just perfect.

flamenküche

flamenküche

assiette de charcuterie

assiette de charcuterie

Crawfish Bisque

Crawfish Bisque

Our last night in New Orleans we went to Luke’s. This was my choice and all in all it was pretty good. It was not as good as I thought it would be, but the service was awesome.

My sister started off by ordering a yummy Alsatian appetizer called flamenküche , it’s an onion tarte with bacon, caraway and Emmenthaler cheese.  It wads divine.

Dad ordered the assiette de charcuterie which looked delicious. I could not eat it as it involved various meat spreads, one of the many things pregnant women are deprived of.

And lastly Chris ordered the bisque, which was very good. It was not too salty and had nice chunks of crawfish in it.

Ravioli of local crabmeat

Ravioli of local crabmeat

The famous Luke burger

The famous Luke burger

Poulet grand mere

Poulet grand mere

Crisp pork belly and clams

Crisp pork belly and clams

For the entrees most of the table ordered the burger. And I had a bite, it was pretty tasty. Apparently Luke is known for it’s burgers, which is a little odd as it’s a fancy French/Alsatian restaurant in a hotel.  For my dinner I ordered the crabmeat ravioli. I was a little disappointed in my dinner. The portions were small and the meal was essentially one-note and bland. Chris ordered the poulet grand mere – an herb roasted local chicken with  bacon and whipped potatoes. This sounded very good to me, but it ended up being VERY salty. So if you are not a salt fan, do not order this dish. My father ordered the pasta with crispy pork belly and clams. He loved it! I had a bit and I thought it was a very nice dish. The pork was cooked perfectly and the fresh pasta was delicious.

For dessert we ordered two portions of the basque vanilla cake with creme fraiche and blueberries. That was a winner! The cake was super moist and the creme fraiche with the blueberries was a great combination.

“gateau basque” vanilla cake

“gateau basque” vanilla cake

In summary, I would say this culinary adventure to New Orleans was a mixed bag. A few of the dishes were impeccable, but overall most of the restaurants themselves did not shine. Let me know if you all have any other New Orleans restaurants you love!

Christmas in the Keys

Christmas Turtles

The closest we got to snowflakes - Christmas Turtles

This year my family tried something a little different for Christmas. Instead of flying home to Tallahassee, we decided to all travel. Our presents were dinners we would cook every night. As you can tell the apple does not fall far from the tree in my family. We love a couple of things immensely – food and travel.

We waffled about where to go; eventually settling on Key West. Then there was lots of confusing emails back and forth about where to stay. Sensing the travel was doomed unless a place was picked quickly we all settled on what seemed like a nice place; a five-bedroom house right on the water in Key Largo. We found it on Craigslist. Here’s a travel tip for you – don’t rent a place on Craigslist. They are not accountable for a community and there are no reviews. Visit a travel rental Web site such as homeaway or VRBO instead. The place was not a complete *&^$ hole. It was pretty close.  Ants marched all over the counter tops and there never seemed to be a stop to their steady stream, the microwave door was held up by duct tape and almost fell on my mother’s foot, there were wires poking out of places that previously held a sound system and the sconces and general design looked a lot like Miami Vice  filmed there. But from the outside, it was beautiful! It was right on the water and we got to visit with manatees and even a huge lizard.

32 Mangrove Lane  mansion

The beautiful exterior

Manny the Manatee

Manny the Manatee

Forget the awful house. I was with family – my mom Janis, my dad Jack, my little sister Kara, her boyfriend Eric, my younger brother John and his wife Ginger. Ginger’s family also spent some time with us as well. Ginger’s mom Janice, Janice’s boyfriend Jeff as well as Ginger’s sister Debbie were all there too. It was definitely some intense family time spent canoeing, deep-sea fishing, diving, sleeping in and mostly eating.  And the highlight of each day were the dinners. Our numbers changed each day. A lot of the family is from Florida so one night there would be nine people, then 11. But each night was filled with the same wonderful conversation, food and ease (mostly fueled by excessive wine and margaritas). Couples were assigned a night to cook. And we spared no expenses. This was our Christmas present to one another.

Kabob Night

Kabob Night - clockwise starting from me, John, Ginger, Janice, Janis, Jack, Eric and Kara

The first night was kind of an open night. So for about an hour everyone argued about what to eat. Finally, Chris and I just told everyone we were making grilled kabobs. Some people complained (you know who you are – mom :), but in the end it was a very succesful meal. I think a certain someone even said it ended up being one of their favorites. Chris and I marinated shrimp, pork and chicken then grilled it up. We also had kabobs with bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. We also made a salad and some cheesy potatoes. Oddly, it was my salad dressing that was a big hit. It’s just a simple french vinaigrette with a small twist.

Kabob up close

John in action

John in action

The next night was by brother John and his wife Ginger’s turn. I think my brother is an excellent chef. Ginger as well. So I was pretty excited about their dinner. They decided to go a very South Florida route and created a grilled seafood dinner with some Cuban touches – plantains, black beans and rice and a yummy tropical fruit chutney. And for dessert they made poached pears in a red wine sauce. It was absolutely yummy.

Grouper, Scallops and stone crab and side dishes

Grouper, scallops and stone crab and side dishes

Poached pears in wine sauce

Poached pears in wine sauce

The next night was out turn. It was kind of hard to beat  John and Ginger, but Chris and I tried our hardest. We also wanted to use a lot of seafood. But we opted for an Italian feel to the meal. We made a really simple pasta dish with just diced tomatoes, garlic and wine; and we poached shrimp, scallops and lobster in butter then skewered it in between basil and then grilled it. If I must say so myself it was outstanding. My mother who hates seafood said the lobster was her favorite (haha John and Ginger and Kara and Eric ).  Now that I am done rubbing that in I will discuss our dessert choice. We opted for a simple dessert since our dinner was kind of labor intensive. We made a blueberry and strawberry shortcake. It was pretty yummy, but very simple.

Pasta, salad and seafood

Pasta, salad and seafood

 Blue Heaven in Key West

Blue Heaven in Key West

One night we decide to take a night off from cooking and we all piled into a car and drove the two and a half hours to Key West. Key West is ok. It’s pretty touristy and is very crowded. But there is one saving grace – one of my favorite restaurants, Blue Heaven. Chris and I ordered the jerk chicken and it was awesome. Please, do yourself a favor and if you go to Key West go to this restaurant. It’s a great slice of simple and tasty food that is not touristy.

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

The best key lime pie in Key West

The best key lime pie in Key West

The next night was Christmas Eve and we have a tradition in our family that we eat Polish food. It’s kind of weird, I know. My mom is part Polish, but that’s not even why we eat it. My parent’s first real date was Christmas eve and according to legend it was supposed to be a party. But the only one who showed up was dad. Well that night my mom made her Polish Christmas eve. And my dad was hooked. So in celebration of the date that ensured my brother, sister and I were born we eat kielbasa, sauerkraut, potato pancakes and apple sauce. Unfortunately, this year I forgot to take pictures. But let me assure you it was as yummy as ever. My parents actually picked up some fresh kielbasa in Miami. It was heavenly.

Nugent Family Magic Pancake

Nugent Family Magic Pancake

For Christmas morning, we somehow were in charge of cooking again. But we had an ace up our sleeves. Chris has a family recipe that is pretty awesome. It’s called a “Magic Pancake”, but basically it’s a Swedish Pancake. It’s lovely because it’s not too sweet, but not too savory either. The finishing touch is some powdered sugar and a spritz of lemon juice. We also pitted some cherries and made a lovely cherry glaze with some port and sugar.

Christmas Burgers - A New Tradition!

Christmas Burgers - A New Tradition!

You might think at this point we would be so tired of eating. You would be right. Well, we were at least tired of cooking elaborate meals anyway. So when it came time for my sister and her boyfriend to cook we were ready for some good, old-fashioned burgers. And boy were they awesome. They stuffed them with all kinds of goodies – blue cheese, jalapenos, bacon and much more. For sides we ate grilled corn and oven roasted potatoes. For dessert my mom made a tres leches cake.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

In the end, I am a little mixed about the travelling Christmas experiment. It was so much fun to be with my family in one house for a whole week. But because of the weather and lack of presents it just did not feel like Christmas. But I will tell you the meals and conversation at the end of the day were presents enough.

Below are some more photos from the trip. And a recipe!

Kara, me, Eric and Dad Deep Sea Fishing

Kara, me, Eric and Dad Deep Sea Fishing

I Caught a Fish!

I Caught a Fish!

Kara and Ginger Decorating Christmas Cookies with Disgust

Kara and Ginger Decorating Christmas Cookies Apparently in a Way My Sister Does Not Like

Much Better!

Much Better!

Magic Pancake Recipe (not the Nugent recipe, but very similar)

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces)  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
small pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of half a juicy lemon)
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Melt the butter in an 11″ straight-sided skillet, or a 12″ skillet with straight or sloping sides. Make sure whatever you use is oven-proof. Or melt the butter, and pour it into a 10″ square pan, or 12″ round deep-dish pizza pan. Yes, the size of the pan matters. Too small, it’ll overflow. Too large, it won’t puff as high. Try to find a pan or oven-proof skillet whose square-inch cooking surface is about 100 square inches.

Whisk together the flour, salt, nutmeg, sugar, milk, vanilla, lemon oil, and eggs till fairly smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake the pancake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until it’s very puffy and golden, with deeper brown patches. Remove it from the oven, and sprinkle with the lemon juice, then the sugar. Cut in squares, and serve immediately, garnished with fresh berries, if desired.
Yield: 4 generous servings.

Honoring My Dad

Great Grandma Anna, My Dad and My Grandma Rita, circa. a long time ago

Great Grandma Anna, My Dad and My Grandma Rita, circa. a long time ago

My dad was not in the kitchen a lot when we were growing up. That’s not to say he did not have some specialties. My dad was a whiz on the ice cream maker back in the day. Not the easy, fancy ones of today. I am talking old-school all day long, rock salt using machines of yore. He would make rum raisin, strawberry, peach – whatever was in season.  The texture of the end product was always in question, would it be a little runny, or would it be the perfect creamy texture? But the taste was never in doubt. The rum raisin always packed a heady punch (especially for a six-year old), the peach always tasted just like summer.

Another Jack Ahearn classic is cheesecake. My dad has a cheesecake for every occasion. His concoctions range from the classics – strawberry and lemon to the more exotic raspberry white chocolate and pumpkin. He is a veritable Cheesecake Factory.

My Dad and Mom, circa. kind of a long time ago

My Dad and Mom, circa. kind of a long time ago

As we grew older and mom went back to work dad stepped up more and more. It was not just ice cream and cheese cake.  In the beginning it was not always the most exotic fare, perhaps a steak-um sandwich with fried potatoes. Or, another favorite was an omelet with um, fried potatoes. You might start to see a trend here. My dad is a fan of potatoes.

But a funny thing happened as we grew older, and out of the house. My parents became gourmands. And my dad was the head gourmand. While my mom has always been an excellent cook, she is very traditional and sticks to her favorites. It was my dad who was always trying new things out – from Low Country boils to Cioppino.

My dad always makes sure he has the freshest fish, vegetables and best cuts of meat. He introduced anchovies into our lives (much to my mom’s chagrin). He even made me try venison once (I hated it, still do). I view my dad’s style of cooking as innovative. He seems to posses that quality that a lot of male chefs have – love of trying new recipes, new techniques and new ingredients. To this day my dad is still one of the most inventive chefs I know. And the first to try any recipe.  When I got back from Croatia and gave him the Ajvar recipe, he was the first person to make it. I have not even made it yet.

One of my favorite things to do is to call my parents on Sunday and discuss what they cooked over the weekend. And in turn I tell them what I whipped up for a dinner party. It’s nice to have this language to share with your parents. I love hearing about my dad’s pesto sauce he made or the fresh grouper he stuffed. But most of all I love the shared connection and the talks that that are squished before, between and after we talk about our dinner.

Here’s a recipe of my father’s I think is super tasty. It’s not one of his most exotic, but it is a winner.

Lemon Grouper

  • Grouper fillets
  • Fresh breadcrumbs
  • Garlic
  • Butter
  • Lemon
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Cut skinless grouper fillets into serving size pieces, salt and pepper.

Prepare fresh breadcrumbs and coat the grouper fillets.

Place on a dish and let sit in the refrigerator and hour before cooking.

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Remove fillets from refrigerator and sauté for 4 minutes on each side in butter.

Place sautéed fillets in a baking dish that is coated with a mix of olive oil and a generous amount of butter.

Squeeze the juice of 2 whole lemons over the fish.

Cover the fish with minced garlic.

Place the fish in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the fish is baking finely chop Rosemary and Thyme.

After 20 minutes sprinkle the fish with the herb mix and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Then you are done. Serve with Pinot Grigio.