I hope you all had a fantastic holiday weekend. We kept it low key having dinner with a good friend on Christmas Eve and with family on Sunday. Yesterday was spent with friends again over a light lunch and a relaxing afternoon.
Thank you everyone for the sweet and kind words of condolences about my grandfather's passing. It made this weekend a little easier to navigate. Oh there were tears, trust me...but they were immediately followed with a feeling of peace. My heart was full of all the goodness one can give and receive in a lifetime. Thank you again for your patience and care.
Let me play Santa a little bit longer and announce the winners of the Christmas giveaway. I asked my dear and only to give me three numbers at random among all the valid entries. Yes, he's my random number generator.
The two winners of Plate To Pixel are Jenny Mendes and Adrienne from A Big Mouthful.
The winner of Girl Hunter is Wen from Journal Through Lens. Congrats! Please send me your snail mail addresses at mytartelette AT gmail DOT com.
Now on to the recipes...
Every year at Christmas, smoked salmon has to be part of the appetizer offerings at my parents'. It's tradition. Salmon, blinis and foie gras with brioche toasts. Since we started last week without any firm plans for Christmas Eve, I was making my own plans to prepare a nice dinner for two and relax on the back deck watching all the docks decorated with Christmas lights. A sight to be seen...for sure.
On the menu was a Salmon Bisque, followed by crab cakes and finished off with a Pistachio and Pear Gratin. As the soup was simmering, my inbox started buzzing and within minutes our plans had changed for the 24th. Not a problem. From the scents wafting through the kitchen, we would not be disappointed to have it for lunch the next day. The soup was a cinch to put together, light and tasty. Everything one can ask for during busy times and especially in between a few copious meals.
The gratin was a unexpected hit with Bill and one I will repeat soon and with other fruits too. I had a surplus of tiny cute Forelle pears from a couple of projects and was trying to find other ways than tarts and tartlets to use them. Nothing wrong with those...trust me. I am the first one to slow down for a slice of pear tart!
This dessert is the perfect results of many kitchen happenings all coming together at once. Too many pears, red currants finally being available now that the temperatures had dropped, a pound cake made on a whim one night I could not find sleep and there you have it. A light, fragrant, cozy and comforting vanilla custard blanketing thin slices of cake with tart little pops of red currants every other bites.
From the look of immense delight at the dinner table the other day, I can safely say these two recipes were a huge hit. Making another batch of soup today!
Salmon Bisque, adapted from Saveurs France:
Serves 4 to 6
Notes: do not worry about how fine a dice, cube or chop, the ingredients are since they are all going to be pureed. Croutons are somewhat of a tradition in my family with soups and I simply toss some cubed day-old bread with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and toast that over the stove. Crème fraiche is a perfect topping for the soup but sour cream is a fine substitute.
Salmon can be expensive, so I usually ask my fish guy at the store to give me the good scraps they cut off when filleting whole fish. They are most happy to find a taker and usually give me half price on those.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, white parts only, well cleaned and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, sliced
2 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
1 pound skinless salmon fillets, cubed
salt and pepper to taste
croutons, crème fraiche and chives to garnish
In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium. Add the leeks, garlic, carrots and potatoes and sautee for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the white wine, stock and salmon. Season with a little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool and puree until smooth (see notes). Check the seasoning and serve. Top each bowl with some croutons, crème fraiche and chives if desired.
Earlier this year, the nice folks at Blendtec gifted me with one of their mixers and this is what I now use all the time to puree and blend soups. Takes less than a minute for super smooth bisques and soups. A immersion blender or any good capacity and sharp bladed food processor will also do great here.
Pistachio and Pear Gratins, adapted from Saveurs France.
Notes: I love my friend Jeanne’s recipe for pound cake. I had the pleasure this summer to work with my friend Clare on Jeanne’s gluten free baking cookbook and had to make about 75% of the recipes for photography. I got to tell you, Jeanne is about the only person I now trust for gluten free baking anything. Everything is always tasty, correct and of great texture. The recipe she came up with years ago for her gluten free all purpose flour blend is super easy and substitute cup for cup with regular all purpose flour so feel free to go gluten free or not without fear.
Once the pound cake is made and cooled (feel free to prepare it a day in advance), the assembly comes together in no time.
6 small Forelle pears (or 2-3 medium pears)
12 thin slices of Jeanne's pound cake (minus the glaze)
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
½ cup red currants or other berries
2 tablespoons finely ground pistachios
Butter a 9x13 gratin dish or individual ones and preheat the oven to 350F. Position a rack in the center.
Peel, core and thinly slice the pears. Set aside (don’t worry about oxidization too much since the dessert assembly is fast but you can always sprinkle them with a bit of lemon juice if you wish).
Cut the pound cake slices in triangles. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, eggs and sugar until smooth.
Layer the pear and pound cake slices in your gratin dish(es). Slowly pour the custard batter on top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with some red currants and ground pistachios scattered over the top.