Italian Stuffed Flank Steak

Stuffed Flank SteakNon-​​Conformist Easter

When you have a hol­iday that involves a tra­di­tional food, it is easy to get bored. (Except Thanks­giving. You don’t mess with Thanks­giving.) For me, it’s Easter.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I love about Easter but for some reason, this hol­iday more than any other makes me food-​​fidgety. (Yup. That’s a tech­nical term.)

My sister hosts our Easter get togethers. Some­times it’s brunch. Some­times it’s dinner and, from time to time, it’s yelling in a clown’s mouth on the road to a soccer tournament.

This year our extended family is having brunch, which means that I will be doing my own thing for dinner. I’ve decided I’m going to go against all tra­di­tion and cook beef.

I have a large col­lec­tion of recipe pages from classes at Tante Marie in the city. They are in plastic sheet covers, housed in 3-​​ring binders, and for the most part they sit on my shelf. From time to time, I flip through them looking for a par­tic­ular recipe or inspi­ra­tion. Last weekend I was thumbing through the pages when I saw one of my favorite recipes—Italian Stuffed Flank Steak. I decided then and there that I must make it for Easter dinner because: I’m just not all that excited about roasting a Leg of Lamb, it is so stinkin’ great, and Easter is as good an excuse as any.

Italian Stuffed Flank Steak is adapted by Tante Marie from a Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso recipe in The New Basics Cook­book. It takes some patience. Rolling the flank steak can be tricky. (Having another set of hands can be helpful). But it will always taste good no matter what the per­fec­tion police have to say about your rolling abil­i­ties.  Read more…

Feast or Famine Mac ‘n Cheese

Pioneer Woman Mac 'n CheeseFeast or Famine

April is the month of bud­ding fruit trees, tulips, nasty yellow marsh­mallow birds and, sigh, taxes.

Some years we look for­ward to April ‘cause we naively think that Uncle Sam will con­tribute to our “Butt on a Beach” fund. (By the way, this is a cause I believe in whole­heart­edly. Donate now!)

Other years? Not so much.

We’ve all been there. One week we’re cruising down our beau­tiful “well main­tained” high­ways (that shrine to our tax dol­lars at work) on our way to a dinner of filet mignon with lob­ster. And the next week Turbo Tax is telling us that there is a Costco size case of Top Ramen in our future.

So, in honor of Feast or Famine month, I offer you two of my top recipes for a com­fort food favorite, Mac & Cheese. True, the des­perate can go the blue-​​box, plastic cheese route. But the real deal is easy to pre­pare, and you can make extra for the freezer.

For those whose for­tunes have been favored, I offer a deca­dent ver­sion, and sug­gest you enjoy it with your favorite bottle of bubbly—while using your best Thurston Howell III voice.  Read more…

Medallions of Veal with Wild Mushrooms

MontignacLost In Translation

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word April? Most people, I think, would say Spring. My first response? Paris. Not sure why—maybe it’s the song. I’m not one of those people you could call a fran­cophile. I’ve only been to France, and Paris specif­i­cally, once. And even then my hus­band and I were there only a couple of days before heading out to eat and drink our way through the rest of the country, on our hon­ey­moon road trip.

Per­haps it’s the romance. Spring­time along the Seine does have it’s appeal. (A little wine. A little cheese. A baguette. The occa­sional Mime…) We, or course, were there in the Fall. It’s not a con­scious deci­sion to go against the grain. It just hap­pens that way, not ’cause we’re hip and cool. We’re just a few degrees off normal.

We ate well, and my rea­son­able grasp of the French lan­guage served us in our travels…most of the time. There was one dinner where my over-​​confidence came back to bite me.

In the town of Mon­ti­gnac, just north of the Las­caux caves, we were staying at a great B&B. But we decided to go out to dinner that night instead of eating at the inn. We found a cute little bistro, and sat down for what we hoped would be a great meal.

Every­thing started well. I ordered in French and the waiter seemed to under­stand me but I knew I should have been con­cerned when I ordered the Rognon de Veau as our entrée and he looked impressed. The Veau part was easy to trans­late, Veal, but the Rognon part was way off base. Somehow (maybe it was the wine?) I got Rognon mixed up with Medal­lion when in fact Rognon means Kidney. I had ordered Veal Kid­neys y’all! (Thank you karma. Yes you were right. I was get­ting too big for my britches.)

I’m an adven­turous eater, but I draw the line at organ meats. (Pate being the excep­tion). The tragic part was that up until that point our meal was out­standing, and you know that if we had been kindey eatin’ kind of people it would have been really good. I give my hus­band credit. He at least gave it a go. I couldn’t do it but I did eat every­thing else on my plate. The waiter snick­ered when he cleared our plates from the table.

The recipe below is what I pic­tured in my mind and what I thought we would be eating. Try not to snicker when you eat it!  Read more…

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yellow cake croppedLet Them Eat Cake

This Sunday, My dad will turn 70 and we will have a big cel­e­bra­tion which is tra­di­tion. There will be the usual grilled fatty meats, adult bev­er­ages and, of course, there will be cake.

In my family we take birthday cake pretty seri­ously. We all have our per­sonal favorites. Growing up, my mother’s mother would make sure that we all got “our cake” for our birthday dinner. A few years ago though I learned that a great trav­esty had occurred. The usual death by choco­late cake that Gam made for Dad every year was, in fact, not his favorite cake. (Gasp! Say it ain’t so!)

The run­ning joke when I was growing up was that Dad was Gam’s favorite despite the fact that he was a USC grad (Gam went to Cal) and mar­ried her only child. Every year Dad got a promise from Gam that she would someday buy him the red Fer­rari he always wanted. Alas, it never hap­pened and instead, every birthday Gam would give Dad the biggest piece of his “favorite” choco­late cake with choco­late frosting. As it turns out though, it wasn’t his choice, and Dad being Dad never said any­thing. (Or maybe it was the promise of the Ferrari?)

Turns out Dad’s favorite cake is a yellow cake with choco­late frosting. And if it comes from a box, so much the better! Since I have learned of his pref­er­ence, I have tried to make up for the many years of incor­rect cakes by making sure that there is a yellow cake with choco­late frosting at Dad’s birthday cel­e­bra­tion. Though, the food snob in me can’t handle doing it from a box.

Yellow Cake is the epitome of a classic birthday cake. For me, when I pic­ture a slice of birthday cake, the pic­ture of a yellow cake with choco­late frosting quickly comes to mind. But you just don’t see it served all that often which is a crime. Yellow cake is moist and tasty and is the per­fect com­pli­ment to a good choco­late frosting recipe.

Inter­est­ingly enough, there aren’t a whole lot of yellow cake recipes even in the so called “baking bibles”, but I have found a few. The best one is from The Joy of Cooking. (Of course it is.) I also give you Gam’s Choco­late Frosting which was legendary—especially when she added some instant espresso to it.  Read more…