Saturday, December 31, 2022


Blanquette de Porc, French Pork Stew with Cream 

Blanquette is a classical French white stew popular in past centuries. It’s an example of “Cuisine Bourgeoise,” the fancy home cooking of the French Middle Class, rather than either a high-end restaurant dish (“Haute Cuisine”) or a provincial staple of the peasantry or urban poor. Literally indicating a dish containing a white meat in a white sauce, blanquette in France was traditionally made with veal, although there were also less prestigious pork and chicken versions. Nowadays, veal is expensive, not particularly good in the US (in my view), and is increasingly frowned upon because of the treatment of calves in producing veal. Although I haven’t tried it in a blanquette, turkey breast or breast tender is often substituted for veal in Europe. 

Here is my version of blanquette using pork, in French “Blanquette de Porc.” At our restaurant, a customer who has strong Louisiana ties frequently requests that we make this dish, which we sell frozen in quarts. He likes to serve Louisiana and French and Créole food when he entertains. I just made a moderately large batch today at his request, and got it quarted and into the freezer for him to have around the New Year holiday.  

Pork tenderloin, a favorite of mine, is relatively easy to cook with and it is often sold quite cheaply at warehouse clubs and supermarkets. It’s almost entirely edible, tender and moist, needs little trimming and has decent, if somewhat mild flavor. I have trouble believing how cheap it often is. It must be that people don’t know how to cook with it. Other, to me inferior, cuts like shoulder steaks, loin and pork chops often get higher prices.

Blanquette was originally a creation from Normandy, so a potato dish would be a more conventional accompaniment than rice or noodle dishes from the south of France. But those latter can work too. Baguette or toasted bread also goes well. My preference for a pairing wine would be a relatively full-bodied white, such as an unoaked Chardonnay or Viognier, and not a red or rosé. 

The recipe will make about two quarts, and will serve six to eight people.


2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch wide

1/2 pound mushrooms, tip of stem cut off and top sliced 1/2-inch wide

1 small onion, finely diced

4-inch piece of celery finely diced

1 small clove garlic minced

1 slice raw bacon, finely minced

2 pounds pork tenderloin

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt for the meat plus more for cooking

1/4 teaspoon black pepper for the meat plus 1/4 teaspoon for cooking

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

4 tablespoons white wine

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed

2 cups chicken broth, low or non-salt

1 large bay leaf

1 cup sour cream 

Prepare the carrots and mushrooms and set aside. Dice or mince the other three vegetables and bacon and set aside. (The dicing/mincing can be done by hand, or the onion, celery, garlic and bacon can be finely chopped, but not pureed, together in a food processor). 

Trim any fibrous “silver skin” and excess fat from the meat. Split each tenderloin lengthwise down the middle. Cut the pieces crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Mix well with the cornstarch, salt, black pepper, nutmeg and white wine. 

Heat oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Cook the marinated pork, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot, until meat has fully changed color. Remove it to a bowl and scrape in any juices. 

Add several tablespoons more oil to the pot and cook in the onion, celery, garlic and bacon, stirring very frequently, until becoming tender. Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, covered, five minutes. Add sliced carrots and mushrooms and simmer, covered, stirring from time to time, until carrot is nearly tender. 

Add the pre-cooked pork, bring to a boil and cook five minutes. Add sour cream, stir in and bring just back to a boil. Remove from the heat. Stir well, and taste for salt. Add some as needed. Remove the bay leaf. 

The stew can be served now or cooled and reheated to serve later.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

 Tonnato: My “Triple-Fish” appetizer accidently recreated a classic


There’s nothing new under the sun said the Book of Ecclesiastes over 2200 years ago. Illustrating the point, perhaps accidentally, Shakespeare restated the nothing-is-new idea some 1800 years later in Sonnet 59. I stumbled over that old truth myself several years ago when a dish I created turned out already to exist. I had, in effect, reinvented the wheel.
For my daughter Maria’s pottery exhibits I’ve developed several appetizer dishes to pair with her ceramic ones. One such creation was a dip I called then “Double-Fish Cream.”  This appetizer was suggested by, and designed to be served from, a dish of Maria’s inscribed with fish motifs.
The double-fish cream was well received at a fancy pottery-related gathering. An older, well-travelled German lady complimented me on my delicious “tonnato.” Hmmm.
Tonnato, a name I faintly recognized as an Italian sauce containing its namesake, tuna, was something I had never eaten or even seen, much less knowingly prepared. However, it turns out that, indeed, my double-fish cream resembles the classic sauce. Maria suggested that perhaps it was channeled down through our Italian ancestry.
An old-fashioned tuna-enhanced mayonnaise from northern Italy, tonnato also often contains anchovy and cream – as mine does – and typically contains capers – as mine does. While usually a sauce for cold sliced veal in “Vitello Tonnato,” a classy Italian restaurant dish popular in past generations, it can also be paired with sliced boiled potatoes for an elegant potato salad.
My dish, varying slightly from classic tonnato, uses cream cheese rather than egg and oil to make a mayonnaise, and contains traces of horseradish and tomato. I now call it “Triple Fish Dip” because I added a little Asian fish sauce as part of the seasoning.
So here is. I propose it as an appetizer to spread or dip onto thin bread slices or water crackers, or adding a little more liquid to make it a sauce, try it spooned over cold, sliced and lightly salted boiled potatoes for an elegant potato salad.
Wines that would go with this dip are crisp, chilled whites like Sauvignon blanc or Pinot grigio.
The recipe makes enough for 6-8 people, depending on what it’s served with.
Triple-Fish Cream Appetizer or Sauce
8-ounce package of cream cheese (or reduced-fat “Neufchatel” cream cheese)
1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets (at supermarket near tuna) or 2 tablespoons anchovy paste
1 (5-ounce) can tuna in olive oil, not drained
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 medium scallion (green onion), cut in pieces
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon Asian fish sauce, plus more to taste, or substitute 1/4 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh dill or parsley sprigs for garnish
In food processor, blend cream cheese, anchovy fillets and their oil (or anchovy paste), and tuna and its juices. Scrape down inside of the food processor bowl periodically with a spatula. Add remaining ingredients, other than dill or parsley, and blend well. If a wetter dip or sauce is desired, add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time.
Let sit 10 minutes. Then taste and add a little fish sauce or salt, if needed.
Serve in a shallow dish. Garnish with sprigs of dill or parsley.
Accompany with thinly sliced baguette, melba toast, bagel crisps, water crackers or other low-salt, unflavored crackers. Alternatively, serve mixed with thinly sliced, peeled, boiled potatoes that have been sprinkled lightly with salt.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022


Spinach Artichoke Dip for Holiday Entertaining
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
2 cups (packed) fresh, well-washed spinach leaves (or small package frozen spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out)
2 green onions, cut in pieces
1/4 pound (4 ounces) cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
Salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon to start
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Small pinch of grated nutmeg
Small pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
Paprika and/or minced parsley for garnish
In food processor, finely chop – but do not puree – the drained artichokes, spinach, and green onion. Add the cream cheese, sour cream, and remainder of the ingredients other than the paprika. Run the food processor to blend mixture well, scraping down the inside of the processor bowl with a spatula several times.
If dip is too thick add a little water. Taste and add salt, as necessary, and more lemon juice if there isn’t a mild tang. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes, mix again. Taste and do any final adjustments of salt and lemon juice.
Serve in an attractive bowl and lightly sprinkle with paprika and/or minced parsley. Accompany with low-salt crackers or melba toast.

Friday, October 14, 2022


Quick Sautéed Butternut with Red Lentils 

Working with my friend Cameron, a UGA nutritional medicine major student who makes short nutrition and food Instagram videos, I figured on bringing together two of my favorite healthy ingredients. Not only did they pair particularly well, but the resulting dish seemed fully seasonal as the weather cools down. 

As cooked lentils sit, they get thicker in texture. So this dish can either be a side vegetable dish with a meat or other protein, or if diluted can be a soup or stew. This time because of Cameron’s audience, I made the dish completely plant-based, using olive oil for the sautéing. But half olive oil half butter is luscious too. 

Split red lentils (sometimes known as Egyptian lentils) are readily available at supermarkets, Indian stores (Masoor Dal), health or whole food stores, or Ethiopian stores (Misir). 

The recipe serves six as a side dish in a dinner, or if diluted with more water can be a stew or soup.


2 cups split red lentils

4 cups of water, plus more as needed

3 cups 1/2-inch cubed butternut squash (peeled and seeded), about 1 pound

1 small onion, finely diced

1/2 cup olive oil or 1/4 each olive oil and butter

1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Small pinch ground cinnamon

Finely minced parsley for garnish


Rinse the lentils in a pot, draining off most of the water. Add the 4 cups water, and bring the pot to a slow boil, stirring frequently. Add water as needed to keep the mixture soupy. Red lentils break down and become pale yellow colored and tender in 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel and seed the butternut and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. (Measure it you as
you cut it, and keep the remainder of butternut for another use.) Peel and finely dice the onion.
Heat a frying pan. Add the oil (plus butter if used) and the onion. Fry until onion begins
to soften, Then add the cut butternut and part of the salt, all the pepper and cinnamon.
Stir and fry over low heat, until butternut becomes tender, 10-15 minutes.
When both lentils and butternut are tender, combine them in the lentil pot. Add water as
needed to the desired level of thickness – moderately thick for a side vegetable dish,
soupy for a soup or stew. Add salt as needed to the desired taste. Simmer a few minutes
and remove from the heat. Taste one final time and add a little salt if needed.
Sprinkle with a little finely minced parsley when serving.

Sunday, October 9, 2022


Mushroom and Caper-Smothered Chopped Steaks                      


This is a slightly modified rendition of the dish I prepared for my brother Tom’s last meal. I visited him for a few days in 2008 in our hometown as he was dying. And although he was no longer eating solid food, he wanted to have one final meal for our other brother, several old friends, and me, and enjoy our company as we ate. 

The dish I prepared for that midday meal drew on the modest food that we ate in our childhood, “chopped steaks.”. I bought all the ingredients at the old grocery store down in the village where we always shopped. I remember how I made this because I wrote it up at the time for a different blog I was then writing. 

The recipe serves six.

2 pounds freshly ground sirloin or chuck

1 pound mushrooms (“baby bella” preferred)

3 English muffins, split

Butter or olive oil

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons red wine

1-1/2 cups half-and-half cream or 1/2 cup cream cheese plus 3/4 cup water

4 tablespoons capers, drained

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

Parsley for garnish, optional

Shape 6 burgers 1/2-inch thick, evenly flat and a little wider than the English muffins. Rinse mushrooms, trim off bottom 1/8 inch of stems. Slice mushrooms 1/4-inch thick.

Warm oven to 150 degrees.

Heat large frying pan to medium high. Add several tablespoons butter or olive oil. Place split muffins cut side down and fry until just golden. Turn them over to briefly heat the backs. Transfer toasted muffins to a platter in the warm oven.

Heat the pan to hot. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on one side of the burgers and place them in the pan, seasoned side down. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tops. After one minute, slide a spatula under burgers and turn them over. Fry one minute, then turn them and reduce the heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until desired degree of doneness. 

When cooked, place burgers on the English muffin halves and keep warm in the oven.

Pour off all except 1 1/2 tablespoons of grease or, if there’s not enough, add a little butter or olive oil. Over medium heat, fry mushrooms, sprinkled with 3/8 teaspoon salt, stirring often with a spatula. As mushrooms begin to shed some liquid and shrink, add pepper, and red wine, and continue to stir and fry.

When wine has reduced by half, add the half-and-half or cream cheese and water and cook mixture down to half, stirring frequently. Stir in drained capers and the horseradish. Remove pan from heat. After a minute, taste and add a little salt if needed (capers are fairly salty).

Place burger-topped English muffins on dinner plates. Spoon mushroom-caper sauce over top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley, if desired. Accompany with a glass of red wine.

Thursday, October 6, 2022


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve loved butternut squash since I first encountered it as a kid growing up in southern New

England. My father, skilled at farming, tried the then new vegetable in our family garden when 
butternut seed had just become available about 1950. Butternut quickly replaced the traditional 
Hubbard as the favorite winter squash. 

As its name indicates, the squash is both buttery and nutty in flavor. These features are most
pronounced when the fruits are fully mature, with the skin thick and uniformly tan and the stem
hard and dry. The flesh is then rich orange and sweet. Its luscious intensity is further enhanced
by baking.

Here is an evocative favorite butternut dish for the fall season, roasted butternut soup. It is not too
difficult and shows the squash off to advantage. The recipe serves six, but extra soup stores well and seems even better after a day or two. While typically served hot, butternut soup can also be eaten cold like its non-relative, gazpacho.

1 large or 2 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds),  ripe and hard1 small onion, finely diced

A 6-inch piece of celery, finely diced

6 tablespoons butter

5 cups chicken broth (low salt) or vegetable broth

1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A small pinch of ground cloves

(3 tablespoons cashew butter or ground cashews, optional)

Minced parsley or tiny sprouts (leafy parts) for garnish

Set oven for 350 degrees.

Cut butternut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place squash, cut side up, on a baking
sheet and roast it until tender when pierced with a toothpick. Let cool.

Meanwhile prepare the onion and celery and fry them gently in the butter using the pot in which
you will make the soup. Stir frequently and fry until the vegetables are tender but not browned.
Remove from the heat.

When the baked butternut is cooled somewhat, scoop all the flesh out from the skin. Place it,
along with the fried onion-celery mixture and its butter in a food processor or blender (this may
need to be in two batches), adding a little of the chicken or vegetable broth. Puree the mixture.
Transfer it back into the pot. Add the remainder of the broth, the salt and spices (and cashew
butter if used). Simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt, and add a little, if
needed, to taste.

Serve sprinkled with finely minced parsley or tiny leaves from baby sprouts.

Thursday, September 29, 2022


Red and Black Chili


I call this Red and Black Chili (or “Bulldog Chili”) based on UGA’s colors, which are ubiquitous and fun here in Athens, especially on game days. But aside from the colors this is a fairly traditional, if hopefully tasty, Tex-Mex chili. 

The recipe feeds six to eight heavy eaters – but leftovers are appreciated. Serve in shallow soup bowls with some rice at the bottom of the bowl, if desired. And grated cheddar or jack cheese can be sprinkled on top, along with a dollop of sour cream. 

2 strips uncooked bacon, finely minced

1 medium-large onion, coarsely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds ground beef (preferably 85% lean)

2 bay leaves

4 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

3/4 teaspoon oregano

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon (or more) crushed hot pepper

2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomato, including the juice

2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup water

1 small red bell pepper, medium diced


Cooked rice (white or brown) for serving, optional

Grated cheddar or jack cheese and/or sour cream for serving, optional


In large pot, fry minced bacon with the onions, stirring frequently, until onions start to turn golden. Add garlic and meat. Cook until raw color leaves the meat, breaking the meat up as it cooks. 

Add bay leaves, dry spices and herbs, plus 2 teaspoons of salt. Fry gently 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add the beans and water. Simmer 5 minutes. Add diced bell pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed. Add a little water to make a medium-thick consistency, if desired. Remove bay leaves at the end of cooking. 

Let sit 10 minutes, stir, and taste and adjust salt if needed. 

Chili is richer in flavor if made ahead and reheated. 

If desired, place some cooked white or brown rice in bottom of bowl before adding the chili. 
Sprinkle with grated cheddar or jack cheese, or dollop with sour cream, if desired