Saturday, February 27, 2010

Savory Grilled Racks of Lamb With A Red Wine Reduction Sauce And Creamy Potatoes Au Gratin

I was rummaging through my freezer last week, in search of anything that would catch my eye when I found a New Zealand rack of lamb that I'd bought at Sam's Club. I had totally forgotten I even had it. We were going to be watching the Olympic Alpine skiing that night and had invited our best friends over, so I decided this would definitely be a worthy meal. The best part about the New Zealand rack of lamb from Sam's is that it comes with 2 racks per package, making it perfect for four people. I do apologize for the lack of more pictures, but company was coming so I didn't really have the time.

I'd forgotten to mention to our friends that I'm such a rabid skiing fan. I scream. I yell. I cry. I'm a mess during the winter Olympics. Because once, 35 years ago, I was good enough for the pro skiing circuit. Maybe... before injuring my knee for which they had no surgery back then. It happened like 2 weeks before the Big Race (the Benson & Hedges Cup. Yes, once upon a time tobacco companies sponsored sporting events). So, yeah. I'm a rabid fan. Of course, I had both knees fixed once they came out with the Arthroscopic surgery and I still go skiing every year, but I was living in Texas by then. Anyway, I think our friends were a bit shocked at the gamut of emotions I can run through during a ski race. Then, of course, I had to go and bore them with the technicalities of the downhill and the Giant Slalom. However, after having had a good meal, they were more than happy to be bored and shocked by my behavior. So, let's get to the recipes, shall we?

Grilled New Zealand Racks of Lamb:

Place both racks of lamb in a large plastic bag and add either Italian dressing or another that you like. Also add sea salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Allow to marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours. About 20 to 30 minutes before cooking, remove the bag from fridge to allow the racks to come to room temperature.

Fire up the grill or use charcoal heated in a chimney. When grill is ready, remove the racks from the bag and place over hot fire. I usually pour a little of the marinade over the racks to make the fire flare up for a moment. I then grill them approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side, on the edge of the fire. I do this so that the little bones don't get completely fried by the fire. I also use the old hand test, which has never failed me. When done to desired temperature remove from grill and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Carve and serve with a red wine reduction sauce, Potatoes Au Gratin and a green salad.

Red Wine Reduction Sauce:

2 tablespoons of minced shallots
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1cup red wine (any hardy red wine can be used)
1 tablespoon of veal demiglaze (available in a jar) diluted in 1 cup of hot water

1. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 3 minutes.
3. Increase heat to meduim high and add vinegar.
4. Cook another 2 minutes, and add the wine.
5. When sauce is reduced by about half, add the diluted demiglaze.
6. Cook until the liquid volume is again reduced by half.

Note: This sauce takes approximately 20 to 25 minutes to prepare. It can also be made 1 day ahead of time if you prefer. Reheat over medium-low heat.

Au Gratin Potatoes:


4 russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 onion, thinly sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole milk

1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (or 200 degrees C). Spray interior of casserole dish with cooking spray.

Layer about half of the potatoes into the bottom of the prepared dish. Top with thinly sliced onions and finally, the remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In a medium size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and salt, stirring constantly, about one minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened.

Add cheese all at once, stirring until melted (about 30 to 60 seconds). Pour mixture over the potatoes and cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake approximately 1-1/2 hours in the preheated oven. I usually allow this to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tarts With Whipped Cream On a Bed Of Raspberry Sauce

Since I've always been on a diet as far back as I can remember, I've never been a big fan of making or eating desserts. I'm sure my children would tell you the only desserts we ever had here were fruit or Flan. Sometimes Jell-O or the occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies. Those days are history. Now that I'm 57 I've decided that I'm going to enjoy everything I possibly can, including desserts. I'm just going to have to go without other things sometimes and exercise more. Maybe. Or not.

So, as Valentine's Day drew near I looked at dessert recipes for weeks before finally deciding what to make for Mr. Snooty on Valentine's Day. This year was my turn to do dinner and I really wanted to make him drool this year. Mission accomplished. Let me just say that I hit the proverbial jackpot with this recipe. Every bite was like a sexual personal orgasm. Neither of us could do more than make Mmmmm sounds the entire time we were finishing our dessert.

This was originally a Tyler Florence recipe only he didn't serve it with fresh whipped cream and/or a raspberry sauce. However, dues must be paid for this fabulous dessert. Otherwise, I'd never have come up with all this on my own. Tyler Florence totally rocked my world with this delicacy!

Luckily, the recipe makes enough for 6, so we were able to do it all over again last night and tonight. Sometimes I truly amaze myself. I couldn't wait to share this with you, so I'm posting it on my cooking blog as well as here on my regular blog. If I can make this masterpiece, then anyone can, trust me. I changed the recipe up a little and the result was sheer perfection. This is seriously the best dessert I've ever made.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tarts:

Ingredients For Shells:

1 -1/2 cups of finely crushed chocolate wafer crumbs (just use Oreos without the center if you can't find wafers)

6 tablespoons of butter, melted

Ingredients For Chocolate Truffle Mix:

3/4 cup heavy cream

8 ounces of good-quality (70%) semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract (I used rum extract and it was even better than vanilla)

1/4 cup cocoa powder, for dusting

Ingredients For Topping:

1 cup whipping cream

2 -3 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 small container of fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried


1. Use fork to combine melted butter and crushed chocolate wafers.

2. Spray the inside of six (6) cups of a muffin pan with vegetable cooking spray.

3. Line each of the six cups with a large square of either parchment paper or wax paper. (I tried both and they both worked perfectly. Press the liners with a small (like a juice) glass to press them into place. Make sure there is enough overhang on each one to lift out when they are ready.

4. Fill each of the 6 muffin cups with the crushed wafer and butter mixture and use small juice glass to press into shape. The mixture should go up the sides about 1-1/2", but not all of mine did and they were just fine.

5. Place muffin tin in refrigerator until the chocolate truffle recipe is prepared.

6. Heat cream over medium low heat until it comes to a simmer. Place finely chopped chocolate in a small bowl and pour heated cream over chocolate. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

7. When time is up, whip the cream and chocolate with a whisk until blended. Let stand at room temperature for one hour. When hour is up beat the mixture as fast as you can or use medium setting on a hand mixer until mixture thickens and lightens in color. I suggest a hand mixer.

8. Remove muffin tin from refrigerator. Place one raspberry in the bottom center of each cup.

9. Fill a pastry bag with chocolate truffle mixture (or you can use a plastic baggie with the corner snipped off) and fill each of the 6 cups with the mixture. Be sure to lick or suck out the rest of the mixture. You won't want to waste it, trust me.

10. Place muffin tin back into fridge for at least one hour.

11. Meanwhile, you can make the raspberry sauce (recipe follows) and then the whipped cream.

Raspberry Sauce:


1 - 12 ounce package of frozen raspberries, thawed

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water


1. Place thawed raspberries in a strainer (or sieve) over bowl and press lightly to extract juice. (If you press too hard the seeds will come through and you'll have to strain it again with cheesecloth in a strainer).

2. Transfer juice to a small saucepan; add sugar and cook over medium high heat until hot, about 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mix water and cornstarch until combined.

4. When raspberry mixture is hot, slowly whisk in cornstarch. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to use.

Final Assembly:

1. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of raspberry sauce over one half side of the dessert plate.

2. Carefully remove the chocolate truffle filled cups by the paper overhang, removing paper and place on top of raspberry sauce.

3. Drop 2 to 3 large dollops of whipped cream on top and one side, adding a few fresh raspberries.

4. Using a small strainer, dust lightly with the cocoa powder, which I completely forgot to do before taking the pictures.

You will totally be a rock star in your own world when you serve this dessert....

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cornish Hens Stuffed With Celery, Onions And Garlic, Served With Pan Drippings Gravy

First of all, I have to say the Cornish Hens smelled so fabulous while cooking that we ripped into them before I remembered to take a final picture. Yes, it just couldn't be helped. The aroma had permeated the entire house, which made us both ravenous. However, I can show you the process I went through, making them. This is just so easy to make that you'll want to make them at least once a week.

Cornish Hens Stuffed With Garlic, Onions And Celery:


2 Cornish hens

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, diced

4-5 Tablespoons butter, melted

1-2 Tablespoons of fresh Rosemary, chopped

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste


1. Remove hens from package and rinse with warm water, and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Season with salt and pepper inside. Stuff with celery, onion and garlic, using steak pins or skewers to close opening.

3. Using a pastry brush, baste the hens with melted butter. Season outside of hens with salt and pepper.

4. Sprinkle any leftover veggies over and around the hens (which will add flavor to the gravy made from pan drippings).

5. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Turn oven up to 400 degrees for last 10 minutes if hens need more browning.

Gravy From Pan Drippings:

1. Pour drippings from pan into a saucepan, reserving about 1/4 cup to mix with 2 Tablespoons of flour. I use a jar with lid for this. After shaking the jar to mix, add it to the pan drippings. Whisk until smooth and bubbly. Season, if necessary. You can even add a pinch of Tarragon, to add extra flavor.

2. Pour onto plate and place the Cornish hen on top of the gravy. Voila!

3. Serve with a tossed green salad and garlic bread.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wendell's Restaurant At The Inn of the Mountain Gods... A Review

Last week Mr. Snooty and I embarked on a ski trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico; where I've been skiing for the last 35 years or so. Out of those 35 years, I've stayed at The Inn probably 24 of those 35 years and never really had a complaint except for the way the tribe members (the staff) treat guests/tourists. Until now.

While staying at The Inn Of The Mountain Gods (IOTMG), Ruidoso had a monster storm that dropped something like 26 inches of snow, which meant we'd be eating at the hotel, for every meal, during our stay. Unfortunately, they have gone downhill since my last stay.

Now mind you, Ruidoso has had a few hard years to suffer through... Like no significant amount of snow for the last three years and a horribly destructive flood a couple of years ago. The town has been struggling the last few years and many of the better restaurants we liked have closed for good. So, the IOTMG offers the best cuisine in the area. That used to be a good thing, but not now. It is situated in a lovely picturesque mountain setting and in addition to the hotel, they also have a casino, all located on Mescalero Apache Indian land. They own and run the ski area as well.

We ate a total of three evening meals at Wendell's and although there was some great food, most of it was not so great. I learned (the hard way) that if I wanted a steak Medium, I had to order it Rare. That alone, was enough to send me into a rant. However, our waiters were excellent and did their best to offset the faux pas coming out of the kitchen.

The first night we started out with an appetizer called the Prawn & Alaskan Crab Martini, which was to die for, along with our real martinis.

I think the one thing that irritated me the most was that the menu states if you order their Classic Caesar Salad, it would be made table side. It was not made table side and it was not a Classic Caesar Salad. It tasted like bottled Creamy Caesar Dressing, which we both detest. Strike One.

Mr. Snooty ordered the Lincoln County Elk Tenderloin, to be cooked Medium-Rare. It arrived at the table Medium-Well done, which was a waste of perfectly good Elk meat. Strike Two.

I ordered the Pecan Crusted Salmon but didn't want all the calories from the pecans, so I asked them to grill my salmon. They baked it instead and it was waaaay overdone. Frankly, it was disgusting. Strike Three.

Having no other choice (due to the severe snow storm), we ate there again the next night as well. This time I ordered the Petite Filet Mignon Oscar and although the steak was overcooked, it was still delicious. This time, I opted for the Wedge Salad and it was fabulous. Mr. Snoots ordered the same thing and his steak was overcooked as well. We continued to be unimpressed.

Our last night there, we ate at Wendell's again and I had the same meal as the night before, as did Mr. Snooty. We ordered our filet mignons to be cooked Rare (minus the crab) this time and they came out cooked Medium, which was an improvement I suppose. Overall, we were totally not impressed. However, the wait service was excellent, which is the most I can say about Wendell's. The Mescalero Apache Indian Tribe runs this place and they make it quite clear they don't like anyone who isn't from their tribe. None of the wait staff were Mescaleros, which explains their civility. However, I have my doubts about the kitchen staff.

They did offer several other venues for meals but nothing more than the standard, boring fare found at any average hotel/casino (or fast food place). The Inn used to be such a fabulous place to stay but apparently they are under different tribal management since building their new hotel and it just isn't the same caliber as it was before. Don't get me wrong. The rooms and views are the nicest in the Ruidoso area, and the hotel in general is beautiful. They have nice amenities and plenty of space in the rooms. The room service is still the best I've ever had, which I found to be ironic.

Their biggest failure, in my opinion, is letting the lovely dining at Wendell's go to the dogs. The funny thing is that this new dining room is smaller than the original one in the old hotel. Go figure.