Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Warm Camembert with Wild Mushroom Fricassee

In my family, dishes belong to individuals. There are my Aunt Norma’s melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls, and my Grandpa Clarence’s buttermilk pancakes, which became my dad’s when my grandpa passed away. No one makes pinoche like my Aunt Janice, and my Grammy guarded her “secret” pickle recipe long after my grandpa, with even greater secrecy, leaked it to my Aunt Wilma and half a dozen other relatives when Grammy was sick and had to let him do that season's canning for her.

As for my sister and me, we definitely have dishes we feel territorial about. When it comes to everyday eating, Julie always makes the tacos, and I always make the turkey meatloaf. In the party food category, timbales belong to her, and prosciutto involtini is mine. Even working on the cookbook, we have each staked our claims. She is perfecting banana flower salad, while I’m refining clay pot fish and Miss Vy’s Eggplant.

Naturally, a few weeks ago when we were deciding what to make for our friend, Michelle’s, birthday party, I was reluctant to hand over a recipe I’d been hoarding from Food & Wine: Warm Camembert with Wild Mushroom Fricassee. Making a recipe in our home is like planting a flag in a foreign land. If you plant the flag first, the land is yours. My reluctance was justified. The dish was such a hit at Michelle’s party that Julie made it for Thanksgiving, and with that, the dish belonged to her.

Warm, earthy, and gooey, this is a perfect cold weather appetizer. If you want to take it to a party, you can make the fricassee in advance and just heat it up once you arrive.

Warm Camembert with Wild Mushroom Fricassee, adapted from Food & Wine


- ½ cup walnut pieces
- 1 8-ounce wheel of ripe Camembert in its wooden box, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp walnut oil
- ¾ pound wild mushrooms, trimmed, caps thinly sliced (crimini, shitake & Portobello)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 large sage leaves, minced
- crackers or bread, for serving


1) Preheat oven to 350.

2) Spread the walnut pieces on a baking sheet and toast in the over for about 7 minutes, until lightly browned.

3) Lower the oven temperature to 300.

4) Remove the Camembert from the box and unwrap it. Put the cheese back in the bottom half of the box and set it on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until soft. Keep an eye on it, to make sure it doesn’t get too runny.

5) Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the walnut oil.

6) Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

7) Uncover and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes longer.

8) Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

9) Stir in the sage; season with salt and pepper.

10) Invert the Camembert onto a platter.

11) Stir the walnuts into the mushrooms and spoon over the cheese.

12) Serve with bread or crackers.

Note on Making Walnut Nibbles:

When making this recipe for Thanksgiving, Julie mixed in the some extra minced sage with some extra toasted walnuts and left them in a container for a few days. The result was a divine cocktail nibble.

(photo by Julie Fay)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Not So Still Life With Pears

Tis the season for pears. I’ve been eating them au naturel. I’ve been cooking with them Sandra-Lee-Semi-Homemade-Cooking-Cheater-Style—I chopped a few up and simmered them with a bag of frozen raspberries, lemon juice, and a tablespoon of brown sugar, and plopped the mix into a quartered frozen Pillsbury pie crust, to make cute mini pies. I even made a Pear Ambrosia Facial, combining the pulp from one pear with a tablespoon each of cream and of honey, recipe courtesy of Janice Cox’s Natural Beauty for All Seasons. But the achievement I’m happiest about is … jam.

The desire to make jam was inspired by Chocolate & Zucchini. On her recommendation, I bought Mes Confitures and instantly started drooling over all the unique artisanal jam recipes in it. I’d never made jam before and was intimidated. But I figured if I started with a small batch, I couldn’t do that much damage. So for my first attempt, I made the Pear with Jasmine Mandarin Tea.

Pear With Jasmine Mandarin Tea
modified from Mes Confitures, by Christine Ferber


- Two cups pears. Approximately 3 pears. I used Bosch.
- ½ cup sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tsp calcium water (see note below)
- 1 tsp pectin (see note below)
- ½ cup jasmine tea. I used the ridiculously expensive but worth it Grand Jasmin Mao Feng from my favorite tea shop, Le Palais des Th├ęs.


Day One:

- Peel the pears, remove their stems, cut them in two, core them, and cut them into small dice.
- In a preserving pan (I used a regular saucepan), combine the pears, sugar, calcium water and lemon juice.
- Bring to a simmer and then pour into a bowl.
- Cover with a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two:

- Bring the mixture to a boil in a preserving pan. Skim, if necessary.
- Add pectin and continue cooking on high heat for about ten minutes, stirring gently. Skim carefully, if necessary.
- While mixture is cooking, make an infusion by pouring hot water over the tea and letting it steep for about three minutes.
- When ten minutes is up, add steeped tea to the jam and return to a boil.
- Check the set. I did this by putting a plate in the fridge. I dribbled a little of the mixture on the cold plate. When it quickly gelled, it was ready.
- Put jam into jars immediately and seal.

My jam has the texture of chutney. The jasmine flavor is subtle, and gives a nice aftertaste. To serve, I smeared cracked pepper water crackers with stinky Camembert and topped it with jam. My friend Michelle also came up with the superb idea of pairing the jam with Trader Joe's pot stickers.

Note on Pectin & Calcium Water:

I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which allows you to use less sugar—I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I try to avoid sugar when possible. I made the calcium water according to the directions that come with the packet. Pomona’s Universal Pectin can be bought at Whole Foods.

Note on Canning:

I did not use proper canning methods. My goal with this first attempt was to simply see if I could make jam. My recipe yielded 2 small jars, which I plan on eating faster than any fatal bacteria can grow. For complete canning & safety information, go to Home Canning or the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

(photos by Julie Fay)

Serve It Forth: Index of Recipes

Homemade Wines & Liqueurs:
- Apricot Wine
- Limoncello
- Nocino
- Strawberry Wine

- Almond & Cinnamon Shrimp with Avocado Mousse
- Butternut Squash Bruschetta
- Caramelized Onion Tart with Apples
- Honey-centric Appetizers
- Honey-Roasted Onion Tart
- Mexican Clam Dip
- Peach Bruschetta with Blue Cheese
- Prosciutto Involtini
- Smoked Paprika, Chive and Walnut Cheesy Dip
- Warm Camembert with Wild Mushroom Fricassee
- Whirled Peas Dip
- Zucchini and Tomato Salsa

Side Dishes:
- Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash
- Mediterranean Salad with Prosciutto and Pomegranate
- Orange, Olive and Onion Salad
- Roast Pepper, Tomato and Apple Salad
- Roasted Fall Vegetable Hash
- Sweet Potato Salad
- Tom Kha Gai

Main Dishes:
- Beef and Onions Braised in Beer
- Beer & Barbecue Sauce Crock Pot Turkey Meatballs
- Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna
- Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar
- Cheesy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna
- Chicken & Artichoke Soup
- Crock Pot Beef Burgundy
- Egg Casserole with Leeks and Feta
- Fettuccine with Tuna, Lemon & Fried Capers
-  Frittata with Potatoes, Caramelized Shallots & White Beans
Kitchen Sink Chili-Soup-Stew
- Pecan Coated Catfish
- Pulled Pork
- Quinoa, Roasted Fennel & Pomegranate Salad
- Roasted Portobello Mushroom and Prosciutto Lasagna
- Rolled Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Pork and Rosemary Filling
- Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives
- Tomato Pie
- Turkey Meatloaf
- Turkey Soup with Mustard and Balsamic Vinegar
- Whiskey Smoked Salmon Chowder
- Zucchini Latkes & Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce

- Betty Crocker's Thumbprint Cookies
- Butterscotch Chip-Oatmeal-Coconut Cookies
- Date and Walnut Phyllo Rolls with Greek Yogurt and Honey
- Ginger Cookies (Betty Crocker)
- Limoncello Biscotti
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Pumpkin Walnut Bread
- Rum Ice Cream Pie
- Shortbread
- Tea & Honey Crisps

Vietnamese Dishes:
- Bac Gai's Vegetarian Spring Rolls
- Banana Flower Salad
- Clay Pot Fish
- Clay Pot Fish -- Instructional Video
- Shredded Chicken and Cabbage Salad/Goi Ga
- Shrimp with Lime
- Strawberry Wine

- Blue Cheese & Wild Mushroom Crackers
- Brown Butter Applesauce
- Cocktail Party Menu: Appetizers
- Dog Biscuits
- Food for Giving
- Honey Oat Muffins
- The Little Saigon Cookbook
- Moroccan Feast for Eight
- Ode to MFK Fisher
- Pear and Raspberry Jam
- Pear Jam with Jasmine Mandarin Tea
- Power Bars
- Red Onion Marmalade
- Southern California's Little Saigon
- White Onion Marmalade
- A Year in Cookbooks: 2006