Monthly Archives: January 2010

Culinary Highlights from St. Maarten

We’re just back from our delightful first trip to the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Maarten (Dutch side) / St. Martin (French side). The island has a fascinating history of countries vying for ownership of this small chunk of land, with these two winning out. As far as we could tell, delicious food was available on both sides, with French cuisine shining brightly at a higher price (the Euro was about 1.4 to our dollar).

We sampled a variety of food from totally “down-home grilled on the edge of the sea” bbq at Lolo’s in Marigot to a very sophisticated haute cuisine seafood sampler at Le Pressoir in Grand Case. However on our last night we enjoyed our favorite and oh so simply delicious meal in Marigot: steamed mussels in white wine!

This reminded us of how PERFECT this dish is. And of course we had it on our menu at Blue Mountain Bistro for years as Moules Marseillaise (recipe included below). As we happily dined on the tender, delicious mussels in the simply flavorful broth, we mused about these humble mollusks and Richard reminisced:

“I think I would rather have a nice bowl of steamed mussels than lobster.  The broth that comes from steaming them in a bit of white wine, bay leaves and a hint of lemon juice is just heavenly.  So heavenly in fact that ‘back in the day’ in France, they were frequently cooked for their broth only, to be used for  seafood sauces and stocks.  Their sweet heady aroma is simple but complex, earthy but from the sea, in short just about perfect.  I picked some off the rocks near Montauk for Mary Anne on one of our first dates.  (Did I mention they’re sexy also!!)  She was quite impressed when I brought them home and steamed them with this same simple preparation, and that just about sealed the deal. We were engaged a few months later!”

Moules Marseillaise
by Richard Erickson, Chef-owner
Bistro-to-Go, Kingston, NY

10 lbs mussels
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced fresh fennel
1/2 cup minced celery
1/2 cup minced leek
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped garlic
4 T minced shallot
Red pepper flakes to taste
1 t crushed fennel seeds
Pinch saffron
2 cups  white wine
Chopped tomato
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh herbs (preferably mixture of parsley, chives and tarragon or dill)

1.  Slowly cook onion, leek, fennel, and celery in olive oil until soft but not brown.
2.  Add garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, saffron, white wine and simmer for ten minutes.  Reserve this mixture.  (It keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days)
3.  For each serving of mussels add 2 heaping tablespoons of the mix and 1/3 cup of  wine, 1 tablespoon butter,  1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons chopped tomato, and a pinch of the mixed herbs.
4.  Cover and steam until the mussels open.

Serve in bowls with the accompanying liquid and crusty French bread.

12 large servings / Enjoy!!!

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon is our inspiration for Wednesday’s Plat du Jour. After seeing Julie and Julia we knew we had to add this fabulous dish to our weekly dinner special menu – and our customers are glad we did! Let us do all the hard work (Julia’s recipe God Bless Her has 17 ingredients and 25 steps) – for $10.95 you too can savor this delectable recipe!

So, of course, we always bring it home for dinner on Wednesdays (if there are any left) and as we were discussing the joy of savoring a hearty stew in the dead of winter I asked Richard the question, “What’s the difference between this dish and the Coq au Vin we frequently make as a lunch special?”

And he said “there really are very few differences”.

“Few dishes are as well known as Boeuf Bourguignon and its’ cousin Coq au Vin. Both are cooked in red wine and the signature garnishes for both include  glazed pearl onions, quartered mushrooms and fried bacon called ‘lardons’.  The beef (good chuck is the most reliable and tasty), is simmered for several hours with red wine until the connective tissue dissolves into a rich smooth sauce.  The same braising technique is used for the chicken (or in the old days ‘cock’) in the Coq au Vin.

The other major difference between these two dishes is that the Coq au Vin is a more humble dish that can be more freely adapted by the individual cook. The Boeuf tradition harkens back to the strict tenants of classical French cooking with very specific steps that need to be followed.

The traditional accompaniment to both is boiled potatoes or noodles, and more red wine of course.  (We also think mashed potatoes are delicious.)

So, next Wednesday, when you’re fighting off the chill of winter, wondering what’s for dinner – call us to pre-order your beef bourguignon as it sells out fast! As Julia would say “Bon Appetit”!!

Best Desserts of 2009

We are blessed to have the most amazing baker, Melinda Champagne, on our staff here at Bistro-to-Go. Every day she creates extraordinarily tempting sweets and treats for our customers – and devilish delights to plump the waistlines of those of us who work here every day! Not an easy task to be steadfast in walking by the snippets of magic bars she leaves in a prime location in the kitchen – or the pie dough ends she rolls up with cinnamon and sugar just to tempt us. When the chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven she always cuts up a few of them when they’re warm and they find a brief home in the sampling station of the kitchen! And when she makes one of our customers’ favorites, chocolate eclairs, she often makes a few minis for the staff. They don’t stick around long!

So for those of you who love to eat her treats, and for those of you who live too far away to enjoy them, I’ve compiled some photos of our favorite desserts of 2009 – no calories in looking!

New Year’s Eve Dinner Party

This year we had the second in what appears to be gaining momentum as an annual New Year’s Eve tradition: a fabulous collaborative dinner party with some of our dearest friends. The invitation was this: Richard will make the main course, bouillabaise, and each couple will bring other contributions to the meal and a bottle of bubbly.

We worked at the store all day, very busy with pickups for parties that evening. I stole away an hour or so to go home and set the table – something  I really love to do. Some gorgeous Indian saris (formerly the curtains at our restaurant!) were perfect for a festive tablecloth. I added candles to create a festival of lights, sprinkled rose petals all around the candles, and then gently placed a few of my favorite buddha statues in between to create a welcome table for our guests.

New Year’s Eve 2009 Dinner Menu

Appetizers, Evelyne
Vegetarian pate and “tapenata”

Homemade bread, Steve

First Course, Maria
Watercress and Endive Salad with beets, toasted walnuts and goat cheese

Main Course, Richard

Chocolate Bomb Cake by Elise
Fresh fruit platter by Joan
New York Cheesecake by Laurie

Here are Richard’s notes on Bouillabaise

The name alone is enough to send a buzz through any room. Bouillabaise is right up there with cassoulet as a dish that has inspired countless writers to wax poetic on its’ merits and what constitutes the real deal. What exactly is a true bouillabaise?  Can anyone who is not from Marseille, let alone not French make one?  How many cookbooks must one consult, what fish to choose, the list goes on. Many will say that it is “rascasse”,the bony scorpion fish found in the Mediterranean, that gives an authentic bouillabaise it’s character. Purists be damned!  I declare that a wonderful fish soup/stew by any name is a thing to behold and eat with great pleasure.

The wonderful thing about bouillabaise is that it is just as much fun to prepare as it is to eat.  No use making dinner for two, this dish demands a large dinner party!  I started several days before by making a fish stock, or fumet, from cod and snapper bones that were a gift from Gadaleto’s fish market in New Paltz.
Trimmings from leeks and fennel flavored the broth.  Shrimp shells were saved for shrimp oil and numerous other shrimp (for shrimp cocktail)  were poached in the broth further deepening the flavors.  The day of, lobsters were par-cooked, the meat taken out and bodies returned to the broth for further cooking.  Finally the broth was strained and allowed to settle.

Next leeks, onions, celery, and fennel were simmered with tomato and garlic in a shrimp oil that had been made from the shells.  Saffron, crushed fennel seeds, a few red pepper flakes and a pinch of herbs de Provence were added.  Then julienne orange peel, a few diced potatoes and the broth were added and allowed to simmer. Finally the clams, shrimp and monkfish were added to complete the dish but not without a generous splash of Pernod. The alchemy was almost complete!!  Served in large bowls with a garnish of toasted baguette and a large dollop of garlicky rust colored rouille to swirl into the broth, the bouillabaise was finally complete.

To make a good bouillabaise truly all that is needed is a really good seafood broth and to respect and include the holy trinity of Provencal cookery: fennel, saffron, orange and a love of good food, especially seafood.

Great food is always a way to celebrate the years end, life and good friends. Bon appetit.

Divine inspiration

Divine inspiration

Originally uploaded by maelife1021

New Year’s Eve 2009 Bouillabaise