Lessons I Learned From Scarlett O’Hara
When I am in Italy, my relatives have a word they use every time I reach for more food, which is usually about every 3 minutes. The word is domani.
I have to admit the way my Italian relatives say domani scares me. They put the emphasis on the second syllable, which to my untrained ears sounds like a command of dire emergency. The first time I heard doMANi I was certain they were trying to tell me, “The HOUSE is on fire! DoMANi! DoMANi! Get OUT! Get OUT!” As it turns out, domani is a benign little word simply translated as tomorrow. In other words, cugina Gloria and her amiable husband Franco are merely encouraging me to “Eat, eat! Tomorrow you will start your diet!”
It puts me in mind of Scarlett O’Hara, the wilful protagonist in the movie Gone With The Wind, who, when faced with a problem — and she had many since she lived in Atlanta during the American Civil War — would declare: “I can’t think about that right now! I’ll think about that tomorrow.” And that is exactly how I feel about dieting. I will think about it tomorrow. My relatives in Italy hit the nail on the head: Domani. Especially during the holidays when it’s practically a religious obligation to eat whatever someone has had the good cheer to whip up for me.
But if I am taking my cues from Scarlett O’Hara, I must also lend some weight to Scarlett’s most famous line, a line that sums up my attitude about eating during the holidays — and something my extended Italian family would most certainly agree to. When faced with a groaning buffet of holiday over-indulgence, I raise my tiny fist, as Scarlett did, and swear to the skies and the heavens above: “As God is my witness, I shall never be hungry again!” Well, that is, at least not until domani.
I had this magnificent appetizer at Hillebrand Estates Winery at Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a modern take on the classic French rillettes recipe, but instead of meat it’s made with fresh and smoked salmon. This particular recipe is adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cook (Thunder Bay Press).
125 g skinless, boneless salmon fillet
50 g smoked salmon slices, finely chopped
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh chives
Steam or poach fresh salmon for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Cool and drain on paper towels. Pat dry.
Using a fork, mix the smoked salmon and butter until as smooth as possible. Add the yogurt, lemon juice and chives. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently crush the fresh salmon to make large flakes and add to the smoked salmon mixture. Mix until completely incorporated. Transfer to a small serving bowl or terrine and refrigerate 1 hour or until set. Serve with French bread.
We enjoyed our Salmon Rillettes with Hillebrand’s Trius Brut.
Brisket of Beef
Serves 4 to 6
I’ve had the good fortune to celebrate several Jewish holidays with friends and have come to look forward to the traditional sweet-and-sour brisket of beef. While I can’t guarantee this recipe is kosher since it comes from my Catholic kitchen, it yields a delicious, heart-warming roast.
2 tbsp canola oil
1 beef brisket (3 to 4 lbs)
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic
1 cup water
1 cup old-fashioned chili sauce, such as Heinz (or use ketchup)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 325˚F.
In large Dutch oven, over high heat, sear brisket on both sides in hot oil.
Add shallots and garlic and cook until shallots are lightly browned. Remove brisket.
Add water, chili sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Add brisket and cover tightly. Roast in oven for 3 hours or until meat is falling-apart tender. Serve with egg noodles.
Serve with a late harvest Riesling or a sparkly Moscato D’Asti.
Savoury Veal Roast
Serves 4 to 6
This is a terrific no-fuss roast to make while the gifts under the tree are being opened. Ask your butcher for this cut ahead of time if you can’t readily find it at your grocery store. Making gravy with cornstarch is much easier than using flour and results in a lump-free sauce.
1 boneless veal eye of round
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
Preheat oven to 450˚F.
Pat the roast dry. Rub with olive oil. Season with oregano, salt and pepper.
Place in a shallow roasting pan. Roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperate to 250˚F and roast until the thickest part of the meat registers 150˚F for medium rare, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove roast, cover loosely with foil and let stand 15 minutes. Temperature should increase by 5 degrees.
Make gravy by adding 1 can chicken broth and 1/4 cup white wine to the pan drippings, stirring to loosen browned bits.
In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp cold water, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Add to pan, bring gravy to boil, lower heat and simmer until thickened.
Choose a Pinot Grigio from Italy’s Veneto region.
Risi E Bisi
An Italian-style pilaf that goes nicely with the Veal Roast. Normally I suggest using Parmigiano-Reggiano but with this dish, Parmesan cheese is fine.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup rice
1/4 cup spaghetti, broken into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil. Sauté onion in skillet over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add rice and spaghetti. Stir to coat. Sauté until rice is light golden, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Carefully add wine, simmer over low heat until nearly evaporated. Stir in broth, salt and pepper.
Reduce heat and cover. Simmer 18 to 20 minutes or until rice and spaghetti are tender. Add peas and cook 2 minutes longer. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Tasty Turkey À La King
This is a comforting, old-fashioned recipe that solves the problem of what to do with leftover holiday turkey. You can substitute pimientos for the roasted red peppers. You can also make this with cooked chicken. Don’t skip the tiny bit of lemon juice as it brightens the flavours and cuts through the creaminess of the dish. Serve over warm biscuits, English muffins, creamy mashed potatoes or buttered orzo.
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 lbs mushrooms, quartered
3 shallots, minced
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 tbsp dry sherry or white wine
3 cups roasted turkey, bones removed and cut into cubes
1 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp minced roasted sweet red pepper
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with oil. Add mushrooms, shallots and cayenne.
Sauté until mushrooms are cooked through and shallots are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
Whisk in broth, milk and sherry. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add turkey, peas, red pepper, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cook until turkey is heated through, about 3 minutes.
Serve with a full-bodied Australian Chardonnay.
Cheater’s Holiday Strudel
My first husband’s mother Theresa makes her own strudel pastry by gently stretching it for what seems like hours until it’s so thin she can see through it. Honestly, Christmas could arrive and go in the time it takes her to make the pastry. And that’s before she gets to the filling! Understandably, I have never asked for the recipe. Here is my cheater’s version of Grandma Jancigar’s strudel, not nearly as authentic but impressive nonetheless. Although phyllo dough might seem difficult to tackle, it’s quite easy as long as you keep it damp with a tea towel when not working with it.
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions and covered with a damp tea towel
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup fine graham cracker crumbs
1 can pie filling (any flavour such as cherry, apple, blueberry, etc.)
2 tbsp icing sugar
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
On a large sheet of wax paper, lay out 1 phyllo sheet. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with graham crumbs. Repeat two more times. Top with an unbuttered phyllo sheet.
Spread 1/2 of the pie filling 1 inch from the long edge of the phyllo and 2 inches from each short end. Gently roll, tucking in edges as you go.
Make a second strudel with the remaining phyllo dough.
Place strudels on greased baking dish, seam side down. Make 5 diagonal ‘steam vent’ slits on top of each strudel. Brush both strudels with melted butter.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. When cool, sprinkle with icing sugar. Cut with serrated knife.
Serve with Hillebrand’s luscious Vidal Ice Wine BF.