Monthly Archives: December 2009

Bistro or BBQ? What kind of chef are you?

As one gets older we must decide what kind of person we will be and how we will let ourselves be defined. Will we be known for being funny, good in a crisis, thoughtful to a fault, relentless in our pursuits? Certainly to some degree we have control over how this definition comes to fruition, but there are some elements of nature that are undeniable.

One’s self in the kitchen is often a good metaphor for life. Are you the kind of chef who whips up whatever is in the fridge, a veritable MacGyver of cuisine? Or are you someone who dutifully plans each meal, follows each recipe to a T, and never allows yourself the freedom or permission to branch out.

At a unique cross roads in my work right now, I will be leaving a place and people that I love and going onto what I truly believe is the right decision for my career but which holds daunting challenges and unknown territory.

As per usual, when life gets messy I clean my kitchen (which is usually already very neat), pop open a bottle of wine, crank up the stereo, and start cooking. Feeling that in some sense I will be stepping into a role that requires more control and restraint than I’m currently used to I allowed myself a night of total fun and indulgence in the kitchen.

Rather than take you through each item, step-by-step, let me rather share with you what’s currently on my culinary wish list. Items that help explain the chef (read: person), I wish I might someday be*:

*Disclaimer: Haven’t yet tried these recipes….if you do, comment back and let us all know how they are!

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Filed under Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Uncategorized

Culinary Marriage Counseling: Chicken Marsala with Cremini Mushrooms and Sage (for two)

I am admittedly bossy, opinionated, and very confident that I’m usually right. While this has served me well at times, it is not always the most productive strategy for one’s marriage. Take last night for example. Tucked in bed, leaving the next day for a business trip, and having been working long hours and seeing little of Matt we offer to do our patented back-rub trade. I went first and provided what I considered to be a top-notch 10 minute experience (being bossy, opinionated and confident, I am known to time our back rubs). We then swapped and as Matt was getting started I felt that he wasn’t living up to his potential (in the back rub department). He seemed distracted, uncommitted, and lacking focus. Determined to help improve the situation I offered the helpful suggestion, muffled from my face in the pillow, to “really get into those muscles”. I accentuated my tone with a drawl/growl that I considered to be both encouraging and tough, just as a veteran coach would do. Matt stopped rubbing, I popped my head up from the pillow like a prairie dog and we both burst out laughing.

Why I thought I could or should critique his back rub is beyond me. I’m afraid to admit I’m not much better in the kitchen. I am notorious for looking at whatever he’s chopping or simmering or poaching and ask pointed questions such as, “You think you want to cut the chicken like that?” or “I think it calls for thickly chopped mushrooms, doesn’t it? Those look a little thin, don’t you think?”

Pending on Matt’s mood he will either acquiesce, blatantly ignore me, indulge me by answering, or leave the kitchen.

I’m working on being less of a tyrant in the kitchen as I often do enjoy cooking together. That said, some meals and their preparation are better suited for two. This Chicken Marsala is a great option. He works on the chicken and mushrooms prep, I begin the cooking, he makes the rice and veggie, I finish the sauce and dinner is done.

Sometimes, it is better cooking with two.

Serve with brown rice and steamed broccoli. Makes excellent leftovers.

Pairs well with a medium red wine such as a Sangiovese.

Chicken Marsala


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into thirds and slightly flattened)

1 tablespoon olive oil

10 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish

1 cup sweet Marsala wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoon butter


Place flour in a shallow bowl; season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, shaking off excess. I’ve found that you want the chicken pieces to be relatively thin so that they cook nicely without the outsides browning too much.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add chicken, and cook until golden on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm (reserve skillet).

Add mushrooms, shallot, sage, and 1/4 cup water to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until mushrooms are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine and cream; simmer over medium-high until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter; season with salt and pepper.

Top chicken with mushroom sauce, and garnish with sage.

Adapted from Everyday Food.


Filed under Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Uncategorized

“Lobster again? YUCK”: Classic New England Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

My Mother grew up on Naushon, a small island off of Cape Cod where her father was the local captain of the ferry to the mainland. The Alberts Family didn’t have much money, but they were rich in many other ways,  had a strong commitment to each other, and a sort of ‘salt of the earth’ quality that one discovers as they slowly let you in. Life on the island was a far cry from childhood today with its text messages and 8 year olds with cell phones. It was a simpler time where imaginary play was Queen, the footpaths and pickup football games King, and the rest of life simply something waiting to be discovered.

Lobster was a regular (and affordable) occurrence on Naushon and was met with groans and grumbles from the kids. The fact that my mom and her five siblings would say, “Ugh…lobster AGAIN?!?” is something I’ve never been quite able to understand.

40 years later lobster has again become the delicacy for my Mother that it always has been for me. The tough red shell guarding the buttery and tender meat inside feels like the perfect combination of hard work and reward.

Home for the weekend in Ipswich, MA between client meetings in NYC and Boston, my mother and I decided to make a lobster bisque as a treat and celebration of this year’s holiday season.

Serve generous bowls with nothing more than warmed crusty bread and cold salted butter.

Pairs best with a slightly sweeter wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.

6 bowl servings

Lobster Bisque


3 lobsters, about 1 lb each (because you will be boiling them and cutting up the meat you can get the less expensive culls or soft shell lobsters)

4 TB Butter

½ cup flour

3 TB olive oil

1 large diced yellow onion

2 large diced celery stalks

1 large diced carrot

3 chopped garlic cloves

1/3 cup tomato paste

2/3 cup sherry

4 cups fish stock or poultry stock

2 TB chopped fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

¾ cup whipping cream


To prepare lobster

Poor little lobsters

1. Fill a large pot with 6 inches of water. Bring to a boil, apologize to the lobsters, and drop them in the boiling water. (I should confess that I usually try and pawn this task of on whatever male is closet and most eager to prove his masculinity). Cook for 10 minutes or until you can smell the lobsters. Remove lobsters and place in a large bowl to cool. Reserve 2 cups of lobster cooking liquid and set aside. Shell lobsters over the bowl to catch liquid. Set aside meat and shells.

To make soup base:

1.     Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook until it turns light brown. Set aside.

2.     Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot. When oil is rippling, add lobster shells and bodies. Sauté 5-7 minutes or until shells begin to brown. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Stir in sherry, lobster liquid, fish stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour.

3.     Strain through a sieve into a large saucepan, pressing on solids. Discard shells. Return liquid to stove over medium heat and reduce to 4 cups. Whisking constantly, add the browned butter and flour mixture ¼ cup at a time into the lobster until it thickens. Lower heat. Stir in cream and add chopped lobster meat, setting aside a cup of chopped meat for garnish. Simmer 3-5 minutes, but do not allow to boil.

Serve hot in warmed bowls topped with evenly divided lobster meat.

Adapted from Flavors of the Season by Chrissi Pappas


Filed under Soups, Uncategorized

Healthy and satisfying, who knew? : Shrimp, Asparagus Fettuccine with Pesto

Shrimp, Asparagus fettucine with Pesto

We are thick (no pun intended) in the middle of the time of year that can easily do a number on our waistlines and check books. With endless holiday parties to attend, too many glasses of wine, lack of time to exercise, and the constant pressure of consumerism that our society seems to thrive on, it’s easy to feel like being healthy is simply the thing that’s going to have to go by the wayside. At least until January 1 when we berate ourselves with New Years resolutions and a vow to do better in 2010.

If you’re a regular reader of Shut Up and Cook you’ve probably realized that I’m not the kind of girl who orders the garden salad for dinner with the dressing on the side please. Admittedly blessed with a reasonable metabolism and fortunately a 5’10” frame to fill, I am never one to trade flavor for deprivation. That said, even the best of us sometime need to trim down, tone up, and be a little kinder to our bodies.

Serves 6.

A lovely simple, mid-week dinner.

Shrimp, Asparagus Fettucine with Pesto


8 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup sliced jarred roasted red peppers

1/4 cup prepared pesto

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound raw shrimp, (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined

1 cup dry white wine

Freshly ground pepper, to taste


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook for 3 minutes less than the package directions specify. Add asparagus and continue cooking until the pasta and asparagus are just tender, about 3 minutes more. Reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drain the fettuccine and asparagus and return to the pot. Stir in peppers and pesto. Cover to keep warm.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until pink, about 3 minutes. Add wine, increase heat to high and continue cooking until the shrimp are curled and the wine is reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and the reserved cooking water to the pasta; toss to coat. Season with pepper and serve immediately.

Compliments of EatingWell. A fantastic source for yummy and healthy meals.

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Filed under Health Conscious, Pasta, Uncategorized

Not your Grandmother’s Beef Stroganoff

There are those dishes that we associate with our youth. Things that our parents served that we perhaps clamored for, maybe grumbled about, or just tolerated. Beef Stroganoff was something my mother used to make, although I don’t recall particularly caring for it. The other night as I was flipping through The Bon Appetit Cookbook I found a recipe that looked just right. Upon careful inspection I realized that stroganoff is little more than beef, mushrooms, cream, and pasta. All things I adore. And so, I set out to make the ultimate Beef Stroganoff.

This recipe puts my mama’s to shame I’m afraid to say. The Beef Tenderloin Tail is a perfect way to get an indulgent cut of meat at a fraction of the cost. I used Cremini mushrooms but you could certainly make the dish fancier by making it with assorted wild mushrooms.

The end result was tender, medium-rare meat, simmered in a mushroom, cream sauce with a hint of sherry. The flavors were perfect together and it found just the right balance of being rich, without being heavy.

Serves 4-6
Present on top of wide egg noodles that have been tossed with butter.
Pair with a rich, bold red wine such as a California Cabernet.

Beef Stroganoff

2 1/2 lb well-trimmed beef tail tenderloin roast, cut into 2 x 1 x 1/2 inch strips (you may have to specially  ask your butcher for this, but it is delicious and about half the cost of straight tenderloin)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

1 lb mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 cup beef broth

2 TB Sherry or Cognac

1 cup creme fraiche or whipping cream

1/2 TB Dijon mustard

1 TB chopped fresh dill

Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat until very hot. Working in two batches, add meat in single layer and cook just until brown, about 1 minute per side. Using tongs transfer to a plate and reserve juices. Drain any additional oil from pan and wipe out pan with paper towel.

Mushrooms and Shallots

Melt butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Adding shallots and saute until tender, scraping up any browned bits, about 2 minutes. Add mushroom and saute until mushrooms brown and juices evaporate. About 10 minutes. Be sure to keep stirring the mushrooms so they don’t brown too much. Add broth, then Sherry. Simmer until sauce thickens and just coats mushrooms, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in creme fraiche and mustard. Add meat and any accumulated juices from plate. Simmer over medium-low heat until meat is heated through but still medium rare, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Top egg noodles with beef and sauce…ENJOY!


Filed under Comfort Foods, Uncategorized

Home Sweet Home: Chicken Pie with Biscuits

Chicken Pie with Biscuit Crust

Part of what I love about traveling is discovering a place through its food. What people eat, how they cook it, what their rituals are for sharing it together; all these things can give you an insight into their world far better than travel books or tour guides.

Just back from San Pedro, a little caye off of Belize and feeling relaxed, recharged and happy. We ate incredibly good while we were there (more on that in a later post), but I did also find myself itching to get back into my kitchen and making the cozy foods that have come to be synonymous with Winter for me.

Nothing says that better than Gourmet Chicken Pie.

Serves 6-8

This recipe calls for cooked chicken making it a great way to use leftovers. If you don’t have any cooked chicken just poach a few chicken breasts.

Offer with a simple Italian Red Table Wine. I find this recipe needs no sides, but certainly you could always add a green side salad if you like.


4 cups chicken stock

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

3/4 lb red potatoes, quartered and cut into 2 inch pieces (about double the size of carrots)

2 large celery ribs, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into 3 inch pieces

3/4 stick butter

1 medium onion, chopped

6 TB Flour

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup minced parsley

For Biscuit Crust:

1 1/3 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 TB cold, unsalted butter cut into bits

2 TB vegetable shortening, cut into bits

1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar

1 large egg

1/3 cup well shaken buttermilk

1 TB Butter (for brushing the tops of biscuits with).


Bring stock to a boil. Add carrots, potatoes and celery and simmer, uncovered just until tender.

(In my opinion one of the great flaws of most Chicken Pie is the over-cooked (read: mushy), veggies. Just lightly cook these enough that with about 20 more minutes in the over at 450 they’ll be tender, but not over done.)

With a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Reserve broth for later.

Melt butter in 2 – 3 quart sauce pan. Add onions and cook, occasionally stirring until softened. About 6-8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring for 3 minutes, to make a roux. Add reserved  broth in slow stream whisking constantly and bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking, for 3 minutes. Stir in nutmeg and parsley. Remove from heat. Pour gravy over chicken and vegetables and stir just until combined. Pour into 4 QT baking dish.

Biscuit Crust:

Put rack in middle of oven and pre-heat to 450 degrees.

Biscuit Making in Process

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Blend in butter and shortening* until mixture resembles a course meal. Stir in cheese.

*(this is where a pastry blender, one of those silly, only does one job, kitchen gadgets really comes in handy. If you don’t have one you can use your hands or two forks).

Break egg into a measuring cup and add enough buttermilk to total 1/2 cup. Add to flour mixture, stirring until a dough forms. Gather into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out as many as you can, then gather scraps, re-roll, and repeat.

Arrange biscuits on tops of filling, brush with butter, prick with a fork.

Bake until biscuits are puffed and golden and filling is bubbling. About 15 – 25 minutes.

Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

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Filed under Comfort Foods, Uncategorized