Tuesday, December 10, 2013

High Class For The Holidays

Our most recent dinner/donation auctioned for $1,000.00 dollars for six to join Kat and me at Wolfpack Ranch for a six course gourmet feed.  When someone lays out ten crisp Franklins for a meal, over one hundred sixty bucks a plate, they expect and deserve to be well fed...not only well, but memorably.
How does one offer up a meal worth that kind of money?
And here's just one menu to accomplish that:

Gourmet Supper for Eight


Served with Champagne
Crab artichoke dip or tapanade
Crunchy Parmesan Onion Squares


Shellfish in clear bullion


Lobster, avocado, fresh grapefruit on butter lettuce

Fish Course:

Salmon and asparagus in parchment (en pappette)

Citrus Sorbet

Beef Course:

Tenderloin strip basted in simple sauce (see recipe)
Mushroom Gravy
Port wine reduction
Red & Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled and braised


Berry mélange in phyllo cups with Cointreau whipped cream

After dinner:  Coffee, liquors, and a great single malt

An old cowhand once advised me, “If there’s a hill to climb, waitin’ won’t make it smaller.”

So here’s how to get it done…


Crunchy Parmesan Onion Squares

·      4 slices 7 grain bread, dark wheat, or dark rye, but a hardy seven grain with lots of nut and grain solids really makes this dish.
·      1 cup grated or packaged finely-shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
·      ½ cup mayonnaise
·      tblsp minced scallion or white or yellow onion
·      1 tsp sage
·      Paprika to sprinkle
·      1/8 tsp (generous 1/8 teaspoon) cayenne pepper

Trim crusts and cut bread slices into six or eight 1.5 inch squares per slice (or if you want to be fancy, cut to your favorite shape with a cookie cutter).  Arrange on a baking sheet and place on the upper rack of a 400 degree preheated oven, cook 3 to 4 minutes until golden (or if you’re lazy like me, pop them in the toaster before trimming, and don’t brother with further browning of the toast until topped with the mixture).  Remove to top with mixture.  Leave oven on.

Mix together cheese, minced onion, cayenne, sage, and mayonnaise.

Top each square with a rounded amount (about 1 scant tablespoon) of mix and return to baking sheet.  Place back in oven for six minutes or until cheese is browning, remove, cool slightly, dust with paprika, and serve.  If you want to get real fancy, top each one with a few bay shrimp, but don’t brown too much if you use the tender shrimp.

Note:  While on our honeymoon in 1985 Kat and I wheeled our little rented Fiat off the highway into Parma (the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano), in the middle of Italy between Portofino and Venice.  We wandered into an Italian restaurant on the square in front of the local castle (where no one spoke much English) and told them in our broken Italian/English, “Please, bring us what you’re proud of.” If you’re adventurous it’s a phrase that always brings a smile to the waiter and the very best to your plate.  We had a fabulous meal, beginning with bruchettas, but what impressed me most was the cart the waiter rolled to the table with a half dozen pastas in various sauces and a half dozen vegetable dishes, in addition to our entree.  It was take what you want, the Italian version of a buffet, only with black tie service…and fabulous is an understatement.  Come to think of it, I want to go back! 


For all these Bruschettas begin with a nice baguette, sliced about 3/8” thick.  I always cut on an angle as they’re more interesting and a little longer and slimmer if you do.  Toast under oven broiler until brown, turn and toast the other side.  If you love garlic like I do, peel a couple of fat cloves, cut them in half, and rub the top side of the toasted bread to impart a thin layer.  Brush on a thin coat of extra virgin olive oil.  Using a slotted spoon top with one or more of the following, or better yet, serve the toppings in small bowls and let your guests top their own with a slotted spoon:


·      ½ dozen two inch round button mushrooms
·      1 tblsps soy sauce
·      1 tsp sesame oil
·      ¼ stick butter
·      ½ fresh lemon
·      ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
·      2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
·      Garlic salt
·      Lemon Pepper

Clean mushrooms well and dice to ¼ inch (or slice very thin).  Chop parsley fine.  Leave oregano leafs whole.  Sautee mushrooms quickly in a couple of pads of butter and sesame oil.  Add oregano.  Sprinkle in a teaspoon of soy sauce, a ½ teaspoon of garlic salt, a ½ teaspoon of lemon pepper.  Add parsley and squeeze in the juice of a medium lemon.  Mix well the pull it off the fire.  Don’t overcook!   This should do to top six to eight rounds from the baguette, maybe more depending upon the size of the mushrooms.


·      4 medium tomatoes, dead ripe if possible
·      2 tblsp soy sauce
·      ½ tsp garlic salt.
·      ½ tsp cumin
·      1 tsp white balsamic vinegar or ½ teaspoon of wine vinegar
·      2 tblsp of chopped chives or green onion tops
·      1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
·      1 2.25 oz. can of sliced olives, drain well
·      2 heaping tblsps fresh basil leafs if available.
·      salt (sea salt if you have it) and fresh ground pepper to taste

Blanch ripe tomatoes in boiling water until the skin loosens, put under cold water, peel and cool.  Many cooks like to seed the tomatoes, but I like the flavor and believe in the nutritional value of tomato seeds.  There are over 10,000 compounds in a tomato and no one knows how much good they are for your health—I think they’re very, very good.  Use your own discretion.  Core any green stem and discard.  Dice tomatoes ¼ to ½ inch and put in a small mixing bowl.  Stir in all ingredients then salt and pepper to taste.  Serve this with 1/8 inch slices of mozzarella sized to fit baguette rounds if you want to get fancy and imitate a caprese insalata.   


2 six inch long zucs.
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon capers
1 tblsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
A full head of roasted garlic

Cut the tops off a large head or two of garlic and place in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until it squeezes out of each clove like toothpaste.  Chop zucs into 1/8 to ¼ inch cubes and drop into a small frying pan on medium heat, soften in olive oil.  Add balsamic, salt and pepper to taste, and add capers to warm just before removing from heat.  Spread a thin layer of roasted garlic on each toasted baguette, top with mixture.

Crab/artichoke tapenade or dip

1 cup good quality mayonnaise
6-8 oz of crab
¼ cup grated onion
1 teaspoon curry
1 14 oz can of artichoke hearts

Clean crab and make sure there’s no shell and separate strands so it will spread easily.  Trim artichokes to make sure there are no tough leaves, then chop into ½ to ¾ inch lengths.  Mix all ingredients in a small baking dish and place in a 350 degree oven until slightly browned on top, about 25 minutes. Serve this with baguette rounds as above, or with chips to dip. 
Serve Champagne with appetizers


Shellfish in bullion

·      1 lemon
·      6 chicken bullion cubes
·      4 cups of water
·      16 mussels in the shell
·      16 clams in the shell
·      8 large sea scallops
·      ¼ cup fresh parsley (Italian if possible)
·      1 heaping tablespoon of cilantro
·      1 bunch of green onions
·      ½ cube of butter
·      sea salt and white pepper (or plain salt and pepper)

This is a simple but elegant soup.  Chop parsley.  Chop white portions of green onions, leaving tops whole.  Trim green tops and slice the long way, so you have long tender shoots of green.  Clean shellfish by soaking for a few minutes in cold water (don’t leave too long or you’ll drown the clams and mussels) and remove beards from mussels.  Boil water, white portions of onions, and bullion cubes until dissolved.  Slice lemon very, very thin, and remove seeds.  Drop in shellfish until the first shell opens, then add scallops and cook until the scallops are no longer translucent.  This will only take a very few minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in large shallow soup bowls, with two mussels, two clams and one scallop per bowl, garnish each bowl with a sprinkled ½ teaspoon of parsley, sprinkled pinch of cilantro, a couple of thin seeded lemon slices, a crisscross of three or five green onion strands, and a thin pad of butter floating in the middle, and serve.

Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or a dry Pino Grigio


Lobster, grapefruit, avocado, butter lettuce

·      2 cups lobster meat (two large or four small tails will do, equal amount of jumbo shrimp or king crab will work)
·      1 large head or two small heads cold butter lettuce
·      2  14 oz jars or cans of pink grapefruit (reserve juice)
·      2 Hass avocados
·      ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
·      ¼ cup water
·      1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
·      ½ large or one small lemon
·      paprika to sprinkle

Clean and separate lettuce leaves and distribute on eight salad places.  Drain but reserve the juice from the grapefruit.  Separate lobster (or shrimp or crab) but leave in large bite size chunks.  Distribute seafood to plates.  Slice avocado and distribute ¼ to each place.  Mix olive oil, water, rice wine vinegar, juice of ½ large or one small lemon, and ½ cup reserved grapefruit juice, and drizzle lightly over each plate.  Sprinkle with paprika. 

Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or a dry Pino Grigio

Fish Course

Salmon in parchment, en papette

·      1 or 2   skinned salmon filets, about 2 lbs each
·      16 spears of asparagus (thin)
·      2 lemons
·      1 basket tiny tomatoes or 2 ripe medium tomatoes
·      1 yellow or white onion
·      Dill seeds
·      Dill weed
·      Lemon pepper
·      Garlic salt
I much prefer wild caught salmon over raised and artificially colored salmon.  Skinned salmon is easier to eat, but skin-on will work.  Cut eight pieces of parchment paper in 10” by 15” pieces (it normally comes in 15” wide rolls).  I use the office paper cutter.  Slice salmon across the filet in 1 ½ to 2 inch wide pieces until you have eight servings 5 to 6 ounces each.  Place salmon pieces skin side down on parchment.  Sprinkle dill seed, then dill weed, liberally over salmon, say ¼ teaspoon of each, and pat down.  Sprinkle lightly with lemon pepper and garlic salt.  Line one side of salmon with tomatoes, usually four to six small one or a quarter of a medium diced tomato (blanch and skin before dicing).  Chop into ¼” cubes and sauté onion in butter until translucent and line the other side of salmon with onion.  Line the top of salmon with two spears of asparagus then top with thin slices of lemon, usually three slices.  Fold salmon into parchment paper and place on a sheet pan, then into a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Serve in paper with a “bone bowl” in the center of table for discarded papers.
Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or a dry Pino Grigio 


·      2 cups granulated sugar
·      2 cups cold water
·      1 ½ cup fresh lemon and/or lime juice (retain 8 lemon halves)
·      1 tablespoon grated lemon or lime zest (optional)

I use a Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker for this preparation but you can use any ice cream maker or merely freeze in a bowl if you wish, stirring a couple of times during freezing so you don’t end up with a block of ice. 

In a saucepan bring water and sugar to a boil then set aside to cool.  I’ve made this without taking the time to dissolve sugar first and it works fine.  When cool, add lemon/lime juice and zest. Pour into frozen bowl of ice cream maker and mix until thick (twenty five minutes or more). Place in a covered bowl in the freezer at least three hours before serving.  Clean the pulp from the lemon halves and trim the bottoms just so they’ll stand upright (don’t cut all the way through).  When sorbet has hardened, use an ice cream scoop and shape scoops so they fit nicely into lemon halves.  Kat and I serve in martini glasses between fish and meat courses to clean the pallet, but they also look great on the plate alongside the salmon.

If it’s too hard to scoop when fresh out of the freezer, slip in the microwave on high for 20 seconds and it should scoop easily.

Meat Course

Tenderloin strip [filet] cooked whole and sliced

Filet and simple sauce:

Filet strip w/simple sauce and port wine reduction.
Red and Yukon Gold new potatoes
Mushroom gravy

·      1 whole tenderloin 6 lbs plus or minus)
·      2 tblsp garlic salt
·      2 tblsp pepper (or lemon pepper)
Simple sauce:

·      ½ cup soy sauce
·      1 cube butter
·      2 beef bullion cubes
I usually trim the last narrow eight inches or so off the loin and slice into steaks for Kat and I as the remaining thick end of the loin will easily serve eight, particular with the double entrée.  The rest we’re cooking whole either in the oven or on the grill.

Simple sauce:  Mix all ingredients and heat in a small sauce pan until the butter is melted and the bullion cubes are dissolved.  Set aside, but keep warm enough so the butter doesn’t coagulate.

I use a three burner barbeque, spray the grill with cooking oil to help prevent sticking, then preheat it as hot as I can get it. 

Garlic salt and pepper the room temperature loin.  Place the loin to one side (so the burner under that side can be turned off) and sear on all sides.  If there’s fat on the loin it may flame up, but that’s okay so long as you don’t get a real carbon layer.  When browned well, just a few minutes, turn the burner off under the loin, reduce the other burners to medium, close the lid if you have one, or if you don’t tent with aluminum foil.  Cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part is 120 to 125 degrees.  Pour simple sauce over loin, turning to coat all sides, and remove.  Let steep a few minutes before slicing.  Serve in sliced portions floating on light coating of port wine reduction.    

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec or Shiraz

Port wine reduction:

·      1 ½  cups of decent port wine
·      3 tsps granulated sugar
·      ½ tsp Accent or other MSG* (if you use, if not, ignore; see note hereinafter)
·      salt

In a saucepan reduce port wine, sugar, and MSG to ½ volume.  Salt lightly.  Keep warm.


16 Small Yukon potatoes
16 Small red potatoes
½ cup rough chopped parsley (preferably Italian)
season salt

Drop potatoes in pre-salted water for ten minutes.  Preheat a large skillet with a combination of olive oil and butter, at least a couple of tablespoons each until oil and butter begins to brown.  Add potatoes and pepper then brown, turning until spotted brown on two or three sides.  Salt lightly with season salt.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Toss and serve.

Mushroom gravy:

8 ounces white or crimini mushrooms (or any mushroom you prefer)
1 ½      cup water
½ cup rich red wine, cabernet sauvignon or burgundy
3 bullion cubes
½ teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tblesp Wondra or all purpose flour
butter or olive oil if you prefer
Pinch of cumin

Sauté mushrooms in butter in medium frying pan just to soften, remove from pan and set aside.  In same frying pan deglaze by adding all but ½ cup water, wine, bullion cubes, and soy sauce and bring to a boil until bullions cubes are dissolved.  Make slurry of remaining water and flour or Wondra and stir into boiling liquid.  Thicken to desired consistency; if necessary add a little more flour and water slurry.  Add cumin and pepper to taste.  Add back mushrooms and serve hot.

*I’ve long used MSG and never had a problem with it, nor met anyone who has.  I researched it on the web and again found no proof or even claim that it causes headaches, etc.  But as always, it’s your kitchen, please use your own discretion.


Berries in phyllo cups:

·      2 packages (12 cups by count) phyllo cups (buy at market pre-made) or package of flat phyllo dough or pie dough
·      1 carton strawberries (approximately 2 cups)
·      1 carton blackberries or raspberries (approx-imately 1 cup)
·      1 carton blueberries (approximately 1 cup)
·      1 tablespoon corn starch
·      1 cup granulated sugar
·      1 pint whipping cream
·      ¾ cup water
·      powdered sugar
·      Cointreau if you like

In lieu of phyllo cups (sometimes hard to find) you can use phyllo dough and cook in flat six inch squares, or in lieu of that, bake plain pie dough in six inch squares.  Sprinkle sugar on phyllo or pie dough squares if you use them.

While phyllo or pie dough is baking per recipe on box, clean berries.  Place a cup of strawberries, ¾ cup water, and ½ cup granulated sugar in blender and buzz until it’s a liquid.  Place in sauce pan large enough to hold liquid and the rest of the berries.  Heat liquid until slightly thickened, add berries just to heat—don’t cook berries, just warm them up.  Beat whipping cream and add sugar to taste.  Add ½ oz  Cointreau if you like.  
If you use phyllo cups place each of them in the center of a serving plate and fill with berry mixture.  Overflow if extra mixture, and there should be.  Top with whipped cream.  If you use flat phyllo or pie dough spoon mixture into plates and top with dough square, then dress plate with whipped cream.

Serve with Guerwitzterminer or Reisling

Coffee and/or after dinner liquors


  1. Y'know, Larry, you will need a 'taster' on hand to make sure everything has come out right before you serve the meal. I would be willing to do that for you. As a favor, you understand. No charge.

  2. What a great menu. Thank you for the recipes. Now to make it gluten free, shouldn't be that difficult. YUMMM!! Doris

  3. L. J.,

    Years ago I would be with Frank Roderus, standing in line.

    Reading the menus just makes me hungry.

    But...all those years of hard living have about done me in, all I can eat now, is mush. AND...sometimes not even that.


  4. All these wonderful meals, Larry. You are so gifted and talented -- I know to you it must seem easy after all these years, but to me, I read this and think...Could I really do that? LOL I'm going to try!