Filet Mignon, Pupu-Style with Baked Garlic and Gorgonzola Sauce

I served this Pupu (Appetizer) on New Year’s Eve 2009 for a special treat for my family and friends, Tom and Holly, who were joining us. I had already pre-prepared my entree, Seafood Gratin, and it was ready to go in the oven. So, I could get started on the Filet Mignon Pupu.

Serving a filet as a Pupu is a more economical great way to give everyone a taste of a great cut of meat, with delicious flavor. Count on about 1 filet for every two people. This recipe can also be used to serve Filet Mignon as an entree. My husband and guests swooned over this recipe. Definitely a keeper.

Filet Mignon Pupu-Style with Baked Garlic & Gorgonzola Sauce

Serves 8
4 – 4-6 oz Filet Mignon Steaks
Extra-virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp finely chopped Rosemary
4 large cloves baked garlic
4 pats butter

Baked Garlic

2 heads of Garlic
Cut top of head of garlic
Drizzle with olive oil
Bake is small oven-proof dish at 400 for about 25 minutes. Let cool.
Remove 4 large cloves from one of the heads for the Filet Mignon recipe, and save the rest to serve with and spread on a fresh French Baguette.

Gorgonzola Sauce

1 Large Shallot (diced)
2 Cups Beef Stock
1 Tsp finely diced Rosemary
1 Cup Dry Sherry or Madiera Wine
1/4 Cup Dry Red Wine
4 oz Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp Butter

Cooking the Steaks – This is a FOOLPROOF way to cook Filet Mignon

Preheat oven to 375.

Salt and pepper all sides of 4 Filet Mignon steaks (4-6 oz each)
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in stainless steel or enameled cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.

Add steaks to pan. Sear each side for 3 minutes, flipping with tongs.

Remove steaks and place on baking sheet.
Bake steaks in oven for 8 minutes (med rare) – set timer. Start making Gorgonzola Sauce with same pan used to sear steaks (see below).

When timer goes off, remove baking sheet, leave oven on. Flip steaks.
Smash a baked garlic clove (see Baked Garlic, above) on each filet and spread with butter knife. Sprinkle each steak with a about 1/2 tsp of rosemary, and top with a pat of butter.
Return steaks to oven. Bake for an additional 8 minutes (med rare) – set timer. Go back to making sauce.

When timer goes off, remove steaks from oven. Let rest for a few minutes, while finishing up Sauce.

Save any accumulated juices and add to Gorgonzola Sauce.

Slice and serve Pupu-Style with Gorzonzola Dipping Sauce, French Bread & Baked Garlic OR
Serve Filets individually, as entrees, in a pool of Gorgonzola Sauce or with a Gorgonzola Sauce drizzle.

Preparing Gorgonzola Sauce

In same skillet used for searing steaks, which should still have some olive oil remaining, saute shallot and 1 tps rosemary for 2-3 minutes, over medium-high heat, until shallots are slightly translucent. There should be some accumulated brown bits from the steaks. Add the sherry or madiera, and red wine. Deglaze pan and reduce liquid to about 1/2, stirring with a wire whisk. Add 1 Tbsp butter, stirring to melt. Add 1 cup beef stock, reducing again to about 1/2. Add another Tbsp of butter. Continue stirring. Add 2d up of the beef stock, reduce again to about 1/2.

Add gorzonzola cheese crumbles, stirring with a whisk until melted and blended. Add any available drippings from cooked filets.
Reduce sauce, if necessary, until slightly thickened. It will still be a bit runny. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use as dipping sauce or drizzle on meat.

Champagne Seafood Gratin: New Year's Dinner Part I

This year my husband had to work late on New Year’s Eve. Since President Obama is in Kailua, Marines involved in Homeland Defense all had to work overtime and split up the holidays. But I still wanted to make dinner special and memorable, even if late. So I needed something I could prepare in advance and then pop in the oven just before he was due home (around 10:00pm) — a real treat. After all, this was his first New Year’s Eve home after spending a year in Iraq.

And besides being New Year’s Eve, this day was extra special because we got to meet President Obama, in person, near our home in Kailua. Along with several of our neighbors, my son and I gathered, watching him play golf, and were delighted when he stopped to chat and shake hands. Needless to say we were excited and happy and even more hopeful for 2010 after shaking hands with the President. But I digress.

I decided to make a Seafood Gratin, livened up with Champagne, and Filet Mignon, served Pupu style, with a Gorgonzola sauce. Side dish was White Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto. French Bread with Baked Garlic and a Nice Tossed Salad. Champagne to drink!

I started with the Champagne Seafood Gratin. This a a delicious and rich dish which may be served as either an entree or a first course, depending upon the serving size. I made this in entree size, in medium sized gratin dishes. You can also make this really festive by serving in large scallop shells.

Champagne Seafood Gratin
1 stick (8 Tbs) butter
2 lbs scallops (foot muscle removed) and/or shrimp (peeled and deveined, with no tails)
3/4 tsp Dried Thyme Powder
1 Bay leaf
1 large shallot
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 cup dry champagne/sparkling wine (or any dry white wine)
6 Tbsp Panko bread crumbs (Italian-style preparation, if you can find them)
2 Tbs Wondra pre-sifted flour
3 oz Pancetta (gently cooked, diced bacon may be substituted)
1 pound button mushrooms
6 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 1/4 cup Shredded Gruyere Cheese
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tsp lemon zest

Prep Work:
Mash together until combined 3 tbs softened butter and all of the Wondra flour.
Dice the shallot
Finely dice the tarragon (for topping)
Finely dice the pancetta (for topping)
Finely grate Parmesan Cheese (for topping)
Slice all mushrooms
Juice the lemon, remove seeds, zest skin (zest for topping)
Whisk together heavy cream and egg yolks
Shred Gruyere Cheese

Large stainless steel or enameled cast iron skillet, Slotted spoon, spatula, sieve, large plate, 1 medium bowl.

(1) Add the diced shallot to the skillet and saute over medium heat, with 3 tbs butter.

(2) Add Bay Leaf and dried Thyme. Stir.
(3) Add seafood. I used about a pound of bay scallops and a pound of bay shrimp, because that is what I already had in my freezer. I prefer to use larger scallops and shrimp. You can use all shrimp or all scallops, any size is fine.

(4) Toss seafood in butter. Add champagne and lemon juice. Depending upon the size of the seafood, cook 1-4 minutes, until just undercooked.

(5) Remove seafood from pan, with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a plate. If seafood is large, cut into bite sized pieces.
(6) Strain cooking juices from pan through a sieve into a medium bowl, removing shallots and bay leaf & disgarding them.
(7) Add 2 Tbsp butter to same pan. Toss in sliced mushrooms and saute, over medium heat, until softened and reduced, about 3-4 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and add to seafood plate.
(8) Add reserved cooking liquid back to same pan in which the mushrooms were cooked. Reduce by 1/2. Add the four/butter mixture to the pan gradually in small plops, whisking to combine and make a smooth mixture.

(9) Add the heavy cream/egg yolk mixture slowly, while continuing to whisk, over low heat for 2 minutes, making sure that mixture does not boil. Sauce should be thickening.
(10) Slowly whisk in 1 1/4 cup gruyere cheese, making sure sauce stays smooth. Turn up heat slightly to melt the cheese, if necessary.

(10) When all cheese is melted and you have a thick sauce, add the mushrooms and seafood back into the sauce stirring gently. Remove from heat.
(11) Evenly pour seafood mixture into six indvidual gratin dishes. Set aside filled dishes on a baking sheet.

Topping: Combine bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, diced pancetta, diced tarragon, and lemon zest in a dish. Spinkle topping evenly over each gratin dish.

To serve immediately, place under low broiler for a few minutes until topping is toasted.
Or you can refrigerate, to serve later. To reheat, bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with a tossed salad, something very light and simple. This is a very rich dish. French bread is great, as a side, and delicious when dipped in the sauce.

Weekend Gourmet's 10 Favorite Kitchen Things

Post Christmas … I hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends and I hope Santa brought everyone lots of nice things for your kitchen!!

I was fortunate enough to recieve some great items from my dear husband and son. A cookbook, the quintessential Julia Child volume: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Wonder how he got the idea for that one? Some super-cute ceramic measuring cups from Pier One, and last but not least, a tiny little mortar and pestle. Can wait to use them all!

But these gifts got me thinking about putting together a wish list of my own (I do foresee a copper bowl on the list), and of my most Favorite Things in My Kitchen. So I’ve compiled a list of my current favorite things. These are things I really would not want to live without and that I use fairly regularly. Would love comments and to hear more about your OWN favorites.
~ Aloha

(1) Le Creuset 5 1/2 Quart Cast Iron French Oven

My all-time favorite piece. I actually have this in green, not yellow, but any color is grand. Le Creuset is a classic cookware manufacturer. This is a heavy cast iron pot with easy to clean enamel interior. I use this pot or one in another size for so many things. Stews, soups, 1 dish meals, searing, braising, roasting. Though heavy, they are still great for transporting items you have to keep hot. These are expensive, heirloom pieces, but well worth the price. (Buy Your Own.)

(2) Polder 11 Pound Food Scale
Love this scale! We use it all the time. Looks great in the kitchen too!
(Buy Your Own.)

(3) Microplane Zester

Another super-handy item. Grate ginger, lemon zest, parmesan cheese, or chocolate. Mmm, so easy and quick!  (Buy Your Own.)

(4) Silicon Baking Sheet Liners
Designed for baking, but I use them for roasting veggies also. Makes cleanup on your baking sheets quick and easy. Used these last for Oven Roasted Tomatoes. Just be careful with them. No knives!! They will last quite a while. Perfect for removing items from baking sheets, to cool, also. Great to have several on hand. (Buy Your Own.)

(5) Le Creuset Silicon Spoons/Spatulas

Must-have for use in all your enameled cast-iron cookware, and in your non-stick pots and pans, as well. I could not live without these. My non-stick pans now seem to last forever, since I started using these! (Buy Your Own.)

(6) Skimmmer/ Strainer Basket with Handle

These are of an Asian design, used for things like potstickers. Great for pasta, gnocci, or dumplings, but also for hardboiled eggs and veggies. Pull anything out of boiling water or broth that won’t fit through the cracks. Love this tool!  (Buy Your Own.)

(7) Bamboo Tongs
I know it is not smart, but I can’t tell you how many times I have burned my fingers moving and removing cooking food prior to owning these. Tongs are a necessity and these bamboo ones are beautiful and “green,” as well! (Buy Your Own.)


(8) Lots of Little Bowls

Oodles and Oodles of Bowls! Little bowls are so versatile. I love little bowls and ramekins. A pinch of this and a pinch of that. Organize all those ingredients for cooking. Give each of your guests dipping sauces on the side. Serve yourself just enough — but not too much — in a little bowl. Kids love things in little bowls too! Little bowls are just gosh darn cute!! These are from Crate & Barrel.
(9) Mandoline
This tool is a new addition to my kitchen which I absolutely adore. After all, who doesn’t want to have perfectly sliced scalloped potatoes. Easy and quick and, most importantly, sure to cook evenly. I picked up the De Buyer Kobra slicer for about $40, on sale, at Williams-Sonoma because I was there, but you can spend 5 times that for a good mandoline or even less, if you look around. I find this price point and model is fine for my needs.  (Buy Your Own.)

(10) Magnetic Knife Rack

I don’t have a knife block, but prefer a magnetic knife holder. Keeps the knives near the sink and cutting board, high and away from small hands, and does not take up counter space. This is a great looking bamboo version. Makes me think about upgrading the one I already have.  (Buy Your Own.)

(Bonus Favorite!)
I just couldn’t limit myself to 10. But these are not really a cooking tool, anyway. I could not leave out the one and only Debbie Meyer Green Produce Bags. You’ve seen these on TV and now you are seeing them here! These things actually work! They are the best little bags for storing veggies in the fridge and especially, bananas and tomatoes on the counter. My bananas stay fresh for days, even with our warm humid Hawaii weather. These are a great product. I got them for my husband for Christmas because he likes them so much (but they were kind of really for me, too). (Buy Your Own.)

Love to hear your thoughts and what tools, equipment, and gadgets YOU love in your own kitchen!


Herbed Garlic-Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib

This year we spent Christmas on Oahu. Just had a small gathering with a few of our friends and neighbors.  We missed our extended family, but it was still one of the best Christmas seasons ever. People in Hawaii are suprisingly festive, despite a lack of cold weather, and there are many events for the entire month. Most, if not all, of the holiday traditions on the mainland are followed here in Hawaii. Especially when it comes to food.

Nothing says Christmas Dinner more, to me, than Prime Rib. I have nothing against turkey or ham, but these are my favorites only for Thanksgiving. Something a little more special is perfect for Christmas. Delicious, savory, satisfying … just as good for left overs. Prime Rib on Christmas has become a tradition in our home and one well worth continuing. When you taste this recipe, I think you will agree!

Christmas Dinner – Island Style!!

Herbed Garlic-Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib

1 – 5 lb boneless standing rib roast (cooking instructions are the same for a bone-in roast)
6 Medium Bunches of Fresh Herbs: rosemary, thyme, sage, tarragon
2 TBSP Chopped Rosemary
2 heads Baked Garlic
Sea Salt
1 4 oz Jar prepared Horseradish
1 Stick Butter
2 Boxes Beef Broth

Make Crust for Meat:
Cut top 1/2 inch off of two garlic heads, drizzle with olive oil and then bake 2 heads Garlic at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, until soft. Can be done in advance. Let cool. Squeeze the insides of each clove of baked garlic into food processor bowl. You should have around 30-40 cloves of garlic. Cream garlic together with prepared horseradish and 2 TBSP fresh chopped rosemary.

Sear Meat:
Before cooking, pat roast completely dry. This well help the meat sear. Liberally salt and pepper all sides of the roast. Heat 2 tbs olive oil on med-high heat in heavy stainless steel or cast iron skillet. Place roast in heavy pan and sear each side (all sides) for about minutes each, until browned. Remove meat. Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup red wine. Remove liquid and bits and reserve for later.

Roast Meat:
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Get out large roaster pan with rack. Spread garlic-horseradish mixture thickly on all sides of the seared meat with a spatula. Press and spread three bunches of herbs into bottom crust of roast. Lay roast on roasting rack. Press remaining three bunches of herbs into top and sides of roast. Place several pats of butter on top of herbs on roast. Pour in 1 box of beef stock and the reserved liquid from deglazing. This can all be done in advance, if desired, and the meat refrigerated overnight, but you MUST let roast come to room temperature prior to cooking (this may take up to 2 hours).

Make sure roast is at room temperature. Place roast in the oven. After 15 minutes, turn heat down to 325 degrees. Continue to cook. Cooking time will depend on exact weight of roast and doneness desired. You will need a meat thermometer to test.  I recommend checking the internal temperature after 1 hour, no matter the size of the roast, just to check progress. Also, every 1/2 hour, check beef broth at bottom of pan to ensure that it has not dried up or burned. Continue to add more broth or water, if necessary, so that you have about an inch of liquid at all times.

When the roast reaches the desired doneness (temperature), remove from the oven.   After you take the meat out, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 25-30 minutes, during which the meat will continue to cook a bit more.

For Rare meat, the thermometer should read 120-125 degrees, when inserted into the center at the thickest part of the roast, not touching any bone or fat. Medium-rare is 130-135 degrees.  Medium, 140-145 degrees.  Medium-Well, 150-155 degrees, Well-done, 160 degrees or more.

As an example, a 5 pound roast will take about 1 hr to 1 1/4 hrs total in the oven for Rare. A 10 pound roast will take about 2 to 2 1/4 hrs for Rare. Cooking times may vary greatly, so please use a thermometer. You do not want to ruin this gorgeous and expensive cut of meat.

Making the Jus:
Remove all the pan drippings from the roasting pan, combine with any juices which have settled from the resting roast. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, slightly thickening the liquid. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with and drizzle over meat.

Heaven on Earth Scalloped Potatoes (with Mushrooms)

My friend Karla decided to host a Christmas party at her waterfront home in Hawaii Kai. Fortunately for us, the party coincided with the date of the Hawaii Kai Boat Parade of Lights.  How cool to watch the parade from the ideal location on her lanai, while enjoying a lovely dinner party and Christmas celebration!

The menu for the evening was split between the guests and included:

Filet Mignon
Scalloped Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts
Glazed Carrots
and Assorted Pupus

I was assigned to the Scalloped Potatoes, which was great because I love this dish had some good ideas based on Karla’s suggestion to get fancy and add mushrooms to the dish. This is how super rich and cheesy Heaven-on-Earth Scalloped Potatoes evolved. A classic dish, it also gets earthiness from the addition of the mushrooms. This is a make-again dish the whole family will enjoy.

Heaven on Earth Scalloped Potatoes

4 pounds Peeled Russet Potatoes
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tsp Salt for Potatoes
1  Tsp Salt for Mushrooms
2 Tsp White pepper for Potatoes
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper for Mushrooms
4-6 medium garlic cloves, sent through garlic press
1/2 TBS Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
1 8 oz package of Creme Fraiche
1/2 of an 8 oz package of Gorgonzola Crumbles (4 oz)
3 TBS fresh thyme leaves (or 1 TBSP dried thyme)
1/2 Pound Crimini (Baby Portabellos) Mushrooms

Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice potatoes about 1/8 inch thick with a mandoline slicer or sharp knife. Potatoes need to be evenly sliced or they will not cook evenly.

Mandoline Slicing Potatoes

Toss potatoes on a baking sheet with 2 Tsp salt and white pepper, fresh garlic  and thyme to lightly and evenly coat. Pour heavy cream into a 2 cup glass measuring cup and stir in garlic powder and nutmeg, mixing well. Separate potatoes into four approximately even piles.  Remove  1/4 of the potatoes from baking sheet and arrange evenly in a 2 1/2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup of the cream mixture over the potatoes.

Potato GratinParmesan Cheese Creme Fraiche Gorgonzola

Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Add 1/2 of the creme fraiche, distributing evenly in small dollop and 1/2 of the blue cheese crumbles (2 oz). These cheeses, along with the creme fraiche, will add a nice tang to the dish without being too strong. If you really like gorgonzola cheese, feel free to double the amount of cheese in this recipes to 8 oz. total.  This works well, too.

Repeat the layering with another 1/4 of potatoes, 1/4 cup heavy cream mixture, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 more times.  Add the final 1/2 of creme fraiche and 1/2 (2 oz.) of blue cheese crumbles.  Add last 1/4 potatoes, drizzle with another 1/4 cup of the cream mixture. 

Slice and toss mushrooms in medium bowl with 1 TBS of olive oil and 1 Tsp salt and 1 Tsp black pepper. 
Sliced MushroomsOlice Oil Mushrooms Arrange mushroom slices on top of potatoes around edge of dish. Cover top of mushrooms with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and remaining 1/2 cup of the heavy cream. If you don’t have crimini mushrooms, you may substitute with button mushrooms or mushrooms may be omitted, as well.

Mushrooms on Potatoes

Bake uncovered until potatoes are cooked through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. (If potatoes have been refigerated prior to cooking, either allow to come to room temperature prior to baking or you will need to bake longer.) 

Potatoes with Mushrooms

Remove from oven and let stand 15-20 minutes, serving from the dish. Or if you choose to make this dish in advance, let potatoes cool completely and refrigerate. When ready to serve cut into pieces, place on baking sheet and cover with foil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for about 15-20 minutes until fully heated.

Aloun Farm & Pumpkin Patch For Holiday Fun

This fall, don’t forget to make a stop by Aloun Farms. Aloun Farms is famous, on Oahu, for its Halloween Pumpkin Patch and tours for school children. But have you thought about visiting year around for fresh produce?

Aloun Farms is located on 18 acres in the Ewa and Kunia areas of Oahu and employs 180 people. It’s mission inlcudes the goal of reducing Hawaii’s dependency on mainland produce, by providing competitively priced local products to the people of Hawaii, using sustainable practices and providing education and outreach to the community.

Products grown include pumpkins, of course, and vegetables such as bok choy, zucchini, radishes, onions, eggplant, string beans, cabbage, broccoli, corn, and cucumber. Fruits, such as cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and apple bananas and fresh herbs are also available.

Bring your kids for the Pumpkin Patch and have a great time picking out your Halloween pumpkins! Open Oct. 31, 9am-5pm. Admission is Free, Pumpkins priced on weight. Parking is $3.00. Also, pick-your-own sweet corn – 5 gallon bucket $15, 4 gallon bucket $12.

91-1440 Farrington Hwy
Kapolei, HI 96707
(Take exit 6A)

Pork Tenderloin & Warm Brussel Sprouts Salad

Well, it is hard to be a Weekend Gourmet, when you have even less time than usual. Having my husband deployed for a year was a challenge and studying for and passing the Hawaii Bar in the middle of it all (work and child) kept me busy. But I digress.

Getting back to cooking will be fun, now that my husband is home from Iraq and I have someone other than my 5 year old to appreciate a good meal. Tonight, I am making something different that I think my husband will enjoy — particularly, since he is on a mostly meat and veggie eating plan these days, having lost about 50 pounds, over the past year. Other than the potatoes, this is a low-carb menu.

  • So, Tonight’s Menu:

    *Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin with Onions and Crispy-Fried Sage
    *Warm Brussel Sprouts, Celery, Mushroom and Bacon Salad
    *Sliced White Potatoes

Pretty gosh darn easy and made with what I could find in my fridge.

For the Tenderloin:
Lightly rub sea salt on one package (2 pieces of meat) Pork Tenderloin. Don’t over-salt (the chicken broth you cook the pork in provides additional salt.) Sear over med-high heat in heavy cast iron pot with 1 Tbsp. EVOO until browned on all sides. While pork is browning, chop 1 med. white onion. Remove meat from pan and set aside, saving juices. Add chopped onion and 1 tbp chopped fresh sage to same pan, Saute with an additional TBS EVOO, if needed, until golden. Add meat and juices back into pot and add one box Organic Chicken Broth, scraping browned bits off the bottom of the pan and into the “sauce” with a spatula. Cover and cook on medium heat for 1 hour (Or use slow cooker.) Remove meat from pan and place on serving dish. Broth from meat/onion already should be reduced in pan to about 1 cup. If there is less, add a little water. If more, then reduce, over high heat. Add 1/2 cup of half and half to sauce. Stir. Pour sauce on meat serving platter and use, like gravy, on meat and potatoes. Optional: Top with crispy sage leaves topping just before serving.

For Crispy Sage Topping:
Take 3 tbsp. fresh sage leaves. Melt and heat 1 tsp butter in a small fry pan on high heat. When butter is hot, toss in chopped sage and fry until crisp, when butter is browned. Remove from heat and spoon crispy sage leaves topping on top of meat. May be made in advance, while meat is cooking.

For the Salad:
Chop and then cook 3 pieces of bacon in a skillet on low heat, until soft but not crispy. Slice and add about 15 medium-sized button mushrooms and 1 TBS butter. Saute for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms have softened and reduced. (If you choose to omit the bacon or butter, you may substitute 2 tbsp. EVOO & add a little bit more salt.) Add 12 large brussel spouts sliced in half, sliced-side down in the pan, with other ingredients covering the sprouts. Turn up heat to medium, cover and cook for about 10-12 minutes. The sliced side of sprouts will carmelize and the rest will steam. Add 1 cup chopped celery. Toss together, cook for a few minutes more until celery is just slightly soft. Lightly salt, to taste. Turn off heat, transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, toss with 3 cups mixed field greens. Eat without dressing or toss with a light balsamic vinegar dressing. Veggie mixture may be served on its own, as well, if you prefer to omit the greens.

The Sliced Potatoes:
Wash 2-3 large baking potatoes. Poke with fork and Bake for an hour at 375 degrees (or if in a hurry, cook in microwave on high for 15 minutes). Slice crosswise, in about 1/3 inch slices, immediately before serving. Drizzle with sauce from meat. Omit the potatoes if you are on a low carb diet.

Serves 6.

A'Table Gourmet Cooking - Private Chef Classes & Dinner Parties

A Table Private Chef ServicesMy girlfriend, Kasandra, got an amazing gift for her birthday this year: a private in-home gourmet cooking class and meal. I was fortunate enough to be invited to share in the food and fun. The class was conducted by private chef, Aline Steiner of a’ table Hawaii, on Oahu.

Not to be confused with a caterer, Aline comes to your home with uncooked ingredients and all the necessary cooking gear, to prepare a pre-selected meal for 1-25 people to be served in your own home. Using your kitchen, she can prepare the entire meal, without assistance from the host/hostess, for a dinner party or other special evening. Or, as done for us, she prepares an entire meal as a cooking class, for up to about 6 people, depending upon how many people the kitchen will comfortably accomodate.

The a’table process started with a pre-event meeting between Kasandra and Aline. Kasandra chose the specific dishes that we prepared from a few suggested menus Aline had provided. The evening of the party, we showed up with nothing but our appetitites and Aline had done all the shopping.

The Menu:

Sauteed Mushrooms with Aoli on Crostini

Scallops Tequila Ceviche in Cucumber Cups

Seared Lamb Chops with Rosemary Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Roasted Tomatoes w/ Saffron & Thyme

Ricotta Gnocchi

We started with the Truffles, made from chocolate ganache and dipped in walnuts, coconut or seseame seeds and finished with the Lamb. In between, we sampled the appetizers and made all of the other delicious dishes, including homemade gnocchi, without using any potato! This was my favorite – total comfort food. Recipe is below.

In the end, we enjoyed a delicious feast and I also learned a few things I didn’t know. I would highly recommend Aline to anyone who would like to learn to prepare some new dishes, in a fun group setting, or for a dinner party, where you would like to really be able to relax and enjoy your guests.

a’table Hawaii 808-221-3784

Aline’s Recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi
1 lb Whole Milk Ricotta
2 egg Yolks (M-L)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 cup All-purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting the dough/board

Make sure your work surface and hands are very clean. Drain the ricotta over a colander to rid of any excess liquid. Have a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper ready.

Into a large bowl, add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, salt and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Mix well. Now add the flour and stir in briefly, just until combined – the dough will be quite sticky. Form a loaf and cut into 4 pieces and wrap 3 of them with plastic wrap.

Generously dust your work surface and hands with flour. Take the unwrapped piece of dough and roll it back and forth on the work surface, while applying gentle downward pressure. Form a long narrow cylinder of dough, about 18-20 inches in length, and about as thick as your index finger. Lightly dust with flour. Cut the cylinder into about 1 inch pieces and arrange in single layer on the baking sheet. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and set aside. Repeat these steps with the remaining 3 pieces of dough, placing the cut pieces on the same baking sheet, but making sure that all pieces are in a single layer and that none are touching, so that they won’t stick to each other. You can freeze the gnocchi like this, so that you can bag them and store in the freezer.

To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt, and reduce heat untilt he water bubbles lightly. Add the gnocchi and stir once, so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot – and then let cook until they start floating to the top. Depending upon the size of the gnocchi, this may take 2-4 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Spread out in single layer on a baking sheet. You can reheat the gnocchi gently in a sauce and serve, or pan fry in a little olive oil and/or butter to lightly brown them before tossing with cheese or adding to a sauce. Enjoy!

Kailua Eats: Formaggio Grill & Wine Bar

When I heard a wine bar and bistro was opening in Kailua, I was happy. No, I was ecstatic. After spending 15 years in the SF Bay Area, you get pretty used to fine dining and great wine lists.  So Formaggio came on the scene and my reviews are mixed. Why?

First, it is expensive.  Not French Laundry expensive – but still Overly Expensive.  Second, the food sometimes just isn’t that great. Mostly, it is “pretty good,” but overall, it is hit or miss. I seems like it depends who is back in the kitchen that night. Not consistent, not fabulous. So therefore prices are high in relation to what you are getting.

There are a few standouts, however.  The “Lobster Bisque to Live For”, for one. This is not the “best” lobster bisque I have had. That title belongs to Lindsay’s over in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts.  But this one is pretty good, if your timing is right. That means, if you get a batch that hasn’t been sitting in the pot for too long. When it has, the consistency and color changes, it is darker and thicker with more of a film. I have had it fresh and not so fresh, on different visits.  Also, when Formaggio first opened, they were topping the bisque with huge chunks of lobster and an attractive claw piece.  More lobster than you could eat in one bite.  Lately, it is pretty lucky to get your bisque topped with a bite and at that, a pretty sad, chewed up looking piece. For around $12 a bowl, the lobster should at least be in good shape.

What else is good at Forgmaggios? The burgers and panini sandwiches – Lobster Panini $16.99, Kobe Burger Panini $15.99, Vegetable Panini $12.99 – Ouch! The truffled French Fries, at $7.99. This makes Formaggio a nice choice if you are lunching in Kailua and don’t mind spending the dough.

And Formaggio is also a GREAT place for Happy Hour.  It serves pupu sized dishes, like Filet Mignon Tacos, Sauteed Calamari, or Shrimp on Toast for only $6. Along with these nicely priced dishes, they have daily wine and beer specials.  Speaking of wine, they alway do have a very nice, large and constantly updated Wine List.  So cheers also to Formaggio for that. It is and has been, since opening, a standout in Kailua and on the entire island of Oahu with regard to its wine list.

But do yourself a favor and don’t go for dinner.  And if you do, don’t order the Beef Bourgionon. That is unless you are feeling like a can of Dinty Moore beef stew. It tastes pretty much the same.  I am not even sure if they use wine in the sauce and the beef in the dish is fatty and sparse. At $21.99 for this dish, I think I would pass.  Other entrees such as Prime Boneless ShortRibs ($34.99), Chicken Breast Milanaise ($19.99) and Barbecued Ribs ($29.99)  are fine, but pricey.

Formaggio, please take cue from another Kailua restaurant that recently seems to have LOWERED its prices.  Or take a look at a restaurant like Brasserie du Vin, in Honolulu, that is more of an authentic European Bistro – reasonable prices, delicious food.  Isn’t that what you are trying to be?

Service here can be excellent.  Most of the time it is excellent. But on occaision, you may get a little attitude from a server.  After all, THIS restaurant is the trendiest place in Kailua, has a good location, good hours of operation and a great wine list.  Live music on some evenings also makes it a fun place to stop by for a night on the town.  And on a Kailua-scale, it is a place to see and be seen.

Kailua Eats: Baci Bistro

The Baci Bistro in Kailua is a place for the locals, the people in the know.  It is probably the best Italian restaurant on the island of Oahu, but not everyone knows it.  Which is great, because that means you can often still get a table without a reservation. 

The Baci Bistro serves consistent, quality upscale Italian food, at fair prices. Always recommended dishes are the nightly Specials – often a fish, e.g., Organic Salmon or a Mahi-Mahi, seved with vegetables, and another such as Osso Bucco, or Rib-eye Steak. Other favorites include the Rigatoni con Salsiccia ($14.95) and Lobster Ravioi ($17.95), and Chicken Picatta ($16.95),  or Saltimbocca de Vitello ($19.95).

This restaurant also features great starters, as well, often including a Tri-Colore Heirloom Tomato Salad, with creamy Gorgonzola.  My favorite is the Gamberetti Marinati alla Griglia ($10.50), which is grilled marinated jumbo shrimp with lime, feta and mint.

The owners are Bill Duval and Chef Reza Azeri.  Besides supporting the local Kailua community in many ways, the owners have offered its customers an ongoing special – New Deal Mondays – in recognition of the downturn in the economy.  This special is every Monday night and customers will recieve 25% off their entire bill, including wine and other alcoholic beverages. This makes Mondays at the Baci Bistro the best deal in town.

Desserts, which include standards like Tiramisu and Profiteroles are also outstanding, and they serve some of the best coffee I’ve tasted.

The atmosphere is casual and fine either for a romantic evening or for a family gathering. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available, and don’t be suprised if your dining neighbor is an actor from Lost or someone else famous. We treat ourselves to dinners at the Baci Bistro as often as we can, but even so, it is a place that is still very special on special occasions.

Baci Bistro
(808) 262-7555
30 Aulike St  Kailua, HI
Reservations suggested.
Honolulu Magazine Hale Aina Winner – Fine Dining