Recipe: Oysters au gratin with parmesan and creme fraiche

 

IMG_8582.JPGHappy New Year and all the best for 2017!

I hope to post more frequently this year and first up is this lovely recipe for oysters au gratin. This creamy topping and a few slices of baguette is all you need to start off a meal, and it was also the starter I made on Saturday, for my last dinner back in Sweden with my parents. They prefer cooked oysters to au natural and loved these!  

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Oysters au gratin with parmesan and creme fraiche, serves 3 as a starter

With a heavy main course two oysters were enough as a starter, but with a lighter main I would recommend three per person.

6 fresh oysters 

3 tbsp creme fraiche

3 tbsp finely grated parmesan

1 tsp lemon juice

a pinch of cayenne 

salt, white pepper

To serve:

6 slices of baguette

tabasco

Open the oysters with an oyster knife and discard the top shell. Cut loose the oysters but keep on the shells and place in an ovenproof dish,. Mix creme fraiche, parmesan, lemon juice and spices in a bowl and spoon over the oysters, Place under the hot grill or in a very hot oven (225C) until bubbly and a little brown, approx 3-5 minutes. Serve with baguette and tabasco. 

Cape Cod: Black Cat Tavern in Hyannis

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The first evening in Cape Cod, we decided to have dinner at one of the restaurants in the Hyannis Harbour. We’d been driving around the Cape during the day so got to the restaurant we had decided on,  Black Cat Tavern, quite late. We were the last guests to arrive and eventually we were the only people left (bar the staff).

We thought that was why our main courses arrived while we were in the middle of eating our starters. I don’t like to be rushed when eating as it always give me a stomach ache, but we were to polite to say anything as the restaurant was emptying out around us.

But the following evening when we went to another restaurant, the same thing happened, although we had dinner much earlier and the restaurant was full. In the middle of our very substantial starters, we actually told the waitress we wanted to wait. She completely understood but the kitchen seemed to insist to get the food out, so when it arrived again, after five minutes we let them put it on the table.

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I don’t understand this culture of rushing your guests through a (large) meal. Is it just in this area, or is it because of tourist season or what’s the reason?! Please do tell me if you have an idea.

Anyway, the food was nice in both the places, and I really like how understated the seafood is here. In Europe where oysters and lobster are luxurious and quite expensive it’s served a certain way or in certain places. Here, where you have lobster and oyster in abundance, you can enjoy it in your flipflops straight from the beach and I really liked that.

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At Black Cat Tavern I had Oysters Rockefeller (baked oysters with a spinach and cheese topping and in this case cured ham as well) as my starter and they were really nice. Generous portion too!

Sinead had a minor mountain of calamari with a chillie dip – also really nice!  As I was a little bit stressed by the time our maincourses arrived I only manage to snap a picture of my own plate of bakes scallops (a first for me), with baked potato and creamy lobster sauce, but I do know that Sineads food was nice as well.

Black Cat Tavern, 165 Ocean St, Hyannis, MA 02601, USA

Dinner in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district

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A standing tradition for when I go home to Sweden in the summer, is to spend a day in Copenhagen with my dear friends Maria and Daniel. We’ve done this countless time, and seem to be perfecting the ideal day. Nowadays we always have lunch at Torvehallerna (a wonderfully modern food market just 10 minutes away from the central pedestrian street), usually a few pinxtos at Tapa del Toro and Danish smørrebrød at Hallernes. After lunch we usually have coffee somewhere and decide what we want to do. This year we went shopping for a bit, had coffee and then decided to go for dinner in Kødbyen (Meatpacking district), a for us new area.

I had heard a lot of good things about a fish restaurant called Kødbyens Fiskebar so we decided to have dinner there.

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It started well, with us getting seated straight away without having a reservation. And the oysters Daniel and I had to start were lovely as was the fried cod bites with carrot purée. The service was a bit so-so, but they were busy so we didn’t think more of it.

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But as the dinner progressed it got worse and worse. Our main courses were not nice at all. The fish ‘n chips was mediocre and the remoulade it came with was pretty awful. My halibut with kohlrabi, cucumber and sheep’s yoghurt looked great but was incredibly bland. The service also got worse and in the end we just decided to have pudding somewhere else and try to salvage the evening that way.

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I really don’t like to get disappointed when I eat out. Sure, everyone can have a bad day but this was something else. Maybe they were too busy? Maybe the chef was new? Whatever the reason I hope this was a blip because we were all was seriously underwhelmed.As much as I don’t like giving a negative review, this is our experience and if we’d known the food to be like this we would never had come here.

Kødbyens Fiskebar, Flæsketorvet 100, 1711 København V, Denmark

Pre-dinner nibbles in Bologna

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On the Saturday in Bologna we went all out before dinner and had pre-dinner drinks and nibbles at three different places. There were so many things we wanted to eat and places to try and not enough time, so this was a good solution.

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We started with this little (yes, it was intended for one person but we shared it) charkuterie and cheese platter at Zerocinquantino Vino e Panino, and a glass of wine each. I love the fact that when you order ‘a glass of white wine’, the waiters ask if you want still or sparkling, as if it were water. I do like my sparkling wines though, and later this same evening Caroline introduced me to another Italian sparkling wine, besides prosecco;  franciacorta, with smaller bubbles. So nice!

On the platter we had mortadella, salami, serrano, a type of fresh cheese which I later identified as dolcelatte in a deli shop, a nice hard cheese and an amazing blue cheese called erborinato. Remember to try it when you’re in Italy! We also got to try the local tigelli bread which was nice but extremely filling.

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Next we stopped at a fishmongers on the same street, which sold fish and seafood ready to eat, like tartars, oysters, red prawns etc. And wine. But we just had some seafood. We both love the raw red prawns so had a plate of those each. They’re so sweet and juicy and absolutely delicious raw!

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We also tried a oyster each, I can’t remember what type or where it was from but it was really nice. The fresh shellfish was a great palate cleanser before our actual dinner though; we actually felt less full after the prawns than when we came into the shop.

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We had time for another quick stop before dinner so when we walked past  Casa Minghetti with it’s popular outside seating we decided to go inside for a glass of wine. Even though the restaurant (inside and outside) was full to the brim with people the staff welcomed us in and gave us some space at the bar counter. The atmosphere here was great – really friendly with a mixture of different types of people, good music and friendly staff.

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The wine was nice, and the cocktails they made looked great too. We also got three different types of snacks with our drink. It’s another thing I like about Italy, you always get snacks with your drink.

Zerocinquantino Vino e Panino, Via Pescherie vecchie 3/e, Bologna

Fiskaffären kan jag tyvärr inte hitta namnet på, men den ligger på Via Pescherie Vechie, snett tvärsöver gatan från Zerocinquantino, mot Via Drapperie till. 

Casa Minghetti, Piazza Minghetti, 1A, 40124 Bologna, Italy

Seafood feast at home

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Me coming home to visit is usually a good enough reason in my family to break out the bubbly and have a seafood feast! It’s important to celebrate the times we’re all together and make them special so we take every opportunity we get.

It may not be seafood every time we have a feast, but it’s quite often the case. We had this fabulous meal in December when I last visited and it was just wonderful, and the type of food we enjoy cooking, and eating, together.

We started with oysters, that were quite difficult to shuck without an oyster knife (we’d left it in the summer house), so we all did a few each. Good team effort, they’re quite strong the little molluscs. We had the oysters in the most simple, and our preferred, way with just lemon juice and Tabasco. What a treat!

 

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Our second course (although that sounds too fancy for peeling prawns) was smoked Atlantic prawns with home-made mayonnaise (a team effort by dad and me), which I just love. The taste is much more complex than fresh prawns and although it may sound strange to smoke prawns, it really works.

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We had a really nice bottle of bubbly, to drink, a Marquis de Haux Cremant de Bordeaux. It’s not readily available in Sweden, but shouldn’t be hard to find in the UK or the rest of Europe.

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For the main event, we had lobster. Something we usually only have as a starter, but I love it as a main course too. Again it was a team effort getting the food ready. I made the skin-on oven fries (that turned out great by the way), and was also in charge of picking the lobsters apart while mum made the lovely sauce. Good effort, team!

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This is our family version of lobster Thermidor with mushrooms, mustard. cognac and matured cheese and we all find it divine. When we think of something special to eat at home, this is always a contender. Most often we have it as a starter, rather than as a main, but after this meal I find it quite likely we’ll have it as a main-course more often than not.

As these were fresh lobster it was almost (but only almost) a sacrilege to coat them in a creamy sauce, so we all had a claw au natural with a dollop of mayonnaise to really taste the lobster.

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We had a lot of lovely food over the Christmas break, but this was my absolute favourite meal. We just had such a good time cooking together and dining together.

Homemade mayonnaise, serves 3-4

1 egg yolk, at room temperature 

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp white wine vinegar

approx 200 ml vegetable oil

1/2 lemon

salt, white pepper

Most important when making your own mayonnaise: 

  1. All ingredients (especially the egg and the oil) should be at room temperature 
  2. Whisk by hand, usng a balloon whisk (gives a better texture)
  3. Season to taste

Mix egg yolk, dijon and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk it together using a balloon whisk and add the oil drop by drop while whisking. Once the mixture has thickened you can add the oil in a little trickle, whisking continuously. Whisk until you have a thick and pale mayonnaise. Season to taste with lemon, white pepper and plenty of salt. Sprinkle a little paprika on top (to decorate) before serving. 

Skin-on oven fries, serves 4

800 g firm potatoes (Maris Piper is great)

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180-200C, with the fan on. Wash the potatoes and then cut into sticks. Rinse away the starch. Pour the oil into a large oven-proof tray and add the potato sticks. Add plenty of salt and pepper. Massage the oil into the potato sticks using your hands and spread them out on the tray. Bake in the oven for approx 35 minutes or until crispy, golden and blistery on the outside and cooked through. 

Dinner at Rex & Mariano, Soho

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It’s a few weeks ago now, that Daisy, Rowena and I had a lovely dinner at the fairly new addition to the Soho restaurant scene; Rex and Mariano.

This is a seafood restaurant with great produce but very reasonable prices. And they still have oysters, tartares, ceviche, prawns, mussels and plenty of fish.

The interior goes with the less is more price-setting. It’s simple and scaled back but still nice.

After being seated at our table, we’re told we order everything on the table’s iPad. The software is very easy to use and you can order one or a few things at the time. The waiters’ job is from here on in just to bring the food to the table and answer any questions from the diners. Very efficient!

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Just like in many other restaurants, Rex & Mariano encourages sharing the dishes, which I also enjoy as it’s the best way to avoid food envy. Our first dish was burrata with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. It was nice but not the creamiest burrata I’ve ever had.

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We then had an oyster each, and they were really big and juicy. And delicious!

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After that we shared this seabass ceviche with coriander, yuzu and red onions.

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The grilled red prawns with lemon, olive oil and sea salt were amazing! So simple but great produce.

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Also the tuna tartare with avocado, chilli and lime was very nice.

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But my favourite that evening was the mussles. We had them as a main with fries and tenderstem broccoli, and what I liked about this dish apart from the mussels being top quality (they were big, sweet and juicy), I loved the sauce. It wasn’t the usually creamy Mariniere type sauce, instead it was a light buttery emulsion.

After all of this I was quite happily full, but the girls fancied a pudding and enjoyed a lovely chocolate mousse with pistachios. The pudding menu wasn’t large and they all seemed to be prepared ahead of time, but they were still very nice. But you can tell the focus here is on the fish and seafood.

Because of the efficient ordering process on the iPad the service charge is as little as five or six percent, which also contributes to the value for money track this restaurant is already on.

Rex & Mariano, 2 St Anne’s Court, London W1F 0AZ

Seafood feast, Swedish caviar and girolle toast

IMG_8610In my family, we don’t need much of an excuse to have an extravagant dinner, but celebrating my belated birthday with my parents we went all out on the stuff we love – seafood.

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Girolles are usually in abundance in August, although the first little ‘shrooms can be found in the woods as early as June. In Sweden we worship girolles as their season coincide with the crayfish parties. The first ones I eat every late summer has to be served like this; fried in butter with garlic and parsley, served on bread also fried in butter (or at least toasted). So delicious!

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Then we went outside to the barbecue to grill some oysters. I love oysters regardless of how they are prepared but my parents prefer them warm.

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Simply place the opened shells on live coal until the juices start to bubble. Remove with a thick glove as they heat up quickly. Add lemon juice and tabasco and eat.

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After that exercise we had löjrom (Swedish caviar; vendace roe from Kalix) served in the classic manner with butter-fried toast, creme fraiche and chopped red onions.

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After that we got started on the seafood. We had smoked cold-water prawns, Swedish crayfish, langoustines and crab claws. All washed down with Taittinger Brut Réserve. Needless to say we did not need any pudding after all that…