Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Nick and Nora Charles New Year –– 30’s Style: Filet Mignon with Marchand de Vin Sauce… and Martinis!

 When I was a kid, I thought of old movies as a vital part of my education.  From them, I learned of possibilities that a girl from a small-town in the Midwest might never have known.  The flickering images on the screen were my window to worlds past, both real and imaginary.

Oh yes, later I was to find some of the things that I aspired to were impossible (the man of my dreams, Errol Flynn, was already dead by the time I discovered him …drat) or improbable (living in a castle…not yet!).

I wasn’t terribly impressed with life as it was. I hated cartoons and kid’s movies. I was a chubby bookworm and the grownups in my constellation seemed dull as could be to my eyes… always talking about bridge or fishing, droning on about grownup responsibilities or arguing grownup arguments.  BLEH.   Where was the fun, the glamor, the romance??

Then I saw The Thin Man. I wanted the life of Nick and Nora Charles when I grew up –- full of teasing fun and sparkling repartee. They were my ideal couple.  Years ago, I was at a party with my ex and someone said our banter reminded them of Nick and Nora… he groaned and I beamed. You could have told me I was a dead-ringer for Venus herself and I wouldn’t have been more thrilled.

I read that WS Van Dyke (nicknamed “one-shot Woody” for his speed shooting a film) made The Thin Man in 16 days. The script (written in only 3 weeks) was based on the popular book by Dashiell Hammet. It wasn’t originally meant for Bill and Myrna –– just Bill (based on his success playing gentleman detective Philo Vance). Woody pushed for Myrna Loy against the wishes of MGM’s higher powers –– the rest is history.

Hard to believe now, but it was a tough sell. Loy had only recently moved from playing a silent villain to a leading heroine.  Although she came from Montana, her remarkable almond eyes cast her in a slew of films as an oriental temptress (even though Loy is a German/French name… no where near the orient!).

Evidently Van Dyke fought for his star team after working with them on Manhattan Melodrama with Clark Gable.  “Melodrama” was a modest film and there had been no expectations for much success with it but it became hugely popular and it brightened the star power of Loy and Powell as it further established Gable as a bankable leading man.

Although their onscreen roles in Manhattan Melodrama were straight and somewhat somber, everyone, especially Van Dyke, was enchanted by the Powell/Loy off-screen banter.  It was light, fast and sophisticated badinage. This made Van Dyke want them for The Thin Man and he even had the writers (a married couple, Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich) make script changes to accommodate their style.  The film is very different from the book and their changes made the film sparkle… van Dyke had requested that the writers play up the vivacious couple and play down the twisty plot.

They became everyone’s archetypal perfect couple –– sexy and teasing, warm and loving without being saccharine.  Loy was the perfect wife ––more sassy and strong than the ideal stolid or syrupy wives of the past.  I read in  Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood that an MGM writer had written: “Myrna Loy and William Powell are the ham and eggs, the peaches and cream the salt and pepper of the movies. They go together as naturally as night and day.” Best of all they had fun, really had fun together onscreen and off (although they were never an “item” off-screen they were life-long friends).  That meant scenes in a lot of restaurants, clubs, bars and private dinners –– and drinking ––they drank a lot (the second film in the Thin Man series made in 1936 came after censors infested Hollywood and the drinking in Thin Man films had to be toned down from then on to comply with their often quaint and curious moral code).

When I wanted to make a New Years party based on Nick and Nora’s dinners, I was met with a surprise dead end.  The famous New Year’s dinner in the second film in 1936, After the Thin Man  (there were 5 in the series from 1934 to 47) doesn’t really happen…well, it does, but off-camera.  They go into dinner …but the next time you see the cast, the men are snoring over brandies and the women are in a separate room with their coffees and gossip… no food in sight.


The film is full of parties with VAST quantities of cocktails both at home and in bars and clubs. 

They show the kitchen in full swing MAKING the food… but that’s as far as it goes.

New Years at a Chinese Restaurant found napkins but nary a morsel to be had (save by one of the Chinese owners picking at rice with chopsticks in his office). 

Nick does begin making Nora scrambled eggs in the middle of the night, but they don’t get to eat them.

They do eat breakfast together at 6:30 pm after a long sleep but no dinner… certainly not a bash (I think I saw scrambled eggs and kippers but I can’t be sure)… frustrating.

I decided to go to the original 1934 The Thin Man for dinner, I remembered it as great fun ­­––the mystery unraveled as the courses were served –– perfect.

James Wong Howe behind the camera, van Dyke leaning over the stars

You really had to pay attention to get the food they were eating. I even went to the original script to see if there were any clues in the stage/scene directions that are invisible in the film (and can be completely disregarded when shooting commences or followed like a bible). Nuts are mentioned (they are a holdover from the 19th century when they started a meal with crudité and nuts):


“Serve the nuts - I mean, serve the guests the nuts.”

The original script has the character Tanner eating soup… but it wasn’t on the table when it was filmed:

“(but poor Tanner, thinking that Nick
    is naming him as the man, spills his
    soup over everything.  Everybody
    turns and looks suspiciously at him.
    Nick sees that he has startled him and

Of course, the famous “serve the fish line”…

     “And the murderer is right here in this room
     to-night... he's sitting at this table.”
     (to waiter)

     “You may serve the fish.”

Powell adlibs to Cesar Romero’s character (the exchange wasn’t in the original script),


     “You're not eating.
Don't you care for oysters?”

You see Powell with peas on his fork.


And it looks like Myrna had fish on her plate with those peas but I can’t be sure…


I tried to channel Nick Charles’ detective skills to come up with what they were eating.  In fact, they never get any farther than fish because murder was the main course!

It proved to be a mystery I couldn’t solve. 

Why let that stop me!  We’ll just say my dinner is inspired by Nick and Nora’s dinner. I figured that I could invent a main course that could have been waiting in the kitchen… up to my imagination, and in a way that makes it better.

I got to see menus of 30’s New York thanks to the astonishing menu collection of Henry Voigt (he has a great blog too, The American Menu).  I wrote him, asking for 1934-ish NYC Hotel menus and voilà, there they were, and that’s no easy task… I looked on my own for quite a while and came up with very little.

Mr. Voigt said “Menus from the 1920s and 30s are surprisingly difficult to find when compared to those from earlier periods in the century.  The onset of Prohibition, and later the Great Depression, helped accelerate a general decline in dining standards at the high-end.  More people were eating out than ever before, but the menus from the ethnic restaurants, diners, and other less expensive places that were then popular were less memorable, causing fewer of them to be saved as mementos. Some of the new types of eateries like the speakeasies and cafeterias often did not even have menus.”

What he sent me were treasures… a time capsule of what a sophisticated NY couple staying at the Hotel Normandie would be noshing on New Years in the early 30’s.

There was a supper menu from the Carlyle Hotel, a dinner menu from the Hotel Lucerne on 79th Street and then a real New Years menu from the Park Central Hotel, problem solved.


So I decided to make a few things from the menu…

The essence of chicken with profiterole is really easy to do if you have a profiterole or 2 in your freezer.   Otherwise, make them and freeze them –– they are great to have around. I discovered that profiteroles were originally baked in the coals and put in soups hundreds of years ago, so this is not a new idea.  The soup takes just a short time to reduce and you have a very rich delicious broth… adding the foie gras makes it super special… something Norah would have liked.

The Filet Mignon with Sauce Marchand du Vin, Mignonette potatoes (essentially fat fries) and peas are on the menu.  I think it’s what Nick might have ordered being a tough guy.

Sauce Marchand has different styles, from a southern version that is quite complicated with ham among many other ingredients to one French version I saw that was only red wine and shallots.  I’m going to do an in-between version with reduced stock and butter… it’s still pretty easy and very good and using duck fat to make the mignonettes works remarkably well… you will enjoy them… peas are a simple side.

And, I had to add this Nick and Nora's Hangover Hash.  You make it from the dinner left-overs, pop a poached egg on top and all your troubles are over.

But before dinner, drinks.  It is Nick and Nora Charles, after all.

Honestly, Nick and Nora Charles are not so much about food as they are about drinks.  Rye, scotch and martinis… they drink gallons of martinis. Although the book was written during Prohibition (and opens in a 51st Street speakeasy and not a snazzy hotel bar), the film is set in 1934. Prohibition had just been repealed so the film shows the characters newly released from 13 years of bad booze and illegal basement clubs.  Happy days were here again and they were going to celebrate every chance they had. Even so, the Production Code's  stuffed shirts received a boatload of complaints about the extravagant (ok, excessive) alcohol consumption in the first film.

Elegantly-attired Loy’s famous entrance in The Thin Man is a pratfall:

Yes, that's Myrna face down

... followed by 6 martinis in quick succession and a killer hangover that rates an icebag hat the next day.  Hysterically funny to all but the censors… they were not amused.

I went to a drink expert, my friend David Solmonson at 12 Bottle Bar, to get the skinny on a Nick and Nora martini… because they were a bit different that they are now… and were served in smaller glasses.  Perhaps incorrectly, in Thin Man, Nick advises that a martini is best “shaken to waltz time.”

“Origins: Martinis were invented around 1890, once vermouth started to catch on.  The Manhattan came first, then the Martini (origin of name open for debate).

A 1900’s Martini would have been ½ gin, ½ vermouth.  Orange bitters were typically added."

Solmonson continued, "A 1930’s Dry Martini was 2/3 gin, 1/3 dry vermouth.  Medium and Sweet versions existed too.  Bitters (orange or Angostura, with orange preferred) available upon request.  The hallmark books for the period would have been “The Savoy Cocktail Book” and “Barflies and Cocktails”.  Both feature the 2/3 gin, 1/3 dry vermouth Dry Martini.  Gin should be London Dry." [**I used Noilly Prat in the photo… it’s what I had on hand, and it made a golden martini!]

"A modern Dry Martini, by comparison, is 5 to 7 parts gin to 1 part vermouth.

Martinis are properly served stirred for 30 secs – not shaken – and “up” (strained) into a cocktail glass.  A proper 30’s size is 2oz gin to 1oz vermouth.  After stirring, you should have a 4oz drink.  The most appropriate garnish is a twist of lemon peel, which is expressed over the top of the drink – and maybe rubbed over the rim – then discarded
(not inserted).  If olives are requested, then should be served in a container alongside the drink [Nick has put an olive in his glass in the movie]. 

Noilly Prat was once the gold standard for dry vermouths, but they changed the recipe a few years back.  I prefer Dolin.

Here’s my perfect Dry Martini:

2.5 oz Old Raj Blue Label Gin
0.5 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth

Pre-chill glass and mixing glass.  Add ingredients, then ice.  Stir for 30 secs.
Strain into chilled glass.  Twist lemon peel over the top and quickly wipe along the rim with minimal pressure.

Serve with green Spanish olives stuffed with sardines and some lemon zest.  Squeeze lemon juice over olives.

Deliver on silver tray atop Wire-Haired Fox Terrier and enjoy in the company of one of the silver screen’s most beautiful women.”

Essence of Chicken en tasse aux Profiteroles with Foie Gras for 2

4 cups strong, homemade chicken stock (it must be unsalted or it will be dreadful)
1 c white wine
2 profiteroles
2 cubes foie gras (available at D'Artagnan and a great deal!)

Reduce the wine and stock by half... add salt at this point to taste. Warm the profiteroles.  Fry your cubes of foie gras and place in the warm profiteroles on the soup you have poured into soup cups and serve.


Filet Mignon of Beef Sauté Marchand de Vin for 2

2 c strong stock
1 c red wine
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 T cognac

2 filet mignon
salt and pepper
4T butter

Reduce the stock and red wine to a glaze over low heat… this will take at least ½ an hour.

Preheat oven to 400º

Rub the filets with salt and pepper.  Melt 2 T of butter in the skillet and brown all sides of the meat in a cast iron skillet.

Put the steaks in the oven for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness and what degree of doneness you prefer.

Remove the meat from the oven and place on a plate, covered.  Melt the rest of the butter in the pan and soften the shallot and garlic.  Add the reduced wine stock and cognac and blend.  Pour over the steak on each plate.  Serve with Mignonette Potatoes and buttered peas.


Mignonette Potatoes

2 M potatoes, peeled and sliced into thick fries
1 Qt duck fat or oil

Heat the oil to 300º.  Put the potatoes in and cook till nearly done but not brown.   Remove from the oil and let rest and cool for 10 minutes or so.  Bring the fat up to a higher heat and put the potatoes back in to brown.  This will take very little time so keep watching.  They are great dunked in the wine sauce.

Nick and Nora's Hangover Hash for 2

leftover potato scraps from trimming up the mignonette potatoes or 1 m potato
1 small onion chopped
1 T butter.

leftover marchand de vin sauce (or reduce a cup of stock with 1/2 c red wine)
1/4 c stock
2 T heavy cream
1 t fresh, 1/2 t dried thyme

leftover Filet (one or 2 slices will do) cut into small pieces (or use a bit of steak, brown it off and cube it)
leftover peas, brussel sprouts 1/4 - 1/2 a cup whatever you have around.

2 poached eggs

Saute the potato and onion in butter till browned and softened.  Add the sauce, stock and cream.

Warm the beef and peas and serve with poached eggs on top and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Certified Yummly Recipes on

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Elizabethan Christmas, Boar/Pork Tenderloin en Brioche and Chestnut Ice Cream Puffs with Blackberry Sauce

Armada Portrait (1588), Gower

A few weeks ago, I discovered that the first thing Elizabeth the First ate after her fleet defeated the Spanish Armada (against all odds in the "mini-ice age" Fall of 1588) was a goose, and to celebrate that miracle on the following Christmas, she fed the Royal Navy goose in thanks (as well she should since late payment’s starvation and illness took many more than the battle had) and encouraged the rest of her subjects to eat it as well in honor of the battle (I wrote about goose HERE).

That got me to thinking about the way Christmas was celebrated before Christmas trees and many of the traditions we take for granted today.  What I found out was fun and came mostly from a book by W.F. Dawson from 1902 entitled Christmas, Its Origins and Associations.  It’s a good free read online for the holiday season.

In it I found out about the Yule log and the tradition of keeping it burning through the whole of the holiday season (quite a feat!) and saving a last bit of it for the next year’s Yule fire for luck.

So now is come our joyful'st feast,
Let every man be jolly.
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.

George Wither (1588-1667)

I read that before the Christmas tree was introduced in the 19th century, holly and ivy were the decorations of choice (as they were some of the only things still green at that time of year).

I read in the Food Timeline that Elizabeth 1st invented the gingerbread man and had likenesses of guests made up as cookies and given to them (although it was quite different from our ginger bread cookies, being made with crumbs –– not flour, sugar, honey, ginger and cloves and colored with ‘saunders’ which is sandalwood!).

All that I read reminded me why I love Elizabeth the 1st … she was quite a dame.  To rally the troops before the Armada struck it was good queen Bess who said:

I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king – and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I myself will take up arms – I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

It made me remember her magnificent “Golden Speech”, given November 20, 1601 as an early Christmas present to her subjects, in which she tells her people of her devotion to THEM and her honor to lead them (she uses the “royal we” and “our” for our "I" and "me" and my at the beginning when speaking as monarch):

from the Golden Speech
“… I do assure you there is no prince that loves his subjects better, or whose love can countervail our love. There is no jewel, be it of never so rich a price, which I set before this jewel: I mean your love. For I do esteem it more than any treasure or riches; for that we know how to prize, but love and thanks I count invaluable. And, though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves. This makes me that I do not so much rejoice that God hath made me to be a Queen, as to be a Queen over so thankful a people….

To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it. For myself I was never so much enticed with the glorious name of a King or royal authority of a Queen as delighted that God hath made me his instrument to maintain his truth and glory and to defend his kingdom as I said from peril, dishonour, tyranny and oppression. There will never Queen sit in my seat with more zeal to my country, care to my subjects and that will sooner with willingness venture her life for your good and safety than myself. For it is my desire to live nor reign no longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.”

And lead them she did, thinking of rich and poor in her kingdom during the Christmas season.

Christmas is my name, far have I gone,
Have I gone, have I gone, have I gone, without regard,
Whereas great men by flocks there be flown,
There be flown, there be flown, there be flown, to London-ward;
Where they in pomp and pleasure do waste
That which Christmas was wonted to feast, Welladay!
Houses where music was wont for to ring
Nothing but bats and owlets do sing.
Welladay! Welladay! Welladay! where should I stay?

When fashion dictated that the lords and ladies of Norfolk and Suffolk should come to London to lavishly celebrate the holiday –– spending all their money and not providing holiday cheer for the poor (who relied on their Christmas beneficence for what little generous provisioning they were to see in a year), Elizabeth thought this was wrong and did something about it.  She enjoined the lords and ladies “to repair to their counties, and there to keep hospitality amongst their neighbors” before Christmas, not after all their money was spent, and to do the celebrating and spending at home.

Christmas spirit returned to the land:

'Who feasts the poor, a true reward shall find,
Or helps the old, the feeble, lame, and blind.'"

"All you that to feasting and mirth are inclined,
Come, here is good news for to pleasure your mind;
Old Christmas is come for to keep open house,
He scorns to be guilty of starving a mouse;
Then come, boys, and welcome, for diet the chief,
Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc'd pies, and roast beef."

It is from this spirit of cheer and generosity that an old standard flows

Good husband and housewife, now chiefly be glad, 

Things handsome to have, as they ought to be had. 

They both do provide, against Christmas do come, 

To welcome their neighbors, good cheer to have some.

Good bread and good drink, a good fire in the hall, 

Brawn, pudding, and souse, and good mustard withal. 

Beef, mutton, and pork, and good pies of the best, 

Pig, veal, goose, and capon, and turkey well drest, 

Cheese, apples and nuts, and good carols to hear, 

As then in the country is counted good cheer.

What cost to good husband, is any of this? 

Good household provision only it is: 

Of other the like, I do leave out a many, 

That costeth the husband never a penny.

A Hundred Points of Good Husbandry 1557
Thomas Tusser (1515-80)

The food sounds delicious –– and not too far removed from our own holiday menus, even if a little heavy in the meat department. From looking at Tusser’s poem and menus from the 15th century onward, I felt compelled to do some kind of “Braun” for a holiday dish.  Braun (or brawne or brawn) at that time meant mostly boar, sometimes pig but essentially meat, The word, according to Wiktionary, comes from the old French braon meaning slice of meat, fleshy part, buttock or from the Frankish brādon from Brādo meaning roast meat, ham which is related to the German braten, meaning roast.

Braun was much mentioned on holiday tables and for celebrations like the Bishop’s funeral feast in 1424. I endeavored to find a recipe to my liking and settled on an Elizabethan recipe from The Good Housewife’s Jewel, 1596 by Richard Dawson (written for a middle class household).  The brawne recipe involved a whole boar, wrapped in hemp cloth, boiled with willow and given a long ‘souse’ in ale, salt and water –– that was too much.  Right above it was a ‘pigge’ recipe that caught my eye  –– that was the one for me.  Some of my best recipes come from detours, and this was a good one.

I decided to have a little fun and encase it in brioche since I had lovely boar tenderloins from D’Artagnan  (and not a giant hunk of meat) and Elizabethans were always putting meat in crusts so it’s not far from the spirit of the times (brioche is famously stuffed with garlic sausage in the classic version of the dish). The spicing is actually quite modern and not as extreme as many recipes of the period… perhaps because the book wasn’t for a royal household where expensive spices were de rigueur.  I finished it with a take on Lumbard mustard from Forme of Cury, a 1390 cookbook.

And since it’s the holidays and the season for sharing, I also will give you a new favorite.  Chestnut Armagnac ice cream on little “prophitroles” (puffs) with a blackberry sauce ––even those little puffs have a history, mentioned in Brandt’s Ship of Fools in 1494 above.  

I tossed in caramel “flakes” to get you in the mood for a great holiday (one cup of sugar, slowly melted and drizzled on a silpat).  This dessert is brilliant because you can make everything days ahead and then put them together when you want them…. Just warm up the puffs and you are good to go!

To sowse a pigge
Take White Wine and a little sweete broth, and halfe a score Nutmegs cut in quarters, then take Rosemarye, Bayes, Time, and sweet Margerum, and let them boyle altogether, skimme them very clean, and when they be boyled, put them into an earthen pan and the sirrope also, and when you serue them, a quarter in a dish, and the Bayes, and nutmegs on the top.

Braun (boar or pork tenderloin)

1 t salt
1 T pepper
1 T lard or olive oil
2 c chicken stock
1 c white wine
a few cloves
3 bay leaves
handful of fresh marjoram, rosemary and  thyme
1 cracked nutmeg

Rub the meat with salt and pepper. Sauté the meat in the fat till browned.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over a low flame for an hour.  Remove and cool.  Refrigerate for a few days.

Remove from the liquid and dry to use with the brioche.  Reduce the liquid till thickened to serve with the meat.

Braun en Brioche (recipe from The Good Housewife’s Jewel, brioche based on a NYT Recipe)

1/4 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry yeast
1 1/2 sticks sweet butter
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
boar (you can get it HERE from D”Artagnan) or pork tenderloin, 2 or 3 pieces around 7” or 5” long depending on diameter
1 egg, beaten, for coating dough
Combine sugar and warm milk in small dish and slowly stir in yeast. Mash yeast well if it forms lumps. Set mixture aside in warm place for 5 minutes; it should foam.

In food processor or mixer combine flour, salt and butter, blending well. Add eggs, 2 at a time, incorporating well before adding next 2. Add yoke and process until dough is elastic and smooth; it should pull away from beater in one piece. Some processors will not have enough power to finish job; if so remove and knead by hand on lightly floured surface.

Place dough in greased bowl, cover with damp cloth and let rise in warm place (80 to 90 degrees) for 2 hours or until it doubles in bulk. Punch down and knead for several minutes in bowl and form ball about size of softball.

If dough is difficult to work with, place in freezer for 5 minutes.

If you are not using right away, dough can be stored, covered, in refrigerator for day… that’s what I did.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut dough ball in half and roll out each half into roughly 10-by-5-inch rectangles (If your tenderloin is slender, you may want to make 3 of these so the bread to meat ratio is less- the pictures show the 2 style with  good deal of bread). Coat both dough ball and sausage with beaten egg, then sprinkle flour over dough to form ''glue'' that will hold sausage in place.

Lay tenderloins on dough rectangles and bring up sides of dough to seal them, forming seams on top. Seal edges. Place rolls on buttered sheets of aluminum foil. Wrap foil around rolls same way dough was sealed, forming seam on top. They should be wrapped loosely to allow for expansion.

Place rolls on baking sheet, seam side down, and let them rise for 1/2 hour (I did it for and hour for refrigerated dough). Bake 35 minutes, rotating about every 12 minutes so sausage doesn't sink to one side. After 35 minutes, open foil, wash rolls with beaten egg mixture again and cook 10 minutes more or until golden. Let them cool somewhat before slicing and serving. 

Serve with mustard sauce and spoon the reduced liquid left over from cooking the meat on the meat or on the side.  I think this is best served fresh from the oven but reheats well in the microwave in slices.  Brioche can dry out quickly so take care how you store it. I popped one in the freezer to use on Christmas, and will see how that works when I reheat the whole thing!
YIELD 4 to 6 servings

Lumbard Mustard from Forme of Cury
Take mustard seed and wasishe it  & drye it in a n ovene, grynde it drye, Farse it thurgh a farse.  Clarifyie hony with wyne & vynegur & stere it wl togedrer and make it thikke ynoz. & whan ou wilt spend erof make it thynne with wyne.
¼ c mustard seed, toasted VERY gently for a few moments and then crushed in a mortar
2 T honey
2 T vinegar
2 T wine
½ c water
pinch salt

Cook the mustard with the honey, vinegar and wine VERY gently until the mixture becomes softened… you may want to add more water. Add salt to taste.

****My mustard wasn’t fresh… so check yours.  I wasn’t happy with the result.  I have made mustard before from my own home-grown seeds and it was great (even if the process of sorting the seeds was hellish), so advice?  If you taste the seeds and they don’t taste sharp and bright like mustard… use the simple version.

Simple Version of Lombard Mustard

½ cup grainy mustard
1 T white wine
2 t vinegar (only if it needs it)
1 T honey

Combine and you’re done.

Chestnut Armagnac Ice Cream (makes around 3 cups)—enough to fill 8-12 puffs

1 c chestnuts, cooked and shelled (D'Artagnan has lovely chestnuts, already roasted and ready to go)
 ½ c sugar  3 T water
1 c cream
1 c milk
4 egg yolks
1 T sugar

1 t vanilla
3 T Armagnac

Melt the sugar and water with the chestnuts and cook till the sugar caramelizes a little.

Pour in the cream and blend. Puree the chestnuts with the cream and syrup.  

Pour through a sieve and rub and press to get out all the chestnut puree, toss what’s left  (or nibble on it… very tasty).  Add the milk to this.  

Beat the yolks and the 1 T sugar till golden. Combine with the chestnut mixture and heat to 170º slowly till it thickens slightly… never ever let it boil. Remove from the heat and strain.  Add the vanilla and Armagnac and chill.  Put in Ice cream machine and process. 

This is where I sing the praises of Simac.  After years of struggling with put-in-the-freezer ice cream makers, I got a 20-odd year old Simac Italian Ice Cream Maker.  They are classics and often go for hundreds… even though they are vintage.  They work like a dream… big as a Mini-Cooper and weigh nearly as much.  I got lucky and got one for a song on EBAY.  Ice cream in 20 minutes… chilling to finished product.  It’s my favorite thing this year.  Needless to say, I have been making a lot of ice 

** If you want to make the ice cream in a hurry, only do the first step,  using only 1/4 c of sugar in the caramel with the chestnuts if you do.  You can buy a pint of premium vanilla ice cream and let it soften enough to stir it.  Then you can puree the chestnuts with the syrup and and  the armagnac and add that to the purchased ice cream, skipping all of the making-of-the-ice-cream-base steps. Then refreeze the ice cream.

 I often make lemon ice cream this way... just squeeze the juice of a lemon or 2 into the vanilla and refreeze.  Incredibly refreshing and takes no time at all.

Pate a Choux, basic recipe
 from Michael Ruhlmann (this makes 12 or so…)

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup flour
1/8 t salt
1/2 cup eggs (2 large eggs)

1. Bring the water and butter to a simmer over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour and stir rapidly.  The flour will absorb the water quickly and a dough will form and pull away from the sides. Keep stirring to continue cooking the flour and cook off some of the water, another minute or two… it will stick to the side of the pan… this is ok.  Transfer the paste to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I found the whisk attachment worked better) or to a bowl if you're using a hand mixer and begin mixing to cool the dough a little.  (If you want to mix the eggs directly into the dough in the pot, let it cool slightly, 4 or 5 minutes, 
or cool off the pan itself by running cold water over its base if you
 will be mixing the eggs in that pot.  You don’t want to cook the eggs
 too quickly.)
2. Add the eggs one at a time mixing rapidly until each is combined into the paste.  The paste will go from shiny to furry, slippery to sticky as the egg is incorporated.  The pâte a choux can be cooked immediately at this point or refrigerated for up to a day until ready to use.
Spoon or pipe it onto a baking sheet (see above, remember to press the peaks down with a moistened finger, they can burn) and bake in a hot oven (425 for 10 minutes, 350 for another half hour or so –– do check, if you are going to freeze and reheat you don’t want them too brown to begin with).  Poke each one with a knife to let out steam and allow to cool on a rack.  They freeze beautifully and reheat easily in a toaster oven or oven so you can make quick ice cream sandwiches with the leftovers whenever you want. I put them in the toaster oven and hit toast M and they are perfect, straight from the freezer.  I would think an oven at 350º for 5-10 minutes would work as well
Blackberry Sauce

2 pints blackberries
¼ c maple syrup
1 T sugar
1 t lemon juice
pinch of allspice

2 T St. Germain Liqueur or cassis (optional)

Cook the berries with the maple syrup and sugar and lemon and allspice till berries are softened.

Remove from heat and put through a food mill or rub through a strainer to get rid of the seeds but get as much of the fruit as possible. Reduce if not thick enough and toss in the liqueur.

Put a tablespoon or 2 of the blackberry sauce on a plate.  Put a good size scoop of ice cream in the puff and set on the plate… you can use a little cream and make a design on the blackberry sauce.  Add the caramel ‘flake’ if you would like.