Archive for November, 2009

Enoteca Drago- Beverly Hills

We have loved going to Drago in Santa Monica for years. We have been going to his brother’s restaurant, Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills quite often.  Il Pastaio is always mobbed and Enoteca Drago, right next door, is very, very quiet. Now I know why!

The packed dining room????? Trust me, next door Il Pastaio was hopping.

A white bean puree served ice cold – Val, our server, explained it came right from the refrigerator.

Carpaccio Di Bue – Beef Carpaccio with Foie Gras & Celery – Who oh why was there celery on this plate? 

Breakfast  Pizza – Onion, Mushrooms, Bacon & Eggs – I am imagining a runny yolk. Do you see that pitiful hard one yolk? Where oh where are the caramelized onions? So I ask Val, our server, what is this with the pizza? He sort of shrugs and doesn’t have a clue. 

Carbonara – Spaghetti with Pancetta, Egg & Pecorino Romano Cheese – think Elmer’s Glue – one bite and they take it off our bill

Later, I show Norbeta, the GM. our pitiful pizza and he says that’s not right. He insists that they make another one for take-out.

Second pizza to replace first and to use for take-out – All of a sudden there are caramelized onions and plenty of bacon. The egg is done correctly. I decide the egg won’t be any good in the morning and I am better off making my own egg in the morning. I deep-sixed the egg when I got home,  but at least someone in the kitchen is aware that the first version was a disaster. 

Oh Celestino, this is not the way to run a successful restaurant. I have been a supporter of yours for years and years and years. Entoteca Drago is not even close to what you can do. What a disappointment.


La Bistro Cachette

We had gone to La Cachette in Century City many years ago. The chef, Jean-François Meteigner, has just moved to Santa Monica and has changed his concept from fine dining to a more casual atmosphere with bistro cuisine.

The room

Trishia, our excellent waitress

Clever butter dish

Uncovered butter dish

Salt for the table

BYO white wine – $15.00 corkage

All dishes were splits – one for two

House-made Duck Pate with marinated shallots and mustard – excellent – I would return just for this.

Lightly creamed lobster and blue crab bisque – completely tasteless – one taste only. To the restaurant’s credit, this was taken off the bill.

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna with Korean Chili paste and toast – the tuna was appropriately diced and there was a nice kick from the chili paste

Organic poached eggs, homemade organic salmon sausages, a tomato based saucing – I am assuming – Unfortunately the poached eggs were cold, but the salmon sausage was outstanding.

Close-up of the salmon sausage

Glass of Red Wine

Cassoulet with Duck Leg, House-made Duck sausage 

The duck sausage was another winner –  Jean-François Meteigner’s sausages whether it be salmon or duck are wonderful

Close-up of the Cassoulet and the Duck leg

La Bistro Cachette is a good restaurant, not a great restaurant.  I miss Jean-François Meteigner’s insistence on faultless execution. Bistro food is casual and the ingredients are not hyper expensive, but that doesn’t mean that execution should be less than and unfortunately La Bistro Cachette hasn’t achieved that yet given the soup and the poached eggs.

Thanksgiving Turkey and Stuffing

The Turkey – They have now done a new thing with the turkey – they say it is fresh not frozen but trust me it is frozen. They suggest keeping the turkey in the bag and submerge it in cold running water until it feels soft. I haven’t tried this. BUT be forewarned you can’t cook this turkey that way it comes from the market – ice crystals everywhere, stiff as a board – you can’t work with it at all.

Remove turkey from the bag.  After removing neck and giblets from body cavity, rinse bird with cold water.  Pat cavities lightly with paper towel.
Separate skin from breast. Let Turkey sit uncovered overnight in refrigerator.

The turkey just out of the refrigerator – you can see that the skin has shriveled

More turkey out of the refrigerator – I let it come up to room temperature – about 1 3/4 hours

While turkey is coming up to room temperature, saute the giblets and and neck pieces in butter.

Add drained giblets and neck to some of the stock you have made previously. Recipe here:

Let cook until stock is strengthened. This is perfect for your stuffing.

Finished stock for stuffing

Chestnut Dressing for turkey – the ingredient list are equivalents –

2 pounds chestnuts (see peeling chestnuts on this site – let cook until crumbly in turkey stock) – chop coarsely – I have discovered “THE” easy way to do the chestnuts. Order peeled and steamed chestnuts from Melissa’s. They are delicious and no work peeling chestnuts. Melissa’s can be found on the internet – just do a search.

Peppridge Farm cornbread stuffing mix

Peppridge Farm regular stuffing mix

1 pound pork sausage

1 large onion, diced

3 stalks celery diced

butter for cooking the onions and celery

turkey stock

2 eggs, lightly beaten

onions beginning to saute in butter

sausage just about done

Stuffing – this was a huge bowl – enough stuffing for a 15 1/2 pound bird with lots of leftovers

Slather softened butter directly on the breast. Then just before cooking the turkey, stuff turkey.  Spread softened butter over breast and back. Season with salt and pepper. Loosely truss so temp hits legs and stuffing.

Buttered Turkey

Place bird in open pan, breast side up.  Put turkey in oven with legs pointing to the back. Pour in 2 cups stock – add more butter as needed – baste every 30 to 35 minutes

Use a 325 oven

14-16 pounds                        3 1/2 to 3 3/4 hours

16-18                                                3  3/4 to 4 HOURS

18-20                                                4 to 4 1/2 hours

20-22                                                4 1/2 to 5 hours

When turkey is half done, heat DO NOT BOIL one cup of white wine and pour over turkey.

New trick! 30 minutes before the turkey is done transfer turkey to a new pan on the original rack. Remove stuffing from cavity and put in new casserole and return to oven to insure proper temp. Return turkey to the oven for the last 30 minutes, cover lightly will foil if necessary.  Now you have your original pan and you can make the sauce! No last minute sauce making and carving!

We like sauce not thick gravy. Deglaze pan with white wine. Separate fat from brown bits – add turkey stock and concentrate – My husband is the saucier and he is a genius at saucing.

Final Turkey sauce – reheated

When turkey is done, the thickest part of the drumstick will feel soft.  Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes.  DO NOT COVER.  Carve and reheat sauce.

Orange Praline Sweet Potatoes/Yams

This is another recipe from Marlene Sorosky’s Year-Round Holiday Cookbook, 1987. I have adapted the recipe somewhat, mostly in terms of technique. Marlene suggests using a mixer. I don’t. I use this:

Also, my son still clings to his childhood and wants marshmallows on top so I do a small marshmallow topping with the praline topping.

Sweet Potato/Yam Casserole 

4 pounds cooked and peeled sweet potatoes or yams – Pierce yams with fork and cook at 400 until soft.  Spoon pulp into the potato press and press into a mixing bowl.

Mix in remaining ingredients, making sure each ingredient is totally incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy

2/3 cup orange juice, without pulp

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

5 tablespoons brandy

2 teaspoons salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon ground ginger

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup golden brown sugar, packed

3 egg yolks

All ingredients incorporated.

Butter a 2-quart casserole (7 by 11 inches). Pour in potato mixture, smoothing top evenly.
Make praline topping by mixing all ingredients together in small bowl. 

Praline Topping

2/3 cup golden brown sugar, packed

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

I find there is too much liquid so I strain topping.

Spread evenly over potatoes.  If you have a marshmallow lover, don’t use all the praline topping and use a little marsmallows on one end.

May be refrigerated covered overnight. Above picture is unbaked.

Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 10 to 12.

Xi’an – Beverly Hills

I don’t have any pictures for this meal as this was a last minute decision.

We have a theory – our first time at a restaurant, we order one dish at a time to see the quality of the food and to judge if it is to our taste. We tried three dishes and left. I have never tasted such bland cooking in my life. Whoever is in the kitchen either doesn’t taste the food or has no taste buds.

Minced chicken in a cool lettuce cup – quickly cooked minced chicken with jicama over crispy noodles served in a lettuce cup. The lettuce cup was a wilted piece of lettuce. I got 2 tiny pieces of fried wonton strips, my husband got none. The chicken itself tasted like saw dust – a side of hoisin sauce was served and we doused the chicken with that to give it some flavor.

Cha Shu Bao – fluffy bun filled with BBQ pork – at least this was served hot and the bun wasn’t bad, but again the BBQ pork was tasteless.

Crispy Onion Pancakes – soggy pancakes that were tasteless – one bite only. 

Botttom line – we left.


This recipe is from Susan Wyler’s Cooking for a Crowd.

I have never made the full recipe – I always just do half and also always do mini gougeres

3 cups water (1 1/2 cups water)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons ( 1 stick butter plus 1 tablespoon)

2 1/2 teaspoons salt ( 1 1/4 teaspoon salt)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (1/4 teaspoon pepper)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (1/16 teaspoon cayenne)

3 cups all-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups flour)

12 eggs, at room temperature (6 eggs)

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (4 ounces) (1/2 cup parmesan)

1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, finely diced (about 2 cups) (1 cup Gruyere)

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Butter 3 large heavy baking sheets.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Bring to a rolling boil over moderately high heat. Add the flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon over the heat until the dough is completely blended and masses together in the center of the pan.

3. Scoop 1/3 of the hot dough into the food processor. With the machine on add 4 of the eggs through the feed tube, one at a time. Blend until smooth and satiny. Turn into a bowl. Repeat 2 more times with the remaining dough and eggs. (there’s no need to wash the bowl in between batches.) See modifications below for half the recipe.

4. Add the Parmesan and Gruyere cheese to the dough and mix well with a wooden spoon.

I have only made mini gougeres so I drop heaping teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches in between and bake at 425 for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.


I have only made half the recipe. I scoop half the dough in the processor and add 3 eggs, one at a time. Transfer to a bowl and then add the second dough and add 3 eggs, one at a time to the processor. Transfer this dough to your bowl.  I then add the cheeses. As the gougeres can be frozen 2 months in advance and frozen, I do not bake until very crusty and golden brown. The above gougeres were cooked for about 15 minutes. I will reheat them until they are really golden brown and crusty.

Finished product:

Cranberry Raspberry Relish

This is a Marlene Sorosky recipe from her cookbook Year-Round Holiday Cookbook 

“Lift cranberries into the extraordinary with the fragrance of red raspberries. This extra-special relish is quickly assembled when a food processor chops the apples and the cranberries.”

1 pound fresh cranberries, finely chopped

2 tart green apples, peeled, cored, and finely diced

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup orange marmalade

10-ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed and drained

1 teaspoon lemon juice or to taste

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. May be refrigerated, covered for 1 month. Spoon relish into serving bowl. Makes 6 cups; can serve 12.