Holiday Party Part 4: Standing Rib Roast

Finally, the main course!  If you have been following along (or want to now), I’ve published all the recipes for a fabulous holiday party: a chicken liver pate appetizer, a potato gratin side dish, and a Meyer lemon tart for dessert.  A traditional (and delicious) main course for Christmas dinner is a big beef rib roast.  Not only is it delicious, it is one of  the easiest things you will ever make.  Thanksgiving turkey is like brain surgery compared to this.  There are just a few things to remember for the best results: 

1) Allow the meat to warm up before you start roasting; 1-2 hours on the counter before roasting should be sufficient.

2) After roasting, allow the meat to rest 20-30 minutes before carving.  This will allow the meat to finish cooking (the thermal mass of the meat will cause the internal temperature to rise 5-10 degrees after it is removed from the oven) and allow the juices to redistribute.

Standing Rib Roast


beef standing rib roast (prime rib) 




1.  Remove the meat from the refrigerator 1-2 hours before roasting.

2.  Preheat oven to 450 F.  Place the meat in a roasting pan, fat side up.  Sprinkle salt and pepper copiously over the roast.


3.  Roast the meat in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350 and roast to an internal temperature of about 115-117 degrees for medium rare (the temperature will continnue to rise after the roast is removed from the oven).


Yep, that is it.  No basting, no stuffing, no worries.  Nothing but beefy goodness.  Just carve the roast into nice slices and serve to your guests.



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Filed under Main courses

Holiday Party Part 3: Potato Gratin

Alrighty, by now you’ve read all about chicken liver pate and meyer lemon tart, the first and last courses in my holiday menu.  Since a potato dish is requisite at any big family meal, I’ve suggested a potato gratin.  How can anything composed of potatoes, cream, and cheese be bad?  Think of these as fancy scalloped potatoes.  You’ll notice that the amount of potatoes in the recipe is fairly vague.  Sorry!  I didn’t weigh my potatoes when I made the recipe.  You can use the photos as a visual guide to the the cream to potato ratio.  Thankfully, the recipe is forgiving and should work over a wide range (the consistency will just be a bit different).  You can easily scale this recipe up or down depending on the number of guests.

Gratin Dauphinois

adapted from Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain


Yukon gold potatoes, sliced 

2 c heavy cream

5 garlic cloves, crushed

1 sprig rosemary

1 sprig thyme

salt and pepper

nutmeg, preferably freshly ground

1 T butter

4 oz. grated Gruyere (or other good Swiss cheese)


1.  Add sliced potatoes, cream, 4 garlic cloves, and herbs into a pot.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.


potatoes-cooking2.  Meanwhile, butter a baking dish large enough to hold the potatoes and cream, cut the remaining garlic clove and rub it inside the dish.

3.  Transfer the potato/cream mixture to the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the grated cheese.  Bake in a 350 C oven for about 40 minutes, until the cheese is browned.


Yum!  During the time in the oven, the cream and starch from the potatoes (along with evaporation I assume) thicken the mixture into a mass of creamy goodness.  The flavors of the herbs and nutmeg really come through to highlight the potatoes and cheese.  I’ve never tried it, but I suspect that you could separate the boiling and baking steps by a few hours if necessary.  If you are making my whole holiday menu, you can work on this while the roast is in the oven, and then bake this while the roast is finishing.  I have made this for several groups of people and haven’t had to take leftovers home yet.  Enjoy!

Next up: Standing rib roast


Filed under Vegetables and Sides

Holiday Party Part 2: Meyer Lemon Tart

Now that you’ve made (or at least read about) chicken liver pate, it is time to tackle dessert.  After a heavy, luxurious holiday meal, I thought that something refreshing was in order.  A lemon tart is just the thing.  I shouldn’t even be blogging about lemon tarts since my friend over at Small Kitchen, Big Ideas is truly the expert.  She has literally made dozens in the quest for lemony perfection (I’m not sure if any are on her blog yet; it is probably only a matter of time).

Meyer lemons are larger, juicier, and a bit sweeter than regular lemons.  They may be difficult to find in some locales; I got mine from the citrus guy at the local farmer’s market.  If you don’t have them, just use regular lemons from the supermarket, the tart will still turn out great.meyer lemons

meyer lemons

Meyer Lemon Tart

adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Susanne Goin

This recipe can be made 1 day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.


1 tart shell – use your favorite pastry dough or dessert crust recipe

4 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 cup plus 1 T sugar

1 cup Meyer lemon juice (you can use regular lemon juice as well)

10 T cold butter, cut into pieces

1 pinch salt


1. Completely bake the tart shell.  Set aside to cool.


2.  Whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spatula.

3.  Remove from heat.  Add pinch of salt.  Mix in butter, a bit at a time, until completely mixed in.


4.  Strain the lemon mixture into a bowl and then transfer to the cooled tart shell.  Chill until ready to serve.

lemon-tart-seivingSo the tart looked really smooth and beautiful until I dropped a container of yogurt into it as it was setting…it still doesn’t look bad.


notice the impact crater...

notice the impact crater, just beyond the missing piece...

The real recipe from ‘Sunday Suppers at Lucques’ includes a thin chocolate layer in the bottom of the tart shell.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the chocolate-lemon combination so I skipped that this time around.  The tart is a great mixture of tart and sweet, a refreshing finish to the (almost excessive) richness that comes before in my holiday menu.

Next up: Potato Gratin (Gratin Dauphinoise)


Filed under Desserts

Holiday Party Part 1: Chicken Liver Pate

Since I am the only food blogger on the planet not to give any Thanksgiving suggestions I thought I would give you some really good stuff for Christmas.  The menu I’ve come up with would make an elegant Christmas dinner for family or a really special dinner party for friends.  I’ve also designed it so that the work can be spread out over several days if needed.  Even more importantly, none of the recipes force you to run around at the last minute, right before your guests arrive.  As an added bonus all of the recipes can be scaled up or down to accommodate groups of different sizes (except for the dessert; for big groups just make, or better yet buy, a second).  So here is the menu and game plan:

Appetizer – Chicken liver pate – make two days ahead

Main course:  Standing rib roast – make day of party

Sides: Gratin Dauphinoise (think fancy scalloped potatoes), roasted vegetables – make while meat is roasting

Dessert: Meyer lemon tart  – make one day ahead

So today I’ll show you how to make the chicken liver pate, tomorrow I’ll give the instructions for the lemon tart , tuesday I’ll post the instructions for the potato gratin, and the finale will be the roast on wednesday.  So let’s get started!

Chicken Liver Pate

Think of this like foie gras for the rest of us (or for those who don’t like the idea of force feeding to make a fat/liver emulsion inside a living goose).  If you want to be really pretentious (this isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing, just keep it in moderation) you can call this ‘pate de foie de volaille au cognac’.  To come up with this recipe I read a bunch of pate recipes both online and in the various cookbooks I own and took the best aspects of each one.  The biggest influences are here and here.


1 lb. chicken livers


8 T butter

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 cloves minced garlic

2 bay leaves

1 t thyme (or more, to taste)

1/2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1/4 cup brandy or cognac


ingredients (it gets prettier, I promise)

ingredients (it gets prettier, I promise)




1.  Soak the chicken livers in enough milk to cover them for about 2 hours.  Drain thoroughly.

2.  Melt 1/2 of the butter (4 tablespoons) over medium-high heat, add the onions and saute until soft.  Add garlic and cook for a few seconds, just enough to get rid of the raw taste.

3. Add the livers, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Saute until the livers are browned outside and just pink inside; 5 minutes or so. 

not pretty yet, but it smells good

4.  Add the brandy/cognac and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the livers are cooked.  Please don’t overcook the livers, I think we all have the childhood experience of eating a grey piece of liver with the consistency of shoe leather.

5.  Cool the mixture for a bit, remove the bay leaves, and transfer to a food processor.  Process until very smooth.  Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of cold butter and process until the incorporated.

6.  Pack the mixture into a container or containers; ramekins (like you would use for creme brulee) work well for this.  A small, flat bowl or loaf pan would work too.  Refrigerate until set.

6b. (optional)  To be very traditional, and also to protect the pate, you can pour a thin layer of melted butter over the pate once it is inside its storage container (the bowl or ramekin from the previous step).  The butter will harden and seal the pate.

7. Serve!

I am not a huge fan of liver, but I can eat this pate like candy.  The richness and ‘liveryness’ is tempered by all the butter, the taste of the cognac, and the herbal flavors from the bay and thyme.  If you’ve never had pate you really should try it.  Even if you don’t try it, make it – your friends will be impressed and think you slaved away for hours.  I like to serve pate with slices of baguette (toasted or not; crackers would work too), coarse mustard, and cornichons (little French pickles).  You could get really fancy and make this one part of a charcuterie platter, along with some other meat products.  Add some nice cheese and a few bottles of wine for a ready made cocktail party.  It can also make a nice lunch or light dinner when paired with a simple green salad.  

Next up: Meyer lemon tart


Filed under Appetizers

Duck Part 3: Duck Breast Salad

So I have to admit that project duck was not a total success…between work, traveling home for the holidays, and hosting a Thanksgiving get together for myself plus about 15 coworkers and friends I didn’t get a chance to use the duck liver.  I was reminded of this because when I returned home after the holiday and opened my refrigerator I was greeted by a most malodorous substance.  After quickly scurrying outside to dispose of a small plastic bag with a very smelly duck liver (and hoping that no one called the police to report a potential corpse) the situation was rectified.  Perhaps I’ll buy some chicken livers this weekend and make some pate. However, before project duck went south, I did make a really tasty warm duck breast salad.  As a matter of fact, it was so good that I make it twice (don’t worry, I really like duck so I’ll provide more recipes when I buy the next one).

Warm Duck Breast Salad

adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten


2 duck breasts

1 T minced shallots

1/2 T salt

2 T white wine vinegar

zest of 1 orange

1/3 c olive oil

2 heads Belgian endive, trimmed and sliced into bite-sized pieces

2 oz. salad greens

2 oranges, cut into segments

1/2 pint raspberries

1/2 c pecans


1. Liberally salt the duck breasts.  Be sure to leave the thick pad of subcutaneous fat on the breasts.  Roast in a 400 oven for about 20 minutes, until medium-rare (about 135 degrees internal temperature).  Wrap the breasts in foil until ready to slice and add to the salad.   The actual roasting time will depend on the size of the duck breasts.  There are a few species of duck (Muscovy and Pekin) that are available and they differ in size.  Be sure to remove the skin and fat pad from the duck breasts before serving.  


before roasting

before roasting



2.  Mix the shallots, orange zest, salt, and vinegar in a small bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify (albeit temporarily, oil and vinegar mix only for a short time without some extra help).


shallot-orange vinaigrette

shallot-orange vinaigrette



3.  Mix the endive, greens, orange segments, raspberries, and pecans in a bowl.  Mix in dressing.  Slice duck breasts and serve over the salad mixture.


salad mixture

salad mixture




So there it is.  The sweetness of the orange and raspberries and nutty taste from the pecans help to offset the richness and fattiness of the duck.  It was so tasty that I made it twice (the recipe above uses both breast halves from a duck, I made two 1/2 recipes).

Up next: I have no idea, whatever food project I tackle this weekend; any ideas?

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Filed under Main courses, Salads

Duck Part Two: Duck Confit

That’s right folks, today we’re cooking pieces of duck in a pool of duck fat. At this point you are either revolted or salivating, either way take a moment to regain your composure before proceeding. Just in case anyone was revolted, cooking duck (or other meats) like this does have a (historical) purpose. Before the advent of refrigeration, people would use a process similar to what I’ll show below to preserve meats. First the meat would be salted to extract much of the water, it would then be slowly cooked in fat, and finally stored totally submerged in the fat to protect it from spoilage. If properly made and stored in a cool place, duck confit can be stored like this for months; I’m not sure I am brave enough to test that part out for myself…

Duck Confit

adapted from “Bouchon” by Thomas Keller


1/4 c kosher salt

2 T parsley

1 T thyme

1 bay leaf, crumbled

a few black peppercorns

duck legs

duck fat 


1.  Place the salt, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and peppercorns in a coffee/spice mill, food process, or mortar and process/grind until the herbs are incorporated.





2)  Coat the duck legs with about 1 tablespoon of green salt per pound of duck.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18-24 hours (if you go more than this the duck will be overly salty).


3) Heat your oven to 180 F.  Completely rinse the salt and herb mixture off the duck legs, pat dry, and place the duck legs in a small ovenproof container.  Cover the legs completely with melted duck fat.  Cook the legs, submerged in the fat, for 6-10 hours, until the duck is meltingly tender.

they should be completely submerged, oops

they should be completely submerged, oops


after 8 hours

4)  When the duck is done cooking allow it to cool to room temperature in the fat, transfer the legs to a storage container, strain any meat juices from the fat (they will settle to the bottom of the cooking container), cover the duck legs in the fat, and refrigerate.

Ok, so now we have some duck legs packed away under fat in the fridge.  What do you do with them?  There are lots of potential uses (google is your friend here); here is one example from the Bouchon cookbook.  I won’t go over it in exhaustive detail (I think this post is long enough and there is already an excellent blog post about this recipe at The Paupered Chef), so I’ll just tell you that I plucked the confit from the fat (scraping off any extra that clung on), heated a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and placed the confit skin side down for about 7 minutes to crisp the skin.  The idea here is to contrast the crispy skin with the very tender meat…confit-cooking

 After that I boiled some brussels sprouts, whipped up a sauce of shallots, thyme, garlic, chicken stock, dijon mustard, and creme fraiche (you can use sour cream in a pinch; remind me to write a post on how to make your own creme fraiche sometime), and served it like this:


Next up:  Warm duck breast salad…


Filed under Appetizers, Basics, Main courses

Duck! Part one….

Ok, so maybe I have too much free time…  I was at the farmer’s market on saturday and had a flash of inspiration… I was going to buy a duck and use every last scrap for something.  If a cute little quacker had to die for dinner, I would enjoy every last bit.  In about 10 seconds of brilliance I came up with an ad hoc plan:

1) buy duck

2) cut up duck into 2 half breasts, 2 legs, 2 wings, fat/skin, and carcass

3) render fat

4) confit legs using the fat from the previous step

5) roast one breast and make a salad

6) grill the other breast for a second entree

7) turn liver into pate

easy, right?  

So over the next week or so I’ll detail my adventures here at Chez Travie.  Today I’ll focus on dismembering the duck and rendering the fat. At this point you might be wondering “Why would I want to render and keep duck fat?” I’m glad you asked! Duck fat is amazingly useful and flavorful. The obvious use is to make duck confit, which I’ll detail in my next entry. Duck fat is also great for roasting potatoes, frying french fries, and maybe even to start sauteing the onions for a risotto. Now that we have that out of the way we can get started.

Cutting up the duck was actually the most intimidating part for me.  Anyone who has seen me carve a roast chicken can tell you why – it isn’t a pretty sight.  I’ll apologize now for the lack of pictures while I cut up the duck.  I didn’t have the energy to wash and dry my hands after every step so I could take photos without turning my camera into a poultry related biohazard.  The process is really quite straightforward; if you have ever cut up a whole chicken this process will be very familiar.

Here is the starting material:



Here is the procedure:

1) Remove the wings: Flip the duck breast down and remove the wings; your knife should slide fairly easily through the joint.

2) Remove the legs: Turn the duck breast up.  Slice along the side of the duck (don’t cut the breast) until you reach the joint where the thigh meets the body (analogous to our hip joint).  At this point it is best to reach in and break the joint with you hands (you aren’t squeamish are you?)  Wiggle your knife to slide through this joint and cut the rest of the way through.

3) Remove the breast:  Slice along each side of the breastbone (one cut on each side) to detach the breast.  The only trouble spot here might be the wishbone, be sure to slide your knife under it when you get there.

4) Skin/fat:  Trim the pieces you have removed of any excess skin/fat.  Go over the carcass and cut off any large pieces of skin and fat.  Don’t forget all the skin on the back of the duck.  Also be sure to get all of the yummy fat from the neck as well.  Be thorough, duck fast is like liquid gold in the kitchen.

Ok, so after you go through that (it is much easier than it sounds) here is what you get (I don’t think I did too bad 🙂 ):


breast, legs, and liver

skin and fat

skin and fat

At this point, I packed up the legs, breast, and liver to work with later this week.  Onward to the fat!!

Rendered Duck Fat


1.  Place the fat and skin scraps into a saucepan.  Add water to cover the scraps by about an inch.
unrendered duck fat

unrendered duck fat

2.  Cook the mixture over low heat, adjusting the flame to keep it at a simmer.  Stir occasionally.  The fat will melt and the water will slowly boil off.

it gets better, i promise

it gets better, i promise

 3.  When the water is completely gone, the bubbling will seem to almost stop (only small bubbles will be seen), any pieces of skin will be crisp (like pork cracklings), and the fat will turn a light golden color.

4.  At this point remove the fat from the heat and strain it into a heatproof container several times.  The cleaner you make the fat at this point, the longer it will last.  A cheesecloth lined strainer would be ideal for this.


5.  When the strained fat has cooled to room temperature, transfer the fat to the refrigerator or freezer for storage.

Other than the fact that I’ll have to burn down my apartment to get rid of the duck smell everything went very well. I now have one cut up duck and 12 oz. of so of rendered duck fat to play with. Not too shabby for the fairly minimal amount of work involved.

Up next: Duck confit


Filed under Basics