I don't think too often about whether I spend a lot on food when I'm cooking. I am more likely to think about whether food is expensive when I am eating out.
My mother, who really thought little about cooking at all until I was a freshman in high school, cooked little and I never remember her talking about how much food cost. She did say it was hardly worth cooking if you could eat out instead. Of course, she didn't really like to cook and my family was comfortable enough that my mom and I would eat out often, since my father was either playing bridge or playing golf after work and my brother had already finished college and never really lived at home again. Once I was college bound, that was pretty much the end of my mother and the kitchen.
I became a cook for a couple of reasons: one was the cost of eating out and the other was that I met and married a man who loved my cooking and we both loved cooking for friends and family. For 30 years it was mostly just the two of us and now just me.
I pretty much cook what I want to eat. But I love to cook for people and recently invited two couples who have, literally, kept me alive (one my physician, the other a nurse, along with their spouses). I decided to make a new halibut recipe and was a bit surprised when the fish cost around $55.
My doctor, who knows wine and knows I like red wine, brought two reds, one a Bordeaux and the other a Burgundy. This was the best wine I have ever drunk, and maybe I never will again. Between the dish and the wine, I knew that sometimes ingredients are worth a splurge. I can't give you a taste of Chateau La Dominique St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe 1989, or a Pommard Clos des Epeneaux Comte Armond 1990, but below is the recipe for terrific entrée that, even though it was fish, went gorgeously with the wine.
Halibut with Corn Hobo Packs with Herbed Butter
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2012, page 66
One-quarter cup snipped chives
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
salt and freshly ground white pepper (I had only black and it was fine)
2 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cobs
4 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps thinly sliced
4 skinless halibut fillets (6 ounces each)
8 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal
In a small food processor, pulse chives and tarragon until chopped. Add butter and pinch each of salt and pepper and pulse just until butter is bright green with flecks of herbs. Transfer butter to a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a log. Freeze for about 5 minutes, until butter is firm. Cut butters into 16 pieces.*
Arrange four 12-inch sheets of heavy-duty foil on a work surface and spray evenly with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, toss corn with the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Mound the mixture in the center of the foil sheets and top each mound with a piece of the herb butter. Top with the halibut fillets and another piece of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Fold up the foil on all sides and pinch the seams to seal.
Light a grill. Place the foil packets on the grill, close the lid and cook over high heat until fish is cooked through and mushrooms are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let packets rest for 2 minutes.
Grill the baguette slices for 2 minutes, turning once. Top with the remaining herb butter, allowing it melt. Open the packets and serve the fish and vegetables with the baguette toasts.
*While your herb garden is at its peak, you might consider making a few pounds of herb butter with sage, tarragon, dill, chives, etc. In plastic wrap, they will freeze beautifully until next summer's herb garden. Over the winter, add a pat or more to vegetables, stews, meat, chicken and fish and dream of next year.
A few Saturday nights ago, I went with three friends to the Old Lyme Inn. I have eaten there three times since its opening a couple of months ago (it really is the "new" Old Lyme Inn) and enjoyed it a lot. On the last visit, with a new very nice seasonal menu (although I can still get the calf liver Milanese, thank goodness), I tasted two of a friend's cocktail, one called the Flicker and other made with spiced pear vodka. Although I drink only red wine, and rarely at that, I loved both these cocktails. Especially delicious was the Flicker, with cognac, pomegranate juice and vodka. The top of the martini glass was iced with golden sugar, so that the entire cocktail was the same color of the Northern Flicker, a beautiful bird that is the logo of the Old Lyme Inn. Perhaps I will begin drinking cocktails, at least there..
Old Lyme Inn
85 Lyme Street
Old Lyme, CT 06371