Cooking Ahead

Dishes to make between summer's dog days and crisp, cool fall

You can serve the dish with buttered noodles but I sometimes opt to offer small red potatoes tossed with butter and minced flat leaf parsley. Steamed asparagus is also another good side.

During the hot, humid days of late summer, my mother used the phrase “the dog days of summer.” I didn’t think much about it, assuming, that the days were so hot even dogs suffered the heat. Recently I was leafing through a 2015 issue of National Geographic and found this tidbit:

“To the Greeks and Romans, the ‘dog days’ occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.”

As much as I like the languid summer, I’m ready for the first nip of cool weather, so I can enjoy the bounty of fall. I eagerly wait for a Houma friend to bring a tub of oysters, fresh from the bays along the coast. I always set some aside to eat raw with crackers and spicy cocktail sauce, but also favor a creamy soup of oysters that my mother often prepared on Sunday nights when the cold winds were blowing.



Oyster Soup
Serve with oyster crackers or hot French bread.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter 4 tablespoons butter plus 4 more tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 quart warm cream (or half-and-half)
4 dozen freshly shucked oysters, drained and oyster liquor reserved
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

Combine 4 tablespoons butter with flour in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly for about 4 minutes, make a light brown roux.

Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Combine cream with reserved oyster liquor and add slowly to roux mixture, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken slightly. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add oysters, parsley, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter and simmer until the edges of the oysters curl. Remove from the heat and serve.


Main Course

Beef Tenderloin With Stroganoff Sauce

There are several stories as to who created the dish and for whom it was named. It is believed that a French chef named Charles Briere won a St. Petersburg cooking contest in 1891 with a dish he called Beef Stroganov, perhaps named for Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov who was a member of the oldest and wealthiest Russian families under the czars.

Makes 6 servings
1 (3-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Stroganoff sauce (recipe online)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Tie meat with kitchen twine at one-inch intervals to hold the shape of tenderloin. Rub meat with olive oil, and season generously with salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Heat a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add tenderloin and sear on all sides, rotating it about 1 minute per side to brown evenly. Transfer skillet to oven and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn roast over and cook another 10 minutes or so, or until the internal temperature reaches about 125 F for medium rare. Remove from oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to stand at least 10 minutes before carving into 6 portions to serve with sauce.

Stroganoff Sauce

Red Wine Stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 cup red wine
1 can (14 ounce) beef broth
Sprig of fresh thyme

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste, cooking and stirring until it becomes dark. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Deglaze with the red wine, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the broth and thyme. Simmer until liquid reduces by half, about 10 minutes. Strain stock before using.

To make the sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces white button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups red wine stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup sour cream (optional)

Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a platter and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons butter and the 2 tablespoons flour, whisking over low heat until the roux browns slightly. Add the wine stock, mustard and mushrooms. Simmer until sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream if you wish.

Ah, and for dessert—something refreshing.

Tip: Serve in wine glasses that have been pre-chilled in the ‘fridge or freezer. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream.



Frozen Caffe Latte
Serve in wine glasses that have been pre-chilled in the ‘fridge or freezer. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream.

Makes about 6 servings
½ cup sugar
3 cups freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
1 cup whole milk

Chill a 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan in the freezer.

In a medium bowl, stir sugar into coffee until dissolved. Let cool completely. Stir in milk. Pour mixture into the chilled baking dish. Freeze for about 30 minutes, then stir well with a fork to incorporate the ice. Continue freezing, stirring every 30 minutes until liquid freezes completely, about three hours.