Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weekend Delights

I’m tossing up what I’m going to cook for myself over the weekend. The chilly weather is being very persistent. A thick, flavoursome stew is tempting, but then, so is a tender, juicy steak, Diane-style. Writing about “Lucky’s” expertise at table-top cooking and his masterful presentation of Steak Diane has whetted my appetite. The idea of flaming the steak is drawing me closer to the pan. I might have to sip on a brandy or two while I make up my mind!

In the meantime, I’ll tell you a little story.

When managing the restaurant at Noosa a few years ago, as well as waiting on the tables, I helped the chef prepare certain dishes.

It was a Saturday. I’d prepared a stack of sweet crepes. I filled them with a mixture of shredded coconut, bananas and dark rum, ready for the evening, when they’d fulfill their role as part of the dessert selection. Come time for their serving as dessert, they’d be presented with whipped cream. Just before opening at 6pm, I finished making and filling the crepes. Once the chore was completed, I placed them on shelves on the right-hand side of the cold room, which at all times was reserved for desserts and ingredients pertaining thereto.

The restaurant cruised up the Noosa River, Friday and Saturday nights and also Sunday lunches. It was a riverboat. The rest of the time, it was dockside. The moonlight shimmered across the water, as our dinner guests dined by candlelight. Soft music wafted throughout the restaurant, not interrupted by the deep muffled drone of the “Laguna Belle’s” engine.

The tall gums along the shores of the riverbank, silhouetted against a silvery sky, stood as proud protectors directing our path. The evening’s ambience was palpable and tangible.

Come time for dessert, I buzzed each table, taking their orders. To my joy, the majority of diners chose the Rum & Banana Crepes. I'd made a stack of them. Stepping into the galley-kitchen, I opened the coldroom door and reached to my right. The shelves were bare! Not a banana crepe was in sight!

“Where’re my banana crepes?” I cried. “Phil! Did you move them?”

“No…I’ve not touched them,” answered Phil, the chef.

“Jill!” I exclaimed to the kitchen-hand. “Did you move my crepes? I finished making them just before we opened…and I put them all here!” I said pointing to the now empty shelves. " I must be going crazy! Crazier than usual!” I continued.

“No…I’ve not touched them, either,” said Jill. “Oh….Oh….” She stopped mid-step and mid-sentence.

“Oh! My! God!”

On our menu as one of the entrées were Seafood Crepes. Crepes filled with prawns, fish, scallops, squid in a creamy sauce and then topped with a cheese sauce, finished under the salamander/grill/broiler.

I looked to my left. The shelves were filled with Seafood Crepes!

I went through the orders and then visited every table that had ordered the Seafood Crepes, offering my apologies and explanation. Not one person noticed that they’d received Banana and Rum Crepes topped with a cheese sauce instead of Seafood Crepes!

I deducted the cost of the crepe entrees off the relevant orders. One lass at a table of eight, laughingly told me, “I love your seafood crepes. I always have them when we come here. That’s why we brought our friends along with us tonight. We wanted them to try them!”

It’s amazing what a little moonlight,soft, romantic music and candles will do to diners while cruising along a river!

Banana Crepes
1 cup plain/all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter

Whisk the flour and the eggs together in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the milk and the water. Add the salt and butter, and beat the mixture until smooth. Heat a griddle or frying pan to medium. Give it a very light spray of cooking oil. Drop the crepe mixture onto the heated surface. Using about a 1/4 cup of batter for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. "Thin is in" when it comes to the layer of batter.

Cook each side until the golden brown brown (about 2 minutes for side one -- batter will bubble; and 1 minute for side 2). Gently remove and place on a plate. Place waxed paper between cooked crepes to prevent sticking. This will make 8 crepes. 2 crepes make a serving.

3 large bananas -- sliced
4 Tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons banana liqueur (optional)
4 Tablespoons dark rum
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Filling: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and melt the butter. Add the sugar and stir to make a syrup. Add cinnamon, bananas, shredded coconut and stir once more. Gently pour rum and banana liqueur over the bananas. Flambé the sauce to burn out alcohol. Add the walnuts, divide mixture with your eye into four portions and spoon each portion over a crepe. Close crepe, top with whipped cream.

Beef Stew:

1/4 cup olive oil 1 1/4 pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
I cup of Guinness stout
1 cup of fine red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons butter

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. While the meet and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Transfer stew to serving bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Steak Diane
Gently pound beef fillets to achieve a thin, even thickness. Season flour with salt and pepper.
Preheat a sauté pan with oil over medium heat. Lightly dredge beef fillets in seasoned flour, shaking off excess. When 2 tablespoons oil is hot, add beef fillets to pan. Cook until well browned on both sides and medium rare (approximately 4 -5 minutes on each side). Remove and reserve, keeping warm. Drain excess oil from pan; return pan to heat. Add 2oz butter, 1/2 teaspoon minced shallots and 1 crushed garlic clove. Sauté briefly; do not brown. Remove pan from heat and carefully deglaze pan with brandy. Return pan to heat, flame, and then simmer. Reduce liquid by 1/2. Stir in 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of beef stock powder or a couple of tablespoon liquid beef stock; bring to a simmer. Add 2ozs cream and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Season to taste. Garnish with minced chives. Add cooked beef fillets back to simmering sauce. Coat beef fillets with sauce and place on warm serving plates. Top with additional sauce and serve.


  1. Hi Lee

    Those crepes must have tasted very unusual...or maybe the wine they'd quaffed rendered their taste buds too sloshed to tell the difference.

    What a's good your diners were so understanding about it. I adore seafood crepes and I would have been one of those who ordered that particular dish.

  2. No one noticed. One fellow said here thought there wasn't much seafood in them, but he was not at all concerned! Amazing what the atmosphere can do. Everyone was fine about none of them had noticed anything untoward. Just tells you how much people understand or know what they're eating! lol

  3. Anonymous2:07 AM

    I think I might have noticed, then again, maybe not.

  4. Who knows, Steve...we had a full restaurant that night...and not one person who ordered the crepes as an entree noticed. I find it strange, but it's fact. Perhaps they were just too polite to say anything...or too scared! lol Or just didn't know any better...I was surprised at the time that no one complained...but no one did. And when I approached each table and person that received the wrong food, they all had their opportunity to say something...but didn't other than the ones I've written about who commented. Strange...people are strange...and one certainly sees that in the restaurant industry.

  5. My weekend cooking will be slightly different: tomorrow is Bastille Day so Margaret and the boys have taken it under their wing and are doing a French confection, well the whole meal actually. I'll let you know the menu once I am privy to it. Sunday is the second anniversary of my telling my company to stick their job up their jumper. I had steak the night I left, I will have steak on Sunday. And chips.

  6. I can't say I've ever tasted banana flavored sea food before... not sure I want to!

  7. A situation saved by the ambience Lee.

  8. Sounds like a tasty weekend ahead for you, Lee...and a pleasant surprise in store for Bastille Day. :)

    Well, there are such creatures known as "Banana Prawns", a little imagination, anything is possible! ;)

    That's what did it, I reckon, Peter...they were under the spell of the river, the moonlight and the music. :)

  9. Hi Lee ~~ That was so funny no one noticing the difference.
    The recipes sound delicious.
    The last time I went to a cinema was with Peter a couple of years ago when we saw "Walk the Line" the Johnny Cash story. I must admit I would rather sit at home in comfort and watch movies there. Take care Lee,
    Have a wonderful weekend. Love, Merle

  10. Nobody noticed?!!! Both sweet and savoury sound delicious though.

  11. How I would love to have a cook-free weekend. Dream on..

  12. Love that story Lee. Doesn't it make you wonder sometimes why we go to all that bother with food? For some people it's just fuel.

  13. Great story. What a little moonlight can do, indeed. I am so hungry now! I want all these dishes but especially the beef stew!

  14. I enjoyed "Walk the Line" Merle...good movie and Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon played their roles so well.

    Hi Liz..I never ceased to be amazed by people...but at least they were a good lot of diners as no one complained! ;)

    Hey Ellee...good to see you...I've not had one of those for a long time, either!

    You're right, jmb...I think that probably was half the reason!

    Nothing nicer than a tasty, thick stew, Welsh...full of hearty flavour, particular in cold weather like we're experiencing down this way at the moment.

  15. Hi Lee

    "Show us yer music!" See today's post on my blog, quite an interesting meme.

  16. Maybe nobody got past the taste of the cheese sauce?

    I'm going to save your beef stew recipe and try it as a crock pot dish. Should work with a few tweaks, looks 'guy' simple enough.

  17. Perhaps so, gto...although the cheese sauce was light and didn't smother the rest of the dish. The stew will make a great crockpot meal. Happy crocking! ;)

  18. umm, bad attempt at humor, my apologies.

  19. umm, gto...good attempt at humour...don't be so hard on yourself! ;)

  20. Lord, that all looks and sounds so delicious. If I ever make it Down Under, please, please invite me to dinner!

  21. Consider it done, Serena! :)

  22. Mmmmm, so many people are posting food posts at the moment. My tummy's grumbling (although I just ate ... LOL).
    Take care, Meow

  23. LOL What a hootie story. Dessert first and topped with cheese sauce. I want to know what they were drinking and pour me some please!!!!!hehehehe

  24. Is that the noise in the background I can hear, Meow? ;)

    It certainly was a "hoot", Lady Di...just proves so many people have not a clue as to what they're eating! lol

  25. Yikes! I would have noticed but if they were yummy I would have eaten them and not said a word. I swear I would have.