Today is National Massachusetts Day. Massachusetts, the first New England colony and the 6th state to join the Union earned the name Cradle of Liberty. After all, Massachusetts hosted the founding of the Sons of Liberty and the Boston Tea Party.
With its countless bays and abundant shorelines, Massachusetts offers the weary renewing seaside escapes. There’s just something rejuvinating to the soul to be near ocean waves.
As a young impressionable girl in the early sixties, Massachusetts holds a special place in my heart. After all, Camelot was born in Massachusetts. While I was born during the Eisenhower Administration, it was the Kennedy White House that was magical in the eyes of a child. As a young Catholic, seeing the first family attend Mass was something I understood.
I’ve never been to Massachusetts, it’s on my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to visit Boston, and in particular the infamous Omni Parker House. There’s something about old elegance that resonates with me. The rich woods, the eye for detail, the crystals and silvers and impeccable service.
In creating my menu for Massachusetts Day, I went straight to the source of elegance – the Omni Parker House dinner menu, and selected all the dishes I would order. Call it my Boston Fantasy.
In 1825, a 20-year-old farmer named Harvey D. Parker arrived in the bustling city of Boston. The penniless Parker worked a variety of odd jobs throughout the city, scrimping and saving until he had enough money to open his own successful restaurant. From that humble beginning, he formed a lucrative business partnership with John E. Hunt to create a luxurious hotel operated on the “European Plan”. Parker’s strategy was novel among American hoteliers at the tame, splitting fees for lodging and food. It was not room and board, these were separate functions within the property. Not only would Omni Parker House feature exquisite accommodations, but would bring a diversity of culinary delights not seen before in America. What inspiration!
Just a few tips and thoughts before we get to cooking. The menu is fairly extensive and labor intense. If you have help, great! If you want to cheat, also great. Parker House Rolls can be made from scratch or found in the frozen bread section of most grocery stores in America. A Boston Cream Pie would not be any less delicious if you bought one from your favorite bakery. Caesar Salads can be made from scratch with everything from the herb croutons to the dressing all ‘home-made” or found as a kit in the produce section. If you do decide to do it all, read the recipes carefully, as many can be made in advance. Have fun, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Have a great Massachusetts Day!
Parker House Inspired Elegance
Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake
Classic French Onion
From the Land –
Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Béarnaise Sauce and Char-Braised Basil Asparagus
From the Sea –
Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail with Buttermilk Whipped Garlic Red Potatoes
Classic Caesar with Parker House Dinner Rolls
Boston Cream Pie and French Press Coffee
Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes
2 slices firm White Sandwich Bread
8 oz Lump Crab Meat, drained
2 Green Onions
1 large Egg
2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 tablespoons Butter
Tartar Sauce for serving
1 Lemon for serving
Trim crusts from the bread, tear into small pieces and set aside. Drain crab meat, pick over to clean and set aside. Snip green onions, set aside.
Lightly beat an egg in a large mixing bowl. Combine bread, crab mean, mayonnaise, Worcestershire Sauce, seasoning and green onions to the beaten egg . Mix gently but thoroughly. Form into 4 patties (about 3-inch in diameter).
Heat butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Place crab cakes into the pan to cook until golden brown, turning once, about 6 minutes total.
Place tartar sauce in a small bowl. Arrange cakes on a platter. Cut lemon into quarter wedges and serve together.
French Onion Soup
1-1/2 lbs Yellow Onions
6 oz Crusty Bread Loaf (French, Italian or Sourdough)
3 tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
3 tablespoons Flour
8 cups Beef Stock
1 cup dry White Wine
1 sprig Thyme Leaves
2 tablespoons Cognac
Sea Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
3 oz Gruyère Cheese
Peel and slice onions as thinly as possible. Break up the rings and set aside. Slice the bread loaf into 1/2-inch thick slices, trim crusts. Cut bread into 1-1/2 inch squares. Set aside.
Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and stir to coat. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 15 minutes.
While the onions cook, make th croutons. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread bread cubes out in a single layer. Bake the heated oven until crisp and golden brown, 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Remove cover from soup pot, stir in salt and sugar. Raise heat to medium-low; cook 35 minutes, stirring often until onions have caramelized to a deep golden brown. Add flour; cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes to remove flour taste.
Strip thyme leaves from sprig, sprinkle over the onion mixture. Add wine and stock to soup pot. Stir well. Increase heat to medium and bring to soup to a steady simmer. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes to your desired taste and consistency. Remove from heat and stir in Cognac. Add salt and pepper to taste
Heat broiler. While the broiler heats, finely grate the Gruyère Cheese and set aside.
Ladle soup into 4 broiler-safe individual soup bowls. (Store any remaining soup in the refrigerator to rewarm later as desired). Top each bowl with some of the toasted croutons as desired and shredded cheese. Arrange bowls on a baking sheet and place under broiler. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve hot.
Note: Soup can be prepared the day before or in the morning. Store soup in the refrigerator, the croutons in an airtight container. Gently warm soup in a pot, then finish under the broiler just before serving.
Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Béarnaise Sauce
1 small Shallot
1 tablespoon fresh Tarragon Leaves
1 teaspoon fresh Tarragon Leaves
1/4 cup White Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
12 tablespoons Butter, clarified
2 Egg Yolks
Kosher salt to taste
Splash Lemon Juice, if desired
Peel and finely mince the shallot, set aside. Chop the Tarragon leaves, dividing into 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon piles, set aside.
Place the vinegar, shallots, black pepper and 1 tablespoon of tarragon leaves into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and allow mixture to simmer until there are only a few tablespoons of liquid left in the pan, approximately 5 minutes.
Remove pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
While the tarragon mixture cools, make the clarified butter.. Cut butter into 1 tablespoon slices. Gently place in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter melt undisturbed. Allow melted butter to simmer as the water content begins to evaporate and the butter-fat rises to the surface. Using a spoon, carefully remove the butter fat from the butter oil. If a little of the creamy fat manages to get down into the oil, that’s okay. Keep the butter hot.
Fill a small saucepan with about an inch or two of water, and set over medium-high heat to boil. Place the cooled shallot-tarragon mixture into a metal bowl that will fit snugly over the boiling water. Make sure the water does not touch the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of warm water into the tarragon mixture. Add egg yolks and whisk to combine.
Turn the heat under the saucepan of water down to its lowest setting. Place the bowl with the egg yolks over the pan. Continue to whisk the yolks until they thicken, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. The yolks should double in volume.
Once the yolks have thickened, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking slowly to combine and emulsify. Remove the bowl from the pan occasionally to keep the egg yolks from overcooking. Do not stop whisking or the sauce may separate.
Once all the butter has been added, remove from heat. Add a splash of lemon juice and the remaining tarragon leaves. If the sauce appears too thick, it can be thinned with a splash of water.
Keep warm in a thermos until ready to use. In a thermos, it will hold for several hours without breaking down.
Pan-Seared Filet Mignon
4 (6 oz) Filet Mignon, 2-inches thick
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Butter
Béarnaise Sauce (above) for serving
Remove steaks from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, set aside to come to room temperature.
Place oven rack in the center position. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter, swirl pan to coat as the butter melts.
Place the filet into the pan. It should sizzle. And it will smoke slightly, so turn on the exhaust fan. Cook the filet for about 3 minutes or until it becomes brown and has formed a seared crust. Turn the filet over and sear for 2 minutes longer or until browned. With tongs, set filets on their sides to sear about a minute per side.
Once nicely seared, transfer skillet to the oven. Roast filets for about 6 or 7 minutes, checking for doneness after 5 minutes. Cook to desired doneness, no more than medium with some pink.
Remove from oven, plate and cover with a large metal mixing bowl. This will allow meat to continue to cook in its own residual heat, allowing the juices to settle while keeping the filets warm. Let rest for 6 minutes.
Plate steaks, ladleBéarnaise Sauce over the steaks and garnish with snipped chives.
Char-Braised Basil Asparagus
1 lb Green Asparagus, trimmed
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Basil Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Butter
1/2 Lemon, freshly squeezed juice only
Basil Leaves for garnish
Rinse the asparagus and trim off the ends, leaving spears about 8 inches long. Season asparagus with salt and pepper, set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat the Basil Olive Oil and butter to sizzling. Turn down the heat to medium and add the asparagus.
Using a broad spatula, turn the spears over from time to time until they are browned and become tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus.
While the asparagus chars, cut the lemon in half. Stack basil leaves and cut into small ribbons. Set aside.
Just before serving, squeeze half of a lemon over the asparagus. The pan will spurt and sizzle. Roll the asparagus in the sizzling juice, then transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with basil and serve at once.
Crab Stuffed Lobster Tails
1 Celery Rib
1 Green Onion
1 (6 oz) can Crabmeat
Italian Parsley as desired
1 large Lemon
4 (6 oz) Lobster Tails
1 tablespoon Butter
1-1/2 teaspoons Flour
Pinch Dry Mustard
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
1/3 cup cold Milk
2 tablespoons Dry Breadcrumbs
Finely mince celery rib, set aside. Finely slice green onion, set aside. Drain crabmeat, flake and set aside. Snip parsley as desired for garnish, set aside. Cut lemon into wedges, set aside.
Heat grill for medium heat.
Butterfly the lobster tails by carefully cutting a slit down the top side, without cutting all the way through to the bottom. Flip the tail over, and carefully cut the shiny membrane without cutting the meat on the underside. This will prevent the tails from curling as they cook. Set tails aside.
In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Cook and stir the celery and green onion in butter until tender. Stir in the flour, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper. Using a wire whisk, mix in cold milk slowly, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in crab meat and bread crumbs. Spoon crab mixture into lobster tails.
Arrange tails on the heated grill, and close the lid. Cook for 12 minutes, or until lobster meat is opaque and the crab mixture is heated through.
Garlic Whipped Red Potatoes
4 cups Chicken Stock
2-1/2 lbs Red Potatoes unpeeled
3 Garlic Cloves, peeled
1/4 cup Butter
2 oz Cream Cheese
1/4 cup Buttermilk
Kosher Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
In a large stockpot over high heat, bring chicken stock to a boil.
Scrub potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks. Hold in cold water until ready to cook. Peel garlic, set aside.
Carefully add the potatoes chunks and garlic cloves into the boiling chicken stock. Continue to boil for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender and cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter with cream cheese. Whisk in the buttermilk, keep warm.
Drain potatoes with garlic from the stock. Place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Begin whipped potatoes on low, adding in the cream cheese mixture a little at a time until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Caesar Salad with Herbal Croutons
1 loaf French bread or another crusty bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Cut the bread in half crosswise to make two manageable pieces. Slice each piece in half lengthwise. Then cut each half into strips. Now cut through the strips crosswise to form cubes about 3/4 inch per side.
Important: Do not discard the crust! Remember, the crust is what gave croutons their name. Spread the bread cubes out on a rimmed baking sheet and allow them to dry-out for about an hour.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats, transfer the cubes to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper. Toss, so that the cubes are evenly coated.
Return the cubes back to the baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden. This process can go very quickly — to prevent burning, which would ruin the croutons, peek into the oven after 10 minutes and keep checking frequently until they are done.
Allow the croutons to cool completely before using on salad.
Note: If you don’t need all the croutons at once, you can store them in a covered plastic container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Simply reheat gently before serving. These croutons can also be made in advance, warmed when needed.
2 Egg Yolks
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Anchovy Filets, optional
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
Pinch Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
Separate the egg yolks from whites. Reserve whites for another purpose or discard. Place yolks in a blender. Cut lemon in half, squeeze half of the lemon over the yolks. Peel and roughly chop the garlic, add to the yolk mixture. If using, chop anchovies and add to the mix. Add mustard, salt and pepper. Blend to combine. With motor running, slowly add olive oil. Once added, pulse until you have a thick, emulsified sauce.
Transfer the dressing to the bottom of a large salad bowl. Stir in the cheese. Set aside until ready to serve.
1 Head Romaine Lettuce
Caesar Dressing (above)
1 cup Herbal Croutons (above)
Chop the Romaine lettuce crosswise into strips about 2 inches wide. Wash, spin dry and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Five minutes before serving, spread croutons out on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a 300-degree oven to warm.
Place the chilled Romaine Lettuce on top of the dressing in the salad bowl. Toss lettuce with dressing. Add warm croutons and toss again.
Serve on chilled salad plates.
Parker House Dinner Rolls
1 cup Butter, divided
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
2 cups Milk
1/4 cup warm Water
1 envelope Active-dry Yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
5-1/2 cups Flour, approximately
In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the butter, sugar, salt, and milk until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm, about 10 minutes.
Combine the water and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until yeast is slightly foamy.
In a large bowl combine 3 cups of flour with the milk mixture and yeast mixture to make a very wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time while kneading on low, until dough is slightly tacky to the touch but clears the sides of the bowl (you may not need all 6 cups of the flour). Continue to knead dough until smooth an elastic, about 7-8 minutes. Alternately, you can mix and knead the dough by hand.
Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45-60 minutes. Gently punch down dough and knead a few times, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Heat oven to 425-degrees. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter. Brush a large sheet pan with some of the melted butter or line with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/3-inch thick. Use a 3 inch round cutter to make rounds. Use the blunt end of a knife to crease the dough just off center, brush with butter, and fold the round onto itself, pressing it gently together. Place on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with remaining rounds.
Brush tops of the rolls with more melted butter. Bake until the tops of the rolls just begin to turn brown, about 15 minutes. Brush baked rolls with more melted butter and serve immediately.
Note: To make ahead prepare recipe up to the point of placing in a greased bowl. Place in the bowl and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. Let come to room temperature for 30-60 minutes, then proceed.
To Freeze: Bake rolls, let cool completely. Wrap well, store in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator, warm, covered, in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.
Boston Cream Pie
Yellow Cake Base
1 box Yellow Cake Mix
1 cup Water
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
Heat oven 325-degrees. Grease bottoms and sides of two 8- or 9-inch round dark; non-stick cake pans with shortening or margarine. Dust with flour, shake out excess and set pans aside.
Blend cake mix, water, oil and eggs in a large bowl at low speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium, beat for 2 minutes. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake on the middle rack in the heated oven for about 23 minutes or until cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cake cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, cool completely. Wrap cakes and store at room temperature until ready to assemble.
4 large Egg Yolks
1-1/2 Cups Whole Milk
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs, whole
1/2 cup Sugar
Pinch of Salt
Separate yolks from the egg whites. Discard whites or reserve for another purpose such as an egg-white omelette. Set yolks aside.
Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat (do not boil). Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and salt and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, to temper the eggs, then gradually whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture.
Pour the egg-milk mixture into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until thick and pudding-like, 10 to 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, using a rubber spatula to push the pudding through.
Let cool slightly, stirring occasionally. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
4 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
Finely chop the chocolate. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt chocolate with cream, vanilla and salt. Stir until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Remove ganache from heat, let cool about 5 minutes before using.
To Assemble Cream Pie: Slice top of cake to level. Place on serving plate, cut side up. Top with cream filling, to 1/4-inch from edge. Carefully top with second cake round. Press down slightly. Pour Ganache over the cake and smooth with an offset spatula.
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours before serving.