Jeanette - Off The Cuff

My photo
Blogger at: and -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Garlic & Pink Peppercorn Butterflied chicken with Pan Gravy

Woopity-doo!! I'm posting a recipe! I think some of you will find this one worth the wait, at least in terms of the gruesomeness of the step-by-step photographs. I have been hoping to do a photo-journalistic instruction on how to butterfly a chicken (a trick I only learned myself last year) but it's so useful for doing whole birds.  Bonus: It was a reasonably sunny afternoon (which meant BETTER PHOTOS!!) And Bonus #2: I wrangled my husband into manning the camera and tripod I didn't have to wash my raw-chicken hands every 3 seconds, set the camera timer. That would have been tedious, and impractical. So thank you, dear for making this infinitely easier. Good job on the pics, too!

Anyway, back to the bird at hand.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Red Curry Barramundi

Barramundi! Barramundi!! That's fun to say. (I feel like Will Ferrell in "Elf" when he keeps repeating "Frrrrancisssco!! That's fun to say!" Speaking of which, Christmas is less than 5 months away. Wow. And I have not posted a recipe since March. My sincere apologies, but I doubt if any of you feel bereft.)

Anyway. Barramundi! I had never heard of this relative of the Sea Bass (which reminds me of the "Kick his @, SeaBass" line from "Dumb and Dumber" ... okay, I'll stop with the movie quotes.)

So sea bass... Barramundi. I do have a point. I had never heard of this fish before, but saw frozen fillets at CostCo recently and thought I'd take a crack at incorporating it into my seafood rotations.  It's a mild, flaky, white fish, and it's considered a sustainable seafood variety. The fillets defrost quite fast in a bowl of cold water, and cook easily since they're evenly thick.

I've tried a few different twists on using it in Fish Tacos (I'll blog that some other night) and then last night I was jonesing for Red Curry, so I thought rather than chicken or pork, I'd put fish in it.  I had a few garden-fresh veggies from my yard, and incorporated some green onions, yellow zucchini, sugar snap peas, and then a few other things from my refrigerator. 

This is the link to the company that markets Barramundi: The Better Fish

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Basil Mozzarella & Pistachio Mushrooms

I hastily made these little appetizers for a party last night. I have made other mushroom cap hors d' oeuvres before, usually with garlic, parmesan, parsley, or some similar combination. But last night I was trying to figure out what I had on hand, and this was the end result.  Took about 10 minutes to make them, not including the oven-time.

And since I -- as par for the course -- have not posted a new recipe for 2 months, this was a quick one to upload for you to try out.

The measurements are approximate, since I was in a hurry and did not write anything down.

I also only have one photo from the end result, so you can use your imagination for the rest.  (PS. In the photo I intentionally left off some of the pistachios for a friend with nut allergies.)

Baby Portabella mushrooms (approximately 24-36 depending on the size)
1/4 lb mozzarella (I used firm kind, instead of "fresh" so it wouldn't be as runny when melted)
1 stalk of green onion, or equivalent amount of chives
2 or 3 fresh basil leaves
1 or 2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup of shelled roasted pistachios


Begin by snapping off the stems on the baby portabella mushrooms carefully so that they leave a little cup to stuff.  If the stem breaks too much, you can scoop it out with a teaspoon carefully to hollow it out. Brush off any loose dirt with a paper towel, or pastry brush. 

Trim off the root end and wilted green tops on the green onion stalk, and cut it into smaller discs.

Use a blender or mixer to puree together the cheese, basil and green onion with the olive oil. Use a teaspoon to scoop cheese mixture into each mushroom cap, and top with a couple of pistachio nuts.

Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minute until cheese is bubbly and hot.  They are good served warm, but also quite tasty even at room temperature.  They are really easy to make, and pretty fancy-tasting.  The basil makes a nice bright flavor contrast to the umami earthiness of the mushrooms, cheese & pistachios.  Try experimenting with other herbs if you'd like-- sage, oregano, or rosemary, used in moderation so as not to be too bitter.  Remember a little goes a long way.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Smoked Salmon Pasta a la Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo-- star of the silver screen, one of the most iconic faces of the Golden Era of Hollywood, well known for her roles in Anna Karenina and Camille -- was also famously Swedish, which means she shared her heritage with yours truly.  Okay, so we're not related that I know of, but we do have that DNA overlap.  Allegedly, this is her favorite pasta-dish, culled from one of my mom's Swedish cooking magazines, and I would like to imagine that on those days when she "Vanted to be alooone" she curled up in a cozy wool blanket with a big bowl of this stuff. 

This is another one of those stand-by dishes my mother has made since I was a little girl, and in fact, here is the original recipe that Dad scanned for me from Mom's cut-out recipes in a binder.  It is really quite quick to make, and something like elegant comfort food!

The heading there says "Celebrities' favorite recipes".  Even if you have no idea who this mega-star of the 1930s was, make this dish, and pour up a glass of crisp white wine...


1/2 lb smoked salmon, cut into small chunks -- (Also, please note that the type of smoked salmon that I use is the "hot smoked" salmon that is more firm, and crumbly, and still has skin on that needs to be peeled off.  The cold-smoked salmon that still looks more like Lox and still can be sliced into thin strips is not the kind I would recommend in this recipe.)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
2-4 ripe, red tomatoes, such as plum, Campari or Roma (or one can diced tomatoes)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, (you could also use basil or oregano to sprinkle)

Pasta -- enough for four servings, preferably a thick toothy kind, like linguine, tagliatelle, pappardelle, or fettucine


Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds until skins split.  Set aside and cool to touch, and then peel off the skins. 

Cut up salmon and tomatoes, and mince garlic.  Start with one clove, add more if desired....

Heat the oil in a skillet or sauce pan at medium, and then stir in tomatoes, garlic and salmon.  Stir over medium heat for a minute or so to heat through, and then pour in cream.  Reduce heat, and let simmer, while pasta is cooking. 

Drain pasta, drizzle with more olive oil, if desired, and ladle into bowls, and top with salmon-sauce.   Sprinkle with grated parmesan if desired, and sprinkle on fresh parsley (or basil or oregano.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Official Off the Cuff Tutorial on Kitchen Organization

An organized kitchen makes cooking more fun, and far more efficient
LONG POST AHEAD.  I'll try to break it up with my sardonic humor, and photographs. 

I have been tossing this around in my head for a while, and decided to create a separate blog post on how to organize your kitchen area and make it as functional as possible.  Cooking is a complete drag if you feel like it's a chaotic endeavor that requires a lot of running around.  And, of course, I have now finally come to a point in my life where I have lots of cabinets, an ample kitchen island and a spacious work area.  So lest I come across as condescending, talking about how to organize a kitchen, when many of you have tiny apartments and/or rickety old cabinets and lack of functionality, I just want to assure you that I have also lived in places with small kitchens and lack of counter-space.  My goal here is to provide you with as much useful information for making the best of what you *do* have. For someone endeavoring to make use of this kitchen organizing session, I would set aside a whole day, and remain flexible to tweak things after the fact, if you find that you under-assessed some of your needs.

Ultimately, cooking and maintaining your kitchen will be easier and more fun when there is a good groove and flow.  (Groove and flow.  Sounds like some new sub-genre of electronic music, doesn't it? First it was Drum and Bass, Jungle, Trance, Techno, and now it's Groove and Flow.  So on that note, crank up some good music and let's get to it.)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Oven Pancake

Happy New Year...

I get busy-- as you can tell it's been almost 3 months since my last entry, but I made a quick "Oven Pancake" last week, and managed to take one (not very good) photo of it right before I devoured it.

Oven Pancake, or Ugnspannkaka as we call them in Da Ol' Country, is also similar to Dutch Babies, or German Pancakes, but the ratio of flour, eggs and milk is a little different.  Traditionally, a Swedish Ugnspannkaka (Oongs-pun-KA-kah) is served slathered in melted butter, topped with lingonberry preserves, and sides of crispy bacon.  It sounds like it should be a breakfast meal, and honestly, I don't know why it couldn't be, but we have always eaten it for dinner growing up.  I didn't have any bacon that night, but I did have some homemade frozen pork-sausage patties which were delicious on the side as well.


2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
Butter for  greasing baking dish, and for spreading on top
Cranberry or lingonberry preserves (or other fresh fruit, or other preserves of your choice)

[Could that list of ingredients be any easier? You probably have all of that on any given night.]

DIRECTIONS: Beat all ingredients in a bowl, until well blended and a little bit frothy at the top.

Pour into a buttered baking container of some sort. (A small lasagna pan, for instance, or an oven proof cast iron skillet would also work as long as there was plenty of butter in the bottom of whatever it is to keep the crust from sticking.)

Bake at 375-400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  (If your oven tends to run hot, go for 375.  You don't want the top to burn.)  The Oven Pancake is done when it's browned on top, bubbling and fluffed up around the edges and the center is firm to the touch.