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Recipes for Realtors: Shrimp in garlic cognac cream | REM





Seared sea scallops in duxelles and pink champagne sabayon

First prepare my duxelles recipe.

Then prepare sabayon, your favourite way. I prefer to use a bain marie. Preheat the broiler. Place the oven rack in second top position.
In sizzling butter in a stainless-steel sauté pan, perfectly sear three scallops per person. Turn only once. Sprinkle with just a pinch of thyme. The scallop edges should turn a very fine beautiful golden colour. They take just minutes to cook. Absolutely do not overcook.

Deglaze the pan with a little pink champagne. (I use pink sparkling French Royal de Neuville.) Add the sizzling butter pan juices to the ready sabayon.
Assemble: Using large coquilles, place the shells on a bed of coarse sea salt to stabilize (coarse pickling salt will do since the salt won’t come in contact with the food) on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Carefully spoon a little prepared duxelles into each shell. Spritz with a little pink champagne and a pinch of salt and pepper. (Use ground pink peppercorns if available.)
Add a few tablespoons of pink champagne sabayon. Position three seared sea scallops in each shell.
Place the salt sheet holding the coquilles under the preheated broiler oven just for a few minutes and serve immediately.


Substitute cognac Asbach Uralt for the champagne for a different but most amazing taste.

For an equally delightful offering, you could change up the whole presentation and instead use another of my “shell-a-brate” recipes, served on a large coquille, also placed under the piping hot broiler for just seconds.

My ultimate shrimp in garlic cognac cream

In sizzling unsalted butter, sauté slivered paper-thin garlic slices; about a half cup. That’s a sizeable amount of garlic, but you read it right.

Turn the heat down because you want to keep the garlic white. Sauté until the texture is nearly mashable. Sprinkle with a pinch (just a pinch, not more) of ground cloves, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of paprika, a little bit of thyme and a little salt and pepper.

Add a little more butter and the shrimp that are still in their shells. 27-30 size. Or as many as you like.

Be careful that the sauté pan is still very hot but not browning. The shrimp will cook in just a couple of minutes; turn only once immediately when the first side turns pink. Shrimp is fully cooked when opaque. Absolutely do not ever overcook. The shrimp will get rubbery.

Remove the pan contents and deglaze the sauté pan with a generous splash of Asbach Uralt cognac. The bouquet will erupt and fill your kitchen with the most amazing perfume.

Now add to the very hot pan, a cup of half-and-half cream (or more if you have doubled the shrimp quantity). Let the cream scald and reduce. The thickened cream will take on the wonderful colour of the cognac as well as the fragrance.

Put the shrimp back into the sauté pan and tumble to coat in the amazing sauce.

Using a rubber spatula, wipe the sauce and the lightly coated shrimp completely from the pan into a just right-size serving bowl.

You can serve immediately or at room temperature or even cold the next day. The sauce will congeal overnight as it continues to thicken.

An unspeakable treat. I often refer to this as my “house-selling shrimp dish.” I sometimes surprised a neighbour with a pretty glass covered bowl of this quick and easily made recipe. Add a few slices of homemade grilled garlic bread. Great nibbles after work while they barbecue their steaks.

Agents will remind sellers not to offend sensitive noses of maybe-buyers by cooking, especially cabbage or fish, when their house is on the market. When I was selling, I did not take my own advice, as I have mentioned in some posted REM comments over the years. I opened my windows while having appointments and let the mouth-watering vapours waft through the area.

After only a couple of appointments, an offer appeared, along with comments like one Sabine in Kitchener area recently so kindly made: “What time is dinner tonight?”

Total time in the kitchen less than a half hour. And you can’t buy or order in this kind of goodness. Really! Try it for yourself. Serve alone or with plain instant one-minute basmati buttered rice. You’ll make the neighbours’ mouth water. Or serve the shrimp alongside your steak as a very special surf and turf. Surprise yourself!

A tall cool glass of Winzertanz pairs wonderfully. Enjoy!

If you have leftover sauce, don’t toss it. Refrigerated, the sauce will keep for a couple of days, covered in a glass container. Use it to tumble over cooked pasta or rice, with added seared fresh sea scallops. Mouth-watering good leftovers.

Or put a small puddle of the leftover sauce on an oversized dinner plate and position fresh deep-fried homemade crab cakes strategically. Drizzle just a little sauce over each crab cake. Top with shards of fresh Parmesan cheese, using your vegetable peeler or kase scharfe.

Decorate the plate with a sprig of fresh basil leaves. Dress with lemon quarters to be squeezed when desired.


If you love crushed or flaked fresh coconut, lightly brown it in a single layer, in just a tiny bit of sizzling unsalted butter (in a nearly dry very hot sauté pan). Sprinkle the crispy coconut over the cognac creamed shrimp just when ready to serve. Do not stir.

Another alternate: prepare your favourite salmon steak and during the last minute of sautéing or roasting or grilling, add a little of the leftover cognac sauce. (You could use on any fish.)

As I’ve said countless times… nothing goes to waste in my kitchen.

Note: A reader used leftover shrimp sauce on an oven-roasted Atlantic salmon steak, just in the last seconds in the oven. Really delicious!

At the table: With either recipe, offer a tuile or two. Prepare a Parmesan tuile or perhaps a ground almond tuile. There are loads of recipes for these simple, tasty creations.

Prepare the table placing a large folded heavyweight cotton tea towel in the centre where you can place a large (hot water) heated serving platter or two upon which to place the broiler hot coquilles. In the kitchen, arrange the coquilles on a bed of coarse salt on the large hot platter for presentation as a table centre place.

Prepare each place setting with a large charger plate on a cloth covered tabletop or on a placemat, topped with a plain oversized serving plate with a folded-square cloth napkin on each, ready to receive a very hot coquille. Place a seafood fork or pie fork at each place setting, along with a soup spoon to enjoy the sauce and drippings. Place a tuile or two at the edge of each plate.

Pink champagne royal cocktail – my very own

Here’s a nice pairing to serve: my very own martini creation, using either matching Royal de Neuville or Asbach Uralt cognac, depending on which you used in your recipe choice.

In a cold metal cocktail shaker, pour in a half cup of Asbach Uralt cognac.

Add a half cup of cold sugar syrup made using 50:50 sugar and water dissolved over medium heat and cooled. (Use to marinate fresh sliced peaches.) Then add a half cup of liquid from the sugar marinated peaches. (Or you could use the brandy marinating jus from your jar of black mission figs instead). Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a pinch of salt. Add a full cup of ice cubes.

Shake vigorously for a half minute.

Pour into stemmed champagne flutes that have been cooled; about three-quarters full. Fill the flute right to the top with my favourite bubbly, sparkling French pink champagne, Royal de Neuville. Park a tiny slice of fresh peach on the rim of the glass. Sip this delicate creation. It’s a pink thing!

This is a perfect pairing with a slice of homemade wonderful cream genoise or a slice of fresh peach fruit pastry tart.

Hint: Don’t have a cocktail shaker? Use a tightly covered screw-top large glass mason jar.

Any of these recipes using the coquilles as a serving vessel could be switched up using any seafood: crab, lobster or a seafood mix of your favourites, still using the duxelles and savoury sabayon.

For an entree you could consider crab cakes, or wonderful two-bite-size cakes made using mixed seafood, sizzling hot, reheated just when ready to serve. They are simply made, even the day before. Offer on a plate with individual seafood savoury crème brûlée, or an individual seafood panna cotta (set in a shot glass), drizzled with homemade lobster oil. Provide a serving bowl that can be passed at the table, with fresh lemon and lime wedges. And another bowl with mixed lemon lime zest with a tiny serving (espresso) spoon. And yet another bowl with mixed citrus segments having freshly cut them from between the fruit membranes. (you might add segments of grapefruit if no one is taking certain prescription medicines; some Rx forbid taking with grapefruit of any kind.)

And yet another table topper: a silver serving serving bowl of homemade candied citrus rind from your pantry sugar jar. Place a glass bowl inside the silver bowl to keep citrus at bay from direct acidic contact. Diners can choose at will how much of each or all, if they prefer.

You could fill half avocado shells (or hollow out a papaya) with avocado seafood salad on a bed of shredded romaine and iceberg lettuce mix or use mesclun; (spritz the greens with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil 30:70), as part of your entree. For this course, a nice accompaniment is a Canadian Bloody Caesar.

A real “shell-a-bration” of a unique kind. Tell your guests to bring a big appetite and be prepared to indulge over a few hours of at-table enjoyment and be sure to forewarn them dinner is all seafood.

© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience


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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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Real Estate

10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers





Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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