Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Insert Snooty French Laugh

Remember when I had this craving several weeks ago? Yeah, that scratch got scritched!

Woo hoo!!!

My version of Frisée Aux Lardons, sans frisée!

The dressing; a lemon Chardonnay vinaigrette! Tasty.

The dressed salad with bacon, home-made croutons and a side of oven pomme frites.

Top with a soft poached egg. Add some freshly cracked pepper and pinch of salt.

Dig In! The preferred salad would be frisée, but Giant didn't have any-go figure, so I got a bag mix of baby arugula mix, which had a small bit of frisée in it. It worked...and I'm not fond of arugula.

Lemon Chardonnay Vinaigrette
1 small shallot finely diced, about 1 TB
pinch of sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp Chardonnay vinegar (see 2nd photo above for the bottle)
2-4 TB olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

Whisk together, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. The quantities are good faith estimates, as I didn't measure. This was enough dressing for one bag of salad mix, which as a main course, served the two of us.

As for the pomme frites...I sliced the potato and...get this...tossed it in some of the bacon fat...yeah, that's right...bacon fat...the roasted until crispy! Tee hee...


Monday, March 30, 2009


Mmmm, Paninis! I had a long email dialogue with Terri in WI today about sandwiches. I feel, that for the most part, sandwiches are not dinner material. It takes a special sandwich to qualify for dinner. You see, I eat sandwiches so often for lunch, I don't want one for dinner.

But if I'm going to have one for dinner, it has be special...like this. Several types of Italian cold-cuts, harvarti, olive oil, Italian herbs & spices, roasted red peppers; all pressed between soft & crispy Italian bread. I splashed a little red wine vinegar over the red peppers for a light tang. I could have cooked the sandwiches a touch longer to melt the cheese, but really, it doesn't matter...the panini was very tasty! Mmmmm....toasty!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grade A Gucci

This morning something was on Tivo...some food travel type program. There were adventures all over New Zealand or Tazmania, maybe both? Regardless, there was a segment about beef, which got me hungry. I haven't had a steak in sometime. When we were out running errands this afternoon, I picked up two t-bone steaks. As time ticked closer to dinner time, I gave those steaks the Gucci treatment. This is the third or fourth time I've used the Gucci treatment, and I feel this was the best so far!

The Gucci treatment requires a lot of salt, kosher salt. This time around, I started by adding some herbs and spices, lightly, to the beef (1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, 1/8 tsp paprika, 1/8 tsp onion powder and several grinds of fresh black pepper). Liberally coat the steaks with salt, tops & bottoms. Let the beef sit for 60-90 minutes. Rinse in cold water and pat dry.

Cook the steaks the way you like. Tonight I put the steaks in a large frying pan with 1 tsp vegetable oil. The pan was set over medium-high heat (7 out of 10), and cooked them for 5 minutes per side. The steaks were about 3/4 inch thick. Let the steaks rest for several minutes before you serve them. Serve with this wine.

And of course the best thing to have with a steak...oh, that would be a baked potato.

$9 is a steal

For $9, this wine is a steal. We bought this at a lovely little wine shop in Old Town Alexandria, VA a few weeks ago. The proprietor suggested it as a great Malbec under $10. We left with several others, including this one! I'm happy with this wine.

Malbec, 2007
Mendoza, Argentina

Soft & lush with a seductive garnet color. With an aroma of cool earth and ripe berries, the tjammy flavor pairs beautifully with red meat. There are also notes of dark chocolate and coffee beans.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Republic

My long national nightmare is over...ok, that's overly dramatic. One of my largest, most important special events of the year is over and I'm so excited and happy. The results were wonderful. That being said, I apologize for being off the grid for a bit. I'm back. By this weekend, I should be back into full swing in the kitchen. In the meantime I want to share something I find exciting.

Sauvignon Republic winery is committed to being THE experts in Sauvignon Blanc wines, produced around the world. It looks like they are currently producing from four locations around the world, including my favorite SB region, New Zealand.

I have to give props to any winery that is doing what they can to raise the profile of Sauvignon Blanc!

I was reading at the Slashfood blog about a wine tasting conducted by the writer, tasting three of the four regional SBs. As far as I know, there is no other wine producer in the world that is making wine with grapes from specific locations, from around the world. My feeling is this will truly give you a chance to taste how the same grape, from different locations, supposedly produced and processed in the same way in each location, can taste very different. That excites me!

If anyone has seen Sauvignon Republic wines in the Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia area, I'd love to hear from you. I'm certainly going to be keeping my eyes open!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Two More Wines

If you've noticed, Sauvignon Blanc is our favorite white wine. We have it quite a bit.

This weekend, we planned on having wine on Friday night and Saturday night. So what did we have? More Sauvignon Blanc, both of which were bought locally (i.e. on the drive from work to home!).

Both of the wines were lovely.

Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, New Zealand
Light yellow in colour, this wine has a distinctive Marlborough bouquet of ripe tropical and citrus fruit. The palate is crisp and zesty, with flavours of lemon, passionfruit and melon.

The Nobilo SB reminded us a lot of the Drylands SB that is our favorite. Drylands is great, but is hard for us to find. The only local place I can find it, without special ordering it, is at Total Wine in Springfield, VA. When I do buy it, I buy many bottles. Now I have a great alternative!!!

Sauvignon Blanc
South Africa
An elegant wine with a long, crisp finish. Light yellow with flashes of green. Gooseberry, green fig, guava and tropical flavours.

Before I go into this wine I have to talk about perception of value. We had a conversation the other night about wine and how much you can spend on a bottle. When we spent $20 on a bottle, we expected great wine. And anything less than awesome made us feel the money was wasted. When you spent $7 on bottle, you don't expect much. So if the wine is nasty, you don't feel too bad. But when that $7 bottle of wine is a good solid drinkable wine, you feel like you got a total steal.

Well, this wine is a total steal. For under $8 you get a solid, drinkable wine! The description is pretty spot on. You get good soft fruit, with those "flashes" of green and tart. I will continue to buy Oracle.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not for Dieting

Oh glorious butter. And sour cream. And chicken...with the skin on!

This is not diet food, but it is very delicious.

Last night's dinner was Chicken Paprikash. A dish I've made before, but last night I approached it differently and I think that was key to making a very tasty dish. I used the same ingredients, just used them in a different order and with a few different processes.

Season skin-on chicken thighs with salt & pepper. Place in a large pan set over medium-high heat and cook. No need to add any butter or fat at this point. Sear the chicken, about 5--8 minutes, skin side down. The fat will render/melt out of the chicken. When brown, flip and cook for another 3-5 minutes. The chicken won't be cooked thru, this is ok. Work in batches, so the chicken isn't crowded in the pan. If it is, it will steam.

Remove the chicken to a plate and pour out the excess chicken fat. Melt butter.

Add onions and garlic to the melted butter. Saute for a few minutes until they become translucent and soft. Sprinkle with paprika. Cook for 1-2 minutes. This will allow the paprika to "bloom" in the fat, allowing the flavors to really pop. Add water and stir.

Return the chicken, skin side up, to the pan. Place in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove chicken from the pan. Add broth to the onion/butter/paprika mixture. Stir to incorporate and simmer for a few minutes until reduced. Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream.

Serve the chicken on a bed of hot buttered noodles and spoon the sauce over the top. Enjoy!


There are few things more glorious than melting butter!

Well, ok, there are plenty of more glorious things, but butter does rate right up there. Especially when you are soon to add onions, garlic, spices and many other yummy things...stay tuned.

Secret Garden

WOOT! The Obamas are planting a garden at the White House!!! Well, they are, their staff and some local school kids, but yippee!!!!

"...this commitment by Ms. Obama to local and freshly grown product is a progressive move forward that will raise the profile and awareness of local and sustainable food both at the White House and nationally to an unprecedented level."

--former White House executive chef Walter Scheib

Perhaps the Obamas read Michael Pollans' open letter to the future president back in October 2008. If you haven't read it, please do so. It's wonderful.

Read the full Washington Post article here:
Obamas to Plant Garden on White House Lawn

...and I planted my asparagus and some garlic this weekend...herbs will go out in a few weeks when the weather stops being so flighty.


Your wine lesson today from Karen MacNeil:

Photo Source

Minerality: One of the most fascinating contemporary questions about wine is What is minerality? Despite its frequent use in describing all sorts of different wines, there is actually no agreed-upon definition of the word.

A number of the world’s great white wines are described as having a mineral flavor, usually meaning that the wine smells and tastes of crushed minerals, stones, wet stones, or even ocean water. For many wine professionals, however, minerality goes beyond these descriptions and is used to characterize a wine that is remarkable for its absence of fruit flavors. The greatest French Chablis or Austrian rieslings, for example, do not so much smell or taste of fruit (apples, pears, peaches, and so on) as they do of some primal element of the earth.

I shared my own theory about mineral wines, both white and red, with two sensory scientists from Cornell and Yale: Minerally wines activate the salt receptor taste buds—that is, they’re picked up on the palate just as salt is. As such, minerally wines make other (food) flavors livelier; like salt, they make them “jump.” So even though there’s never any actual salt in the wine, minerally wines enhance foods. The scientists heard me out (as we tasted through a flight of four red wines). Their conclusion? Said one of them: “I think you’re onto something.”

More wine lessons from Karen MacNeil here.

A Major Change for Next Time

I've shared my opinion on Saffron. I know as a wanna-be foodie, I should love it, but I just don't. It's not the first time this spice has ruined a meal for me. Sad. I am not going to write off this recipe. I will make it again, but I will skip the saffron completely and maybe cut back on the mint, just a touch. For all the work you go through to layer the flavors and with all the great aromatic herbs and spices, you don't want any one to be smothered and suffocated by another arrogant spice. This took me an hour and a half to make, and in the end, I had a few bites and pushed my plate away and had toast with peanut butter for dinner. The saffron was just so ridiculously strong, I couldn't do it.

Anyway, I was making Chicken Biryani and I've had it before and it's lovely, but the minute the saffron crosses the threshold from "I can't taste it" to "did you put anything but saffron in here," for me, it became inedible.

Let's get started shall we.

Here's something that went right. The rice is par-boiled in a broth made with ginger, cinnamon, cumin seeds and cardamom. The cardamom should be in pod form, which I didn't have, so I just added a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the water. The broth was highly fragrant and wonderfully spiced.

Another major flavor component is fresh mint. Chop finely and mix with freshly chopped cilantro for the lively herbal blend. Next time I will keep the mint, but cut the amount by half. After the saffron, the other flavor I had was muted mint.

The rice is partially cooked, the mixed with saffron and dried fruits such as currants or golden raisins. This turns the rice golden yellow and releases the saffrons flavors.

Another great flavor level...carmelized onions, garlic and jalapenos...all cooked in butter.

Here's the rice stirred up with the raisins. It looks lovely.

The signature of Biryani is layers...rice mixture, onion mixture...

...then seared chicken thighs and mint/cilantro...

...more onions and more rice. Cook for thirty minutes with some of the flavored broth the rice was cooked in. The chicken will be tender and cooked thru and the rice will be light and fluffy.

The plate. Not the prettiest photo, but it should be full of great flavor. Maybe next time...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Coming out as a hater

Saffron; the world's most expensive spice.

Let me just put this out there, I think you are overrated. There I said it.

I have tried to love you. I have openly embraced you. And what have you done for me? Huh?

That's right! On several occasion you have ruined my dinner. You have spread your perfume far and wide, overwhelming entire meals with your intoxicating aroma and your brilliant colour. Shame on you. I have tried using you gingerly, with barely a strand and what do you do, you run and hide. Then I turn around and use recommended amounts of you and what do you do, you stand up and smack me in the face with a complete lack of respect.

Saffron, the world's most expensive spice, I do not like you. You have bitten me in the rear more than once and I'm not going to let you do it again.

Ribs & Polenta

Last night I made pork ribs and served it on cheesy polenta. All pretty tasty. The only not awesome part of the meal was the polenta's texture. I had regular, finely ground cornmeal. A more coarsely ground cornmeal would have been nicer.

Creamy, cheesy polenta...or grits...depending on your heritage.

To make the polenta, I used about 3/4 cup of cornmeal, that I slowly added to a pot of boiling liquid (1 cup water, 1 cup 1/2 & 1/2), plus one tablespoon of butter. Stir until cooked thru, depending on the type of cornmeal you make (10-30 minutes). Season with salt & pepper. If the polenta will be cheesy, add a handful or two of your favorite cheese, shredded. Another pat or two of butter are also acceptable additions. Chopped herbs as well.

Ribs resting on the cheesy polenta with some extra broth.

I made the same ribs as this recipe, the only difference was the type of seasoning I used as a dry rub. The variety I used was loaded with extra black pepper. Without the polenta as a side, the ribs were super tender and juicy, but also little pepper pots. Not that that is bad in and of itself, but the other flavors were very muted and pushed to the back of the line, barely being noticed, even while raising their hands and shouting for attention.

All in all, the pork paired with the polenta was a delightful combination.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green is Good

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

What better way to celebrate than to make Irish Brown Bread! So hearty and filling.

Whole wheat. That's good for you.

Mix flour with a yeast starter with molasses and water!

I made two batches, so I could have two loafs...one as a hostess gift, another for filling my belly.

Bake for awhile and let cool for bit.

Slice the bread and slather on some butter. On day two, you can toast the bread and slather on more butter and jam. Dang. Good stuff.

No really, I am.
Well, I'm a half-breed...Irish and German...
but today...I'm all Irish!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bacchanalian Carnage‏

Part two of our amazing Saturday night...the beverages! Descriptions provided by The Sommeliatrix.

2007 Vin de Savoie Apremont (Allee du Colombier) Butting up against the Alps, a very spread out 1,800 hectares of vineyards scattered from south of Lac Léman (Geneva) in Haute Savoie, down to the Isère Valley and Chambéry on the borders of the départements of Savoie and Isère. Savoie wines are consumed mainly in the ski resorts of the area. Production is 70% White wine. Blend of Aligote, Altesse, Jacquere, Chardonnay, Mondeuse Blanche, Velteliner.

Image a great picture of an
Anton Bauer bottle of
Gruner Veltliner Gmork

2007 Grüner Veltliner Gmörk (Anton Bauer) Bright, ripe aromas of Granny Smith apples and clean citrus fruit dominate the nose of this wine. On the palate, the wine possesses crisp acidity as well as clean, pure citrus flavors that keep you coming back for more. This wine makes the ideal aperitif, but works equally well with fresh vegetables, fish dishes, fried chicken and of course, Wiener Schnitzel.

2006 Le Clos Delorme, Valencay A happy little blend of hand harvested 40% Gamay, 30% Cot (Malbec), 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Pinot Noir all grown in sand, gravel and clay soils and then fermented and aged in tank. This wines reminds me of a Cheverny Rouge, with more depth, structure and a bit more muscle. A truly fun wine to drink!!! According to Wine & Spirits: "The firm structure and refreshing acidity of this juicy blend of gamay, malbec, cabernet franc and pinot noir, keep it lively throughout the succulent finish."

The Moscato Bianco grape is an extremely ancient one, the origins of which are not precisely known. Wines from this grape were first developed as still wines in the 17th century under the patronage of the House of Savoy, when refined methods of cultivating and vinifying this difficult variety were discovered. The cool, steep Langhe hillsides of Asti and Cuneo, near the town of Canelli, remain the principal center of production for Moscato d'Asti (hence, the alternate name, Moscato di Canelli). Calcium-rich, chalky soils produce the most fragrant Moscato Bianco grapes, and an excellent exposure is essential to bring the fruit to perfect maturity.

Nivole is produced from a single vineyard at Torre de Cantini located in the commune of Canelli and situated on steep slopes of a gradient of approximately 35 degrees with an exposure facing south-southwest. Vines are planted to a density of 4,000 per hectare, with an average age of 25 years. Once harvested, the handpicked grapes are placed in pneumatic presses and once extracted, the must immediately lowered to a temperature of zero degrees centigrade (32 F) to prevent the onset of the alcoholic fermentation. The must is kept in this fashion until just before bottling, at which point the temperature is allowed to rise to 18 degrees centigrade (65 F) and the top of the tank is opened. A slow fermentation provoked by natural yeasts then ensues which is allowed to progress until the wine reaches an alcohol level of 5.5 percent and is then stopped by a sterile filtration which removes any remaining live yeasts. Residual sugar is adjusted to 11 percent by the addition of unfermented must of the moscato grape. The wine is then fined, filtered and immediately bottled. This technique preserves the characteristically aromatic, sweet fruit fragrance of the grape unique to Moscato Bianco.

Moscato d'Asti is one of the most sublime and delicate of all dessert wines, which should be consumed at its freshest and most youthful. Its very low level of alcohol makes it particularly light and soft on the palate, and especially gentle for consumption after dinner, when wines of greater alcoholic content have typically been consumed beforehand. The name "Nivole," which means "clouds" in Piedmontese dialect, appropriately suggests the wine's airy, elegant quality The fragrant, intensely fruity bouquet, offset by musky notes, leads to a refined sweetness supported by an excellent acid balance on the palate, with a suggestion of effervescence in the texture. The finish is clean and crisp, with a persistent flavor of grape and citrus characteristic of the variety.

Brasserie Mont Blanc Verte. A unique beer combining our excellent brewing reputation with a local Alpine flower, the Genepi (Artemisia Genepi, Glacialis, and Mutillena). This plant (from the wormwood family) has high digestive properties, and is at the heart for the famous Grande Chartreuse liqueur.

Brasserie Mont Blanc opens its doors in 1830. Due to its closeness to Switzerland and Austria, the first beer styles there were Munich and Pilsner ones. This is an excellent example where the purity and low mineral content of the water (from the Enchapleuze spring at 2074 meters in altitude) used is a key element to the bright pure styles and flavors of this brewery. As you will taste, the different beers produced now have their own personality, reflecting more their own alpine environment. They are moderate in alcohol content (4.7% to 5.9%) yet quite flavorful.

Oh Fun!

Saturday Night

Bacchus did not have a night of rest on Saturday evening. In fact he was in high spirits and working his rear off.

We were blessed to spend the evening with the Sommeliatrix at her home in Logan Circlse and wow, what a night. We had several wonderful wines--stay tuned for those details.

Mild mannered environmental lawyer by day, ultra awesome wine diva by night, the Sommeliatrix entertained and served a divine Alsatian dinner. Pork roast with sauerkraut, smashed, roasted potatoes with olive oil and sea salt. Green & white asparagus and a lovely, light salad. Mmmmmmmm. We sat at the table and kept pouring wine, digging into the platters and pot o' pork and just having lovely conversation on wine and life.

What a wonderful evening.

Get Your Mojo On

The other night before my computer fried out, I made a recipe I created awhile back...Pork Chops with Rum Mojo Couscous. This second time out...still very tasty!

This time I added red peppers to the green.

Also, this time around, I brined the pork chops in a salt/brown sugar solution. Really good!!! For about two cups of water, I used 1 TB of salt and 1 TB of brown sugar. The chops hung out in the salty/sweet pool over night.

Saute onions and peppers until just about tender. Add rum and simmer for a minute to finish cooking the peppers and to reduce down.

Add cooked couscous, stir and serve with the cooked chops.

That's Rum Mojo Couscous in a nutshell. Give it a shot.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

M'eh...not so much


This Torrontes has fresh cut lemon and lime fruity characters, with layers of citrus flavours, and a crisp refreshing finish.

Vinted and bottled by Fabre Montmayou Winery, Mendoza.

We've had Torrontes wines before and have enjoyed them, but this one wasn't that great. The lemon/lime/citrus flavors promised on the label were more floral and perfume with soft honey. Not really what I was looking for in a white. The first aroma I noticed when I popped the cork was baby powder...not very appetizing.

PS: Sorry for the lack of posts lately, the computer took a nose dive...again! But it's been fixed, easily!!! So expect some posts to pick back up.