Friday, February 12, 2016

Slightly Belated Sazerac {Mardi Gras}


It's Friday night! I'm a few nights late for Mardi Gras. But, as New Orleans' signature cocktail is one of my favorites, it's a must. So, here's a slightly belated Sazerac.

Ingredients makes 2
  • 1 ounce absinthe
  • 4 ounces rye 
  • 1/2 ounce maple syrup
  • 8 dashes bitters (I used my homemade Meyer Lemon Bitters)
  • Meyer lemon twists for garnish

Procedure 
Pour absinthe, rye, and maple syrup into an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain cocktail into two glasses. Add bitters to the glasses. Rub the rims with a lemon twist and drop twist into the glass. Cheers. Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Rosé-Cured Salmon with Balletto Vineyards' 2012 Brut Rosé #WinePW #sponsor


Here we are with my final bonus recipe post and wine pairing for the week running up to our Valentines #WinePW. We're getting closer! Click to read Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva's invitation to the Saturday #WinePW event.

It's so easy to cure salmon, but, for some reason, I don't do it very often. My favorite, up till now, was probably my Absinthe-Scented Gravlax. This - Rosé-Cured Salmon - just might have usurped the title.


In the Glass...
All of Balletto Vineyards' wines* are made from sustainably farmed estate vineyards located throughout the lower third of the Russian River Valley. Balletto is one of the few Russian River wineries to be 100% estate grown and estate bottled; they specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

I used the 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir in the salmon and poured the 2012 Brut Rosé with the final dish. Both were elegant, balanced, and delicious.

About the 2012 Brut Rosé...it is produced in the méthode traditionnelle. But it's not really pink and I love that. It's more of a warm coral shade. And it has these constant, miniature bubbles that last and last and last. Bubbles always put me in a celebratory mood. On the nose, it's delicate, but on the tongue, it's full of flavor and weight.


On the Plate...
I cured the salmon, then served it for brunch with a (gluten-free) English muffin, a smear of crème fraîche, and a slice of herb-encrusted chevre on top. Such an easy, elegant breakfast.


Ingredients
  • 1/2 C coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 C raw turbinado sugar
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 3 springs fresh fennel greens
  • splash of Balletto's 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir 
  • 2 pieces of wild-caught salmon, well matched in size and shape, if possible

Procedure
Mix the salt, sugar, and pepper together. Spoon a third of the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap and place one of the salmon pieces on top of it, skin-side down. Put half of the remaining salt mixture on top of the salmon. Drizzle the filet with Rosé. Sandwiching the fresh fennel greens in between, fit the other piece of fish, skin-side up, on top. Use the remaining salt-sugar mixture on the top.

Wrap the salmon tightly with the plastic wrap. And place it in a glass container because it will weep through the duration of the curing process. Every twelve hours, flip the salmon. Do this for three days.

Before serving, rinse the salt-sugar off. Slice into thin pieces.


Find Balletto Vineyards
on the web
on Twitter

*Disclosure: I did receive sample wines from Benson Marketing Group for the purpose of creating pairings and developing recipes. But no additional compensation was received and opinions are completely my own.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Seared Venison Medallions with Justin's Cabernet Sauvignon #winePW #sponsor


Here we are with yet another recipe post and wine pairing for the week running up to our Valentines #WinePW. Click to read Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva's invitation to the Saturday #WinePW event. We're getting closer!

I had venison medallions that I'd purchased from D'Artagnan Foods. And I wanted to sear them and serve them with Justin Vineyards & Winery's Cabernet Sauvignon. I've long been a fan of Justin. And whenever we're in Paso Robles, we stop by. I was also excited to hear that Wine Enthusiast named them 2015 Winery of the Year. Nice and well-deserved!


In the Glass...
I rarely say that a wine is pretty. But this one really, really is! It's clear with almost a garnet glow where the wine hits the glass.


On the nose, it's aromatic with both sweet berries and fragrant spices. On the palate, it's sophisticated with savory notes and expertly balanced tannins. What a wine!

On the Plate...
The savory notes in the wine had me thinking: juniper. Nothing goes as well together as wild game and juniper, right?  Well, except for wild game, juniper, and an awesome red wine. I served these seared venison medallions on top of juniper-scented mashed potatoes and seared kale with a blanket to caramelized onions and mushrooms in a juniper-gin sauce. It was earthy deliciousness.


Ingredients serves 4

  • 4 venison medallions, approximately 4 ounces each
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 C sliced mushrooms (I used brown crimini mushrooms)
  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1/4 C beef (or venison) stock
  • 1/4 C red wine
  • 2 crushed juniper berries
  • 2 t fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 T crème fraîche
  • For serving: seared kale and juniper-scented mashed potatoes


Procedure
Salt and pepper the venison medallions. Set aside at room temperature for half an hour.

Heat a splash of olive oil and 3 T butter in a large, flat-bottom pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions, then sear the venison on all sides. This should take 2 to 3 minutes on each side of the medallion. Set aside and let rest while you made the sauce.

Add the shallot to the pan and saute for with the onions. Add the mushroom and cook until softened and caramelized. Pour the gin, stock, and red wine into the pan; add in the crushed juniper berries. Raise the heat and let the sauce reduce by one half. Turn off the heat, fold in the rosemary, then whisk in the crème fraîche.

To serve, plate your mashed potatoes. Place seared kale on top of the potatoes and lay the medallion over the kale. Spoon the sauce over the top and finish with some more salt and pepper, if desired.


Find Justin Vineyards & Winery
on the web
on Twitter

*Disclosure: I did receive sample wines from Benson Marketing Group for the purpose of creating pairings and developing recipes. But no additional compensation was received and opinions are completely my own.

Foodie Reads 2016: Chef Edward Lee Melds (NOT Fuses) Asian + Southern Ingredients


The Foodie Reads 2016 Challenge is in full swing and we have entered our second month. I am hopping between three or four different books this month so far, but this is the one that landed on the top of the stack and is the first one I've finished: Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen by Edward Lee.*

My Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I love snuggling up on the couch and watching the episodes of Mind of a Chef that feature Chef Edward. It's Season Three in case you were wondering!


Actually I bought the cookbook specifically because we are enjoying the show. We stream the episodes on NetFlix since we don't have any TV stations. And while we enjoy his episodes, I really loved his book. More of his story-telling comes through and more of his passion about food. It's a stunning book with accessible recipes.

In addition to the incredible recipes, the book itself is a great read. Chef Edward has an authoritative voice and his narrative is compelling. A note about this post's title....

Chef Edward really dislikes the word 'fusion.' "Not only because it is dated," he writes, "but also because it implies a kind of culinary racism, suggesting that foods from Eastern cultures are so radically different that they need to be artificially introduced or 'fused' with Western cuisines to give them legitimacy." So, don't call his particular style of cooking 'fusion', despite being chock full of both Asian and Southern flavors. 

This is a book I plan to keep near the kitchen for guidance and inspiration. For this post, I am sharing TWO dishes that have both an Asian and a Southern feel. I had only planned to share the Vietnamese Lamb Chops, but the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf whined, "Mom, when are you going to make collard greens again. I love collard greens." Since that is not a sentence I really anticipated hearing from a child, even mine, I ran right out and bought a bunch. The Precise Kitchen Elf makes his own kimchi, but we were out, so I bought a jar of that as well. R looked at me disapprovingly when he saw me making this dish. "My kimchi is better," he noted. True enough.

Collards and Kimchi
Slightly adapted from Smoke and Pickles

Ingredients
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 C onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1½ C diced ham
  • 1½ pounds collard greens, washed, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
  • 2½ C chicken stock
  • 2 t soy sauce
  • 1½ T apple cider vinegar
  • 1¼ C kimchi, chopped

Procedure
Heat the butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, or until they begin to darken. Add the ham and cook until it is crispy but not too brown, approximately 3 minutes. Add the collards, chicken stock, and soy sauce. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The collards should be tender but still have a little bite to them. Add the vinegar to the greens and cook for another minute. Fold the kimchi into greens. Mix well and serve immediately.

Vietnamese Lamb Chops
Slightly adapted from Smoke and Pickles

Ingredients serves 6
  • 1/4 C bourbon
  • 1/2 C fish sauce
  • 1/2 C ginger syrup
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 2 T fresh garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 2 t freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 (1-inch-thick) lamb loin chops
  • For serving: fresh cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and steamed rice (I used Jade rice)


Procedure
Place everything except the lamb in a rimmed dish and whisk to combine. Lay the lamb in a single layer in the marinade. Turn to coat. Let marinate in the refrigerator between 4 and 24 hours, turning the lamb at least once during the marinating time. I marinated mine for 10 hours.


Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Bake the lamb for 15 minutes. Turn the chops and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the dish to a wire rack and let the chops rest for 5 minutes.


For serving: Garnish with the cilantro and serve with the sauce, lime wedges, and steamed rice.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Here's what everyone else is reading this month: February 2016 Foodie Reads Challenge.

Gluten-Free Fennel Spice Cake with Chocolate Glaze and Fennel Crystals


"Are you planning to make dessert tonight?" asked the Sugar Pig earlier this week. Yes, that is what I affectionately call my husband. Truth be told, I think he called himself that once and it stuck. It's fitting. He has a crazy sweet tooth.

No, I wasn't planning on it.

"Well, can you?"

Of course I can.

"Okay, will you?"

Sure. What do you want?

"I'm easy," he said. "But can you make it gluten-free?"

Oh, boy. Gluten-free dinners are not so tough. Gluten-free desserts are a tall order. But I told him that I would. I had been meaning to experiment with fennel cake and I had a pre-blended gluten-free flour, so I headed into the kitchen.

Ingredients makes 1 bundt pan

Cake

  • 3 C gluten-free flour (I used a pre-blended flour from Trader Joe's plus some buckwheat flour added in) 
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ t ground nutmeg
  • ½ t ground cardamom
  • ½ t ground ginger
  • ¾ C olive oil
  • 1 ½ C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¾ C unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 C finely chopped fennel (keep the fronds for the glaze)
  • 1 C chopped pecans

Fennel-Infused Chocolate Glaze

  • ½ C organic heavy cream
  • 2 T fennel fronds
  • 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 T butter
  • Fennel Crystals, optional for garnish (I bought mine at Gourmet Sweet Botanicals: here)

Procedure
Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease your bundt pan. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. Pour in the olive oil. Add the eggs and applesauce. Stir together until just moistened; do not over mix. Fold in the chopped fennel and pecans.  

Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake until wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean, approximately 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely.

Fennel-Infused Chocolate Glaze
While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Pour heavy cream into a small saucepan and heat until small bubbles form at the edges. Add fennel fronds and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain out and discard the fronds and rewarm the cream. Add in the chocolate and butter. Let stand for three minutes. Whisk until smooth.

When the cake is baked and cool, drizzle glaze over the top. If using, sprinkle with fennel crystals.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wild Boar-Mushroom Pot Pies with Landmark Vineyards' Pinot Noir #winePW #sponsor


Here we are with an additional recipe post and wine pairing for the week running up to our Valentines #WinePW. Click to read Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva's invitation to the Saturday #WinePW event.

When I was faced with a bottle of Landmark Vineyard's Pinot Noir*, the words "wild boar," "mushroom," and "pot pie" came to mind. That sounded like a fantastic match to the Pinot Noir: Wild Boar-Mushroom Pot Pies.

I had a wild boar shoulder that I'd purchased from D'Artagnan Foods. I chuckled when I saw that it read - meat from feral swine. Really?? That does not sound appealing at all. But I knew it would be. And it was.


Scribbling down an ingredient list before I headed for the store, I asked my husband if a pot pie always had a top and a bottom, he stared at me. "Sorry," he apologized, "I was stuck on the wild boar and mushroom combination. That sounds delicious."

He was no help. No help at all. So I, rather innocuously, posed this question on social media - "Question: Does a pot pie have a crust on the bottom?!" - and was shocked by the sheer number of answers I received. Absolutely floored. Over 1000 people clicked on my post though only about 100 made comments. Still, apparently there is some passion about this topic out there in the ether. I scrolled through the answers...

  • Mine do not.
  • Hubby makes them both ways. But "chicken pot pie with savory topping" has usurped all use of pie crust.
  • Yes.
  • I feel like the bottom crust is optional.
  • My rule is, if the pot pie is over 1 1/2 - 2 inches deep then it doesn't get a bottom crust, it gets too soggy. Less than that, both crusts are a must. But, most of the time we just make chicken and biscuits (basically the chicken pot pie filling with biscuits baked on top) instead.
  • Yes! Yum!
  • Yes.
  • Most definitely.
  • No, never a crust anywhere near pot pie! (Wait! What?? I asked for clarification) Nope...no crust at all. It's PA Dutch style...like a stew.
  • It is not a pie without the crust!
  • I think it should, but some people don't make it that way.
  • Bottom crust - top lattice.
  • Being a Swanson pot pie aficionado from early childhood, pot pies must have a bottom crust, as much as oreos require a chocolate cookie on either side of the vanilla center. The lack of a bottom crust would negate the eating technique, as per [our] family cultural norms.
  • Top and bottom - yes.
  • Yes.
  • Yes!!
  • Always.

Despite the glut of responses, there was absolutely no consensus. I mean, most people said yes to the bottom crust. But I actually liked the variations in the answers. What was absolutely confirmed: I can call it - be it crustless, top-crusted only, bottom-crusted with biscuits, bottom-crusted with crumble, bottom-crusted with lattice, or double-crusted - 'pot pie' and be just fine!


In the Glass...
You can click to read more the Landmark Vineyards' history in my post - Barley-Stuffed Acorn Squash & Zesty Crayfish with Landmark Vineyards' Overlook Chardonnay.


This is a soft and intense Pinot Noir that’s approachable. It’s an earthy wine with notes of cherry and anise.

On the Plate...
An almond-flecked Pâte Brisée encases a rich filling of slow-braised wild boar, mushrooms, and fresh herbs. So. Tasty. Pâte Brisée is a pastry dough/crust that has a rich flavor and a crisp, flaky texture. It is ideal for both sweet and savory pies, tarts, and quiches. Learn to make it. Stat. You won't regret adding it to your culinary repertoire. Also, because of the anise notes, I added fennel and fennel pollen to the pies.

Ingredients makes 6 individual pot pies

Pâte Brisée
  • 2-1/2 C flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/2 C finely ground almonds
  • 1 C butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 T chopped parsley
  • 1/2 t fennel pollen
  • 3 to 4 T whiskey (or you can use all water, I just thought the wild boar would go well with whiskey)
  • 3 to 4 T ice water
Filling
  • 3 to 4 pound boneless wild boar shoulder
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 C sliced celery
  • 2 C stock (I used organic beef stock)
  • 2 C red wine (not your Landmark...save that for sipping)
  • fennel fronds
  • 1 to 2 C mushrooms (I used a mixture of enoki, shiitake, and trumpet mushrooms)
  • 1/4 C flour
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 t fennel pollen
  • 1/4 C fresh herbs + more for garnish

Procedure
Filling
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. Cook half of the onion, celery, and fennel until softened and beginning to caramelize. Sear the wild boar on each side, approximately 1 to 2 minutes per side. Add in the remaining onion, celery, and fennel.



Pour in the wine and stock. Lay the fennel fronds on top.



Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until boar is fork-tender, approximately two hours. Uncover boar; simmer until liquid evaporates and board begins to brown, approximately half an hour. Remove the fennel fronds. Add in the mushrooms and continue to cook, for another 10 minutes. Shred boar with a fork. Place a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid into a bowl and whisk in flour until a paste forms. Stir the paste back into the pot and cook until the sauce thickens into a gravy. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and fennel pollen. Fold in fresh herbs.

Pâte Brisée
I don't have a food processor, so I use a pastry blender and do it all by hand. Place the flour, ground almonds, fennel pollen, and cold butter in a large bowl. Use the pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Blend in the herbs. Add 1 T water and 1 T whiskey one at a time, until mixture just begins to clump together. If you squeeze some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough doesn't hold together, add a little more water and cut again. Note that too much water will make the crust tough. Once the dough comes together into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 425°F. After the Pâte Brisée has chilled: On a floured work surface, roll out 1 half of the chilled dough. Cut out pieces of dough and lay them into the bottom of your individual pans; I used small round and heart-shaped Springform pans.

Prick the dough with a fork and place them in the oven to parbake for 15 minutes. You can roll out the remaining dough and cut tops or, I opted to do 3 with a double crust and 3 with a savory crumble (it was the Pâte Brisée crumbled with more ground almonds, more herbs, and some grated parmesan cheese).


Spoon the filling into your parbaked crusts and top with either another crust or a crumble. Return the pot pies to the oven and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes - until the crust is crisp and golden.


Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.


Find Landmark Vineyards
on the web
on Instagram

*Disclosure: I did receive sample wines from Benson Marketing Group for the purpose of creating pairings and developing recipes. But no additional compensation was received and opinions are completely my own.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Barley-Stuffed Acorn Squash & Zesty Crayfish with Landmark Vineyards' Overlook Chardonnay #sponsor #WinePW


Wine Pairing Weekend - #winePW - happens on the second Saturday of the month. And this month - February - Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva is hosting. Since it's Valentines' Day, we're talking about Valentine pairings. Click to read her invitation: here.

Then I was approached to create some Valentine wine pairings* and I decided to post recipes for the entire week. I opted to elevate my usual stuffed squash by topping it with some "love bugs" - also known as boiled crayfish. All three of my Valentines got a chuckle with how I plated them.


In the Glass...
Landmark Vineyards' history includes a Hatfield-McCoy type feud which is very intriguing to this history buff. On one side, a group of investors that includes Damaries Deere Ford, of the John Deere tractor/plow legacy, is credited with starting the vineyards in 1974. When First Lady Michelle Obama opted to pour Landmark's Chardonnay at the White House holiday party one year, she credits that choice to its historical connection to John Deere.

On the other side sits another presidential perspective on Landmark's history, crediting the Mabry family with the vineyards' creation. Ronald Reagan, apparently, served Landmark Chardonnay at the White House during his tenure and lauded the Mabrys for their "delicious wine."



In all my research and digging, I never did uncover a definitive answer to the question. But whether it was founded by Deere Ford et al or the Mabrys, I am glad it exists!


The 2013 Overlook Chardonnay from Landmark Vineyards has a vibrant golden hue with delicate aromas of Meyer lemon, sage and pear.

I'll just be honest: Chardonnay is not my usual wine of choice. Too much oak masks the fruit and many California Chardonnays are too buttery for my tastes.


This wine has impressive balance and freshness. It's intense but not overpowering. Landmark's Chardonnay is, in a word, exquisite. Seriously. This could make a Chardonnay lover out of me!

On the Plate...

Ingredients serves 4
  • 2 acorn squash
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • 1 dozen crayfish
  • 1 T Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 to 2 C cooked barley (I boil mine in chicken stock for more flavor)
  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 organic blood orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 organic blood orange, supremed
  • 1 T olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Procedure
Squash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and strands. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Invert into your baking dish or a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, approximately for 60 to 75 minutes.


Crayfish
Bring 8 C of water with 1 T Old Bay Seasoning to a boil in a large souppot. Let boil for 5 minutes. Drop the crayfish carefully into the water and boil for another 5 minutes. The shells with turn a bright red. Drain and set aside.

Barley
Mix the cooked barley and parsley together in a medium mixing bowl. Add in the juice of 1 organic blood orange and 1 T olive oil. Toss to coat.


To Serve
Place roasted squash on your serving dish. Fill the hollow with barley. Carefully lay your crayfish over the top and on the plate around the squash. Lay two supremed sections of the blood orange in the shape of an 'x' - you know as in the kiss from xoxo - next to your love bug. Sprinkle with orange zest, freshly ground salt, and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.


Find Landmark Vineyards
on the web

*Disclosure: I did receive sample wines from Benson Marketing Group for the purpose of creating pairings and developing recipes. But no additional compensation was received and opinions are completely my own.

Not Ketchup Recipes for #FreshTastyValentines

photos courtesy of participating bloggers

Last week I hosted a multi-day, multi-blogger event - #FreshTastyValentines - to bring you some
healthier options to feed your sweethearts. Along with 21 other bloggers, we shared nearly 130 recipes.

Here is an easy way to view the recipes that used product from our sponsor Not Ketchup. Thanks again, Not Ketchup, for sending your brand new No Sugar Added Tangerine Hatch Chile Fruit Ketchup to the bloggers and for providing a wonderful prize package for our readers as well!

Check out everything from dips to cakes. Enjoy!


Find Not Ketchup
on the web: here
on Twitter: here
on Facebook: here
on Pinterest: here
on Instagram: here
on Google+: here

photos courtesy of participating bloggers
*Disclosure: bloggers received complimentary product from Not Ketchup for the creation of these posts. 
However, all opinions are our own.*

All of the #FreshTastyValentines Not Ketchup Recipes...

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