Friday, January 19, 2018

Conquering Cassoulet Alongside the 2014 Minervois le Chateau d’Albas #Winophiles #languedocwines #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the January #Winophiles event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links

As I was writing this post, I came across a note that Languedoc-Roussillon is a former region of France and that, since January 2016, it is part of the new region Occitanie. Well, color me confused because I still see it referred to as 'Languedoc', so, I'm going with 'Languedoc' and hoping to learn more about this name change through the other writers taking part.

In any case, Jill of L'Occasion is hosting this month's French Winophiles event. Read her invitation here. We are heading, virtually, back to Languedoc for a deeper dive into their wines. Jill also arranged for participating bloggers to receive wine samples for pairing. The Benson Marketing Group sent a curated shipment of Languedoc reds. I received the 2014 Château Saint Jacques d'Albas "Le Chateau d'Albas" Minervois and the 2015 Clos de l'Anhel "Les Terrassettes" Corbières.

The appellations of Minervois and Corbières are two of the major players in the region. Though whites and reds both come from there, Minervois and Corbières are most renowned for their red wines. Languedoc reds are typically blends of  Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan; however those from Minervois tend to lean more on Syrah while those from Corbières tend to highlight Carignan grapes.

The Winophiles' Languedoc Offerings



Baby Steps + Les Terrassettes Corbières
Before I jumped all in to make a cassoulet with a whole duck, I tried a version that used duck legs and pre-cooked beans. That evening I paired my test-run cassoulet with the 2015 Clos de l'Anhel "Les Terrassettes" Corbières.


The wine was deep, dark, and expressive with heavy fruit notes. I read that vigneron Sophie Guiraudon's vineyards are in one of the higher altitude areas of Corbières in a silty clay soil. From what I can tell, she's s one-woman show, farming, performing all of the organic treatments to the vines, hand-harvesting, and making the wines all by herself. "Les Terrassettes" is a blend of 65% Carignan, 25% Syrah, 6% Grenache, and 4% Mourvèdre.


All In with the 2014 Minervois le Chateau d’Albas
After dipping my toe in the cassoulet pool, I decided to go all in. For that dinner, I opened up the 2014 Château Saint Jacques d'Albas "Le Chateau d'Albas" Minervois. This wine was simultaneously restrained and robust. Leather, flowers, and red fruit mingle with fragrant notes of garrigue to create an explosion on the tongue that fades to an elegant mouthfeel.


Conquering Cassoulet
You can read the recipe I made: here. As I mentioned, I dove headfirst into making an authentic cassoulet that starts with a whole duck. I still can't believe how time-consuming it was to soak the beans, break down the duck, confit the legs and breast, make a homemade duck stock, braise the lamb, and on and on. 


I was so intimidated by all the steps. Really.


But, it was so worth the effort!


This was a pot of pure, hearty deliciousness!


Success!



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On the web, on Facebook, on Twitter

*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Abalone: Out of the Shell and Into the Pan #FishFridayFoodies


It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' first 2018 event. This is our two-year group anniversary! We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month. This is, easily, my favorite recipe sharing event of the month. I always come away with a list of recipes that I just have to try! 


This month, I am hosting. I wrote: "Create and share a recipe with any kind of shellfish. Think soups, breaded and fried, sautéed, steamed, or even raw. If it has a shell, it's fair game!"

The Rest of the Shelled Goodness


Monterey Abalone
I decided to write about one of my favorite shellfish: abalone! This shellfish took a circuitous route from native currency (yep...it was used as money) to culinary delicacy (do you know how much restaurants charge for abalone these days??). And in between it was exported to markets in China and Japan because there was no American market for its meat.

That was until “Pop” Ernest Doelter taught Americans how to prepare it. He pounded the steaks for his restaurant on the wharf in Monterey wharf and served them at the 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco. Finally in the spotlight, abalone’s popularity soared, bringing the edible gastropod to the brink of extinction.


Back in 2012, I was lucky enough to attend a cooking class at Aubergine taught by executive chef Justin Cogley. I did have to invoke some serious superhero skills for the assignment, juggling a camera, a notepad, and a pen, all while wielding a knife, a mallet, and a variety of other utensils. What a fun experience!

 He guided a dozen or so of us through how to get the abalone out of the shell, into the pan, and onto a plate! Here's how it goes...


Step One: Shuck
Cogley demonstrated, in one deft motion, how to separate the mollusk from its shell. Our efforts weren’t quite as graceful, but we did it.


Step Two: Clean and Pound
Also, we didn’t actually clean the abalone, Julian did that for us, but he demonstrated how to pound them and we eagerly gave that a try after Cogley made the distinction between the ‘presentation side’ and the ‘other side.’ We pounded the other side with the spiked side of the mallet. Almost fifty strikes was what one of my classmates counted during the demonstration. Then we flipped the abalone over, covered it with a towel, and pounded it again with the smooth side.


Step Three: Sous Vide
At that point, our abalone were vacuum-sealed for us to take home and we cooked abalone that Cogley and his crew had already prepped. When I write ‘prepped for final cooking’, I mean they were cooked sous vide (French for 'under vacuum') ahead of time. Sous vide is a method of cooking in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches at precisely controlled temperatures. For this preparation, the abalone were sous vide’d at 140° F for 30 minutes prior to the final cooking. 

While the results were amazing, I am torn when I look at a sous vide machine. Love the results. Hate that it's cooked in plastic and really wonder about what that's releasing into the food cooked inside. So, I have a sous vide that's never been opened because I'm trying to figure out other cooking vessels besides the plastic pouches. Would love to hear if you have any alternates.

Step Four: Pan-Fry and Plate
We heated unsalted butter in a pan and quickly pan-fried our abalone to give them a nice golden color. It took barely a minute per side. Then we spooned a bed of braised corn and Tiger’s Eye beans onto the plate, placed our abalone on top, and garnished it with some sea lettuce, sea grass, oyster leaves and a sprinkling of salt. 


Other Abalone Dishes
I am fortunate to belong to a CSF (community-support fishery) here in Monterey. And we get abalone throughout the season. Thankfully, they prep it for us. No more pounding! I've made Abalone-Topped Pasta all'Amatriciana, Meunière-Style Monterey Bay Abalone, and more.

Do you get abalone? How do you prepare it??

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sesame Greens with Overnight Oats and Cashews #FantasticalFoodFight


I love the Fantastical Food Fight coordinated by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. For more information about the event, click here.


I haven't been very good at participating recently, but this year, I'm aiming to be better. To kick off 2018, we were given the challenge of making a recipe with oatmeal. So. Many. Possibilities.


You can make savory oat bowls; you can bake it into bread. I use it to make homemade granola and granola bars. And I've even made oat-chata.





Overnight Oats
But do you know what I see everywhere, but have never attempted myself? Overnight oats!


I decided that this was the perfect event to do that. Still, Jake and I are off of added sugars this month, so I needed to go savory.

Ingredients serves 2

Basic Overnight Oats
  • 1 C old-fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1-1/4 C milk 
  • 1/2 C plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 T chia seeds 
  • 1 T flaxseed meal 
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
Sesame Greens
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 C chopped greens (I used kale and chard)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • 1 T hot sauce (optional)
Garnish
  • poached eggs
  • 1/2 C cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 T green onions, chopped
  • freshly ground pepper
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  • fresh herbs (I used cilantro)

Procedure

Basic Overnight Oats
Combine ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight; stir. Divide oat mixture between 2 bowls.


Sesame Greens
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add kale and chard, salt, and pepper, and cook until greens are slightly wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Add sesame oil and hot sauce, if using; remove from heat.


Garnish
Spoon oats into a serving bowl and top with cashews, green onions, and cilantro. Serve greens on the side, topped with a poached egg. Sprinkle everything with sesame seeds and a few grinds of black pepper.


I love how flexible a base the overnight oats are. I can't wait to try more variations. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Whole Duck Cassoulet a la Bittman #KitchenMatrixCookingProject


I've made cassoulet before. Well, I've used shortcuts to make cassoulet before - using canned beans and already made duck confit. Inspired by this week's Kitchen Matrix Cooking Project - read more about this here - I decided that I was going to conquer this dish once and for all. 


That and this month's French Winophiles event suggested cassoulet in honor of 'National Cassoulet Day' on January 9th. So, you can read more about the Languedoc wines I poured with my cassoulet.


Here are the other bloggers who decided to join me in making Bittman's Whole Duck Cassoulet...or, at least, their version of it. This project is pretty fast and loose; bloggers can adapt as they see fit.




Whole Duck Cassoulet a la Bittman
slightly adapted, serves 6 to 8

But, for this cassoulet, I decided I was all in. I was determined to start with a whole duck, break it down, confit the breast and legs, and make a stock with the rest of it. I did completely forget the slab bacon, but - really - there was so much meat in this dish, we didn't miss it. I also skipped the cloves, but added juniper berries to my stock. This was ridiculously time-consuming, but it was well-worth the effort. And I think my dinner guests agreed.

Ingredients

Duck Stock and Confit makes 8 C stock + confit of 2 legs and 2 breasts
  • 1 whole duck
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 to 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 to 5 celery ribs, cut into chunks
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 whole juniper berries
  • parsley sprigs
  • black pepper
  • duck fat, as needed
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 10 C water

Whole Duck Cassoulet
  •  4 C dried cannellini beans
  • small bunch parsley, chopped, approximately 1 C
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound lamb, cubed
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced, approximately 2 C
  • 1 C diced celery
  • duck confit (2 legs + 2 breasts)
  • 3 C duck stock + more if needed
  • 2 C tomato sauce
  • 3 T minced garlic
  • 4 links garlicky sausage, cut into thick coins
  • duck fat, as needed
  • 2 C bread crumbs


Procedure

Duck Stock and Confit 
Set the whole duck on the cutting board, breast-side up. Use a knife to cut along one side of the breastbone. Follow the curve with your knife and pull the meat back as you go. You'll end up with one duck breast. Repeat on the other side. Now you have two breasts. Once you've removed the breasts, the legs are easy to see. Remove the thigh and drumstick, cutting through the joint that attaches the leg to the body. Remove as much skin and fat as you can from the duck and place that in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, render as much duck fat at you can. I got about 1 C from mine and added 2 C of pre-rendered duck fat to do the confit.

Lightly score the skin of the breast in a diamond pattern. Sprinkle with salt and reserve. Toss the duck legs with garlic, thyme, shallots, and salt. Refrigerate and marinate overnight.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Place your duck breasts, legs, and garlic in a roasting pan. Add the duck fat (I used 3 C) and olive oil to the pan until the meat is almost completely submerged. Cook in the oven for at least 90 minutes.

For the stock, place the duck carcass, celery, carrots, green onions, juniper, bay leaves, and parsley sprigs in a large stock pot. Pour in 10 C water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for at least 2 hours, skimming any foam that forms on the top. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.


Whole Duck Cassoulet
In a large pot, place the beans. Cover them with water by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the liquid out and replace the water, covering the soaked beans, again, by about 3" water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, approximately 90 minutes. Drain and set aside.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, saute onions and celery in 1 to 2 T duck fat. Cook until the onions soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add in the lamb and brown on all sides. Stir in the sausages. Pour in 2 C duck stock and bring to a boil. cover and place pot in the oven. Braise to 90 minutes. In the meantime, slice the duck breasts into thick slices and bring the legs to room temperature.


After 90 minutes remove the pot from the oven. Pour in the tomato sauce and ladle in the beans. Stir in the minced garlic. Nestle the duck legs, breast slices, and bay leaves into the beans. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves and 1/2 C chopped parsley. Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Cover and return to the oven for another 90 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and sprinkle in the remaining parsley. Cover the top with breadcrumbs. Cover and return to the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cover and bake for a final 15 to 20 minutes. The top should be dried and a crisp crust covering the entire dish.


Serve with sliced bread and nice red wine.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Za'atar-Crusted Rib-Eyes with 2014 Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cab #WinePW #SonomaStrong #Sponsored

 This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the January #WinePW event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links

Welcome to the first Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) event of the new year. Happy 2018, all!! Jill at L'Occasion is hosting and invited the group to focus on wines from Sonoma. Read her preview post: here.

#SonomaStrong
This Autumn, fires ravaged California and threatened the cities of Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga. Friends and family were evacuated, but mercifully no one we personally know lost their homes or businesses. However, wineries burnt to the ground and many more were damaged. Vines were singed; we won't know the extent of the wildfires' effects on the grapes until next year - or later. It turns out that some of those vines served as firebreaks, protecting the wineries from the flames. Still, it was devastating to those communities.

Jill asked the WinePW bloggers to support a reputable fire relief resource and promote #SonomaStrong awareness. I first went to SonomaStrong.org, but, by January 2nd, they had exceeded their goal of $500,00 and were focused on disbursing the funds they had collected. That website pointed me towards Rotary 5130 Fire Relief Fund and Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief. I opted to support the former as my dad is a member of a local-to-us rotary club.

If you are so inclined, the relief is much-needed and much-appreciated. Thanks in advance!


As the hostess with the mostest, Jill even arranged for some Sonoma wineries to provide us with samples to taste, pair, and highlight. I received wines from Geyser Peak Winery and Balletto Vineyards.

The Line-Up


In the Glass
Though I received four bottles of wine for this event - don't worry, I will be sharing pairings with all of them in the coming weeks - I have decided to focus on the 2014 Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley for this post.


The 2014 Walking Tree Cabernet looks inky and rich in the glass and features rich aromas of dark stone fruits, wild herbs, and a tinge of something sweet. Supple tannins entice you and finish with a sumptuous mouthfeel. Slightly savory, mildly earthy, I peeled back the layers and imagined a meaty dish alongside.


On the Plate
To mirror the wine's complexity, I opted for rib-eye steaks encrusted with za'atar and topped with butter-crisped mushrooms. The effect was as I had hoped: divine!

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that I always have on hand. It's a breeze to make and adds something fabulous to olive oil for dipping and - I've just discovered - as a spice rub on any kind of meat! My za'atar recipe makes about 5 tablespoons. If you have any leftover (you will), keep it in a sealed jar for future use.

Ingredients serves 4 (sharing 1 rib-eye for 2 people)

Za'atar
  • 2 T fresh thyme, pulled off the stem and minced
  • 2 T sesame seeds, toasted (I use both white and black sesame seeds)
  • 2 t ground sumac
  • 1/2 t flake salt

Meat
  • 2 rib-eye steaks, about an inch thick
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • Also needed: a griddle or grill pan

Crisped Mushrooms
  • 1 to 2 C mushrooms (I used crimini)
  • 1 T butter
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Procedure
  
Za'atar 
In batches, blend and crush the spices with a mortar and pestle. Leave some sesame seeds whole.

Crisped Mushrooms
Melt butter in a large, flat-bottom pan. When the butter begins to brown, lay your mushrooms in the pan. Let the mushrooms brown and crisp. Flip the mushrooms and crisp them on the other side. Only after they are crisp should you season them. Adding salt when they are cooking will lead to soggy mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meat
Let steaks rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking - and up to an hour. Sprinkle both sides with za'atar, salt, and pepper.

Melt 1 T butter in 1 T olive oil on a griddle or grill pan. Heat the point that it is almost smoking. Sprinkle another layer of za'atar over the meat, pressing the spices into the meat.

Place your steak - newly sprinkled za'atar side down - in the pan. Depending on thickness, you will want to cook the steak for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Sprinkle the top side with za'atar before flipping. You should have a nice crust formed with an internal temperature of about 130 degrees F for medium. Remove from pan and tent with foil. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Slice and top steak with crisped mushrooms. Serve immediately.


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*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

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