Monday, February 25, 2019

Fastelavnsboller #MardiGrasRecipes #FestiveFoodies


Today Heather of Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks has the Festive Foodies are sharing Mardi Gras recipes. Check out these other delicious Mardi Gras recipes...

Mardi Gras, Carnevale, and Fastelavn
So, everyone is probably familiar with Mardi Gras. Carnevale is the Italian version with the name, in Latin, literally meaning 'Bye, Meat!' And I just learned about Fastelavn...so, I'm going to share it with you.

photo by Rikke

I saw this photo posted on one of my best friend's social media with the caption: "Årets første fastelavnsboller." It means 'First fastelavnsboller of the year' and I immediately sent her a message that I needed to know what those were and a recipe! Here's the Danish culinary history lesson, paraphrased a bit...

Before the reformation, in 1536, Denmark was Catholic. And Fastelavn marks the beginning of 40 days of fasting. So, it surrounds enjoying all of the foods that would be off limits for the duration of Lent. The Fastelavnsboller, dating back to the 1600s, are part of the 'let's eat all the nice foods' tradition since it uses up the expensive white flour, sugar, and eggs.

Rikke mentioned two versions: the old-fashioned which is a simple yeast-based dough filled with vanilla cream; the buttery dough which is baked, opened up, and filled with a mixture of vanilla cream, whipped cream, and sometimes raspberry jam, prunes, or mocha cream.

And a tradition that she shared had me laughing and laughing. "In the 1800s, Fastelavn was a big celebration for dressed up grown ups - with plenty of alcohol etc. - and they would hang a barrel with a live cat inside and beat the barrel with a stick until the cat fell out. The cat symbolising evil!" 

She said the tradition came from Holland. Okay, blame the Dutch! LOL. She continued, "Today this tradition is adapted for kids - they wear costumes and ‘slår katten af tønden’ (hit the cat out of the barrel). The barrel being filled with candy, apples, oranges etc. - and decorated with cardboard cats." 

Fastelavnsboller

So, this isn't Rikke's recipe as I still need to wrangle that from her. This is one that I found and adapted from ScandiKitchen

And you know I'm ready for some serious baking when the scale comes out. A friend joked that he was shocked because he figured I eye-balled everything. I usually do, but bread making requires precision and, for that, I prefer weight versus volume amounts. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can find a converter online; but I really urge you to use a kitchen scale for making breads and pasta.

Ingredients

Dough
  • 13 g dried/active dry yeast 
  • 250 ml whole milk, warmed to steaming but not boiling
  • 100 g butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 40 g organic granulated sugar
  • 450 g flour + more for kneading
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 t ground cardamom (this results in a strong flavor, reduce if you prefer)
  • 1 t salt (I used a Danish flake salt, but use whatever you have)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Vanilla Cream
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced lengthwise with seeds scraped
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g organic granulated sugar
  • 30 g corn starch
  • 25 g butter

Baking and Finishing
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150 g organic powdered sugar
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, approximately 1 T
  • 50 g dark chocolate
  • sprinkles or chopped nuts

Procedure

Vanilla Cream
Place the milk and the vanilla bean and scraped seeds in a medium sauce pan and let stand for 20 minutes. Then scald the milk and let the vanilla steep in the milk for 10 minutes. In the meantime, in mixing bowl, blend the sugar and eggs until the mixture becomes fluffy and pale. Add the corn starch and whisk to combine.

Slowly pour the warmed milk into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour.  Place the saucepan back on the stove and bring to a boil. Whisking vigorously the whole time.  Once the mixture has thickened and just started to boil, remove from the heat. Keep whisking to keep it smooth. Spread the pastry cream into a dish and cover with plastic wrap, touching the top to keep the cream from developing a film.  Refrigerate until cool.

Dough
Pour warm milk into a large mixing bowl, stir in sugar, and sprinkle yeast over the top. Let bloom for 10 to 15 minutes. It should be foamy and frothy. Add in the butter and egg. Whisk to combine.

Add in the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. Knead until a scraggy dough forms. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes. It should be doubled in size.

Baking
Dust a workspace with flour and turn out the dough. Knead the dough, dusting to prevent sticking if needed. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a rectangle, approximately 12" x 16". Cut the dough into 8 rectangles..


On each rectangle, add a generous dollop of pastry cream. Gather the corners together on top to form a sort of purse shape. Press the seams together to ensure the vanilla cream stays inside the bun and won’t leak out during baking.


When bun is completely closed, invert it, and place it on parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the buns with beaten egg and let them rest and rise for 20 to 25 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 395 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the sheet while you prepare the toppings


Finishing
Create a lemon glaze with the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Set aside. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.


Once the buns are cool, top them with the glaze or the chocolate. I opted to use sprinkles with the lemon glazed buns and chopped hazelnuts with the chocolate covered one.


These were so much fun to make. I can't wait to try them again...and the boys want to have a cat piñata to have the full Fastelavn experience. Hmmm...maybe next year.

Khmeli Suneli, a Georgian Spice Blend


I have long been a fan of making my own spice blends. They add such regional flair to dishes. For instance, I can roast chicken with Chinese Five Spice and get a completely different character than roasting chicken with Garam Masala or Za'atar. You can read more about some other DIY Spice Blends I've made and how I use them.

So, when I was researching recipes for our upcoming #EattheWorld virtual trip to Georgia (as in the country, not the state), I was excited to read about Khmeli Suneli. Khmeli Suneli sounded like a complex, aromatic spice blend that was warm, nutty, grassy, and bitter all at the same time. I had to make it!

Like most spice blends, it seems the proportions and even the spices vary from cook to cook. Some versions I saw included marigold petals, cinnamon, and mint. I went with a more simplified combination and definitely should have blended more because I used it in three different dishes and it was gone. Next time I'll try to add some cloves, too.

Ingredients
  • 1 T coriander seeds
  • 1 T dill seeds
  • 1 T ground fenugreek
  • 1 t dried savory 
  • 1/2 t black peppercorns


Procedure
Place all ingredients in a spice blender; I have a dedicated coffee grinder that I use for this purpose. Pulse until well-combined and a uniform powder. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

You'll see this spice blend in my upcoming recipe posts for Ispanakhis Pkhali, Charkhlis Mkhali, and Chicken Satsivi. All three of those were on this plate...

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Nutty Irish Car Bomb Cake #OurFamilyTable


Today, the From Our Dinner Table group is sharing all manner of St. Patrick's Day recipes. The prompt read: "We are all Irish on St. Patrick's Day! Traditional Irish food includes lots of potato recipes, meat pies and stews, as well as fish and shellfish! Try expanding beyond corned beef a cabbage and try something more traditional this year. Or just make AMAZING corned beef and cabbage."

Here's the line-up...

We share Recipes From Our Dinner Table! Join our group and share your recipes, too! While you're at it, join our Pinterest board, too!

Nutty Irish Car Bomb Cake
While I considered sharing another version of my Grilled Cabbage Steaks or House-Cured Corned Beef, I decided to make something with Guinness and chocolate instead.

I've always found the name of this dessert worrisome, but figured I would just have to explain. The 'Irish Car Bomb' is a cocktail: Guinness, Irish Cream, and Whiskey. Another favorite March libation, from my college days, was the 'Nutty Irishman': Whiskey, Irish Cream, and Frangelico. So, I think I blended those together and created a Nutty Irish Car Bomb.

This is a Guinness chocolate cake filled with whiskey ganache, topped with a Frangelico glaze. It's incredibly rich, so serve small slices.

Ingredients

Cake
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t pure coffee extract
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 C Guinness
  • 2 C flour
  • 1-1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chunks

Ganache
  • 2 C heavy whipping cream
  • 2 C semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 3 T whiskey
  • 1/2 t salt

Glaze
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 1 T whipping cream
  • 2 T Frangelico


Procedure

Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a pan. I used a 9" square pan.

In large mixing bowl whisk together egg, sugar, sour cream, oil, vanilla, and coffee extract until well blended. Add in the cocoa powder and Guinness. Whisk until all dry ingredients are moistened.

Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chunks. Mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Ganache
Place whipping cream in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until bubbles begin to form on the side of the pan. Add in the chocolate chunks and swirl to make sure they are covered with the warmed cream. Let stand for 3 minutes. Pour in the whiskey and whisk until smooth.

Cool in refrigerator until it thickens, at least 30 minutes. Whip until desired consistency to fill and frost the cake.

Glaze
Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth.

To Assemble
Slice the cake in half. Spoon half of the ganache onto the cut surface. Spread out the filling until even. Place the second cake layer on top. Spoon the remaining ganache over the top and spread evenly over the top and along the sides. When ready to serve, pour the glaze over the top. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Baked Peppered Parsnip Fries


It took my husband eighteen years to tell me that he doesn't really like parsnips. Seriously? What's not to like?!? Well, three years after that admission, he still has to eat them when they come in our CSA box; I try not to buy extra parsnips though. I'm nice that way. Sometimes.


I decided to try them as oven-baked "fries." And, he liked them. Well, I think his exact words were, "These aren't terrible." I'll take it!

Ingredients
  • 1-1⁄2 lbs parsnips, peeled and cut into 'fry'-sized pieces
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1⁄2  t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2  t sea salt 
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • Also needed: baking sheet, parchment paper or silicone mat

Procedure
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place parsnip fries in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with spices. Drizzle with olive. Use tongs to toss and coat parsnips evenly with oil and spices.

Turn parsnips out onto parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet in single layer.

Place sheet in the middle of the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Use tongs to turn the parsnips and return the sheet to the oven. Roast for an additional 15 minutes.

Parsnips should be soft in the middle and browned and crispy outside. Let cool slightly, adjust seasoning if needed. Serve hot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Maple and Mustard-Glazed Chicken Thighs #FoodBloggerLove


Earlier this month I noticed a fun game posted in the online group #FoodBloggerLove. We claim the last blogger in the comment stream and add our own link. Then we have a week to post an inspired recipe. I was thrilled to claim Ellen of Family Around the Table. She and I have been in several different blogging groups over the years, so I was familiar with her blog already. But it was great to really dive deep and get to know her better.

Meet Ellen! You can find her: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Pinterest.

She is a freelance writer, recipe developer, and former correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times where she wrote a regular TASTE section feature as well as reviewed cookbooks for more than 15 years. And, regarding her blog name, she credits her mom, her kids, and her grandmother for the inspiration. She remembers her grandmother making fresh pasta for dinner, writing, "She was from Italy and a very good cook so I come by my love of cooking naturally. My Mom inherited her cooking skills too."

Everyone needs an Italian nonna to get them into the kitchen! The world would be a better place, I think, if more people spent time with older relatives learning useful life skills.

So, I explored Ellen's blog and will be making several of her other dishes, including her version of the Barefoot Contessa's Beef Bourguignon and a Hearty Vegetable Beef Stew. Like Ellen, I really love beef.

On the sweet side of things, her Out of this World Apple Cake is calling my name. But I think I will save her Italian Cream Cake with Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting for a special occasion.


But, for this post, I was inspired by her Maple Glazed Chicken as I had a new bottle of bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and I definitely wanted to use it in a savory dish. This was it! I made a few changes in that I did this on the stove instead of in the oven and I skipped the vegetables and just served a green salad. But her combination of the sweet maple syrup and the tangy mustard was fantastic. I will definitely be making this again.


Ingredients serves 6
  • 6 or 7 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
  • 3/4 C pure maple syrup + more for finishing
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T olive oil
  • sesame seeds for garnish


Procedure
Mix maple syrup, mustard, and sesame oil together in a small mixing bowl and rub that mixture into the skin side of the chicken. In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil. Place the skin side of chicken down and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

Turn the chicken over - the skin will be browned and crisp - and cook on the second side for 25 to 30 minutes.


To finish, brush each chicken thigh with a thin layer of maple syrup and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately!

Butternut Squash Tourte #ChefsSecret


I had it all planned out: an entire Valentines' dinner with recipes from the companion cookbook for Crystal King's The Chef's Secret. For the dessert course, I thought about re-making my own Crostata di Ciliegie; but I wanted to try one of the other sweet treats.


I settled on the Pumpkin Tourte that Crystal herself offered. I substituted butternut squash because that's what I had just received in my CSA box. I roasted it, pureed it, and set about making the tourte. Except...I was rushing and I forgot to add the sugar.

With the first bite, everyone at the table had an odd look on their faces. "It's different," declared my Enthusiastic Elf.

"Is it supposed to be savory?" asked my Love. No, why?!? I took a bite and immediately knew what I had done, or not done. Darn it! I forgot to add the sugar.


I ran into the kitchen and whipped up some cream with a significant amount of sugar and came back with a plate of Black Tahini Truffles, too. Our Valentines' dessert cravings were averted, but I have Crystal's Pumpkin Tourte on my to-bake list. Correctly next time. With sugar!

Flops happen. I think it's important to share my kitchen successes and failures. Because, if you can't laugh at yourself, you'll never improve, right?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Crostata di Ciliegie #ChefsSecret


This recipe is my interpretation of a pie mentioned in the new historical novel The Chef's Secret by Crystal King*. And I was excited to share it with her. The book was just released last week and my Crostata di Ciliegie appears in the digital companion cookbook. How fun is that?

This isn't a full review of the book, especially since I'm re-reading it this month and will do a more extensive post. So that will be coming soon. But I wanted to share this recipe and its inspiration.

On the Page

 “I began the day I was to dine at casa di Palone in the Vaticano kitchen, helping Antonio prepare the pope’s meals.…I suspected the pope would not touch the custardy dessert, but I felt compelled to take a chance. The worst that might happen was that he would order me to go back to his regular menu. At best, he would recognize the joy of food God gifted to us.…Antonio helped me bake a crostata to take the Palone house that evening. …The fragrance was magnificent. I hoped the famiglia Palone would find the pie tasted as good as it looked” (Chapter 11).

On the Plate

After I read that passage, I was daydreaming about cherry crostata, and I decided to create a version with frangipane and Amarena cherries with the top crust brushed with a hint of rosewater. The Amarena cherries, a variety of the Prunus cerasus developed by Gennaro Fabbri who was born in Bologna in the late 19th century, small, dark cherries grown near Bologna and Modena. Though Giovanni’s version is made with the Visciola—an indigenous, wild cherry—Amarenas were what I could find here in California! Because the cherries were bottled in syrup, I used very little sugar in the crust and added lemon juice to the frangipane to cut the sweetness. Rosewater, I’ve found, is a very polarizing ingredient; some people love it, others abhor it. So, I used it very sparingly.

Ingredients

Crust
• 2-1/2 C flour + more for rolling
• 1/2 C ground almonds
• 1/4 C powdered sugar
• pinch of salt
• 1 C butter
• 3 T water
• 3 T grappa (use whatever alcohol you want – vodka and gin work well – or more water.)
• Also needed: a tart pan with a removable bottom, silicone brush

Frangipane
• 1 C ground almonds
• 1/4 C dark brown sugar
• 1/2 C melted butter
• 2 large eggs
• 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons because I have a tree in my yard. Use whatever lemons you have.)

To Finish
• Amarena cherries (I used two 7.4 oz jars from Trader Joe’s which are pitted but still have stems.)
• 1/2 t rosewater
• 1 T water
• Unsweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional

Procedure

Crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the flour, ground almonds, powdered sugar, and salt together; rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Alternatively stir in water and grappa, if using, until the mixture forms a ball. Divide the ball into  thirds, then combine two of the balls so you end up with 1/3 of the dough for the top and 2/3 of the dough for the bottom. Wrap the smaller ball in plastic wrap and chill. Roll out the larger ball between two pieces of parchment paper. Press gently into a tart pan. Prick crust with a fork to prevent  bubbling.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350, or until a light golden brown. In the meantime, make the frangipane.

Frangipane
Mix everything together to form a paste. Once the tart crust is cooked, spread a layer of frangipane over the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes.

To Finish
Drain the Amarena cherries and remove their stems. Rinse briefly under cold water and let drain again while the frangipane bakes.

Press the cherries into the partially baked frangipane. Roll the second crust out between two pieces of parchment paper. Slice into ¾” wide strips. You can weave the lattice if you like. I simply overlap them to create a grid and press gently at the intersections. Trim any excess dough and press gently at the edge of the pan to attach the strips to the crostata base. Dilute the rosewater in 1 tbsp water and brush a light coating over dough strips.

Return to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the crostata from the tart pan.


Slice and serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.


*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.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Steak au Poivre et Thé + Martian Radiant Cabernet Franc 2014


In preparation for an upcoming the Cabernet Franc event for Wine Pairing Weekend crew, I got ahold of three bottles of Cab Franc and took two over to a dinner party. You'll hear about that tasting next month, but the third bottle I kept for my own table. And, on a stormy evening this weekend, Jake and I paired it with some tea and pepper-crusted filet mignons.

In My Glass

Martian Ranch & Vineyard is a biodynamically farmed vineyard in Santa Barbara County. Created by Nan Helgeland in Los Alamos, California, the name is a blending of her sons' names, Martin and Ian.

I was able to track down a bottle of their sold-out 2014 Cabernet Franc. Helgeland has a drive to find a plot of land best suited for each specific varietal. Here's the 'Martian's eye view' of her vineyard...the Cab Franc is cultivated in plot 08.

from martianvineyard.com


In the glass, the wine is inky, almost black. On the nose, I get aromas of cherries with a hint of mushrooms. On the palate, the wine is well-balanced and smooth which made me think of a steak topped with silky, caramelized onions. To add some more complexity, I went with a Steak au Poivre and added in some pulverized smoked tea leaves, hence the Steak au Poivre et Thé.

On My Plate

I love the smoky aromas and flavor of Lapsang Souchong tea. I use it to add smokiness - as if from bacon - without actually adding bacon.

Ingredients serves 4
  • 4 T Lapsang Souchong tea (use any black tea you wish)
  • 4 t peppercorns (I used a mixture of black, white, and pink peppercorns)
  • 1 t allspice berries
  • 4 six ounce Filet Mignon steaks, approximately 1-1/2" thick
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced


Procedure
Melt 1 T butter in olive oil. Add the onions and cool until translucent and caramelized. Set aside.

In a spice grinder, add tea, peppercorns, and allspice. Grind coarsely and turn out on a plate. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees F. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and press them into the tea-peppercorn mixture.


Melt 1 T butter in a large, flat-bottom pan. Sear the meat until well-colored, approximately 4 minutes on each side. Move the steaks to an baking dish and transfer them to the oven to keep warm.


To serve, place the steaks on a plate. Spoon the onions over the top. Serve immediately. I served this with a salad and scalloped potatoes on the side.

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Book, An Inspired Braise, and A (Surprise!) Bottle of Red from Provençe #Winophiles #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the February #Winophiles event.
The book was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

This month, Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is hosting the French Winophiles. She levied a fun, two part challenge to the group. You can read her invitation: here

She offered us copies of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - courtesy of Blue Vase Book Exchange* - to accompany our exploration of Provençal wines and food pairings. Bonus points, she said, for not opening up a Provençal Rosé. Needless to say: this wine-swilling bibliophile was in. Immediately. 

Provençal Posts
A Book

When I picked up the package at the post office, I was so excited to have a new-to-me book for the weekend. I had to accompany D and his project partner downtown one Sunday last month. So, while they planned a strategy and identified a shot list of photos they needed to take, I sat there with some cheese and a coffee, enjoying the sun, and dug into the book. This is a breeze to read. If you haven't read it and are looking for an afternoon's diversion to Provençe, pick this up!


As much as I love travel and food memoirs, I am surprised that this hasn't crossed my shelf yet. Organized as a calendar year - each chapter encompasses a month - this memoir details Mayle's first year in Provençe as a British ex-patriate who has purchased a house in France and is in the process of renovating. 

I read that Mayle passed away last January - 2018 - after having lived in France for over a quarter of a century. I will definitely be looking up more of his books as I really enjoyed his narrative voice and, of course, the picture he paints of his adopted country.

Some entertaining passages I want to share that illustrate his skill with a pen...and some differences he notes between the Brits and the French.

In January: "The effect of the weather on the inhabitants of Provençe is immediate and obvious. They expect every day to be sunny, and their disposition suffers when it isn't. Rain they take as a personal affront, shaking their heads and commiserating with each other in the cafés, looking with profound suspicion at the sky as though a plague of locusts is about to descend, and picking their way with distaste through the puddles on the pavement" (pg. 10).

In June: "It had taken me some months to get used to the Provençal delight in physical contact. Like anyone brought up in England, I had absorbed certain social mannerisms. I had learned to keep my distance, to offer a nod instead of a handshake, to ration kissing to female relative and to confine any public demonstrations of affection to dogs. To be engulfed in a Provençal  welcome, as thorough and searching as being frisked by airport security guards was, at first, a starling experience" (pg. 101).

In December: "It is very different with the French. They are no sooner given a glass before they put it down, presumably because they find conversation difficult with only one hand free. So the glasses gather in groups, and after five minutes identification becomes impossible. The guests, unwilling to take another person's glass but unable to pick out their own, look with longing at the champagne bottle. Fresh glasses are distributed, and the process repeats itself" (pg. 203).

A (Surprise!) Bottle of Red
 

Probably like most people, when I think of wines from Provençe, I automatically think of Rosés. I've opened a fair share of those after all. I've shared these pairings Spiced Orange Salad + Cave de Saint-Roch-les-Vignes Côtes deProvence Rosé, Warm Weather Rosé + Cheese Pairings, and Tapenade-Topped Sablefish + Cave de Saint-Roch-les-Vignes Côtes de Provence Rosé; and, though not a wine-food pairing, I posted Tasting Notes: Luc Belaire Rare Rosé. So, lots of pinks there.

When Wendy mentioned that she'd like us to find reds or white, as we could, I was on the hunt. And I found one. I picked up a 2014 Domaine de Terrebrune from Bandol, Provençe. It's a single varietal Mourvèdre. Surprise! My bottle of wine is not a Rosé.

Mourvèdre is primarily a blending grape - it's the 'M' in GSM blends - but is increasingly being bottled on its own. When I find it on its own, I am always captivated. The grape goes by a few different names worldwide. The grape we know as Mourvèdre goes by the name Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Australia.  


This wine has strong garrigue aromas which refers to the wild, aromatic low-growing vegetation on the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coast. Think juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender; 'garrigue' refers to the lot of them. For this almost purple-hued wine, I got mostly lavender and thyme on the nose. And the salinity on the tongue definitely made me think of the Mediterranean coast of Provençe. There was also some licorice undertones. The noticeable tannins harmonize nicely with the structure of the wine making this a delightful sip.

An Inspired Braise

I took inspiration from this passage in the January chapter: "The cold-weather cuisine of Provençe  is peasant food. It is made to stick to your ribs, keep you warm, give you strength, and send you off to bed with a full belly. It is not pretty, in the way that the tiny and artistically garnished portions served in fashionable restaurants are pretty, but on a freezing night with the Mistral coming at you like a razor there is nothing to beat it" (pg. 13).

So in the last weekend of January, I made a Provençe-inspired braise with boneless pork chops I had in the fridge. And to match the garrigue notes of the wine, I added in thyme, rosemary, and lavender to the dish. With the cream and potatoes, it definitely sent us to bed with fully bellies!

Ingredients serves 4 to 6

  • four boneless pork chops
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thickly sliced with fronds reserved
  • 1 pound potatoes, thickly sliced (I used multi-colored marble potatoes)
  • 2 t crushed dried lavender blooms
  • 2 t dried rosemary
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 2 t sea salt
  • European style mustard*
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 1/2 C stock (I used chicken stock, but use whatever you have)
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • water, as needed
*NOTE (because a reader asked for clarification): When I write 'European style mustard' I just really mean anything other than (American) yellow mustard. It could be Dijon, English, or whole grain. You could use any kind that you have, but the latter kinds have a little bit more texture and heat, in my mind.

Procedure

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl, blend together the lavender, rosemary, thyme, and sea salt.

In the bottom of a baking dish or Dutch oven, layer in the onions and fennel bulb. Sprinkle in a third of the herb mixture. Add the potatoes and top with another third of the herbs. Place the pork chops on top and finish off the herbs.


Add some mustard on top of the pork and use a knife to make a thin layer. Pour in the liquids. If the liquid doesn't reach to the bottom of the meat, add in some water. Top with fresh fennel fronds and  the cover the dish or use the lid.


Place in the oven and let braise for 2 hours. Remove the lid. Turn the meat and potatoes to make sure they are fully covered in the sauce and return it to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.


Serve hot with a wine from Provençe...a red wine, if you can. I also served this with wilted spinach and a bitter greens salad in a mustard vinaigrette. What a delicious meal, inspired by a fun read. Thanks for hosting, Wendy! And thanks, too, to Blue Vase for the book. Merci beaucoup!

Find them on the web, on Facebook, and on Amazon
I am also linking this post up to February's #FoodieReads: here.