Monday, January 30, 2012

Jan 29, 2012 - Chicken!

Cocktail - Spiced Vanilla Apple Martini

Ingredients included vodka (of course), apple cider, french vanilla syrup and fresh nutmeg!

This was, quite possibly, our favorite cocktail to date.  It was not overly sweet, but the fresh nutmeg mixed soooo well with the vanilla and apple flavors.  It was like an apple pie in a glass!  Delicious!

Entree - Montalcino Chicken with Figs and Buttered Gnocchi with Pancetta and Nutmeg

OMG!  Who knew chicken could taste this good???  We used all boneless, skinless chicken breast and followed the recipe to a T.  It was easy, it was goof-proof, and it was delicious!  The chicken does turn a little purple because of the wine, but don't stress it!  And a non-stick skillet to brown the gnocchi is necessary becuase a regular pan won't get it good and crispy.  This goes in the recipe box!

Wine - 2007 Cascina Ballarin Borolo

Wine Enthusiast Rating - 94/100

Needless to say, Harry's Wine in Fairfield, CT did not let us down.  In fact, this is our favorite wine to date!  This wine opens with soft aromas of milk chocolate, red cherry, vanilla cream, cinnamon, and dark spice.  The mouthful was rich and soft with sweet cherries at the end.  It is not heavy or tannin-crazy like a Cabernet, and was so smooth.  Not only did this pair well with the meal (as it would with most likely any meal you can find... but it would definitely be worth just drinking while watching a movie.)

And becuase the food and the wine was so amazing, we actually ended up skipping on dessert.  Sorry, everyone!

However, we did include some pictures of our VIP guests that evening.

Ben and Baylion


Next week - SUPER BOWL!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday, Jan 22 2012... Fish!

Welcome to Cioppino night!

Cocktail - Blood Orange Martini

Ingredients include Skyy Blood Orange vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a splash of fresh tangerine juice.  (And if you light the orange peel on fire for a second and let the zest drip into the drink, the flavor is intensified!)

Ohhh... this was good!  Very clean and fresh... perfect way to "cleanse the palate" for an evening of seafood!

Entree - Cioppino

Home run!  This was amazing...  But there were quite a few changes (based on the reviews off the website.)  First - we halved the recipe (and had enough to feed at least 6.)  1 14oz can of stewed tomatoes, 1 14oz can of petite diced tomatoes, 14oz of seafood stock, and 1/2 a bottle of clam juice were added to the wine and herbs.  Then we used lobster, mahi mahi, calamari, shrimp, king crab, and littleneck clams.  OMG.  With some fresh ciabbata bread to sop up the broth... you cannot go wrong!  Tomorrow's leftovers will be over pasta!  This recipe is guaranteed to be a hit... especially, since its so flexible - add whatever you want and just watch it create a masterpiece!

Dessert - Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse

Follow the recipe and you can't go wrong!  The only changes we made were to use seedless raspberry jam in the microwave instead of frozen raspberries... and then use chambord instead of grand marnier.  We then whipped it back into the cream instead of folding.  This was the perfect "light" ending to a fabulous meal!

Wine - 2010 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina

88/100 - Wine Advocate

As expected, another home run from Harry's Wine in Fairfield, CT.  This medium-bodied wine has a lingering finish of citrus and minerals with intense aromas of apple, pineapple and banana with hints of white flowers.  It was not buttery like a Chardonnay (we didn't want that) but had the "balls" to stand up to a seafood meal.  In fact... we used the second bottle to go with dessert!

Next week... Chicken!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jan. 15, 2012 - Steak

Cocktail - Cherry Cognac Martini

Ingredients included cognac, cherry brandy, black cherry juice, splash of fresh lemon juice

As with the previous post, we're trying to expand our pre-dinner cocktail outside of just vodka and explore other liquors.  Once again, a slam dunk - but stick to just one.

Entree - Red Wine Marinated Flank Steak Filled with Prosciutto, Fontina and Basil with a Cabernet-Shallot Reduction

First off... it is not easy to butterfly a flank steak.  If you can, ask your butcher.  Otherwise, you want to use the "folding method" as demonstrated here:

Changes we made included using shredded cheese, not sliced (is it really that much of a difference?) and we doctored up the reduction by adding a tiny bit of beef bouillon and a tbsp of butter after it was done.  The sauce was good but it was rather tart - I don't think we reduced it enough.  We kept it on the stove about 30 minutes at a rolling boil, but I think it probably needed at least 45 minutes.  

The cooking time also made us nervous.  After all - that seemed like a long time to cook a flank steak (we're med-rare lovers), so therefore we did 8 minutes on direct heat and then about 10 minutes on indirect heat (covered grill.)  After we took it off the grill, it rested about 8 minutes while we finished up the caesar salad.  The problem seemed to be that while it rested, the cheese didn't stay "melty" and kind of hardened up.  Recommendation - follow the actual recommended cook time, but don't let it rest too long so the cheese doesn't coagulate.  

Overall - good meal - not the greatest we've made, but definitely a satisfying Sunday night.

And yes, ladies and gentlemen.... you can have a gourmet dinner AND still watch football!!!

Side Dish - Caesar Salad (and Baked Potato)

Caesar Dressing (Joy of Cooking Recipe)

1 Clove garlic; sliced
½ cup Olive oil

1 cup French bread; cubed
2 bunch Romaine
1 ½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Dry mustard
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
5 Anchovies; mashed
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
3 TBSP Wine vinegar
1 Egg
1 Lemon; juiced
3 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated

Steep garlic in 1/2 cup olive oil for 24 hours. Saute French Bread cubes in 2 tablespoons of garlic oil from above. Wash and dry Romaine and break into 2 inch lengths. Place the romaine in a salad bowl and sprinkle over it the salt, dry mustard, generous grating of black pepper. Add anchovy paste, and a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce. Add the wine vinegar and remaining 6 tablespoons of garlic oil. Drop the egg from the shell onto the ingredients in bowl. Squeeze lemon juice over salad and toss. Add Parmesan cheese and serve.

(Delicious... we made homemade croutons and mashed up a couple garlic cloves with the anchovies.)

Dessert - Homemade Apple Pie

Recipe unavailable because it was a family recipe made from memory - however it went something like... 4 cups shredded apples, eggs, butter, rum-soaked raisins, and flour combined over a pie crust and baked for approx. 1 hour.  Honestly - the shredded apples were so different from the usual apple pie and paired with rum-soaked raisins - unique and delicious!

Wine - 2009 Argiano NC

92/100 - Wine Spectator

This wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese and is full-bodied with soft-tannins and a long lasting finish.  This was one of the best wines we have had so far paired with a meal. (Actually, it's currently in our # 1 spot as favorite.)  As always, the fabulous employees at Harry's Wine in Fairfield, CT (this week was Patrick), made a fantastic reccomendation!

Next week - Fish!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Random Weekday Meal

Okay, so it was a blustery and cold Friday evening with nothing planned and lobster on sale at Stew Leonards.  So Jenn made an executive decision and decided on a TGIF dinner...

Cocktail - Sidecar Martini

Ingredients include brandy, triple sec, and lemon juice.

This was the first time we haven't done a vodka-based cocktail, but it was Freestyle Friday, so why not? This was a fantastic drink to start off our meal, although 1 went a long way.  This is a sipping cocktail and definitely stop yourself after one.  It was a perfect drink for a cold night.

Starter - Arugula Pear Salad

This was fairly simply... nice peppery arugula dressed in olive oil and fresh lemon juice topped with pear slices.

This is a classic salad that can pretty much be eaten with any meal.  It was refreshing on the palette after the stiff cocktail, and also a great pre-cursor to the entree that was bursting with flavors.

Entree - Brown Butter Risotto with Lobster

Yummmmmmmmm.  This was a delicious risotto and quite on par with many fine restaurants.  The only changes made were using lobster stock instead of chicken stock and we definitely think that it makes a big difference.  Simply add the lobster shells back to the water you originally boiled the lobsters in and let cook for a while.  (We also add some "lobster better than bullion", which can be found in most large grocery stores.)  If you're a risotto fan... try this recipe!  (It's probably also delicious with shrimp.)

Wine - 2008 Wild Horse Chardonnay

87/100 - Wine Enthusiast

This barrel-fermented chardonnay displayed extremely bright, fresh fruit like peach, apple, and lemon with a lingering mouth feel.  It was not overly buttery and paired extremely well with the meal!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jan 8, 2012 - Lamb!

Welcome to our first official food posting!!!  Tonight's menu is laid out piece by piece with reviews, edits, and editor commentary

Cocktail - Absolut Wild Tea Martini

We don't remember what the measurements were (we were experimenting and forgot to keep track) but the ingredients included:  Absolut Wild Tea vodka, Mint Simple Syrup, Blackberries, Lemon Juice, and a Kurant juice from the grocery store.

It was very tasty - the Wild Tea vodka has quite an herbal type of taste - very much like a real herbal tea. The mint and blackberry worked very well, but the simple syrup made it a little sweet for us - so we switched that for lemon seltzer the 2nd batch, and it was even better.  The group agreed that this cocktail is best meant for summertime as it makes you think of freshly made iced unsweetened tea.

Entree - Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Peasant Style Sauce

This was a fantastic meal!  It had tons of different flavors and was rather easy to make, once you were done chopping.  Even the non-lamb lovers ate everything off the plate, and the lamb lovers were nibbling on the bones.  Changes we made include:  We couldn't find Creole mustard, so we combined equal parts brown mustard and dijon mustard with a couple heaping Tbsp of Creole seasoning.  The mustard seems spicy initially, but cooks off while roasting, so don't be afraid.  We also couldn't find veal or lamb stock, so used plain old beef stock - I don't think anyone would have known the difference... it doesn't really make a sauce as much as the stock will mostly evaporate and you have a juicy olive mixture.  Also, we only needed about half of the breading, so don't go nuts shelling those pistachios.  However, because the pistachios and the olives are very salty - no need to salt the meat beforehand.  And when you roast - add an extra 5 minutes for medium-rare.  (And the mashed potatoes are lovely as well!)

Side Dish - Rustic Winter Vegetable Tarts

Wow.  That's all there is to say!  These were absolutely amazing.  We had used a balsamic reduction that was in the cupboard and cut back on the goat cheese since they were also in the potatoes, but otherwise, kept everything the same.  (Ok, maybe a little more bacon - but who doesn't love bacon?)  The only recommendation is to pre-cook the crust for 5 minutes before filling with the veggies, because otherwise the crust will deflate.  This will be something we cook on a regular basis.

Dessert - Homemade Baklava

Recipe unavailable because it was a dinner guest's family recipe.  The picture is grainy, but it was delicious nonetheless with some lemon gelato on the side!

Wine - 2009 JL Chave Mon Coeur Cotes-du-Rhone

Wine Spectator - 90/100

As always, many thanks to Harry's Wine in Fairfield, CT for matching a delicious wine to our meal.  They have gotten accustomed to John going in every week with recipe in hand and helping find a good pairing.  This wine is a combination of grenache and syrah with a fresh, earthy aroma and hints of dark berries that created a dense fruit profile with notes of licorice and dark chocolate.  It was a very nice wine and went delicious with the lamb chops!

Next Week - Steak