Monday, February 27, 2012

Feb. 26, 2012 - The Academy Awards

The men have the Super Bowl... the ladies have the Oscars.  (Who are we kidding?  We only watch it for the Red Carpet, just like we only pay attention to the Super Bowl for the commercials.)  For the 84th Academy Awards, we set out to make food that could somehow be related to each film nominated for best picture.  Here goes...


Left - The Red Carpet Martini
Vodka, Cointreau, Pomegranate Juice, Lime

Center - The 84th Martini
Vodka, Pear Nectar, Amaretto

Right - The Oscar Cocktail
Champagne, Cognac, Bitters, and a Sugar Cube

Nominated Film - "The Artist"

A silent film based in France... therefore cheese and crackers were a necessity for the table

Nominated Film - "Midnight in Paris"

To continue the theme of French food, we chose a Fig and Olive Tapenade over Crostini

This was one of the favorites put out that evening... the only changes we made were to use goat cheese instead of cream cheese as originally suggested in the recipe.  This tapenade will be a staple for future dinner parties and when a classy hors d'oeuvre is needed!

Nominated Film - "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"

This emotional film is obviously set in NYC, and what is more New York than pizza?

Mike made a fabulous homemade meat lovers and margherita pizza... delicious!

Nominated Film - "Moneyball"

This baseball themed movie required a meal that brings you back to the ballpark.  What could be better than beer-burger sliders with cheddar and a fried onion ring?

Simple, easy, and hugely popular.  Ground beef, about 1/3-1/2 cup of beer, palmful of garlic-onion seasoning blend, a little Worcestire, and you're done!  Form into small patties, saute on a skillet for approximately 4 minutes per side, add a slice of cheese, cover the skillet and let the steam melt the cheese in less than sixty seconds.  Future dinners may include a "slider tasting" since there are so many variations and ideas.

Nominated Film - "The Descendants"

My secret boyfriend, George Clooney, plays a father in this film set in Hawaii.  And when we think of Hawaii, we think pulled pork sandwiches with pineapple!

Many thanks to our guest chefs who spent a long time prepping a fabulous tasting pulled pork! 

Nominated Film - "Hugo"

French seemed to be a theme in this year's nominated films, so we went back to french cuisine with sauteed mussels and french fries!

Sauteed mussels in a white wine, garlic, tomato, and onion broth.  Superb!  (And who doesn't like french fries???)

Nominated Film - "War Horse"

Steven Spielberg's film about this amazing horse inspired us to use ingredients that are more common to the horse - apples and oats!  Enter: Apple and Oat Cookie Bars!

We simply subbed the raspberry preserves used in the recipe for apple jelly and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  What a simple, easy finger food dessert to satisy those sweet tooth cravings.

Nominated Film - "The Help"

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bites... if you don't understand the reference, get away from your computer and go watch the movie

Followed the recipe exactly (ok, we halved it) and then instead of baking a whole pie, filled little phyllo cups and baked those.  We then topped with some bourbon infused whipped cream.  These seemed to be the crowd favorite of the evening.

So there you have it!  Nine dishes based on the Oscar-nominated films of this year's Academy Awards!

Some Party Pics:

Next Week - Fine French Cuisine!  (And then we'll give the French thing a break, I promise)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feb 19, 2012 - Girls' Night In

So the boys are away and the girls must play.  Which naturally means a decadent dinner, fabulous cocktails, semi-healthy snacks, and a girly movie.  What movie?  Twilight Breaking Dawn!!!  (No judgement, please.)

Cocktail - Diamond Martini
If you're a Twilight fan, you know that the vampires sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight.  Therefore, we did a "blood" candy rim around a martini glass, filled it with champagne, and dropped in a chambord-mascerated cherry.  YUM!

Helpful hint - if you're not a huge champagne fan, you can also mix in some fruit nectar (found in most latin areas of a grocery store) which will cover up the dry bubbly-ness with some sweetness.  I would reccomend mango, guavo, tropical.. whatever your heart desires.

Entree - Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

Okay... one of our favorite mac and cheese recipes comes from the Capital Grille.  So after lots of googling, we were able to find a recipe that is very similar (and we simply added lobster.)  But, we did have to make many adjustments, so pay attention.  First - grana padano cheese is impossible to find.  However, it is pretty much the same thing as parmesan, so there's substitution #1.  Second - we went to the Fairfield Cheese Shop and asked Chris for a good Havarti.  Due to this being a decadent "Culinary Sundays" dinner, Chris suggested forgoing the Havarti for its sexy cousin, an "Appalachian Semi-Soft Raw Cow" cheese.  (Yes, I'm reading off the label.)  Yum, yum, yum.  Super creamy and tasty.  (Side note - if you live in the area, definitely check this place out... Fairfield Cheese Shop)  Finally, we did not have truffle oil (seriously... who has that lying around?) so did not include it.

Final results... undecided.  The mac and cheese was intensely decadent, but also extremely heavy.  (We barely finished half our portions.)  And there was something missing... some extra kick of flavor (that's probably where the truffle oil comes into play.)  If we recreate - I think we'll change up some of the cheeses, or maybe add a sharp cheddar.  Regardless - delicious but can be doctored up to be better.

Movie Snacks

Homemade Bagel Chips - We sliced up a plain bagel, brushed with EVOO and topped with a garlic-onion spice mix.  We then sliced up a cinnamon raisin bagel, brushed w/ EVOO and topped with cinnamon sugar.  Broil a couple minutes on each side - YUM!  (But honestly... kind of a pain to cut up the bagels and for the price - just buy them from the store.)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Fried Chickpeas - Drain a can of chickpeas, toss in a frying pan with some oil, and keep frying until they puff up.  We then added a spicy garlic seasoning to them.  (Be warned... when these babies start to fry, they jump... you will need a splatter guard!)

Baked Kale Chips - We took Kale, drizzled w/ oil, seasonings, and then roasted in the oven at 375 until browned.  Healthy, delicious, and highly suggested.

Dessert - Fresh Berries over Sorbet with Limoncello

You don't need chocolate to make it a girls' night!  We used a scoop of strawberry sorbet (or whatever you have in the freezer), topped it with fresh raspberries and blackberries (whatever is in season) and then drizzles a little limoncello over it.  (I'm sure Chambord would be just as delightful.)  This dessert was spot on!  It was light, refreshing, and downright delicious.  This is going in the recipe box for summer cooking!

Wines - There are 2!!!

Side story - we enjoyed a fabulous "Wine 101 Class" at Harry's Wine in Fairfield, CT recently and are trying to test our tasting skills.  Therefore, two employees recommended two different wines this week and we were eager to test them out.

First - 2010 Fefinanes Albarino

Can't find a rating

This mineral-tasting white wine has melon and green apple tastes with a sharp palatte and is citrus-y and zesty. 

Second - 2009 Anne Pichon Roussanne

Can't find a rating

This full-bodied white has apricot, honeysuckle, and caramel flavors and is richly complex with subtle hints of lemon.

Final Analysis - The tasting class made a huge difference and these were two very different wines.  With the meal... we found the Roussanne to be best.  It was heavier and stood up well to a really rich meal.  However, when it was movie-time and we were just sipping on a glass of wine, we found the Albarion better becuase it was lighter and easier to drink.  After the meal, the Roussanne actually became too oaky for us.  Therefore - both wines get two thumbs up!

Next Week - The Academy Awards!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feb. 12, 2012 - Valentine's Day

In the spirit of the upcoming romantic holiday, we've prepared one hell of a gourmet dinner fit for any cozy night it!  And trust us - this one quickly climbed up to our favorite dish that we've cooked so far!

Cocktail - Pomegranate Martini

Ingredients include vodka, pomegranate juice, cointreau.

Classic.  Not too sweet (although loved the pink sugar rim) and extremely tasty.  These go down quickly.

Appetizer - Shrimp Cocktail with Tequila Cocktail Sauce

Tequila in a cocktail sauce?  Oh yes!  The great thing about this recipe is its simplicity and flexibility.  You can add, remove, doctor up... it's perfect!

Entree - Beef Wellington

 This was divine.  We made the entire recipe, including all sides, but we'll break down each part of the meal.  First off - don't change a thing.  Don't alter or substitute - leave it the way its written.  To help out, though, you can make the duxelles mixture and wrap the beef in the mix and prosciutto the night before.  Leave it wrapped in the plastic wrap overnight and just take out about 1 hour before cooking to get to room temp.  Secondly, make the sauce!  We couldn't find brined green peppercorns, so left it out - but we definitely didn't notice anything missing from the sauce.  The key is to reduce, reduce, reduce!  When we put the beef in for the 45 minute cooking time, we started the sauce and it took the full 45 minutes to reduce properly.  It probably ended to measure approx. 1-1.5 cups when it was all said and done.  To quote John, "I could bathe in this sauce."  Even as I'm typing right now, my mouth is watering for the leftovers.

Side Dish - Roasted Fingerling Potatoes w/ Fresh Herbs and Garlic

see recipe link above

The beauty of these potatoes are that they cook at the same temp as the beef!  And the flavor - a light and subtle herb flavor and it went perfectly with the meal.  (And if you didn't quite understand how good the sauce was from the post above - we also put the sauce on the potatoes.  Seriously... I'd put that sauce on ice cream.)

Side Dish - Warm Wilted Winter Greens

 see recipe link above

Flawless perfection.  These were undeniably delicious and a the colors just made the entire dish pop.  What a fabulous change from a boring old salad.  However - we followed the recipe exactly and only needed 1/4 of the balsamic sauce that we made... scale that down.

Finished Plate

Dessert - Molten Chocolate Cakes

Warm, gooey, chocolate lava cakes?  What's left to say?

Wine - 2009 Chateau Les Grands Marechaux

Wine Spectator - 92/100

This small production Bordeaux was amazing.  It was rich and ripe with scents of licorice and tar.  When drinking, it was full-bodied with a fruity core and a velvety taste.  Perfect match.  Once again, thanks to Harry's Wine for steering us away from the traditional cabernet sauvignon and suggesting a fabulous wine.

Apertif - 2005 Unfiltered Fonseca Late Bottle Vintage Port

Wine Enthusiast - 92/100

This will balanced port with both sweet tannins and rich fruit was the ideal pairing for our rich chocolate dessert.  You won't go wrong.

Next Week - Girls' Night In

Monday, February 6, 2012

Feb 5, 2012 - SUPER BOWL!

For a very special posting tonight, we're including our fabulous Super Bowl Menu... please bear in mind that in our Giants-Craze and alcohol induced partying, we did not take many pictures, and therefore pictures have been taken from recipe website  (We therefore apologize for stealing your photos.)  Regardless - let the games begin!


THE LEMONS (you can tell we're Giants fans) - Vodka, lemonade, blueberry, cherries
BIG BLUE! - Curacao, Vanilla Vodka, Mandarin Orange Seltzer, cherries


Chicken and Dumplings

Brown Sugar Smokies

Beefy Meatballs

Guest Recipe - Meatballs in a Brown Onion Gravy

Buffalo Wings


Guest Recipe

Swedish Meatballs

Guest Recipe

Potato Bites

Guest Recipe

Panko Crusted Chicken Bites w/ Apricot-Mustard Sauce

And also an assorted amount of nachos, chips, and other fun game day foods!

And for you sweet-tooths out there - we didn't skimp on dessert...

We took Phyllo Cups and filled them with alcohol laced whipped cream and topped with fresh strawberries!

Hope everyone enjoyed the big game!

Next Week - Valentine's Day!