Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 24, 2012 - Indonesian Rijsttafel

So I know what many of you are wondering?  What the heck is an Indonesian Rice Table?  Let me give you a brief history lesson.  It is an elaborate meal adapted by the Dutch from the Indonesian feast called nasi padang.  It consists of many side dishes, served in small portions (think tapas), served with different variations of rice.  While practically non-existent in today's Indonesian culture, the rice table is a huge part of the Dutch culture, stemming from their colonial presence in Indonesia, where they used the meal to showcase the abundance of their exotic colony to visitors.

So, as you probably know, John is from the Netherlands.  Good friends of ours from the dog park who also spent many years in the Netherlands jumped at the opportunity to join us when we spoke about attempting a Rice Table.  So John took to the kitchen all weekend, the girls got a Sunday off, and we created an elaborate, fun meal that topped our list of great evenings!

Cocktail - The Jeff

We are simply calling this "The Jeff" because he showed up with a crate full of alcohol and just started pouring things into a blender.  (And the results ended up being delicious!)  Full list - Kettle One orange vodka, Elderflower liqueur, Three Chiles liqueur, Ginger Beer, and Lime Juice.  (I think.)

The problem with frozen drinks is that you don't realize how much you're drinking until you get home later that night.  :-)  It was a lovely cocktail.

The Indonesian Rijsttafel

I am going to list all the dishes we made and then show pictures in no particular order.  After pictures, I'll give you a brief overview of some of the dishes.  There are no recipes, unfortunately, as this came from an old family cookbook, and while my typing skills are good, I can't spend all day typing up 12 recipes in a foreign language.  However, feel free to email us if you'd like a specific one, and I'll have John translate while I type!

Rundveels Smoor (Stewed beef)
Sambal Goreng Telor (Eggs in spicy coconut sauce)
Frikadel (Spicy meat balls w/ Pinda sauce)
Sambal Goreng Oedang (Spicy coconut  shrimp)
Roedjak Manis (Sweet and Sour fruit)
Oerap (Spicy Vegetable)
Babi Pangang  (Grilled Pork with sauce- but we substituted the pork for veggies from the Oerap at the end = vegetable pangang)
Sambal Goreng Boontjes (Spicy green beans)
Sweet cucumber salad
Kroepoek Oedang (Shrimp Crackers)
Kip  with Satesaus (Marinaded chicken kebab with spicy peanut butter garlic sauce)
Nasi goreng  (fried rice with vegetables and chicken)

Okay... it was all delicious.  Highlights for me included the coconut shrimp and the meatballs with satay sauce.  Pinda sauce (a garlicky peanut satay sauce) is one of my vices.  It's something that John makes a lot for bbq's and potlucks, and I will mop it up with some baguette and make a meal out of that alone.  A lot of the ingredients we got from a local Dutch store.  I highly recommend doing a web search of Indonesian rice table recipes, and seeing if you can replicate one or two.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Dessert - Pisang Goreng (Fried Banana with warm honey)

Fried bananas and chocolate ice cream.  Where can you go wrong?

Wines - None

We stuck to the cocktail for most of the meal.  (Probably not the best idea.)  We then had a couple of bottles of house whites (Chenin Blanc and dry Riesling) on the table and some beer to counter the spice of the foods.  There were no particular wines we chose for the occasion since the focus was on the food.  Sorry, guys!  We'll go back to our wine pairing next week.

So, all in all, a fantastic evening with great food and friends.  A culinary experience for myself, who has never travelled to Indonesia or Holland, let alone eaten their food, and a fantastic cooking experience for John, who broke out his skills in the kitchen.  We're so excited to continue to explore the foods and culture of other countries as we continue to challenge ourselves.

Next Week - Cuban

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 17, 2012 - Jennifer's Birthday Dinner

So, Jennifer's birthday was on Thursday, and John and I agreed that a Culinary Sunday dedicated to one of the most amazing people in the world was absolutely in order.  So we took her request for swordfish, and then concocted a meal centered around all her favorite flavors and foods.  Get ready for this...

Cocktail - The Stoli Doli

The Stoli Doli is the name of the signature martini at the Capital Grille.  If you've ever been there, you'll see at the bar there are glass jars filled with pineapple chunks and vodka.  Yes, it is that simple and yes it is that amazing.  Take rounds of cored pineapple and place in glass jar.  Cover with Stoli vodka, and let it sit in a cool place for SEVEN days.  (Not in the fridge, just on the counter.)  Then pour into shaker filled with ice, use those muscles, and strain into glass.  We chose to garnish with a maraschino cherry and piece of the vodka-macerated pineapple.  No soda water, no extra juice, no additions.  Just the fruity vodka.  Delicious.

Appetizer - Peas, Mint and Parmesan Crostini

Wow.  Simply delicious.  From the garlic rubbed bread to the torn mint to the simple drizzle of balsamic glaze, this was incredible.  And such an easy appetizer to bring to any barbecue or pot luck!

Appetizer - Gazpacho

Clean, organic, and so tasty!  We followed the recipe exactly, except for halving it and using lime juice instead of lemon.  We also used a bottled balsamic glaze.  (Just spend a few bucks and buy it - you will find a million uses for it!)  This gazpacho combined with the crostini was to die for, and could have been a fantastic lunch on their own.  (I used canned, diced tomatoes - you can't tell the difference!)

Appetizer Wine - 2011 Abadal Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 

This rose from Spain is made of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with a little bit of the indigenous Sumoll grape.  It is big and juicy with a full mouthful of strawberries, raspberries, and bright cherry.  This is not your mama's rose, and it had a slight spice to it that paired unbelievably with the gazpacho. 

Entree - Pineapple-Mustard Glazed Swordfish with Cilantro Chimichurri

Once again, a Flay recipe where you think the flavors are going to overwhelm, but instead they create an amazing harmony.  This swordfish was delicious.  And if you're shaking your head right now, thinking "I don't like swordfish" - give it a shot.  It may convert you.  You can make the glaze in the morning.  Just toss it all in the saucepan and let it hang out on the stove.  Like the last meal, it doesn't make a syrupy reduction - just a light glaze that you brush over the fish to infuse a little flavor.  The chimichurri can be made early on as well, and then put a large spoonful over the fish.  We ended up spreading the chimichurri so we can have some with each bite.  So good!

Side Dish - Chili Rubbed Sweet Potatoes w/ Green Onion Vinaigrette

For me, the highlight of the meal!  The crust that forms on the potatoes is to die for.  And the bright vinaigrette just pops with flavor.  You're not going overboard on the chili powder, don't worry.  (Used regular chili powder - couldn't find ancho.)  The vinaigrette can be made in advance. 

Side Dish - Grilled Corn w/ Chipotle-Cilantro Butter

This will be the only way I make corn in the future.  This butter is off the charts.  I halved the recipe (1 stick) and used 1 large chili.  The heat was minimal and subtle (perhaps 2 chilies next time), and it paired with the cilantro so well and just melted right into each corn kernel. 

Entree Wine - 2011 Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Blanc

Wine Rating - Not Found

This French white is a blend of picpoul blanc and roussanne which held up fabulously against the swordfish.  In fact, when we saw Greg at Harry's, he said "this wine is screaming for swordfish".  There are flavors of citrus fruits and flowers with an aromatic palate and a slightly mineral finish.  It was amazing.

Dessert - Fresh Pineapple Trifles w/ Orange Coconut Cream

So simple, so delicious, and so "summer."  We used store-bought angel food cake, sprinkled with the white rum, used black cherry jam, and used the pineapples that had been macerating in the vodka from the cocktail.  We followed the cream recipe exactly (forgot orange zest, but no one noticed), and it was one of the best cream recipes we've ever had in our lives.  Can't wait to do it again with new fruits and flavors!

Dessert Aperitif - 2011 Piazzo Comm. Armando Moscato D'Asti

I personally haven't had a moscato in a long time, and after this, I can't remember why I don't drink it more often.  Sweet and bubbly, it was the perfect accompaniment to dessert on the porch while the sun was setting.  Greg - you nailed it this weekend!  Everything was perfection!

So there you go.  Jennifer's birthday from start to finish.  The food was amazing, the drinks were amazing, the company was amazing.  How will we outdo ourselves for the next birthday?  (John's is in August.)

Next Week - Indonesian Rijsttafel (Rice Table)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 10, 2012 - Duck

We've cooked duck a few times before, but haven't really posted many of those recipes, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to explore one of our favorite foods again.

Cocktail - Orient Apple Martini

Orient Apple vodka, pear nectar, seltzer, chunks of Asian pear

Delicious!  The seltzer is necessary to cut down the thickness of the drink, but its light, refreshing, and the vodka has a slight spice to it that is delectable.

Appetizer - Pear Roquefort Salad

When I say lick the plates clean, I mean literally using your finger to wipe up every last drop of remaining dressing in the crevices of the bowl.  Do not change a thing.  Do not use a bottled salad dressing.  Candy the pecans!  The only change we made was using Asian pear instead of regular pear, and it was just as delicious.  (For those wondering, an Asian pear tastes somewhat like a apple and a pear combined.  Sweet and a little tart.  I found them at Stop and Shop.)

Appetizer Wine - Enanzo Garnacha Rosado

This Spanish rose was the perfect accompaniment to the salad!  Cold and crisp, it had flavors of ripe strawberry and watermelon and a slight spicy finish on the end.  While on initial sip, it almost seemed "bitter", those flavors paired beautifully with the blue cheese, candied pecans, and all the other flavors going on in the appetizer.  (And yes, we did a LOT of booze this meal... after all, it's been 3 weeks... need to make up for lost time.)

Entree - Pan Seared Duck w/ Red Chile Pear Sauce, Bourbon Brown Sugar Asian Pear Relish, and Blue Cheese Potato Cakes 

Superb.  Much to our surprise, this meal was light and delicate and unbelievably tasty.  Let me walk you through...

Red Chile Pear Sauce.  It sounds and even looks complicated.  Half the ingredients.  Dump it all in a saucepan at some point that morning, and let it reduce about an hour.  Strain and put aside.  When you're ready to start actually cooking your duck, then put it back in the saucepan, reduce slightly and thicken with the butter.  This sauce is not a thick sauce - it's much more of a glaze.  (Although, it's quite possibly we didn't cook it correctly.  There was no picture for us to use as a frame of reference.)  A few changes were made to the sauce.  I couldn't find New Mexico chiles to save my life, so I dropped in 3 dried chile de arbol that I had from a certain tapas night.  I also ran out of red wine (blasphemous, I know) so I used brandy instead.  I doubt these made a life-changing alteration to the meal.

Bourbon Brown Sugar Asian Pear Relish.  This takes about 30 seconds to prep.  (You just chop.)  It takes about 5 minutes on the stove.  Easy.  Your "I don't know how to cook" friend can manage this one.

Blue Cheese Cakes.  Ahhhhhhhh.  Yummmmmm.  The potatoes need to be cold so they can be shaped properly.  I made them in the morning, and I'm going to admit that I even used Betty Crocker instant potatoes from a pouch.  (Gasp!)  You would have never known the difference!  Then just follow the recipe.  It takes just minutes to cook.

Sooo.... the sauce is on the stove and ready to go.  I score and season the duck.  Jenn starts working on the potato cakes.  I start searing the duck on the stove while chopping up Asian pears for the relish.  Once the duck goes in the oven, I start the relish and Jenn starts frying the potato cakes.  Everything is done at the same time.  Voila!

Entree Wine - Penfold's 2008 Koonunga Shiraz Cabernet

International Wine Cellar - 88/100

It was a crazy week with no time to visit our friends at Harry's, so we explored John and Jenn's wine stockpile and decided on this Australian red.  We chose this wine for a few reasons.  First off, we like full bodied reds with lighter tannins.  Secondly, we wanted a heavy wine to stand up to the duck and all the Latin/Asian flavors that were going on in the recipe.  This wine was delicious.  On the palate, there are flavors of plum, dark cherries, and tobacco with a lovely finish of spice and dark chocolate.

Dessert - Dark Chocolate Mousse

Oh.  My.  God.  Make this.  Right now.  As in, stop reading this blog, grab your car keys, and run to the grocery store.  This mousse was insanely delicious.  I'm salivating thinking about it right now.  And you can make it in advance, so how easy is that?!  The only change was that I added a few more squares of chocolate based on the reviews on the website.  So it probably was more like 6.5 ounces of dark chocolate.  (Can you ever have too much chocolate?) 

Aperitif - Grahams 6 Grapes Reserve Porto

Harry's recommended this the other week, and they truly knocked it out of the park with this one!  This port had rich aromas of plums, cherries, and dark chocolate.  It was fruity, spicy, savory - just delicious overall!  One of the best ports we've had.  Ever.

Next Week - Jennifer's Birthday

Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 6, 2012 - Random Weekday Meal

So it's a random Wednesday night.  NY strip steaks are on sale, and no one has any plans anyway... 

New York Strip Steak with Cognac Butter and Portobello Mushroom Ragout

Absolutely amazing.  The only change in the ragout was that there was no beef broth in the house, so we used 1 big teaspoon of "better than bouillon" beef base.  We also just let the ragut sit on the stove simmering for about 30 minutes.  (Perhaps we put too much cream in there initially, but who cares!)  Top off the meal with some baby potatoes and sauteed green beans and voila!  And don't forget the bottle of zinfandel to wash it all down!

The only thing more exciting than this incredible steak is the plans for the leftovers.  I'll give you a hint... it ends with "frites".  (Seriously, have you made that recipe yet?!?!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 3, 2012 - Mushrooms

Good Morning, everyone!  As of today, we are officially back in action!  The trip to Monaco was fabulous for John and Jenn and the trip to New Orleans was a fantastic time for myself.  We are especially looking forward to recreating a lot of the amazing meals we had while travelling!

While I was gone, John and Jenn thought up their own fantastic Culinary Sunday meal.  Knowing that I'm not a fan of mushrooms and wouldn't be around to complain (ha!), they aimed for a meal that had mushrooms as an important component, and then pulled off a fabulous meal that they were able to enjoy together! 

Cocktail - Classic Vodka Martini

vodka, vermouth, olive (lemon peel for the non-olive lovers)

We often make creative cocktails with fun flavors and twists.  For this week's meal, Jenn decided to go back to the basics with the original martini - and loved it!

Appetizer - Grilled Romaine with Blue Cheese Bacon Vinaigrette

Jenn's favorite part of the meal was this appetizer.  The romaine stayed cool and crisp with light grill marks on the front.  The dressing had to be redone, though.  If you followed the instructions, adding bacon and onions into oil at the same time was not possible.  The onions burned way too fast and the end result was charred.  Second attempt - she used a stainless steel pan, cooked bacon until starting to brown, then added the onion and sauteed in the bacon grease.  Perfection!

Appetizer Wine - 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris

Rating - Not Found

This Oregon white was an amazing match to the bacon and onion vinaigrette in the appetizer!  It was nice and crisp with flavors of green apple, apricot, and pear.  It had a soft, rich entry with a long, lively crisp finish.

Entree - Pork Loin with Mushroom Fricassee

The main course was tasty.  The recipe was followed exactly as is with the exception of substituting the brown sugar for 1/2 cup of Splenda brown sugar.  The mushrooms did not give off much liquid, so Jenn added a little tomato paste and red wine to make a delectable topping.  Overall, a good meal but not quite a knock-out like we've had in the past.  Side dishes included garlic-chive mashed potatoes (yum!) and carrots that roasted in the oven with the pork.

Entree Wine - 2009 Domaine le Couroulu Vacqueyras

Wine Spectator - 90/100

Okay, let's be honest... the label is cool!  Anyways, this French red originates from the Rhone region.  It had plum and blackberry flavors on the palate with a little spice lingering on the finish.  The flavors worked extremely well with the brown sugar, ginger, meat, garlic and all the other flavors that were part of the entree. 

Dessert - Grilled Banana Splits

There was a technical difficulty with this dessert (running out of gas for the grill), but the end product was still delicious!  Once the grill ran out of gas, the bananas were finished off in a 400 degree oven.  The chocolate melted over was delicious and the ice cream just oozed all over it.  Decadent and tasty!

Overall, a delicious meal!  However, I'm pretty sure that I speak for John and Jenn when I say that we are so excited to be back together this coming weekend after 3 weeks off from our cooking adventures.  Thank you all for your patience and humor.  I especially enjoy the emails about proper Thai cooking and family tips on how to make the perfect caramelized onions.  Although, I did enjoy the text I got that said "weird stuff doesn't belong on a pizza... try pepperoni next time."  We have some fantastic menus set up for the summer, and we are truly excited to try them all!

Next Week - Duck