Monday, August 27, 2012

August 26, 2012 - John's Birthday Dinner

Good Morning, fellow foodies!  I hope you are all ready for a new week, and the closing few weeks of summer.  We had a fabulous evening yesterday, celebrating John's birthday in true culinary style!  When we asked what he wanted, he asked for surf and turf.  Well... there's no way you're getting any old boring steak and lobster tail in our kitchen!
Cocktail - Coconut Lemongrass Sake Cocktail
If you've read our posts from the beginning, we once used a Asian Pear Sake from a brand called Moonstone.  This is their Coconut Lemongrass Sake!  (FYI - Impossible to find... anyone local know where I can pick up more?  I found the last 300mL bottle in a small wine shop.)  We used the flavored sake, mixed it with some regular sake, shook it good over ice, and then filled martini glasses that had julienned cucumber in it.  Simple, easy, soooo delicious!  I'll admit, I am not a fan of Sake, but these flavored Sakes are starting to convert me.
Appetizer - Lobster Spring Rolls and Mango Gazpacho
Okay, so we started John's meal with an Asian flair, becuase it's one of his favorite flavor profiles.  These spring rolls were superb!  The dipping sauce had be redone, however.  I'm a big fan of Sriracha sauce, but 3 Tbsp and the sauce we inedible.  We ended up boiling a mixture of OJ, pineapple juice, rice wine vinegar, Sake, fresh ginger, sesame oil, and then added a Tbsp of the already made super-spicy sauce.  That sauce turned out perfectly.  And the gazpacho shooters!  Delicious!  Not overly sweet, a little spice - the recipe was halved but still made a ton!  (We left out the pickled shrimp.)
Appetizer Wine - 2011 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Voigner
Wine Advocate - 90/100
We find our new house white!  This spectacular California wine opens up with bright scents of peach, pear, and mango with jasmine and tea on the end.  On the palate it's full of fruits like nectarine and pineapple, but has a crisp finish with a balanced acidity.  Home run, Patrick!
Entree - Cognac Beurre Blanc Shrimp over Filet Mignon Medallions over Lobster Boursin Mashed Potatoes
I'm posting two pictures becuase they are just so pretty!  Welcome to our version of kicked-up surf and turf!  Let's talk our way through this.
Lobster Boursin Mashed Potatoes - Divine.  We saved lobster meat from the appetizer, and then sauteed it up again in the end before folding in with the decadent potatoes.  No need for cream, folks, you are reading the recipe correctly!  The richness of the Boursin cheese and the stick of butter (no diets on Sundays) blended so well with the lobster chunks.  If you're curious, we used russett potatoes.  It was what was on hand.
Filet Mignon - Can you ever go wrong?  We did filet recently, and we will be shelving it for a while going forward, but is there really any other cut of steak that you could properly use for a Surf and Turf dinner?  We grilled a 1.5lb filet roast, and then sliced into medallions after letting it rest for about 5 minutes.  We then placed gingerly over those lovely potatoes and topped with the shrimp.
Cognac Shrimp with Beurre Blanc - This will make you sing!  We are slowly improving our beurre blanc skills, and this one came out beautifully.  (No vinegar, I might add, which threw me off, but it tasted amazing!)  The shrimp sauteed in more butter and then with a nice few splashes of Cognac... so sinful!  We topped the steak medallions with shrimp and then ladled a little more beurre blanc over the whole dish.  No, do not show this meal to your cardioalogist.
Side Dish - Skillet Greens with Crispy Shallots and a Cider Gastrique
Best.  Greens.  Ever.  I don't know how sauteed greens could possibly win out as a favorite dish over filet, beurre blanc, lobster potatoes - but they did!  We used a mixture of swiss chard and kale, and it took only about 25 minutes braising time.  Round 1 of the shallots did not work - they burnt.  Round 2 - you need to dust them in flour and then fry.  Watch carefully, remove when you think they're not done... they'll crisp up on the paper towels.  We followed the gastrique exactly and drizzled over the final greens once plated.  Finger licking good.  Save this recipe, you'll be adding it to your Thanksgiving table!
Final Plate
Entree Wine - 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Riserva
Wine Advocate - 93/100
Blew us away!  When we went to Harry's and told Patrick what we were making, we definitely threw him a curve ball.  Steak, seafood, butter sauce?  He brought us this full-bodied Italian red that definitely delivered!  We decanted it for about 3 hours and were hit with a lovely explosion of spice, licorice, and dark berries on the nose.  Tasting resulted in flavors of rich fruits and well-balanced tannins but with a lingering sweetness that avoids that "chalky" aftertaste you get in some Italian reds.  A perfect wine to accompany a perfect meal!
Dessert - Rum Mousse with a White Chocolate Hazelnut Crisp
Home Recipe
So this is an old family recipe of Jennifer's.  John ate it once in a very long time ago, pronounced it his favorite thing ever, and had never had it sense.  So Jennifer fished out an old index card that had been well used that still had the recipe written on it.  (Once I get the time to type it out, I will... promise.)  It's basically a standard egg white mousse recipe but with a lot of rum added.  And then this crisp she made!  It was an experiment of white chocolate and hazelnuts with some flour to bind.  It was delicious!  Perfect for dipping into the mousse.  Finish it off with some hot toddies, and a fabulous way to end the evening!
Next Week - Spice Rubbed Grilled Fish

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 19, 2012 - Vegetarian

I'm a little late on this post and I apologize.  We had a great dinner with fantastic friends, and then went to see the Train concert at Mohegan Sun over the weekend... I'm still recuperating a little.  Soooo.... we have these friends (Jeff & Bonnie) who are vegetarians, and we wanted to create a meal for them that was fun, delicious, and equally as tasty for us. 

Cocktail - Cucumber Yum Yum Cocktail

Delicious!  The raspberries definitely "overpower" the cucumber flavor, so adjust accordingly.  Also, we used half of the honey recommended, and it was still sweet, so also adjust to your tastes.  We did have aquavit in the house, so if you don't - I cannot offer a substitute.  I'm sure you can google it.  And I'm pleased to say that you could not tell there was gin in this drink... so if you don't like gin, or prefer vodka... don't worry!  You'll never know the difference!

Appetizer - Endive Spears with Stilton Cheese, Toasted Pecans, and Caramelized Pears

Fantastic!  These were gone almost as fast as they hit the table!  We followed the recipe exactly, although were a little more liberal with the toasted pecans.  The caramelized pears were a dream - I could have eaten those up with a spoon!  The pairing of the tart vinaigrette with the creamy blue cheese and the sweet pears - heavenly!

Main Dish 1 - Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry Pockets

Okay, so I find those puff pastry shells to be the coolest invention ever!  And perfect for little individual servings!  These shells were the favorite of the night!  The creamy spinach and cheese mixture was decadent and the shell was a lovely backdrop.  Better than any creamed spinach I've gotten in a restaurant.  One thing to note - the recipe says to cook the shells (that takes approximately 20 minutes) and then fill and bake another 20 minutes.  I feel like there is something wrong with that timing.  The shell would burn.  We cooked the filling stove top and then filled the shell, however it kind of oozed out a little that way.  Jennifer suggested filling the shell, but then lining with foil before baking?  Let us know if you try! 

Main Dish 2 - Cornmeal Crusted Roasted Roasted Ratatouille Tart

So filling and delicious!  Who would think that a tart made entirely of vegetables would be so satisfying!  (Round of applause for Jennifer who did all the cooking this weekend AND made a tart from scratch.)  She did double the vegetables and cheese (it was an 11.5" tart pan) and it was perfection!  This would be the perfect light lunch or brunch dish for any party!

Main Dish 3 - Couscous Stuffed Peppers with Basil Sauce

Even if you're not a couscous lover - you will like this recipe!  The filling was so tasty and the basil sauce just put it over the edge.  (However, the "sauce" was a lot thicker than we expected.  We followed the recipe exactly, but must have done something incorrectly.  We ended up spooning it into a ziploc, cutting off the tip, and using it like a pastry bag to pipe the sauce onto the peppers.)

Final Plate

Isn't it pretty?!?!  And for a meal that has NO meat in it, it was incredibly filling and satisfying.  (Don't worry carnivores, we'll be eating steak next week.)

Wine - House Wines

Sorry, folks.  Because it was such a varied meal, we stuck to having a few more cocktails then normal, and opened a couple bottles of white and red that were stockpiled in the fridge.  We'll be back to Harry's next week, don't worry!

Dessert - Caramel Pears Belle Helene

Yummmm.  We drizzled with some poaching liquid, and served with vanilla bean ice cream!  One recommendation, though - poaching time can be off.  Once we started eating, we realized these weren't fully "poached" to the right level of softness.  It all depends on the ripeness of your fruit.

Dessert Wine - Cascade Mountain Winery Heavenly Daze

Insanely incredible!  This spice wine has cinnamon and lemon zest with a delicious hint of vanilla.  It was unlike anything we had ever tried, and can't wait to continue to drink it, especially as the weather starts getting colder!

Next Week - John's Birthday Dinner (Get ready!!!  Surf and turf!!!)

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 12, 2012 - Filet Mignon 2.0

Good Morning, everyone!  This week was really special for us because we had some great friends from out of town visiting who especially planned their trip so they could experience a Sunday dinner with us!  So we asked them what they would love to eat, and their only request was that the grill was used, since they don't have a grill themselves.  So we looked back at the blog, saw that our Filet Mignon post from a few months ago is the most read post in the blog, and decided we'd have to revisit one of our favorite steaks.  Enjoy...

Cocktail - Lavender-Rosemary Martini

Lavender and rosemary infused simple syrup, vodka, grapefruit seltzer, elderflower liqueur

Okay, so we tried to go "outside the box" on this one, and we may have taken a step or two too far outside.  We wanted to do something herb-based, since our appetizer was so savory.  In essence, the concept was good, but the flavor just wasn't perfect.  Something was missing, but we couldn't figure it out.  (That's ok, we finished it anyways!)

Appetizer - Goat Cheese and Herb Souffle

Oh. My. God.  Fantastic!  In the oven, the souffle had puffed much more, and as soon as we took it out, it deflated, but who cares!  It was delicious!  We followed the recipe exactly as written, and it turned into perfection!

Appetizer Wine - 2010 Domaine Mardon Quincy

Wine Advocate - 90/100

Superb!  This full-bodied French white made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes is very similar to a Sancerre and was the perfect pairing for our souffle!  The nose was extremely vibrant with almonds and herbs, and the taste included stone fruits, a little pineapple, and a nice crisp finish with minimal acidity. 

Entree - Filet Mignon with Three Different Sauces

Sauce 1:  Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Sauce 2:  Roasted Shallot and Port Wine Reduction

Sauce 3:  Caramel Brandy Mushroom Sauce

What a fantastic way to entertain!  And a creative way to dress up a regular "steak night" and turn it into something special.  Let's talk sauces... first off, they were all made the night before hand.  Then reheated stove top as the steaks were grilling.  (Gorgonzola sauce reheated over a double boiler.)

Gorgonzola Sauce - The crowd favorite.  (Barely.)  This sauce, while simple, was rich, decadent, and beautiful on the steak.  It reminded me of a Bearnaise with a kick.  We forgot the parsley (oops) and did add a couple turns of a "spicy garlic" mix from a spice mill we picked up from Stew Leonards. 

Mushroom Sauce - Delicious.  The only change to this sauce was that we halved the brown sugar, and it was plenty sweet.  The combination of sweet sugar, rich bourbon, heavy cream, and earthy mushrooms was an exotic combination that you will not find elsewhere.

Shallot and Port Wine Sauce - Classic and tasty.  Foolproof to make, and always delicious to eat.  This sauce would probably taste delicious over pork tenderloin medallions!

Overall, a fantastic meal!  There is a ton of leftover sauce, and we'll try to figure out some creative ways to reuse them.  However, I will add that we are using the leftover gorgonzola sauce in place of roasted garlic butter and making Steak Frites tonight as a round 2 recipe.  (Seriously... have you yet seen us repeat or mention re-making something?  This is our 3rd time remaking Steak Frites... give it a shot!)

Side Dish - Grilled Zucchini and Squash, Grilled Kale, Twice Baked Potatoes

Grilled Veggies - Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, grill

Grilled Kale - See instructions above for veggies, and then squeeze fresh lemon juice on when done

The potatoes were made in advance and reheated approximately 20 minutes in the oven.  They were delicious!  The kale was fantastic (as usual... this is also a repeat for us) and the grilled veggies were healthy and fresh!  Great grilled side dishes for a fantastic grilled meal.

Entree Wine - 2010 Dolcetto d'Alba Rossana Ceretto

Wine Rating - Can't Find and Don't Care

Greg and Christelle over at Harry's Wine in Fairfield, CT really just knocked it out of the park this time.  Not only was the white wine fantastic, but this red was incredible!  This ruby red Italian wine is full of ripe fruits with a slight aroma of leather and tobacco.  It's nicely dry with an incredible fruit on the palate as well as a slight almond taste.  Not only did it pair well with the food, but it also was easy to drink beforehand while we were prepping the plates. 

Dessert - Chocolate Panna Cotta with Port and Balsamic Glazed Cherries

Oh wow, this was rich and luxurious!  Once again, this was made a day in advance (both the sauce and the panna cotta) and it was fantastic!  We used glass Pyrex ramekins, and followed the recipe's advice to remove them by using a little warm water and a silicone spatula, and it worked perfectly!  The sauce was smooth and elegant and the panna cotta was insanely delicious!  We did pair the dessert with a port, but I would recommend pairing it with a dry Asti or Moscato.  The port was a little too rich combined with the heavy dessert. 

Special thanks to A&D for joining us, and especially for bringing some additional fabulous wines with them.  We enjoyed a 2007 Nickel and Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a 2007 Stag's Leap Artemis Cabernet that were both incredible!  We were so blessed to be joined by such foodies with an equally strong passion for wine!

Next Week - Vegetarian

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 5, 2012 - Braised Brisket

Good Morning, fellow food lovers!  Do we have a fantastic southern-style meal for you!  Imagine my shock when I said "let's do a braised brisket", and John and Jenn looked at me like I had three heads.  I then polled some friends, and it turns out, most New Englanders have no clue what it is!  In fact, someone even asked me "is that the stuff they serve with cabbage on St. Patrick's Day?"  So maybe I just have a little country in my blood, but I insisted we dip our toes into some southern cooking, and we created a delicious menu!

Cocktail - Blackberry Bourbon Iced Tea

Yummmm.  Jenn did initially cut the sugar down to approx. 1/4 cup, and then we added agave syrup individually to taste based on sweet preferences.  Also, go with two shots of bourbon.  These were refreshing, light, and oh-so-tasty!  (Dog park friends - watch for these to come along on one of our "Dog Park Fridays" - we can make it for a crowd!)

Appetizer - Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp

Home Recipe

Okay, you cannot mess this recipe up!  Wrap some shrimp in bacon, pour over some of your favorite barbecue sauce, and grill until done.  These are like candy!  You will not be able to stop!  My only recommendation would be to pre-cook the bacon slightly (like 1 minute or 2 in the microwave), since they take a little longer to cook than the shrimp.  And if you're curious, we don't have a favorite barbecue sauce (there's about 10 stockpiled in my cupboard), but we did use Sweet Baby Ray's for this appetizer. 

Entree - Braised Beef Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

Followed the recipe almost exactly, and it was delicious!  The braising liquid has an incredible smell that will make your kitchen the room to be in the house.  Some tips and tricks... We had a 3lb brisket (served 4) and braised a total of 3 hours.  We seared in a heavy skillet, but it was too short for the braising liquids, so moved the beef to a large pyrex, and then after braising liquids were brought to a boil, we poured them over the brisket, covered in foil, and then put in the oven.  Also, when you broil, broil it on a foil-lined baking tray... much easier for clean up.  And for the glaze... we added about 3 Tbsp of the braising liquid to the bourbon/peach mixture.  After we liberally glazed the brisket and put it in the broiler, we then added a few more Tbsp of the braising liquid to make it more of a "sauce" to drizzle over the cut meat.  Overall - fork tender, sweet and smoky, and absolutely amazing!

Side Dish - Cole Slaw with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

Don't be a hero.  Use the bagged coleslaw and add the cilantro.  Seriously - save yourself some time!  This was superb.  The cumin-lime vinaigrette gave an amazing taste, and we would even suggest an extra dash of hot sauce, since it paired up so well with the sweet brisket.  Can't wait to have this with other grilled dishes.

Side Dish - Cucumber Salad

So Jenn's cucumber salad recipe is more of a home recipe, so we included one very similar from Emeril.  (She doesn't quite keep track of "how much of this" and "how much of that"... it's second nature by this point.)  It was a perfect accompaniment to the meal.  Crispy, tangy, and refreshing!

Side Dish - Scalloped Potatoes

Don't judge.  They came from a box.  We were so busy this weekend, that when it time for a "carb" on the side, we just raised our eyebrows, smacked our foreheads, and rummaged through the cabinets.  However, scalloped potatoes from a box are NOT the same as the real ones.  In fact, the only reason I am posting about them is because when I have a picture of the final plate, they will be on there, and I didn't want anyone coming back to me saying "why didn't you include that recipe." 

Side Dish - Texas Toast

So yes, I gave some people a "do you live on Mars" look when they said "what the heck is Texas Toast?"  Texas Toast is basically slices of white bread slathered with butter and garlic and then grilled.  (Also known as garlic bread, pretty much.)  This was a great recipe (we obviously used a Portuguese baguette instead of plain white bread - its what was available) but I suggest more garlic.  (I know, seriously?)  Or perhaps, garlic powder or something with a little more bite.  Yum yum.

Final Dish

Wine - 2010 Susana Balbo Malbec

International Wine Cellar - 89/100

This Argentinian red is a beautiful deep violet color with exploding aromas of black cherry, blackberry, and violets.  On the palate there is a little dark chocolate, tobacco, and smoke.  The tannins were a little heavy for us, and upon reading a review online, one taster agreed that this wine may be a little young and could use a little time to relax.  It was a great wine, very firm and dense, but overpowered the beef a little, because our brisket ended up being on the sweeter side more than we expected.  However, a good wine, and always fun when Greg gives us a hand!

Dessert - Peach Melba

Okay, so this was a "fly by the seat of your pants" type of dessert.  We originally planned on a grilled peach melba, but unfortunately the sky opened up and a huge thunderstorm came through during dinner.  John looked over at us, and announced that while he would take it for the team, he draws the line at lightning.  So we quickly found another recipe and doctored it up.  We peeled the peaches (using a vegetable peeler) and poached them as directed.  (We used vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean.)  We then broiled them with a little vanilla sugar sprinkled on top for a few minutes.  At that point, we put some vanilla ice cream in a bowl, topped it with a peach, added some Chambord-soaked raspberries, and sprinkled with a little cinnamon.  It was delicious!  Many thank you's to Nick who joined us and helped come up with a last minute save.

Dessert Wine - 2010 Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

I'm an ice wine junkie.  I'll say it now.  And this Chilean dessert wine did not disappoint!  Rich flavors of apricot and honey with a crisp acidity.  If you haven't gotten into dessert wines, give this one a shot, it will convert you!

Next Week - TBD