Monday, February 25, 2013

February 24, 2013 - Shellfish & Garlic

Good Morning!!!  It's a warm morning here in CT, the sun is shining, the dog is quiet, and I think I'll be smelling garlic coming out of my pores for the next few days.  That's ok, though.  You know out motto - can there every be too much garlic?!?!  Anyways... as you've noticed, we are trying to fashion our menus around what is on sale at local grocery stores, and this week Stew Leonard's had king crab legs on sale.  Now, let me be honest - none of us have ever had king crab legs.  We were nervous and a little hesitant - but at practically 50% off - and because it is our duty as food bloggers to try new things (haha), we gave them a shot.  And damn - they were good!
Cocktail - Melon Cucumber Mojito
Jennifer is putting this juicer to work!  We muddled mint, sugar, and limes.  Then we added white rum, and topped with a juiced concoction of fresh cucumber, honeydew melon, and a little lemonade.  Superb.  Fantastic.  I'm going to be drinking these all summer!!!
Appetizer - Garlic Butter Baked Crab Legs
Okay, so we followed this recipe exactly and it turned out perfectly.  (We did cut some slits into each leg so that when basting with garlic butter, it would seep into the crab meat.)  When serving, I would highly recommend using kitchen shears to split open the crab legs.  Since this is the first time making them, we can't compare against steamed, however I will say that we didn't even need drawn butter!  The fabulous garlic butter really soaked into the meat and it was absolutely delicious!  (Side note:  super fresh garlic + copper oxidization = blue garlic!  Not sure what that means, but our garlic turned blue in the saute pan, and when we googled it, it said still ok to eat.)
Entree - Shrimp Rockefeller over Fettucine
So you basically take all the flavors of Oyster Rockefeller and mix it with shrimp scampi.  (Basically, garlic and butter again.)  This was fantastic!  And the wilted spinach was really such a change that it took the meal to another level.  Served over some fresh fettucine, it was a perfect entree.
Side Dish - Bacon Wrapped Asparagus with Parmesan
We took asparagus bundles, wrapped them in bacon, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and roasted until the bacon was cooked through.  My favorite way of cooking asparagus!  The veggie gets a great crispness to it and bacon is always a fabulous addition.  (Who doesn't like bacon?)  The parmesan was a new twist (thanks, Nick), and was a fantastic addition!

Final Plate

Wine - 2011 Les Piliers Viognier
So we've really been trying to match wines ourselves recently, and we think this one was another great pairing!  This French white was bold and full bodied with flavors of peach and melon with just enough acidity to keep it from being too sweet.  Great white wine!
Dessert - White Chocolate Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Sauce
Like little bites of calorie-filled heaven!  We're not huge bread pudding people, so we don't really have a frame of reference, but this was fantastic.  Basically it's diced up French bread mixed with a white chocolate custard and baked until soft.  Then its topped with white chocolate sauce.  Yes, it's heavy.  Yes, it's a lot of white chocolate.  Yes, it's decadent and you'll love it!
So overall, another fantastic meal!  We went out on a limb with the king crab legs, and it paid off for us!  And while it seems like we went through a dozen heads of garlic, it was absolutely worth it!
Next Week - Cornish Hens 2.0

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 17, 2013 - Asian Salmon

Good Morning!!!  It's 18 degrees outside and windy as ever, but I've got my first (ok, second) cup of coffee and I'm ready to go!  When we saw that salmon was on sale at Stew Leonard's this week, we decided to do a summer-like break from this bitter winter and create a nice, light meal that was sure to satisfy.
Cocktail - Pear and Lemongrass Saketini
So Jennifer got a juicer.  Which pretty much means that every cocktail going forward is going to use a juicer - which is no problem by us!  So we juiced fresh pear and a cut up stalk of lemongrass and added it to some Black&Gold sake with a little vodka.  Shake it up, garnish with some lemongrass and voila!  The fresh fruit made all the difference!
Appetizer - Mandarin Orange Japanese Salad
So you know that ginger salad dressing you get at sushi restaurants?  We wanted to re-create that.  The recipe above is for the dressing, however a couple changes I'd like to point out.  First, we subbed some of the peanut oil with sesame oil.  (I could dab sesame oil on my wrists as perfume - just saying.)  Also - way too much onion.  We also used a standard white onion, which may have been the problem.  I'd highly suggest reducing it and swapping it out for green onion or red onion.  Otherwise - spot on!  We chopped up some iceberg lettuce, added cucumber, crispy  noodles, carrots, mandarin oranges and topped with dressing.  Super light and super delicious!
Entree - Salmon with Sesame and Orange-Ginger Relish
Stop the presses.  Damn.  Wow.  Yes!  This salmon was perfection!  If you are ever looking for the dish to serve your "constantly on a diet" mother-in-law, or anyone who may be on the "picky" side - this is it!  Let me walk you through a few minor changes.  The marinate itself seemed a little so I added about a teaspoon of minced ginger and two smashed cloves of garlic.  I also had some extra green onions in the fridge, so chopped up those as well.  I don't know if it made much of a difference, but hey, can you ever go wrong with ginger and garlic?  We also skipped the navel oranges and used mandarin oranges - do this.  It's easier, it saves time, no one will judge you.  And because we bought the fish in individual portions - I would suggest watching the clock.  This fish would have probably been done around the 15 minute mark, not 20, but it really didn't matter.  The taste was clean, fresh, and packed full of flavor!
Side Dish - Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas
Okay, I've never had Israeli couscous, and I can't believe I've been missing out this whole time!  These little morsels were awesome!  And the asparagus and snow peas gave a fantastic crunch of flavor.  This was the perfect side dish - it had its own flavor but didn't steal the show from the exotic salmon.  Also - this would be great served room temp for lunch.
Final Plate
Wine - 2011 Alta Vista Torrontes
Robert Parker - 90/100
The perfect white wine!  On the nose, there were exploding aromas of apricot and stone fruits.  It had a good structure with great tropical fruit flavors that ended up with smooth notes of vanilla and melon.  Fresh and crisp - this wine blew us away.  (Also, we matched it ourselves!  High five to us!)
Dessert - Ginger and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Okay, so we understand the concept of a vanilla creme brulee.  (FYI - didn't have vanilla bean, so used a solid teaspoon of vanilla extract.)  But to add ginger?  DO IT!  The flavor was incredible.  There was that slight spice of the ginger mixed with the rich creaminess of the custard.  One of our favorite desserts that we've made!  Take the plunge, take the risk, and give it a shot!
So all in all, a fantastic meal.  Relatively light and healthy, exploding with exotic flavors and beautiful colors.  None of these dishes will steer you wrong for a nice dinner party, but make sure you make that dessert!
Next Week - TBD

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10, 2013 - Chef Glenn

Good Afternoon, Culinary Sundays followers!  You guys are in for a real treat with this post.  As most of you know, we were hit by a little storm called Nemo this weekend.  (Everyone is fine!)  However, our very good friend Glenn, who is a professional chef, had to cancel his 5-course wine-pairing dinner that he had planned.  Sad for him, but good for us!  Why?  Because the food still has to be eaten!  So we gathered a large group and Chef Glenn went to work!  (With a great assist from Jennifer in the kitchen!)  We were also grateful to have Jordan Ross over, who is a professional wine expert and he brought all the wines and paired them beautifully with our meal.  I don't have a website for Glenn (email me, and I'll send you his info), but I do have Jordan's website, and you can check him out at

And if this appeals to you, they did reschedule the wine pairing dinner (it will be a slightly altered menu) for March 3.  If you have an interest in attending (it will probably be held somewhere in the Fairfield area) let me know, and I will absolutely send you the info to attend!  I promise you will not regret it!

Enjoy... I know we did!

Starter Cocktail - Champagne Barons de Rothschild

This is the first Champagne that the Rothschild family has put their name on, and it's definitely worthy of their name.  This fantastic bubbly is primarily made of Chardonnay grapes and has a beautiful crisp flavor and graceful polish to it.  This was one hell of a way to kick off the evening!
First Course - Arugula and Fennel Salad with a Sancerre Dressing and Butter Poached Lobster Tail with Blood Oranges
Damn.  The salad was refreshing and the dressing was superb.  The lobster tail was fantastic (isn't lobster always?) and the blood oranges gave a great flavor! 
First Course for the Vegetarians - Corn Dumplings (over the same salad)
First Course Wines
2010 Guy Saget Sancerre Domaine de la Perriere
Prieure de Montezargues Tavel Rose 2010
Lucien Albrecht Reserve Riesling 2010
Okay, so Jordan told me to call these "the classics" for white wines.  We had the Sancerre (a Sauvignon Blanc), a nice Rose, and a Riesling.  They were all fantastic!  And while no one had a favorite, I will say that the Riesling was the most surprising for me - not sweet at all, and a pleasure to drink!
Second Course - Cannelloni Filled with Smoked Bacon Ricotta Mousse Over Salsa Verde, Savory Tomato Jam and Olive Oil Sorbet
Absolutely insane!!!  The cannelloni filling was out of this world, and the olive oil sorbet was something I'd never experienced before and am dying to experience again.
Second Course for the Vegetarians - Cannelloni Stuffed w/ Vegetables
Second Course Wine - 2010 Goldwater Pinot Noir
This was my favorite wine of the night!  For a pinot noir, it had incredible spice and body.  Delicious!!!
Third Course - Sashimi of Kobe Beef with Pistachio Brittle and Deviled Quail Eggs with Black Caviar
I want to eat pistachio brittle every day for the rest of my life.  And I'll admit - I've never had Kobe beef.  It really does melt in your mouth!!!  This was divine.
Third Course for the Vegetarians - Crispy Tofu with Green Ragout and Beurre Blanc
Third Course Wine - 2010 Los Vascos Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Fourth Course - NY Strip Steak over Whipped Taro Root and Potatoes with Brussels Sprout and Crispy Duck Confit
I don't even know what taro root is, but it was delicious!  The brussels sprouts were perfectly cooked and the steak was fantastic.  Best part - absolutely the crispy duck confit!
Fourth Course for the Vegetarians - Fettucine with Vegetables and Pinda Sauce
Fourth Course Wine - 2007 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-de-Pape
Fifth Course - Tiramisu
Fifth Course Wine - Les Clos de Paulilles Banyules Rimage 2009
So there you have it.  A spectacular five course gourmet meal with amazing wines and an incredible group of friends.  Once again, if you have any interest in attending a similar dinner, there will be one on March 9th somewhere in the Fairfield area - most likely a country club.
Many, many thank yous to Glenn, Jordan, and Jennifer for an incredible evening!
Next Week - Asian Salmon

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 3, 2012 - Osso Buco

Good Morning, everyone!  I have a little confession... we cooked on Monday.  (Ugh, I know, what the hell?)  It's just that everyone ended up having Super Bowl parties to go to, so we figured, hey its a crock pot meal, let's just do it on Monday.  And you know what?  It can absolutely be a weeknight meal for anyone!  (We'll go back to Sundays this weekend... promise.) 
Cocktail - Angelo Azzurro
Okay, John found this recipe online.  It's a classic Italian cocktail with gin, triple sec, and blue curacao.  Very tasty.  (Jenn and I watered it down a little with orange seltzer.)
Appetizer - Roasted Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Flatbread
Okay, so originally we had a fabulous cauliflower souffle in mind - however, time wasn't on our side.  (Don't worry... we'll make it soon.)  So we opened up the fridge and winged it to fabulous results.  We baked up some puff pastry and then brushed it with the garlic infused oil from Romanacci that we had last week.  Then we topped it with caramelized onions, roasted cauliflower, and shaved parmesan cheese and baked it until golden.  It was simple, it was tasty, it was delicious!
Entree - Osso Buco
You let something like this sit in a crock pot for 10 hours and try to tell me that you don't almost faint when walking in the door to the smell!  Osso Buco is basically braised veal shanks.  We picked up the shanks from Costco, followed the recipe (used beef stock, because that's all Jenn had), and it was perfection!  Full of flavor, very little fat, and melt in your mouth!  Perfect over the risotto!
Side Dish - Risotto
Okay, so maybe we got a little bold when we decided to wing risotto, but it worked!  We sauteed up some onion in butter and then added 1.5 cups of arborio rice.  After the rice toasted, we added about 3/4 cup white wine and let the wine cook out.  Then we slowly added approximately 3-4 cups of warm beef broth.  (Using up the broth from the osso buco... waste not, people.)  After the rice had absorbed all the broth and was the perfect texture, we took off the heat, added a solid cup of grated parmesan cheese, about two tablespoons of butter, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  (We didn't have any saffron or fresh parsley in the house.)  It was fantastic!
Final Plate
Wine - 2010 Monsecco Barbatasso Colinne Novaresi Vespolina
So this was sitting in the wine stockpile, and we figured what the heck - it's an Italian wine.  It must go well with an Italian meal.  Did this wine pack a punch!  It had tons of spicy black pepper, earth and sandalwood with deep black cherry aromas.  It had a great heaviness that complemented the light flavors of the entree and was just such a different flavor profile for us that we really enjoyed it.
Dessert - None
Eeek.  I know.  Epic fail.  We were so full from dinner that we couldn't get around to figuring out a dessert.  Original plans included homemade cannolis, but we were short on time.  Those will be coming, too... promise!
Overall, a fantastic meal.  This classic Italian dish ended up being very easy to make and fun to eat!
Next week - Chef Glenn