Monday, December 28, 2009

Wine-down Wednesday- A Popping New Year!

To top off my Wine-down Wednesday with 'A Popping New Year' food pairing post (and a little early)...

I am including a southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck. My mother as I grew up in Texas made these, my grandmother on both sides made these, and most everyone I knew made them all year long. I have been stuffing these down my friends, hubby, and myself for the past month. I can remember my roommates in college from the north had no clue what they were; until they met me! My twist is making them with some collard greens, Virginia ham (present from my friend Lisa for Christmas!), veggie stock, red wine vinegar red onion, and a splash of sparkling wine! The perfect dish to eat with bread and butter.

Dig in while we* talk about a good bubbly to roll in the New Year!

This just seemed natural to talk about what to drink for New Years, but in order to do this we need to explain what types of Champagne and sparkling wines are out there. I will talk about why some are so expensive, and some are, well, just cheap! True Champagnes is worth the money, but there are a few sparkling wines out there that are note worthy.

Definition/History: Sparkling wine is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it making it fizzy. The carbon dioxide may result from natural fermentation, (either in a bottle, as with the méthode champenoise, or in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved (as in the Charmat process) or as a result of carbon dioxide injection.

The classic example of a sparkling wine is Champagne, but many other examples are produced in other countries and regions-

Espumante, Portugal

Cava, Spain
Asti, Italy (the generic Italian term for sparkling wine being Spumante, and a few good ones out there) 

Cap Classique, South Africa
Sekt, Germany and Austria

In some parts of the world, the words "champagne" or "spumante" are used as a synonym for sparkling wine, although laws in Europe and other countries reserve the word Champagne for a specific type from the Champagne region of France.

The French terms "Mousseux" or "Crémant" are used to refer to sparkling wine not made in the Champagne region.

The United States is a significant producer of sparkling wine: California in particular has seen French Champagne houses open wineries in the state to make American sparkling wine according to the Champagne method. This includes Domaine Chandon from Moet, and with all the fuss made over Champagne it's easy to overlook California's many outstanding sparkling wines.

Domaine Carneros owned by Champagne Taittinger
Mumm Cuvée Napa was started by French Champagne Mumm, then was acquired by Seagram, itself acquired by Diageo of England, which recently sold the operation to Allied-Domecq, another British Corporation. It reunites Mumm Napa with Champagne Mumm, however, since that company is now also part of Allied-Domecq.

Washington State and California  both are producing some great sparkling wines under $20 these days.

Recently the United Kingdom, which produced some of the earliest examples of sparkling wine, has started producing Champagne-style wines again. Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé but there are many examples of red sparkling wines such as Italian Brachetto and Australian sparkling Shiraz. The sweetness of sparkling wine can range from very dry "brut" styles to sweeter "doux" varieties.

Many people stray from Rosé Sparkling wine, but I suggest serve them to guest who are a bit finicky and lean toward the sweeter varieties of drinks. Not all Rosé are sweet, so ask your wine retailer for recommendations.

Abbazia N.V. Malvasia Rosé Sparkling Wine Piedmont, Italy, $11.99
Roederer Estate Brut Rose Sparkling Wine, $24.99- a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. This is full and round with smooth flavors and fine persistent bubbles. The extra measure of Chardonnay contributes elegance and austerity, which balance nicely with the delicate fruitiness of the Pinot Noir.
Amore Magico Rosé "Sweet Sparkling Wines", Moscato, Malvasia, $
Persistent and very fine perlage; rosé color; aromatic fragrance, whole and delicate, sweet and pleasant flavor.
Brachetto D´acqui Rosa Regale Banfi, $21.99- enjoy as a delicious aperitif, between-meal or after-dinner sparkler!


Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Reserve Particuliere - $35 and up per bottle
This French bubbly will go with loads of oysters, creamy brie, or a good loaf of sourdough bread and butter.

Hubby and I personally recommend this, as we served this at our wedding reception after falling in love with each other and the first sip of this bubbly! We still keep a bottle or two in the cellar for special occasions and anniversary celebrations!

Tasting Notes: A light golden colour, a floral nose subtlety dominated by white fruit such as pear and apple, but also containing a hint of almond and hazelnut. A balanced and elegant Champagne that draws its strong personality from exceptional vineyard sources.

Veuve Clicquot (Yellow Label)-
This is a favorite of my hubby's step mother, Valerie on the North Fork, LI. She will open this up, and add a touch of raspberry or any festive fruit to toast in the new year!

Tasting Notes: Golden-yellow, with a foaming necklace of tine bubbles. Next it is so pleasing to the nose: initially reminiscent of white fruits and raisins, then of vanilla and later of brioche. Note the fine balance between the fruity aromas coming from th grape varieties and the toasty aromas following the aging in the bottle. The first sip delivers all the freshness and forcefulness so typical of Yellow Label with a symphony of fruit tastes following on. Here is a true member of the powerful Brut family, well structured, admirably vinous. The lingering aromas echo and re-echo, with each fruit or spice note distinct.

AWS (American Wine Society), Joe Broski/Princeton Chapter Leader- (explains in an email) 

Cavas from Spain are bargains at $20 and under, some at under $12.
Korbel from Sonoma (Calif) makes a great house sparkler under $12
Banfi Rosa Regalia (Italy) dessert sparkler with raspberry hints; two years ago $16, now about $20.
Moscato d'Asti (Italy) dessert sparklers readily available under $15

Unless you are going out for the evening I suggest you make the food low key. With everything you put into the holiday meals you should take it easy with cheese and meat platters, or simply prepare the night before-

Salty Nuts served on cheese platters or on their own around the room; Brittle or Chikki Tikki as dessert
Cheese- Aged Parmesan stands up to the bubbles; Creamy Feta, Sheep or Goat
Egg dishes- In dishes such as quiche; especially with ham or bacon
Soups- Tomato Basil with goat cheese crostini afloat; Pasta with prosciutto; Cheese Broccoli Soup
Sandwiches/Paninis- Salty meats, creamy cheese, and sauteed greens; NO acidic tomato or zesty sides
Salads- Serve a Greek, and do not forget to make the dressing with a splash of the sparkling wine you use!
Seafood, Sushi or Sashimi- Shrimp, Tuna, or California Rolls full of creamy avocado! Lobster of course!
Pizza with mushrooms, white sauce with shredded chicken or a taco beef will work with this favorite.
Sides- Herbed Polenta with cheese; Potato Latkes; Rice Puddings; Creamy Casseroles
Fried Foods work perfect with the flavors of Cava, Spumante, and most sparkling wines- Taquitos with guacamole, Fish n Chips, and  even Chicken Fingers work!

Stay away from Smoked Salmon and Caviar unless you serve an aged and real bottle of Brut or Very Dry (nondosage) Champagne! Why? The sugar dosage in most Champagne is amplified by the pungent fish oils, turning the wine sweet and fishy.

Since now you are going to throw out the caviar, just go pick up a buttery piece of Tenderloin. Top it off with some sauteed mushrooms, or compound butter, and add a side of cheesy scalloped potatoes. Light up the grill and... well, that is what I would do!

NO lemon or tangy/zesty vinaigrette- EVO (extra virgin olive oil) and sparkling wines as a dressing will do!

Now its time to start preparing the feast and shop for the bubbly, so I will leave you with just one more thought. As you reflect back on 2009 and remember the foods and wine you really enjoyed, remember that we have another chance in 2010 to rekindle the moments and make them bigger and better!

I am planning to ring in my New Year with my sweetie and a few friends at my side. Then I am off for a visit to St. Louis to see my son, visiting a few blogs along the way. I will be cooking up some great January posts!

*Information gathered by 'Partners In Wine' Club 2009- Adrienne Turner & Chef E Stelling, Thanks go out to R Stelling for his input!

Happy New Years! The Stellings

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mini Christmas Maple Pancakes

For my last '12 Days of Christmas' Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! post I will tell of how the Ghost of Christmas Future came to me while I was shopping...

To say the least we have so many nieces and nephews with all of eight siblings on hubby's side of the family to shop for. Not to mention two grandmothers, and siblings that exchange names. So, we love that '' site, and even ask for gift certificates to satisfy our 'we hate holiday malls, and parking lot' attitudes. Plus it did not help that my husband has been out of town with work, and I was sick for over a week! Thank goodness for the internet...

Well while I was surfing the net with my list at hand, I heard a faint moaning. I knew the ghost would pop up at some point in my holiday finale, but not being sure it was my tummy growling at all of the wonderful cookie and dessert posts from all the blogs I follow, or could it be I just did not feel well? Turns out it was the Ghost of Christmas future reminding me that I could help make my mother-in-laws job as a grand mother so much easier Christmas morning. Her house is stuffed to the max with presents and guest.

 [Grandma with her eleventh grandson, and mother]

Grandma Terri is getting older, and always works so hard for everyone each year.

Making sure we all feel loved, and sharing in the Christmas cheer!

As I was guided through pages upon pages of internet kitchen ware.

I stumbled upon these holiday waffle and pancake griddles with such a stare.

How fun this would be to surprise her with the set, since her and I share such a love to work side by side in the kitchen she would love these too I bet!

This year I hoped I would be soon back on my feet, so I could help flip these cuties, and serving them up so neat.

I hit the right keys and placing them in my shopping cart, said bye to my friendly ghost, and figured this was a good start.

We arrived at the family home on Long Island near the sound, and the morning of Christmas I made each and every person two or three rounds.

Of pancakes that is, and out of Grandma Terri's Joy of Cooking book. Maple was added to flavor them nicely. I had not ever made a recipe from this book, and decided I might  have to make a New Years resolution of following recipes from all my cookbooks. I do own quite a few hundred, or even more! Hubby's wonderful traveling doctor brother (pictured here) brings them to me from around the world.

John, you deserved the extra batch of pancakes!

Next year, since I always cook at least one meal while there, they all will get mini waffles...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Woodchuck Bourbon Pork Loin

Another '12 Days of Christmas' Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! post is all about trying an ingredient you haven't before!

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The woodchuck could chuck as much wood as he wanted!

By the way what is a woodchuck?

On my search for the Woodchuck, I discovered a bottle of hard cider from Vermont.

Discovering it makes a delicious marinade for pork loin, well, there had to be a post written.

Admitting many Woodchucks will now suffer through consumption at this blog writers residence.

After a lengthy phone call the son of this blog writer admits to consuming Woodchuck on a regular basis, and his friends use it to marinate pork before grilling.

Where has this blog writer been?

In the kitchen, since hubby usually shops for alcohol used in cooking and consumption.

This all started when she went out to score Flat Tire beer for a cheese soup recipe.

I decided to ease my Woodchucks pain...we had a shot of bourbon added to the mix!

Throw a little in with the green beans and onions like I did, and you have a wonderful anytime meal!

See Woodchucks not only chuck wood, but they cook and like their bourbon too!

Woodchuck Bourbon Pork Loin

1- 1 1/2 pound pork loin
1 bottle of Limited Edition Woodchuck Hard Cider
1 ounce of Kentucky bourbon (a bottle I brought back this summer, Rye)

Gently clean extra silver off of loin, and pierce with fork, and then take a gallon baggie- add pork loin, 1 sliced red onion, 3 crushed cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon paprika, salt/pepper to taste. Slightly shake bag, and seal. Refrigerate over night.

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

1 pound of string/green beans clean and ends trimmed. Place into baking dish with pork loin nestled down into beans, and pour marinade over ingredients, and bake until center temperature is 165 in center. Place pork loin on plate and let rest; slice 1/4 inch pieces; place on top of beans, and spoon sauce over ingredients. Serves 4.

HINT: You may reduce pan juice; adding 1 1/2 tablespoons flour to thicken for more of a gravy, but we enjoyed the pan juice just the way it was; it was almost like eating a tender pork soup.

Oh btw, if the spouse or friend asks what smell so good when they enter the kitchen, just say "I am cooking Woodchuck", and enjoy the look on their face!

Wine-down Wednesday- Red Wines Back to Back

Merry Christmas, and Blessings to all of you! The Stellings

Wine-down Wednesday- Eno Terra II

'12 Days of Christmas' Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! is winding down, and only two more posts to go!

This tenth piece is not just about wine, but about 'Sharing'- Sharing moments with others!

This past year I wrote a piece on a new local establishment, Eno Terra I- Lost Ring Fiasco- In the Princeton area and one of the remaining slivers of farm to table country that give the Garden State its name. Enno Terra is determined to use a philosophy of 'Local, Organic, and Sustainable' foods to their advantage. Has it worked? My second visit to this eatery has proven so.

If local ingredients are not available from the area, they reach out and maintain other sustainable communities. Being a local market 'Purist' is a hard undertaking during winter months in the north east.

Feeling that their approach is an admirable one, but not remembering exactly what they offered, because "uh" the original 'ring fiasco' dominated the memory. So, I decided to return. My other purpose was to try a test to see if they could deliver up great food and wine at a reasonable cost in this economy. Something that could be transferable to our own tables. Can I duplicate, and I mean 'can anyone', because my title does not mean I can cook anything; it just means that I earned my title through trial and error, and many years in my field, and I plan on doing the same with my wine training. So lets take this journey together. I believe it will be a fun undertaking in my future Wednesday posts...

We nestled into our bar seating, on this cold night. I believe that if you prefer up close and personal wine and spirit interaction with the staff that leads to education, the bar is a great place to do your homework! We let the staff know of our intentions, since I take notes, photos, and ask lots of questions. I know annoying, but better than annoying the dining room guests.

We found the entire staff friendly, and willing to help in any way. Gladly letting us try a small sip of this and that, if we were unsure or curious about a wine. I have to share that they bring out a fresh bread basket. Oh many do, but they have an artisan baker slash cheese monger on staff. When you enter the restaurant you first encounter the host/hostess podium, but then behind them is the 'in your face' counter where they prepare the baskets and cheese/charcutterie platters. Okay, now turn back to the right, and I am waiting at the bar.

They also give you a spoonful of this heavy cream butter in the middle of a small roundish curved plate, and they drizzle olive oil over the mound. One of the staff noticed that it was brought out without its garnish of fresh nutmeg as it was meant to be eaten. Oh how right he was, as he sprinkled the nutmeg (creating an aroma of Christmas to match their decor), and then we really tasted a marvelous combination! A job taken seriously!

Midway through sampling food and wine, we had a rather nice gentleman sit to the left of me at the bar, Dan. He confessed to us that he frequent Eno Terra, and enjoyed partaking in their good food and a bottle of good wine. We were impressed at his selection of Brunello, 2000. This is why I love sitting at the bar in most restaurants; unless of course a romantic meal with a significant other is suited for dinning rooms.

Mesmerized as they decanted his bottle in a traditional manner, over the candle, we began discussing Adrienne's bottle of 1999 Brunello aging in her cellar. Dan graciously asked if we would like a glass, and expressed his interest in our endeavors with our education. Great conversation and company topped off our Eno Terra experience.

Thanks Dan, we enjoyed sharing conversation, food and wine!

Bread Basket - Cream Fraishe, Olive Oil, Nutmeg for dipping

First Drop Mother's Milk Syrah/Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Australia 2006

-Perfect together: to coat the palate for the next reds (Our purpose to sample reds, and take notes)

APPETIZER (shared)
Yellowfin Tuna Tartar | Acorn squash, pickled red onions, pumpkin seeds & Merken spice

This was a nice and plentiful dish, but if you are a tuna tartare purist, well it was a bit spicy, and overly manipulated by the squash- both the chunks, and puree as its base. Stepping out of the 'Purist' box is risky and I am up to the challenge, so I would try it again when I am not trying so many wines.

-Pinot Noir and Shiraz were over baring, due to tannins vs spicy.

Fried Artichokes | Lemon, basil & black olive aioli

Wonderful and plentiful dish of deep fried (no crust) artichokes, green and black olives, as well as herbs and lemon slices. The aoili was over the top and gave this dish a touch of perfection!

-This dish paired well with all the wines *see notes below.

 WINE by the Glass- Split
 Zenato, "RIPASSA", DOC 2005

ENTREE (shared)
Chef Special for the night- Whole Roasted Branzino
European Sea Brim |Fingerling Potatoes; Sauteed Spinach; Lemon Mojo
(Lemon Mojo- lemon, black olives, herbs, champagne vinaigrette, EVO)

The whole fish is brought out for guest approval, and I found that a nice touch. Having had bad experiences in the past with Mediterranean chefs cooking whole fish, I was a bit apprehensive. I discovered this was worthy of its high price tag $36.

-Paired well with the Barbera (top favorite), Pinot Noir, and Shiraz.
-Dolcetto was lacking. I felt it just did not have the balance of flavors the Barbera did with this dish.

WINE by the Glass- Split
Green Valley Pinot Noir, MARIMAR ESTATE, "CRISTINA" 2004
1 oz Pour- BARBERA D'ALBA Cavalloto, "BRIC BOSCHIS CUCOLO", DOC 2004
Glass, Compliments of Dan-
Brunello Di Montalcino 'Sangiovese' SIRO PACENTI 2000- Fantastico!!!
(not sure it is even Italian word, but what a treat, Thanks Dan!)

Cheese Taste (and I mean literally a taste, this was killer, thanks! Dan)
St Maure de Torraine Chevre, AOC 1990
(A must try!- made from whole goat milk, is a soft cheese, with gray mold surface.
The pulp is white or ivory, smooth texture and fine of at least 45% fat, is bisected by a straw Rye engraved with the name and designation of certifying the origin of manufacture; it comes in the form of an elongated tapered log- and I cannot stress how it is reminiscent of a brie creamy texture! A must try!)

-Most of the wines would go well with this, but the Brunello being 15 had the right body and balance here.

We found the wine and menu reasonably priced (specials, not included), and portions are hearty enough to share!

Wine Tasting Notes: 

(Bare in mind we kept all wines in front of us throughout the experience) Having tried sips of each wine with each course we were pleased with the staff's recommendations. I however felt the Barbera* paired well with the Sea Brim dish due to flavors of the Champagne Vinaigrette, shallots, and lemon in the sauce. This sauce can overwhelm even a white wine. Later one of the staff did suggest a white Burgundy, but we were on a quest to try reds back to back.

After having the Brunello and Barbera, then going back to the other wines at the end of our meal- we found the earlier pours could not hold up to the big and bolder grapes of Italy; however the Pinot Noir, Rapasso- 'Baby' Amarone, and Shiraz were great wines, and worthy of standing on their own at home with specific menus.

Wine I Recommend Trying At Home:

Green Valley Pinot Noir, MARIMAR ESTATE, "CRISTINA" 2004- Wine Enthusiast 95/100 $37-58 available retail- A wine that is a bit pricey, but recommended as a gift for your holiday party, or dinner
- This outstanding vintage shows engaging aromas of wild berries and chocolate, cinnamon and clove, plus earthy notes of forest floor and bacon, characteristic of the finest burgundies.

DOLCETTO D'ALBA AZ. AGRICOLA SAN MARCO, DOC 2007- Score: 88/100 $20+ retail
- Flavorful, full, fresh and vinous on the palate, with a long finish, this is an appealing, easy-going wine. Color- Intense ruby red in color, and the nose is characteristically ample, fruity, with almond notes.

BARBERA D'ALBA Cavalloto, "BRIC BOSCHIS CUCOLO", DOC 2004- Score: $18-24 comparable, if found via retail, but mainly a restaurant available wine
- Stone fruits, cherry, berries, spices, and plush - medium body

First Drop Mother's Milk Syrah/Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Australia 2006, Score: 90 $20 retail
- Not a sledgehammer style, this Barossa Shiraz is made for drinking! Soft, slurpy and textured it is balanced with good acidity, which refreshes the palate and makes you go back for a second / third glass. Dark ruby red.

Zenato, "RIPASSA" or 'Baby' Amarone, DOC 2005 Score: Wine Spectator $15-30 retail
- Displays a solid core of currant and plum, with a rich, spice- and coffee-stained oak note. Medium- to full-bodied, with fine, fruit-coated tannins and a clean mineral finish. Delicious. One of Veneto's most consistent reds - rich, stone fruits, burned, coffee, berry, cherry, (tree) fruit, dessert, caramel

Disclaimer: Eno Terra was not responsible for our dinner or wine, we paid in full. We followed our 5 S's rules for wine tasting all during the meal, and not all wine was finished (disgraceful I know). Dinner took place during a three hour plus time frame. Consumption of alcohol recommended by most ABC laws- 4 oz of wine, or 1 oz of spirits per hour for the body to absorb and process alcohol (one unit (10ml) of alcohol per hour). Wine-down Wednesday is for education purposes only, Thank you for following us!

We do not endorse, recommend, or promote drinking and driving. If you have over exceeded these limits please call a cab, or arrange for a DD/friend/spouse to give you a ride.

Eno Terra 4484 Kings' Highway (off Rte. 27), Kingston, NJ 08528 | 609.497.1777 | 609.497.1779 (fax)

Interested in attending a Symposium on Wine/Food Writing in Napa Valley?

We have another 'Partner in Wine' joining us and I would like to introduce you to her site full of her own personal tasting notes on wines, Christine @ In Vino We Trust. You may know her from her other blog @Fresh Local and Best. Go over and check out her list of recommendations, and she also attended the Wine Spectator Event in NYC most recently!

PS- I am posting yet another '12 Days of Christmas' at the same time, so I can get on with things I have not been able to do as being I was sick for the past week...'Woodchuck Bourbon Pork Loin'

Monday, December 21, 2009

Corn Muffins & Soup Traditions

 My eighth installment of the '12 Days of Christmas, Food ~ Wine ~ Fun' is all about 'Traditions'...

Yet another ghost came to visit me...The Ghost of Christmas Present!

I found myself once again resting and being reminded of my trip down south to get back in touch with my roots...

"Artwork is a hot cup of soup and a piece of homemade bread on a cool day" said my friend Lisa.

That is exactly what she told me recently as we sat together saying of what to make for our dinner. She and her family live in the Appalachian Mountains, and she will just randomly say something funny, or kind of poetic like if you hang around her long enough. That is why I love her so much. We grew up together, and realized our families were from the same area of the Appalachian Mountains, as well as entering elementary school in the same month of the same school back in Dallas. We both share similar southern traditions.

I could see her standing there in her Virginia mountain farm kitchen stirring a pot of delicious soup on the stove. Her daughters were running about, as I stood there listening to her kitchen wisdom and camera in hand.

I can tell what some of you are thinking...soup again! Well it is my middle name...tis the season!

The Ghost of Christmas Present wanted me to remember to take a moment to enjoy yummy comfort food in between that busy holiday schedule.

Comfort food is a tradition, so what is your memory of a family comfort food?
The menu we chose- Creamy Potato Soup and Jalapeno Corn Muffins. Her and her husband are making their own family tradition of canning jalapenos each summer, and they are hot! Hot, but boy are they good in these corn muffins, along with a little moonshine I brought back (taste like corn...okay, duh?). Making family traditions are a great way to instill strong ties within your children. Cooking, canning, baking, and many other activities can be fun, and a great way to open up communication as the kids grow older!

Lisa decided to add cheese and jalapeno to her corn muffin recipe. Last minute thoughts in cooking happens often right? Although, she blew me away by adding shell pasta to her soup recipe. "Not random", she said. Lisa grew up with her grandmother making it this way. Lisa shared that her grandmother would say "a little extra starch on a cold day cannot hurt", as we laughed and pooched out our bellies. We figured we were good for a few winters to come!

After the Ghost of Christmas Present was done with me, I woke up and had this craving for soup...imagine that!

There is a friend of mine, Tipper @ The Blind Pig & Acorn who writes about  the Appalachian Mountain life and its traditions...her latest post on The Santa Train tells about one of the true meaning of Christmas!

Creamy Potato Soup with Shell Pasta

3 to 4 large boiling potatoes, peeled, rinse, and pat dry
1 cup shell pasta, cooked and drained, al dente
2 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Boil potatoes, just covering with stock; cook until fork tender; drain off excess, and set aside; adding salt/pepper, garlic powder to taste to potatoes. Mash potatoes leaving it rustically un-smooth. Add back in stock, and 1 to 2 cups heavy cream, and bring to a boil until thickens a bit. Remove from fire, and add shell pasta. Enjoy!

Share a family tradition with me, and  Happy Holidays to those of you from hubby and I whom are leaving for your holiday trips!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Texas Ghost- Sub Sandwich

For my seventh piece on '12 Days of Christmas' Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!, a Texas Memory story has to be told...

(Scene: living room, chef with a head cold, and a foot of snow moving to the north east)

I was all tucked into bed, surrounded by Kleenex, aspirin, gallons of water, and pillows propped up high.

I began to slip into a nights rest, so the next day I could do my best.

When in a haze this funny looking vision of The Ghost of Christmas past appeared, and began to place thoughts of foods of old into my head...

Like old EL Fenix tacos and enchiladas; cilantro fragrant tortilla soup containing whole corn on the cob from Pappasito's, and queso con carne with thin crispy chips began to dance in my... (oh that's another story, sorry!)

No choice was given the old cowboy ghost took my hand things were flashing, and passing and soon I found myself in the parking lot of The Great Outdoors Sub Shop!

"Why are we here"? I asked my fevered vision friend all dressed in Roy Rogers garb!

"Why oh why, would you do this to me when I have no energy or time to take another trip down south"?

"Come on E, go in and order, as its only a story"! Christmas Cowboy said in that twangy twisted drawl while he twirled his fancy six guns on his fingers.

So in I walked, to the left I moved as the counter person asked "What would you like miss"? Without much thought my mouth opened...#8 on wheat, give me the works, easy lettuce, mayo and extra tomato, and add avocado.

Before I knew it they were making their famous 6-Foot party sub that seemed to go on forever...

I woke up feeling so refreshed, and I began to write a list. I jumped up, dressed, and off to the market I went.

While shopping for the weeks orders- I threw in hoagie rolls, avocados, tomatoes, red onion, lettuce, and smoked turkey. Getting as close to my dream as I possibly could, but I knew it was going to need that extra Great Outdoors touch.

I was about to walk away from the deli counter, and to my surprise..I heard that old cowboy whisper, "wait before you walk away". Then I saw a bottle of hoagie dressing on the counter. I knew that with a touch of oregano and Parmesan, to home I would be, and a bit closer to my dream!

Once home I worked in a frenzy, and swearing I could hear that old cowboy laughing with cheer.

I was about to take a bite out of a sandwich that I hold so near and dear!

Man my sanwich tasted good, almost the same, but a fond Texas memory it will remain!

Growing up I was not so fond of sandwiches. My parents worked as hard as they could, but we were poor. So, fried bologna, split fried hot dogs, and grilled cheese were on the menu quite often. Occasionally it was mayo and home grown tomato on stale white bread.

I love them now, but I remember when I first had this sandwich with avocado and dressed up to the tee...well it was the only sandwich I would even begin to eat from a take out. Hubby liked the 'Invention', heated with many meats and cheeses. Recently I tried to get friends to take a photo for me down south, but they are all busy, so unless you are from will just have to take my word for it!

Hubby and I ate them for the next three days...that is until the next ghost came to visit...

Great Outdoors History: See, I knew there was this connection of Texas/New Jersey!

 The first Great Outdoor Sub Shop began operations in December of 1973 in downtown Dallas. Being a New Jersey native, I brought with me the knowledge and drive to make a better sub than the one I was making in New Jersey at a local deli. My intention was to fill the authentic eastern style submarine sandwich void. I knew that if I made an authentic "New Jersey" sub, using the highest quality meats and cheeses on Fresh Baked Bread, I could not miss! Being passionate and striving for perfection and uniqueness, I added to my old standbys some newly created custom subs and various proprietary items such as custom formulated & shaped breads and oven roasted fat free turkey. I felt compelled to serve the customer quickly, with a good value, in an honest "in front of the customer" style. I insisted on and hand trained knowledgeable, pleasant associates to work in an organized fun atmosphere. Speaking of atmosphere, one might ask, "Where did the name Great Outdoors come from?" Two days before opening in 1973, seeing we were in the middle of Downtown Dallas with all the brick, concrete, metal & glass outside the store, I wanted to bring a little feel of the Outdoors inside to compensate and allow the customer to get away, hence "Great Outdoors". Each shop has its own special way of allowing the customer to feel a sense of escape to openness and nature based on creative interior design.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bread Pudding Mini Cakes

For my sixth installment of '12 Days of Christmas Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!' post I decided it would be fun to make some treats for all my little elves, or should I say my neighbors. Spread the love is my theme!

When I return home from a busy day our group of condo elves residents gather in the parking lot to say hello. I love my neighbors! They are all so friendly, and we all help each other out when needed. We send cards if someone is sick, or order flowers for a hospital visit.

Who would not want to make up some goodies for them?

One neighbor in particular, Bea,  asked me why she has not benefited from my cooking like in the past, especially my crab cakes. I explained that I took off for almost three months to travel. My clients mom was in town from India, so they were traveling and no cooking was needed. School was in a transition by bringing in a consultant, so classes were not scheduled for a few months.

I needed to hit the road and refresh my state of mind.

Finding myself ashamed when confronted, because I do love trying out recipes on them. With the Christmas holiday coming up, well it was time to spread the sweet love. I would make them all chocolate truffles, and maybe some mini bundt cakes.

Playing with some ginger caramelized cranberry-white chocolate walnut rolls the week before I found myself with lots of bread, and a traveling hubby who was not around to help eat them. So, I decided to make bread pudding, and maybe freeze a few. They worked so well in my new ramekins, and I noticed they had such a nice crust and came out easily. The inside was bread pudding gooey wonderful! They look like small cakes, and wrapped well for the freezer and gifts.

Searching around the internet for recipes, I made a batch of chocolate ganache; rolling them into balls, and then rolled them in cocoa goji berry powder I have hanging around in the 'magic' pantry. Yes, Alexis!

What a mess. I had never made truffles before, and no I did not have fun with the chocolate cleanup. No photos of that pretty picture. There will be a next time, because chocolate rocks my world, okay I had fun eating the 'extra' not so pretty truffles.

Placing two truffles on top of the cakes, and letting them melt gave them a nice touch. A few cranberries here and there along with truffles for added color. Wrapped up and delivered!

 Knock knock... Who's there? It's me neighbor, and I have some treats for you!

HINT: I tried something fun...I took cranberries and cut them in half (yeah I know, extra work, but whole ones do not work). Spread on a silmat or parchment and sprinkle with grated ginger and sugar. Slow roast on the top oven shelf until they begin to wilt. Let cool, and add to your favorite yeast bread recipe, along with white chocolate pieces. 

Easy Bread Pudding Recipe

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup raw sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups bread (or rolls, and mine just crumbled), torn into small pieces

Warm the cream in a sauce pan, but do not scald; add sugar and disolve; add butter; remove from heat and let sit for five minutes; whisk (temper if necessary) in eggs and vanilla; pour over bread. After fifteen minutes pour into ramekins, and bake until browns. Let cool enough to remove from ramekins, and melt chocolate over the top. These would also be good with a powder sugar glaze.

I am not a big fan of bread pudding like hubby, but I have to say this crunchy cake was actually yummy!

Oh, and btw Santa, I promise to have one waiting for you Christmas eve...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beef Meets Sunchoke Salad

This is part of my '12 Days of Christmas' Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! post, and what better than to take a moment and treat yourself to a decadent glass of wine and a salad full of flavor! What a great way to experiment for a New Years party too.

I paired a Masi Campofiorin, 'Baby' Amarone with this Beef Carpaccio-Sunchoke Salad, that was full of many ingredients and flavors that can stand up to this, or any Italian red wine. If you missed it, my Wine-down Wednesday- Italian Wine  post explains how a Big but in expensive wine can be paired with an array of foods for any type of gathering...

This wine is less a less expensive and tasty version of its parent wine, Amarone-

'Baby' Amarone; 'Ripasso' (means to pass over) refers to a Valpolicella wine style that's made by re-fermenting a young wine on an Amarone's leftover dried skins and lees (literally dead yeast, but it sounds much nicer if you call it "lees"). The process helps the wine to develop far beyond a typical Valpolicella, into a richer, more Amarone-style wine -- but in less time (and with less work), hence the moniker "baby" Amarone- Hence the cheaper price tag. Higher end bottles however can take up to ten years of bottle age.

Masi Campofiorin (Amarone Classico), 09, Wine Spectator Rating 90- This wine is a keeper in our cellar, and is very drinkable and compatible with many foods, as well as a friendly party wine/gift, $15-17.99, depending on state, we spent as little as $12.99 in Dallas

This wine pairs well with most foods, and the 'parent' aged Amarone is no stranger to spicy food cultures, such as Asian regional cuisine, meats and hard aged cheeses.

Once I picked my ingredients that would really make a statement, I could almost taste the flavor profile in a plated salad, or a tossed salad.

Carpaccio: Carpaccio (pron. /karˈpaʧʧo/ [kɐ̞ɾˈpɐ̞ʧː˺ʧo]; /kəɹˈpɑːʧ(j)ɔʊ/ Brit[k(ʰ)əˈpʰɑ̟ːʧ(j)ɜʊ], Amer[k(ʰ)ɹ̩ˈpʰɑ̟ːʧ(j)ɔ̽ʊ]) is a dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna) generally thinly sliced or pounded thin and served as an appetizer. (information provided by 'Gastronomy Dictionary').

My 'Baby' Amarone food pairing-

-Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio: seasoned with oil/vinegar, Italian seasonings; sliced thin, and marinated for a few hours. Placing on the plate, or slicing in strips for salad bowl toss. I also experimented with adding soy to the marinade, and then on high heat seared one side, and sliced for a salad tasting. Both worked well.

HINT: If you do not have a sharp knife to slice the tenderloin thin enough, you might ask the butcher to 'hand slice' (not the meat slicer), and then you can pound out the meat between plastic wrap before using marinade.

For the faint of heart, or those who do not care for 'rare' meat- I did take a few pieces, added soy sauce to the marinade, and then in a hot stainless steel pan quick seared the meat (browns on one side only!) to see how it held up to the wine. We found that flavor went well with the wine as well!

-Aged Parmesan: 2 years, shaved in large pieces either over a plated salad or on the side to taste with the wine. Semi-hard and hard cheese pair well with wines such as Amarone. Their sharp flavor go well with wines that can be aged, and have complex flavors. Raw cheese also pair well with complex wines.

-Roasted Sunchokes- these wonderful delights are grown in my native Texas, and is harvested in the fall for highest quality. Widely available in supermarkets, its peak period is September through January, but often continues through the early spring. I roasted them in truffle oil for half an hour on 350 degrees to soften; then slice in 1/4 slices. If some are softer than others use them for dressing.

The sunchoke, often called the Jerusalem artichoke, is a tuber from a plant that is related to the sunflower. It is native to America, and has nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes. The tubers are gnarly and uneven, vaguely resembling ginger root. The white flesh is nutty, sweet, and crunchy like chestnuts when raw. Baked in their skins, they become more like potatoes with a mild taste of artichoke hearts.

Select firm sunchokes that are firm and free from mold and wrinkles. If left too long in the open, they become wrinkled and soft and can develop a bitter taste. Sunchokes vary in color from dark brown to light brown, similar to ginger.

These tubers need be refrigerated, unwashed, in a plastic bag for up to 1 week for successful storage.

-Radishes: The raw flesh has a crisp texture and a pungent, peppery flavor, caused by glucosinolates and the enzyme myrosinase which combine when chewed to form allyl isothiocyanates , also present in mustard, horseradish and wasabi. Great for a contrast in salads like this, as well a great color burst.

-Sunchoke dressing: After roasting the sunchokes in truffle oil (truffles come from regions of Italy where Amarone grapes, Corvino are grown) use at least half (some will be softer than others) to slice for salad, and combine the interior flesh after peeling with a lemon infused vinegar, EVO, crumbled Parmesan, Italian seasonings, salt/pepper to a thick consistency (like that of Cesar Dressing) in a small chopper/food processor. Vinaigrette or dressing this rocked!The warm sunchokes warm up the seasonings, giving the salad a thread that tied the dish together with its texture and flavor!

Italian Anti-pasta dishes that contain roasted red peppers, artichokes, and other vegetables work well with wines of Italy. Sunchokes roasted bare the flavor of regular artichokes and were excellent in this dish.

-Bibb, or butter lettuce: Mild in flavor, it has been described over the centuries as a cooling counter balance to other ingredients in a salad. This makes for a great presentation.

-Dandelions: Mix raw dandelion greens in with your salad. They will add a tangy and slightly bitter flavor. Tip- If eaten raw, then sprinkle apple cider vinegar or lemon juice over one cup of dandelion greens as I have added to the dressing for this salad.

For our dessert I made 'Bread pudding Cakes' from cranberry and white chocolate rolls I made last week, and will post next as part of my '12 Days of Christmas' Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Wine-down Wednesday- Italian Wine

Angie @ Angie's Recipes mentioned in a comment last week on Wine-down Wednesday- The Other Beaujolais post, asking if I could write something on Italian wine. This thought had already crossed my mind, but there are so many to cover (lots of grape varietals, and blends). I will try and begin with a variety of grape that is not widely known, Corvino. Amarone is a top wine for the seasoned enthusiast, but it's less expensive clone is worthy of a mention- 'Baby' Amarone. This is a  very 'Sexy' Italian you might want to slip into bed with, along with a snack tray of cheese, meats, biscuits, and a good movie, with that special someone...You! Yes you, treat yourself!

 My 'Partner in Wine', Adrienne and I had this fantastic glass of 'Baby' Amarone at a local establishment in Princeton, Salt Creek Grille months back. I must confess there menu/kitchen is horribly inconsistent, but the bar/lounge area with live jazz, Wednesday half price wine, and appetizers are so worth the trip. Believe me this is not a commercial. They are over priced, and I am not sure why the kitchen just does not pull through after two years of being in business. Everyone complains about it. The interior clearly speaks $$$, and I have been wanting to say that. I did. Okay, back to the wine, we had this lovely wine one evening with a plate of red tomato sauce with a round of goat cheese floating on top, and a side of crostini.

The pairing was clearly a good one. I realized we do not drink this wine as often as in the past. The price is right and the pairings are endless. My experience and love affair with wine like this evolved after Hubby and I decided we wanted to bring a unique concept of wine tasting to Dallas in the 90's. So begins my wanting to share my wine experiences with you here...

Let me introduce you to one of my business websites, CookAppeal Wine & Food website...

The top five reasons you should join our CookAppeal Wine & Food group:
  1. Can you think of an easier way to meet new friends who enjoy food and wine as much as you do?
  2. We will answer food- and wine-related questions that you’ve always wanted to ask, but were afraid to!
  3. Imagine all the delicious homemade exotic and ethnic foods you can enjoy—without making a mess in your kitchen, breaking a sweat OR cleaning up after wards?
  4. You’ll be introduced to some very Sexy Italians (wines)!
  5. One look at our hip logo and you KNOW we’re going to be a fun-loving group! 
Our own personal experiences with wine education in the beginning was like many, trial and error; which is not bad, but we began to realize it helps to have a starting point. Taking classes, and bringing in some of the top educators into our tastings began to open our eyes. Back when having palates for steak and Cabernet, seafood and chardonnay was the cliche, and then became a faux pas we decided to step outside the box and expand the combination's.

Once we expanded our palates for global experiences, things started to click. Then hubby was slapped up side the head with big bold flavors of Italian wines. Reds like Super-Tuscan, Barolo, Amarone, Barbaresco, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello. I had to adjust my own attitude about bold wines, and I fell hard for a few Italians...

[I paired a Beef Carpaccio-Sunchoke Salad with the Masi pictured below.]

Wine classes taught us words such as 'Sexy', and 'Super-Tuscan' in reference to Italian wines. This super seeded what we had learned from French Appellation system and standards that already intimidated me. France and Italy are the two leading wine makers in the world, but Italy was the oldest know wine producer in the world. In 2005, Italy's production was about 20% of the global total. Second only to France, which produces 26%. Italy's classification system and attitudes on wine making is a modern concept mixed with old  that reflects current realities.

By going back to the beginnings of Italian wine making via Etruscan and Greek settlers we see they enjoyed wine long before France had jumped on the band wagon. They have four rating systems- basically two main specifications, two under each category. Understanding these basics can help understand their complicated wines down the road, and how they developed wine like 'Baby' Amarone. Bare with me.

Table Wine:

* Vino da Tavola (VDT) - Denotes wine from Italy. NOTE: this is not always synonymous with other countries' legal definitions of 'table wine'. The appellation indicates either an inferior quaffing wine, or one that does not follow current wine law. Some quality wines do carry this appellation.

* Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - Denotes wine from a more specific region within Italy. This appellation was created for the "new" wines of Italy, those that had broken the strict, old wine laws but were wines of great quality. Before the IGT was created, quality "Super Tuscan" wines such as Tignanello and Sassicaia were labeled Vino da Tavola.


* Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
* Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

Both DOC and DOCG wines refer to zones which are more specific than an IGT, and the permitted grapes are also more specifically defined. The main difference between a DOC and a DOCG is that the latter must pass a blind taste test for quality in addition to conforming to the strict legal requirements to be designated as a wine from the area in question. Presently, there are 120 IGT zones. In February 2006 there were 311 DOC plus 32 DOCG appellations, according to the PDF document V.Q.P.R.D. Vini (DOCG – DOC): Elenco e Riferimenti Normativi al 07.02.2006, published by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture.
 - Information: Wines Around The World, Italian Wines

I do not want to bore you with too much information, but it does help to understand labeling when looking for a decent wine. Some bottled Amarone, and 'Baby' Amarone wines are labeled (and can be confusing, as it is not their name) Corvino, due to the wine has to have at least 60-70% Corvino grapes- Plus Veronese,  Rondinella, Molinara which are chosen for having the highest sugar concentration for a successful wine. Concentrated as it is, it is exposed to Noble Rot, then store in Slavonian casks for from 5 to 8 years and in bottle for 1 year.Wow isn't the word 'rot' appetizing? Cheese has mold!

My 'Partner in Wine' Adrienne Turner (who writes about budget wines) will tell you that there are bargains out there, but you have to know what you are looking for in a good bottle. Matter of fact we discovered this is a good $12 - 20 a bottle of Italian 'variety' of wine that goes well with many ingredients. HINT: A great way to try it before you buy- By the glass wine lists in restaurants, and at a bargain of half price like Salt Creek Grill. Ask to see the bottle, read the label. Take a camera photo if you like it.

The parent wine, Amarone is a wonderful concentrated style Italian table wine from Veneto, Italy. These wines were groomed for quality, and are meant to be aged to balance out the acidity of the tannins. They let the grapes dry in the sun for about four months in a raisin process. Once this process is complete they add liquid back in, and aged in oak barrels for ten years. This technique created one of the more expensive wines of Italy, but a new and quicker style were inspired and introduced by Masi Vineyards, 'Baby' Amarone.

The Italians do not waste a trace of the precious dried Amarone grapes (just like in their cooking). Winemakers found that adding the pumice of the Amarone, the grape solids leftover after fermentation, to Valpolicella, they created something quite special. This process is called 'Ripasso', or re-passed.

'Baby' Amarone; 'Ripasso' refers to a Valpolicella wine style that's made by re-fermenting a young wine on an Amarone's leftover dried skins and lees (literally dead yeast, but it sounds much nicer if you call it "lees"). The process helps the wine to develop far beyond a typical Valpolicella, into a richer, more Amarone-style wine -- but in less time (and with less work), hence the moniker "baby" Amarone- Hence the cheaper price tag. Higher end bottles however can take up to ten years of bottle age.

A visit to Italy's wine regions is the best education if you can afford the trip, but local venues like retailers and Eno Tecca's (wine bars, with small plates) can help. Make notes. Remember many wines are meant to serve with foods, especially regional cuisine of the country of origin. If you did not care for something, do not give up. Try the wine with a meal (following hints below*), and then decide if it is for you! Grab a friend, or go alone. Wine tastings are a great way to pick the brain of the distributors or growers who are pouring the wines.

I have been told, read, and experienced the fact that unless you have a palate for heavy bold wines, then Amarone is not one you would jump into. Chianti classico is always a favorite of crowds, but it is a much lighter wine in comparison. So no two Italians are alike, but I encourage you to once again, step outside the box of your norm. 'Partners in Wine' both suggest you go for a 'Baby' Amarone over a 'Super Tuscan', and ease into bed with that 'Sexy' Italian!

Wine Suggestions-

Tommasi Viticoltori "Ripasso" Valpolicella, Calgery, $21
Masi Campofiorin (Amarone Classico), 09, Wine Spectator Rating 90- This wine is a keeper in our cellar, and is very drinkable and compatible with many foods, as well as a friendly party wine/gift, $15-17.99, depending on state, we spent as little as $12.99 in Dallas

This wine pairs well with most foods, and aged Amarone is no stranger to spicy food cultures, such as Asian regional cuisine. Meats and hard aged cheeses.
Cesari Amarone, 05, Wine Spectator, 92-  Slightly sweet currant aromas and flavors, colored with nuts and vanilla. Medium- to full-bodied, with a clean, fruity palate and fine tannins. Drink within purchase for maximum quality.

5 S's of Wine Tasting: Not laws, but helpful hints to enjoying wine!

See the wine- look at the wine at an angle against a sheet of white paper. Learn to see the color variances of each bottle and style of wine. (not that important in the learning process; will come to you as you learn)

Swirl- One of my pet peeves is the type of wine glasses restaurants use in wine service. Larger and proper shaped glasses allow for swirling, which allows for air to enter the wine and allowing wines to breath and releases the aromas of the wine.

Sniff- Another reason for proper wine glass. Higher end glasses are large at the bottom and get smaller at the top to allow the aroma to concentrate at the nose once the glass is sitting upon the mouth. By closing your eyes you should be able to take in the smells of each wine, as their bouquet opens up to your senses. For instance is the wine fruit forward, earthy, or oaky.

Sip- Now, sip the wine. Your mouth will confirm what your sense of smell has detected. A dry red wine with tannins will leave you with what they call the “pucker factor” completely drying out your mouth at the first sip. A fruity sweetened wine will sit on the tongue and play across the taste buds delighting the palate and leaving the mouth moist.

Swish & Spit- These are two extras hints for anyone attending wine tastings or classes. Many times you have so much presented that you can get 'burn out', or 'taste bud kill' by drinking and swallowing so many at one tasting, or class. Swishing wine, and then spitting it out the first go around even with casual drinking can help coat your mouth, so that the next drink should present itself with a more palatable and enjoyable drink. Also this helps if you did not like the first sip, and will help you gain more sense of its true flavor. Rinsing with water in between wines is always a good idea!

Savor- As you gently swirl the wine around in your mouth savor the flavor. You are checking for the balance of the blends; for each wine bottle is not just the end product of one type of grape, but a carefully planned blend of several types. Some wines contain not just the juice of the grape, but also the stems and the seeds.

I recommend that you 'Swish', and then swallow, then repeat for a true tasting of the wine before re-tasting or eating with food. As you develop a confidence in wine tasting, and expand your palate this stuff will just come naturally. One does not need to feel they are a snob in doing so. I myself love tasting wines, but often find myself done after about four wines during a tasting. I will then stick to one I really enjoyed, people watch, and listen to conversation about opinions of the wines served. Great lessons are learned in these social settings.


Extra Tidbit (I really tried to make this a short piece)-  Dante himself, exiled from Florence, is supposed to have spent some time in this region. In fact, bibliophiles obsessed at finding earthly and “real” inspirations to his heaven and hell, apparently have found similarities between some terrain in Valpolicella, described in Divine Comedy. Local legend has it that some of his lost cantos may in fact be hidden in the home of his descendants.

Beef Meets Sunchoke Salad recipe from above...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beer Cheese Soup in Bread Bowls

This is my fourth installment of my '12 Days of Christmas, Food ~ Wine ~ Fun', and today's theme is 'Laughter'...

Laugh and spread some sunshine...

I think most pictures, and old stories cast Santa Claus as a jolly soul who takes his task in life with stride and ease, and we should all take this to heart...

Well I find that humor has helped me through rough times. To be honest the holiday season is not my favorite time of the year, since I lost my daughter. I do enjoy a good joke, and finding the funny side of life. My father taught me to never give up, that is was okay to feel worn down, but get back up and strive for a positive existence. Bring laughter to others, and always deliver a good punch line.

Why don't you just smile for a week, maybe even thirty days, and see what that can do for others!

When I find a fellow blog who can get along with me back and forth with my silly comments, or sends me a good joke via email, well I love it! One guy who can really smoke most out with his infectious joking and laughter is Chris @ Nibble Me This. He also can cook up some fantastic food, and his camera skills rock! Thanks Chris, and thanks to all the others, you know who you are!

Chris recently posted a beer cheese soup recipe, and realizing I had not had this soup since I was in high school, and oh man that was thirty years ago! Where have I been? I have had cheese soups here and there, but nothing as good as I remembered at Baby Doe's Matchless Mine. A Dallas icon for years off the side of the hill on I-35, with their ever so popular 'free' appetizer of beer cheese soup. Growing up poor meant we did not eat out at places like that, only an occasional free pizza for our birthday from Shakey's Pizza Parlor. I was treated to that experience when I won first place in a 'Speech & Drama' class as a junior.

My son at an early age also developed a taste for soup, and when a local restaurant began serving it in bread bowls, he flipped. So, thus began my making bread bowls a tradition for him.

This is the recipe Chris had posted, but of course I tweaked it a bit, due to hubby drank all my Fat Tire Beer. All he had to offer up was some Scottish Ale, which worked, but might be a bit heavy for non beer drinkers. I also used Coleman's' dry mustard. This is has more of a bite than regular mustard. I also decided to add broccoli for added fiber. Not to mention eating it out of the bread bowls I made the night before.


Using my favorite 'Bread recipe', and shaping it into three medium sized rounds; bake, and let cool. Once they have cooled slice off the top, and hollow out enough room for soup. Pressing down interior to keep bowl from leaking. I also let mine sit out over night in a paper bag to harden just enough to soften back up with the hot soup hit the interior. Fill with soup, and if it runs what if it defeats the purpose of cleaning more dishes. Laugh and tell the spouse they are cleaning up tonight!

Eating the bread and soup together is a Delicious treat!

European Street Style Beer Cheese Soup

1 cup onion chopped
1/2 cup carrot finely diced
1/3 cup celery finely diced
1/2 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
12 ounces beer
3 cups chicken broth up to 5 cups if desired.
4 cups cheddar cheese shredded
2 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


Sauté carrots, onions, and celery in butter until the onions are translucent

Stir in flour and cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly, making sure it does not burn.

Stir in beer (must be first to cook off the alcohol), paprika, mustard, Worcestershire, and broth. Use wire whisk to smooth. Add cheese, slowly bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Feel free to mix up the cheese or a use a blend of cheeses, such as cheddar and Parmesan, sharp cheddar and colby-jack, or whatever. Tonight’s blend was some of the smoked cheeses that I cold smoked last week, including mild cheddar, white cheddar, and fontina.

-I used a mixed shredded Mexican cheese blend

Remove from heat and fold in half and half (or heavy cream if you want to get that first heart attack out of the way tonight). Add Tabasco. Serve w/ extra Tabasco on the side and fresh popcorn as garnish.

-I folded in chopped steamed broccoli florets 

PS. I forgot to share that the inside of the bread bowls will be frozen and used when I need bread crumbs, or I must confess I ate the first batch, dipping it in the soup...I'm bad!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cranberry-Bacon Lamb Love

My third installment of '12 Days Of Christmas, Food ~ Wine ~ Fun' is in honor of the jolly man himself, Santa Claus by way of a familiar story, or is it...

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
Pappa in his ‘night shirt, and I in my 'kerchief,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on in the yard there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash

To my surprise it was my cell phone
ringing, away on the front lawn
I dashed downstairs and flew out the door
I quickly answered in fear it was my son, who lives here no more...

"Hello Elizabeth", said an unfamiliar voice.

"Hello" I replied groggily. In shock, but listening I suddenly recognized the caller, "Mrs C is that you"? (eighteen years of celebrating Christmas at home with kids will do this to you!)

We talked for quite a few minutes, but as my tootsies were getting rather cold...back inside I ran. Climbing into my warm covers for a nights rest, I couldn't help but think of how my story would unfold.

I have been asked to blog for you know who during the busy holiday season by the 'anonymous' caller. Mrs. C She was kind enough to tell me about this lovely dish she wanted to share. Hearing about my '12 Days of Christmas' post she offered up these words of wisdom. Red is the color of hearts. The symbol of love, and as the preparers of meals, keepers of the kitchen, we bring much love to those in our care through our cooking. So, today I write about unconditional love for our families. This involves writing about one of her, and my own families favorite ingredients, cranberries! 

The 'anonymous' caller continued to explain how our spouses work so hard all year; it is only fair that we fill them with delectable goodies and treats in return. We also benefit ourselves! Have you ever wondered what Santa the boss man in the north eats during the holiday season? How to keep him happy, lean and mean for work; keeping the laughter flowing, and cheeks rosy red? Why of course in her words, one of many secrets, is to stash a few bags of cranberries in the freezer for those blah 'I need something to liven up a dish' days.

How about a little cranberry love for your health? They have a high nutritional value with antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties through fresh and dried alike! During the holidays cranberries are stacked and stored in markets everywhere, so stock up. They freeze perfectly, and can be used anytime up to six months, sometimes even longer if you are using them in dishes like this.

'Anonymous' mentioned her love for kitchen gadgets. She shared that Mr. C  her husband picked up a Tagine on his travels. Funny how it looks just like the one I received years ago, hmmm. Her hubby also demands loves gifts to get used, and not sit in storage. One day while reading many many blogs out there (imagine, she too keeps an eye on us all!) she ran across Marc @ No Recipes post on 'Braised Lamb Shanks in Cranberry' she realized being so busy with her own holiday activities some of those stored cranberries would be a great opportunity to duplicate his recipe.

She went on to explain, not having some of the wonderful seasonings that Marc mentions in the post, and no time to ask any elves delivery drivers to bring some from the market. She made due with what she had, but felt he would not mind if she just threw some olive oil in for prosperity, a splash of Burgundy for spirit (while enjoying a glass for herself!), along with the garlic and cumin. Making a dish of Cranberry-Bacon Lamb Loin Love.

The black cardamon (reminiscent of bacon) mention in his recipe was replaced with hardwood smoked bacon slices, and a using lamb loin over shanks as he had done. Wrapping each piece of lamb loin with a piece of the bacon, and insert a (soak in water for a few hours) toothpick to hold the two together. Hubby does not care for bacon, so I left his portion plain. The bacon however would flavor the sauce and surrounding ingredients.

Mrs. C  'Anonymous' went on to say, when it comes time to feed Santa  Claus her husband, serve just enough to fatten him up, but not to much; it will weigh down the sleigh plane if he eats more than his share. His red velvet bag luggage is heavy enough! Somehow she knows he will never learn how to travel light; it is her job to look out for his health.

Hinting that maybe some cranberry maple cookies for her spouses next return trip would be that right touch to help him recover from the traveling blues. Since his job is so demanding, she is always afraid he might storm in and say he is giving up to retire on the shores of sunny Florida. 'Anonymous' loves it up north, and would prefer he hang around there a lot longer.

I She hears the timer going off in the kitchen, so its off to prepare the lovely couscous for the cranberry lamb, and take the reindeer dog for a walk. What a nice person she is to call me and share this information!

Other 'Cranberry' Dishes-

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin (White Chocolate and Cranberry Stuffing)

Roasted Brussel Sprout Cranberry Slaw

Fig 'Cranberry' Cobbler

Good Things Catered- Cranberry Pastry Candy Cane

Go over to Marc @ No Recipes for his 'Braised Lamb Shanks in Cranberry', but I am posting his recipe according to my alterations...

3 lbs lamb shanks - 2 pounds of lamb loin, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
10 cloves
2 pods, black cardamom - 1 slice bacon per piece of lamb loin
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2″ knob of ginger grated
2 onions minced - 1 red onion, if you are using lamb loin pieces
3 Tbs sugar - 1 tablespoons of maple sugar
1 Tbs kosher salt (less if you use regular salt)
12 oz bag of fresh cranberries - half bag of cranberries, from freezer

Generously salt and pepper the lamb shanks - I lightly salted lamb loin pieces. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid on medium high heat until very hot, then add a splash of oil. Sear the shanks until golden brown on all sides. Turn down the heat if the oil starts smoking. When the shanks are browned, transfer them to a plate.

- I marinate lamb in seasonings below after I quickly brown the pieces, with 1/4 cup burgundy wine for two hours; transfer to Tagine to braise.

Add the cumin, cloves and black cardamom and swirl in the oil until you start to hear them pop. Add the garlic, ginger, onions, sugar, and salt and fry until soft and very fragrant. Add the cranberries, stir together, then nestle the lamb shanks into the cranberries and onions. Turn the heat down to low and cover with a tight fitting lid. Let this braise for 2-3 hours or until the meat easily pulls off the bone with a fork.

- Using bacon to wrap around lamb pieces, adding 1/4 cup beef stock, and about seven sliced grape tomatoes; then transfer to Tagine to braise for 45 minutes.

- I pureed some of the pan sauce, and spooned it onto the plate for party presentation, or individual plates.

Serve with rice. - I made couscous.

Next '12 Days of Christmas' post will be focusing on 'Traditions'...

Ginger Cranberries on Foodista

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wine-down Wednesday- Holiday Gifts

The Other Beaujolais

What a great way to get through your hump day when you get home by having a glass of good wine, right? All the planning, parties to attend, and just the shear fact of the holiday season gives us a reason to unwind and relax. Not to mention a bottle of wine is a great gift to pass along. Wine usually flows with no boundaries once the party really gets going.

Part of my 12 Days of Christmas, Holiday Cheer!

Before some of you get all "Where is the food Chef E" on me, I wanted to share my new 'Wine-down Wednesday' post. My way of bringing a little lot of education to the table for those who do not feel comfortable with their level of wine knowledge (not every post will be a book report).

Maybe you do know a bit about wine, or you know what you like, but are afraid to step out of the box. Wouldn't you mind a recommendation from time to time? I know I like it when my friends talk about something I have not tried before. Each week I will share some of my likes and dislikes, mingled with input from those around me who also teach me a thing or two. I feel sometimes that I am just a middle of the road wine drinker, and it would not hurt revisiting my former, and on going wine education!

Let me introduce you to a fellow wine enthusiast, AWS member, and friend, Adrienne Turner who writes about wine.

Just the weekend her and I were talking how people call us when they need a holiday gift for a party's host(ess) before or after the New Years holiday. Isn’t going into a wine store the worst experience? All those bottles, labels, and aisles and aisles of mind boggling inventory can make your head spin. Have you found yourself thinking “What the heck should I buy”? Or do you just reach for the old reliable bottle each time? I always try and encourage stepping out of the comfort zone and try something new.

With cell phone technology and better cameras, just take a photo of a label when you tried something you really like. Never hurts to make that mental note, and look for it next time you are out. Free Shop Savvy cell apps can tell you if you have found the optimum bargain with their bar code reader.

I asked a friend down south if she wanted me to bring some wine over for a gathering this past summer, and she replied that she tried Beaujolais and liked it; so, could I bring a bottle? Finding over the years that many of my friends back in Texas are not big wine drinkers, but they often confess they would try it if I help them. I knew exactly what wine she was talking about; THAT Nouveau. The bottle that comes out every third week of November.

Seems like everyone back home drinks that! Dallas has a big Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Festival each year with over three thousand in attendance. I said, "Okay Cheryl, I am going to not only bring over a bottle, but I am bringing The OTHER Beaujolais, and give your taste buds a treat". She tried the Domain De Braves, Regnie (Grand vin du Beaujolais, $15.99) hubby and I brought, and loved it! Months later she was attending a holiday gathering and told me she had picked up a Beaujolais Nouveau. You know, like the one we brought, and it was then I realized she had no idea that there was even more than one kind of Beaujolais out there.

I called Adrienne (above) and told her this would be a great idea for this week’s wine down post we are partnering on- Beaujolais, great holiday gift ideas...

Why? …because when you need something for the office Christmas party exchange, white elephant gifts, or a host/hostess party gift- Beaujolais can easily make all range of wine drinkers happy. Of course unless you are talking about sophisticated 15 year old Bordeaux drinkers, then you might as well just bring some good cheese (another post). Most bottles of the second, or third step up from Nouveau are still within a decent price range; its light, goes with many foods, and learning a little wine knowledge on its origins would impress your friends.

I often recommend Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving, because it go with so many ingredients. When it has hit the market only a week before; it is so refreshing ( - Newark, NJ- Adrienne Turner has posted a piece I wrote on Beaujolais & Thanksgiving Pairings).

Teaching friends and clients over the years to step out of their comfort zones usually means I have had to introduce them to 'not so complex wines' that do not throw tannins in their face, leaving their inner cheeks void of moisture, and that funny pucker face. If you do, they might believe all red wine is nasty, and will refuse to try them again. Just get them to take small sips at first, do the swish, swirl, and spit routine; along with a second sip, along with a bite of food they will come around. Many wines have been designed to have with food; terrior influences locally grown foods to pair well with foods grown in the same region. Sweet wine (white Zinfandel) however in my opinion, was designed for the porcelain gods, not for Dionysus (sorry, pink or blush lovers!).

How ever you white chardonnay lovers, I have news! Beaujolais has a white variety, and this is an example- Pisse-Dru Beaujolais Blanc; about $10 a bottle. Beaujolais wine is usually red, but not always. Beaujolais white wine comes from a variety of grapes that include Chardonnay grapes. I have had this variety and it can be a great conversation starter!

I have find Beaujolais Blanc style wine pairs well with buttery based foods, a wide range of cheeses, honey, herbs, cream based sauces, and poultry.

Beaujolais is very light, fruity, and easy to drink. Typically it has aromas of pear, banana, and like smells. Because of its easy drink-ability, there is a lot of cheap bottles out there sitting on shelves. On the other hand, the Crus produce fine quality, crafted wines. Beaujolais Nouveau is the first output from each harvest. Nouveau must be drunk IMMEDIATELY due to being released so soon after harvest.

Most Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages should be drunk within 2 years. Some of the best Crus can last up to 3 years, and some made in more 'traditional' wine making styles could last up to 10 years if it is a really good vintage. Beauolais has been considered the red headed step sister to France’s Burgundy region by locals. Primarily consisting of the ‘Gamay’ grape that was forbidden to be used in Burgundy, and this wine has moved forward in becoming a highly marketed wine in our country.

The key is reading the labels. Most labels will tell you at what level they are- like Nouveau is first crop; Village is a step up; Crus is the best in show, due to standards set up in France. A clue to a bad wine- if the store has bottles standing up with no quick turner over; no temperature control (hot store), if the price tag is cheap and the date is old, then it might be vinegar already. Normally old vintages of Beaujolais Nouveau should never be still on the shelf. Go visit a reputable retailer, and ask them to take you on a tour of their Beaujolais shelf. If you see a Nouveau and it’s after the first of the year; it might be okay if it is January to March, but I would not bother. Pick a bottle of The OTHER Beaujolais, and give it a try! You could be the talk of the party!

Disclaimer- In no way was this bottle of wine, cheese, or honey hurt without it's knowledge. Adrienne and I consumed most of it while we were discussing Beaujolais. We have not been paid to advertise for any wine, cheese, or honey companies during, before, or after the writing of this post. We however were given a lovely jar of Raw Honey produced by 'free' worker bees. I assume they willingly gave up honey to be bottled by AIVA in New Jersey. If any one was hurt I am sure it was the bee keeper, or their families when stung; to which I give my full thanks for all their hard work!

EXTRA INFORMATION: The Wines of Beaujolais
Andrea Immer, Great Wine Made Simple

Beaujolais , hilly region, Rhône dept., E central France, W of the Saône between Mâcon and Lyons. It is one of the great wine areas of France, famous for its red wine. Villefranche-sur-Saône, the historic capital, is a leading textile center. Lyons is the industrial hub of the region. Beaujolais was once the fief of the powerful lords of Beaujeu (a small town which gave the region its name). Annexed to the crown in 1531, it was incorporated into Lyonnais prov.

The wines from the Beaujolais region can be broadly classified in 3 groups…

Beaujolais Villages

These vineyards lie mainly in an area to the north of the Beaujolais appellation, and there are also odd pockets located in the areas around the Cru villages, where there are plots not classified as having Cru status. Typically a Beaujolais Villages will have rather more body and structure than a Beaujolais, and flavors and aromas may be somewhat more complex, although again there is a wide range of styles and quality as there are a large number or producers spread over a large geographic area. A good Beaujolais Villages will also have slightly better keeping qualities than Beaujolais - most should keep 2 years, some up to 5. Small amounts of Beaujolais Villages Rosé (also from Gamay) and Beaujolais Villages Blanc (from Chardonnay) are also produced.

Beaujolais Crus

The Beaujolais Crus (Brouilly, Côte-de-Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Saint Amour, and Régnié) are the best Beaujolais wines. There are ten Beaujolais Cru wines, these appellations being from the most northerly part of the region. They are all red and all come from the Gamay grape. In most cases the names reflect the name of a village at or near the centre of the appellation. Each has its own distinct character and style, arising from geography, soil, altitude, exposition to the sun etc, and there will often be many styles within a given Cru appellation. The Cru wines age for longest of all Beaujolais wines, especially Chénas, Morgon, Juliénas, and Moulin-à-Vent.
Beaujolais Crus- Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliènas, Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon, Régnié, Saint-Amour

Wine on Foodista