Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Peruvian Fire Flower

Many of the "Chef Bolek Original" recipes are dishes that I create "on the fly."  Some of those recipes come with caveats; this one comes with a warning.  Do not make it.  This recipe originates from the devil inside me ... the one that loves fire and spice.  I took two Aji Limo Rojo peppers, which are dried, Peruvian chile peppers and ground them down to a fine powder.  I added the powder to some garlic butter and drizzled it over a Vidalia sweet onion.  I then wrapped the onion and foil and threw it on the grill for fifteen minutes.  

The result is a very spicy blooming onion that is much healthier than the deep fried version that is available at certain restaurants that will not be named.  Although I should qualify the word "healthier" in that it will not clog your arteries like the deep fried blooming onion.  As for your stomach lining and intestinal comfort, that is a different matter.  

The reason rests with the Aji Limo Rojo, a small red pepper that comes from the same family as the habanero pepper.  The Aji Limo Rojo is very spicy, with one of the higher ratings on the Scoville scale.  Named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville scale measures the piquancy or spicy heat of chiles.  Actually, the scale is a measure of the amount of capsaicin in a chile.  Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in skin and mucous membranes.

The scale is measured in units -- Scoville Heat Units (SHU) -- and chiles are usually associated with a range of SHU.  For example, a poblano pepper ranges from 500 to 2,500 Scoville Heat Units.  A jalapeno pepper ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units.  A serrano pepper ranges from 10,000 to 23,000 Scoville Heat Units.  

As for the Aji Limo Rojo, it ranges from 50,000 to 60,000 Scoville Heat Units.  In other words, the Aji Limo Rojo can be as much as one hundred times hotter than a poblano pepper,  six to seven times hotter than a jalapeno pepper and up to five times hotter than a serrano pepper.  While I love this kind of spicy heat, it may be a little to hot for people who do not like spicy foods.  So, do not make it unless you enjoy the "burn" of hot, spicy foods. 

THE PERUVIAN FIRE FLOWER
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 1

Ingredients:
1 medium sized Vidalia onion
2 dried Aji Limo Rojo chiles
2 tablespoons of butter
1 clove of garlic, diced
1/2 tablespoon of fresh cilantro, chopped finely
Salt, to taste

Directions:
1.  Prepare the onion.  Remove the skin from the onion.  Slice a little from the bottom of the onion (the root side) so that the onion will sit flat.  Slice a little off of the top.  Then slice the onion, top to bottom and left to right.  Do not slice all the way through the onion.  Leave about 1/2 inch at the bottom.  Turn the onion forty-five degrees and repeat, cutting from top to bottom, left to right.  Place the onion on an aluminum foil sheet large enough to wrap the onion.

2.  Prepare the chiles and butter.  Grind the chiles into a fine powder. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the garlic and cilantro.  Add the chile powder and remove from the heat.  Pour the melted butter over the onion and add salt to taste.  Wrap up the onion.

3.  Cook the onion.  Heat the grill or your stove to about 400 degrees.  Grill or cook the onion for about ten to fifteen minutes. 

ENJOY!

For more on the Scoville scale, check out Wikipedia.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chateau de Riviere Chinon (2009)

Chinon is many things.  It is a city in France, along the Vienne River.  It is a chateaux, with imposing fortifications and a long history that can be traced back to 954 A.D.  And, it is a wine appellation ... the Appellation Chinon Controllee. The appellation consists of 4,500 acres of vineyards along the Vienne River.  There are two types of soil in these vineyards: sandstone and gravel along the flood plains, and clay and limestone in the hills   The wines produced along the flood plains tend to be lighter and those produced in the hills are fuller-bodied. Throughout the appellation, the primary grapes grown in the appellation are Cabernet Franc, with some Chenin Blanc. 

Drawing from the appellation and its surroundings, Chateau de Riviere produces a Chinon wine using only Cabernet Franc grapes.  The winemaker, Jean-Louis Breton, destems and vats the grapes for about twelve to eighteen days, with fermentation in temperature controlled vats.  The wine is then aged in stainless steel vats.

The tasting notes describe the wine as ruby red, with the aroma of violets.  Although I think the description of the wine is correct, I did not get any floral notes, but I did get a good spice, some black pepper and a little earthiness from the wine.  There was also aromas of some plum or blackberries.

The taste and body of the Chinon provide an interesting contrast.  The most prominent flavor of the wine is green pepper, with some spice and berry notes.  The pepper and spice flavors are ones that would normally linger on the tongue and usually come from wines that are full-bodied.  However, this Chinon has a lighter body, making it easier to drink and taming the prominent pepper flavors.  The lighter body makes this wine much for drinkable for people who may be wary of trying a wine that has pepper or spice flavors.  However, the flavors stay on the finish just long enough for people who love those flavors, like me. 

Like most red wines, this wine pairs well with red meats, such as ribeyes, strip steaks and other beef dishes.  I would also pair this wine with milder dishes, letting the wine provide the pepper spice to the meal.

This wine got an 89 from the Wine Spectator and, for a wine that sells for about $12 to $14 dollars, it is definitely a good buy for trying a wine from an appellation other than Bordeaux or Burgundy.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Roasted Turkey Thighs with Collard Greens and Potatoes

I have to say that, other than on Thanksgiving, I really do not eat a lot of turkey.  I cannot explain the lack of turkey in my diet, other than I instinctively buy chicken whenever I am thinking about cooking or grilling poultry.  This is unfortunate because I think that a turkey can be just as good, if not better, than chicken.  So, recently, when I saw that a local store was stocking turkey legs, thighs and breasts, I decided to buy a package of turkey thighs.

The next order of business was to decide upon the recipe.  I came across a recipe for Tuscan Turkey Thighs, which called for the thighs to be roasted in the oven.  I thought that this was a good way to prepare the meat.  The recipe called for the use of sage and garlic, which is a good combination of flavors.  I decided that, after applying the sage and garlic to the turkey, I would first sear the turkey thighs on the stove top and then finish it in the oven.

I decided to prepare a couple of sides.  First, I took some red skinned potatoes, quartered them and boiled them in water.  After the potatoes softened, I added them to the turkey half way though the cooking/roasting process in the oven.  I also made some collared greens, using some of the fat from the searing of the turkey thigh to saute the greens with some garlic. 



ROASTED TURKEY THIGHS WITH COLLARED GREENS 
AND POTATOES
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 Turkey thigh, between 1.5 and 2 pounds
1 bunch of sage, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, diced finely
2 medium sized potatoes, quartered
1 bunch of collared greens, chiffonade
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Boil the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a pot and fill it with water.  Bring the water to a boil and let the potatoes boil for about ten minutes.  Remove the potatoes from the water and set aside.

2. Prepare the turkey.  Salt and pepper the turkey thigh liberally.  Cut some slits on the thigh and insert some of the garlic and sage into the slits.  Rub the remaining amount of garlic and sage over the thigh and under the skin.  Reserve 1 clove of garlic for the collard greens.

3. Sear the turkey.  Heat the olive oil in a oven-resistant pan.  When the oil is hot, place the thigh in the pan, skin side down.  Let it cook for about five minutes.  Flip the thigh and cook for an additional five minutes.

4.  Cook the turkey.  While the thigh is searing, heat the oven at 400 degrees.  After the thigh has been browned and seared, place the pan in the oven for fifteen minutes.  After fifteen minutes, add the potatoes and continue to cook for another fifteen minutes.  

5.  Cook the greens.  Remove the pan from the oven and remove the turkey and potatoes from the pan to a plate.  Discard all of the fat but about one to two tablespoons.  Put the pan on medium high heat and add the collared greens and garlic.  Cook for about five to eight minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that all of the greens are cooked.
6.  Plate the dish.  You can plate the dish by first plating the greens and then placing the turkey on top.  Place some potatoes around the turkey. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cantine Volpetti Cesanese Lazio (2008)

My affinity for little known grapes is, unlike those grapes, well known (at least among followers of this blog).  I firmly believe that the wines produced with those grapes can be just as good, if not better, than wines made with more common and/or more well known grapes.  I previously posted a review about a wine produced using the Falanghina grape, as well as the wine produced by Feudi San Gregorio, which was excellent.  Now, I have found another relatively unknown grape, and, a wine to try.  The grape is the Cesanese, and, the wine is produced by Cantine Volpetti.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the Cesanese grape is where it is grown.  The grape is not grown in Italy's more reknown regions, such as Tuscany or Piedmant.  Instead, the Cesanese grape is native to and grown in the hills outside of Rome, in the Lazio region. There are two varieties of Cesanese grapes: Cesanese Comune and Cesanese di Affile.  The Cesanese Comune is the more widely grown of the two varieties.  The di Affile grape is generally considered to be a better grape, even though the Comune produces larger berries. 

Since 1958, the Volpetti family have produced wines from their small, family owned vineyard.  As Cantine Volpetti, the family produces its wines only for Siema Wines.  I could not find much about the winemaker, other than, for its Cesanese wine, Volpetti produces this wine using only Cesanese grapes, presumably of the comune variety. 

The wine is a ruby red, which becomes a lighter shade when you look into the glass.  The aromatics of this wine are a little earthy and musty.  This does not bother me too much because I can get the presence of some fruit in the aromas.   That fruit is clearly present in the taste.  This is the first wine where I could taste fruit like blueberries and maybe even a little strawberry. There is some spice around the edges, but the fruitiness of this wine is what sets this wine apart from other reds.  This is definitely a dry red wine, although it has a light body. 

The winemaker suggests that this wine can be enjoyed with roasted and grilled meats, as well as strong cheeses. While the fruitiness of this wine may make it a possible candidate for spicy foods, I think that there are enough tannins lurking in the wine to make it a recommendation only for those who truly love the heat provided by peppers and chiles. 

This wine is available at Whole Foods and sells for $9.99 a bottle.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Opala Vinho Verde (2009)

Generally, everyone talks about wines in two colors ... red and white.  However, as I have come to learn, wines come in other colors.  In the northern Portuguese region of Minho,  winemakers cultivating vines of Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, Azal and other grapes.  With these grapes, the winemakers produce a "green" wine, commonly referred to by its Portuguese name, "Vinho Verde."

Vinho Verde has its own Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC), much like Italy has its own DOC and France has its own AOC.  The Vinho Verde DOC is divided into nine subregions.  The subregions are: Amarante, Ave, Baiao, Basto, Cavado, Lima, Mancao e Malgaso, Paiva and Soussa.  (I am missing a lot of accent marks, I really need to figure out how to add them to blog posts.)  There are also two special designations for Vinho Verde: Vinho Verde Alvarinho and Vinho Verde Alvarinho Espumante.  The Vinho Verde Alvarinho is made from Alvarinho grapes from Moncao and has more alcohol than the typical Vinho Verde.  Although I could not confirm this, I believe the Vinho Verde Alvarinho Espumante is just a more sparkling version of the Vinho Verde Alvarinho.  (It would make sense because "espumante" means sparkling in Portuguese). 

I recently purchased a bottle of the Opala Vinho Verde, which, judging by the 9% alcohol, is not a Vinho Verde Alvarinho.  Still,  this wine is a very good Vinho Verde.  The Opala Vinho Verde pours almost like a sparking wine, with bubbles clinging to the side of the glass.  The aroma of this wine is full of fresh fruit, such as granny smith apples and sliced pears.  The fruit in the aromas follow through in the taste.  The apple and pear flavors are found throughout the wine, particularly in the forward and the finish.  The body of this wine is light, crisp and refreshing, making this wine a good one to enjoy on a hot and hazy summer afternoon.

The Opala Vinho Verde would pair well with a variety of dishes.  I think that the rules for pairing this wine with food would be similar to the pairing rules for other crisp, fruity white wines.  Generally, this wine would go well with dishes that have some heat or spice.  A very spicy dish would most likely overpower the wine.  As with many white wines, the Vinho Verde can be paired with with appetizers, chicken and seafood.

During my research for this post, I came across a lot of positive reviews for this wine.  I guess this is going to be one more such review because I think that the Opala Vinho Verde is a very good wine.   This wine is available at Whole Foods Market for about $8.99 or $9.99 a bottle.

ENJOY!

For more about Vinho Verde wines, check out Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Iron Chef Night -- VIDALIA ONIONS

If memory serves me right, I did a blog post just after the Christmas holiday in which I extolled the virtues of the Vidalia onion.  I gave due respect to the history of this vegetable, noting its humble beginnings on Georgia farms and its rise to become a protected treasure of a State known more for its peaches.  The Vidalia onion is by far the sweetest of the onions.  Its fresh and gratifying flavors are born out of soil that that lacks the influences of chemicals such as sulfur, whose noxious odor and corrupting tastes ruin vegetables. The relative purity of the soil produces a sweet onion that I believe is best for all forms of cooking, including my French Onion Soup.

Alas, in my post, I lamented that Vidalia onions are available only during the spring and summer months, and, that they were unavailable for me when I wanted to make my soup during the holidays.  I had to settle for sweet onions from other parts of the country, such as Texas and California.  

However, I now have organic Vidalia Onions from Antioch Farms, in Claxton, Georgia.  So, it is time for me to use my creativity to take recipes beyond where they have gone and to showcase the truly exceptional sweetness of this onion.

ALLEZ CUISINE ...

THE FIRST COURSE

For the first course, I served a Shrimp and Vidalia Onion in White Wine Marinade.  The Vidalia Onion is sliced thinly, and then marinated with other vegetables in white wine and lemon for a couple of hours.   The onion is served with freshly steamed shrimp on fresh spinach. 


SHRIMP AND VIDALIA ONION IN WHITE WINE MARINADE
Adapted from a recipe by the Vidalia Committee
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 pound of shrimp
2 Vidalia onions, sliced thinly
4 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 carrot
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 celery stalks
1 teaspoon of basil
6 teaspoons of white wine, like Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc
Spinach leaves
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Ingredients:
1. Steam the shrimp.  Salt and pepper the shrimp to taste.  Slice all of the vegetables and separate the onion slices into rings.

2.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the vegetables.  Marinate for 2-3 hours.  Add the steamed shrimp to the vegetables about five to ten minutes before serving and toss.

3.  Place the spinach leaves on a plate.  Top with with the vegetables and shrimp.

THE SECOND COURSE

For the second course, I served a Caramelized Vidalia Onion and Roasted Garlic Bisque.  I sauteed Vidalia onions with leeks for nearly an hour, while a whole head of garlic roasted in the oven.  The soup is created using vegetable stock, milk and white wine.  The onions and garlic are blended with the liquid, creating the bisque soup.  The sauteed onion and roasted garlic flavors complement each other.  These flavors create an earthy dish that still preserves some of the sweetness of the onion. A few pink peppercorns are sprinkled over the soup, providing a spicy contrast for some spoonfuls.



CARAMELIZED VIDALIA ONION AND ROASTED GARLIC BISQUE
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, Jan. 1997
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 whole garlic head
1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
9 cups of thinly sliced Vidalia onions (about 4 large onions)
2 1/2 cups leek, thinly sliced (about 2 medium sized leeks)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1/3 cup of dry white wine
4 cups of vegetable broth or vegetable stock
2 cups of 2% low-fat milk
6 tablespoons of fat-free sour cream
Toasted caraway seeds (optional)
Pink peppercorns (optional)

Directions:
1.  Remove the white papery skin from the garlic head but do not separate or peel the cloves.  Rub oil over the garlic head and wrap in foil.  Bake in an oven heated to 350 degrees for one hour.  Let cook for 10 minutes.  Separate cloves, squeeze out the garlic pulp and discard the skins.  the garlic aside. 

2.  Heat the 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a dutch oven or large pot.  Add the onion and leek.  Cook the vegetables for about thirty minutes, stirring often.  Add the thyme and 1/2 of salt.  Continue to cook for an additional thirty minutes or until the onions have become golden, stirring occasionally.  Once the onions have become golden, stir in the flour, add the wine and broth and bring the mixture to a boil. 

3. Reduce heat to a simmer and let it simmer for thirty minutes.  Add the garlic pulp, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the milk.  Continue to simmer for about eight minutes or until the mixture is thoroughly heated.

4.  Pour half of the mixture into a blender and process until smooth.  Pour the pureed mixture into a bowl.  Repeat with the remaining mixture. 

5.  Garnish with sour cream, caraway seeds or pink peppercorns if you desire.

THIRD COURSE

For the third course, I prepared Soft Shell Crabs with a Tomato Onion Salsa. This dish presents raw Vidalia onions in a fresh salsa with tomatoes, parsley and pine nuts.  The freshness of the salsa and the raw onion is contrasted with the richness of the sauteed soft shell crab.


SOFT SHELL CRAB WITH TOMATO ONION SALSA
Adapted from Chef 2 Chef
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the soft shell crabs):
2 soft shell crabs, cleaned
1 cup of flour
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients (for the salsa):
1/4 pound of cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup of Vidalia onions, chopped
1/8 cup of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
Handful of toasted pine nuts
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
1.  Prepare the salsa.  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a saute pan.  Dredge the soft shell crabs in the flour . Shake off the loose flour.  When the butter is melted and the oil hot, add the soft shell crabs carefully to the pan.  Let the soft shell crabs cook four about four minutes and then flip them.  Cook for about another four minutes and the crabs should be finished.

3.  Plate the soft shells and spoon the salsa over the crabs.

THE FOURTH COURSE

Although served with the third course, this dish presents the Vidalia onion in a slightly different way.  Rather than contrasting the onion to the rich taste of the soft shell crab, the Vidalia onion is contrasted with the rich texture of the avocado.  The fresh Vidalia onions are sliced thinly and served over fresh avocado.  A drizzle of red wine vinegar and olive oil completes the dish.


AVOCADO ONION SALAD
Adapted from Delish.com
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 Avocado, sliced
1/2 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Directions:
1. Arrange the avocado slices and top them with the sliced onion.

2.  Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the avocados and onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bergström Winery Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir (2007)

Bergström Winery is a relative newcomer to Willamette Valley, making wine since 1999.  Bergström combines old world philosophy with new world techniques to produce a range of wines, from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir.  The winemaker has its own vineyards which includes three different plantings in two American Viticultural Areas.  From this vineyard, as well as using grapes from other vineyards, Bergström makes a wide range of wines, including the 2007 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir, which my beautiful wife and I picked up during our honeymoon.

Many winemakers have used grapes from the Shea Vineyard to make wines.  I've previously reviewed one of those wines, the Panther Creek Cellars Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir (2006).  Like Panther Creek Cellars, Bergström obtains grapes from thirteen dedicated acres at the Shea Vineyard.  These acres are planted with five different clonal varieties of Pinot Noir, namely the Pommard, Wadenswil, Dijon 115, 777 and 828.

Both Clare and I visited the Bergström Winery tasting room in Willamette Valley during our honeymoon.  It was an impressive tasting room, perched on a hill overlooking acres of grape vines.  We sat out on a deck, looking at those vines and a neat little barn (pictured right).  We tasted some great wines while relaxing on that deck.  Ultimately, we purchased a couple of bottles to take home with us, including the Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir. 

The Pinot Noir pours a crimson and ruby red, which I thought was a shade darker than an average Pinot Noir.  After a few minutes, I took in the aromatic elements of the wine.  The aromas of this wine were rather interesting, including wood and earth, with some fruit.  These aromas were pleasant to me, because I prefer earthier Pinot Noirs over lighter ones.  As I sipped this wine, I could get the sense of some spice on the tip of the tongue, which was quickly followed by the taste of full, dark fruit, such as blackberries and dark cherries.    

As with red wines generally, the Bergstrom Pinot Noir can be paired with red meats and hard cheeses.  Clare and I paired this wine with Clare's Salmon Burgers with Ancho Guacamole.  The earthiness of the Pinot Noir was a good complement to the spice in the burgers (which was from the Lusty Monk mustard).  I think this wine would pair well with most other salmon dishes.

The Bergström Shea Valley Pinot Noir was one of the more expensive wines that we purchased on our honeymoon.  The wine sells for about $48.00 per bottle.  I have seen Bergström wines at some larger wine and beer stores, like Binny's in Chicago; however, the wine is available from Bergström's website.

ENJOY!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Salmon Burgers with Ancho Guacamole

I am not the only one who cooks in our family.  My beautiful wife, Clare, is also a great cook and a great baker.  Every once in a while, I ask my Angel to provide a guest blog post so that I can share some of the amazing and delicious things that she makes for family, friends and, of course, me.  She has already provided guest blog posts about Tuscan Vegetable Soup, Cuban Bread and Loyalist Bread. So, without further ado,

A Guest Blog Post by Clare ...

Keith has posted a few things about our recent vacation in the Outer Banks on his blog.  We spent a week with my parents, along with one of my aunt and uncle and my cousins in Avon, which is near Hatteras. For the first night, the plans were to grill hamburgers and hot dogs.  This is a problem for me because I do not eat meat.  But I do eat seafood.  My dad went to the grocery store and bought a piece of salmon and made me salmon burgers.  The burgers that he prepared were delicious and I got to thinking about salmon burgers a lot.  Eventually, I decided to make salmon burgers myself.

I looked at a couple of recipes online and I talked to my dad and Keith.  My dad helped me with the ingredients for the salmon burgers and Keith had a great idea of "planking" the burgers.  By using cedar planks, it would be much easier to turn the burgers and the planks would add a little cedar flavor to the burgers.  Keith also offered to make some ancho guacamole for the salmon burgers.  The guacamole was a good topping for the burgers.  


SALMON BURGERS
A Clare Bolek Original
Serves 12

Ingredients:
2 pounds of salmon
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons of Lusty Monk Mustard (you can substitute
      with Dijon Mustard)
1 medium Vidalia onion, diced
3 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 beaten eggs
3 cloves garlic, diced finely
1 teaspoon of Spanish paprika
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Begin soaking a cedar plank(s) in water.  You should be able to place about four burgers on a plank.  The plank(s) should soak for about an hour.

2.  Prepare the burgers by cutting the salmon into even pieces.  Place the salmon pieces in a food processor and process until the salmon is broken up.  Add the salmon to a bowl and add the onion, garlic, cilantro, paprika and lemon juice.  Mix thoroughly and then add the Panko bread crumbs, eggs and olive oil. Continue to mix thoroughly.

3. Make patties by taking a handful of the salmon mixture.  You should get about a dozen patties.  Place the patties on a sheet of wax paper.  Once all of the patties are formed, place them in the freezer for about one half of an hour.

4.  After about thirty minutes, remove the patties from the freezer.  Heat the grill on medium high heat.  Remove the plank from the water and pat dry.  Drizzle a little olive oil on the plank and place the patties on the plank(s).

5.  Put the planks on the grill.  Let the burgers cook for about ten minutes and then flip them.  Continue to cook the burgers for about ten minutes more.  Remove the burgers from the heat.

Serve the salmon burgers on toasted or grilled buns.  You can use whatever toppings you like, such as lettuce, tomato, red onion or ... guacamole.


ANCHO GUACAMOLE
Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown
Serves many

Ingredients:
3 avocados
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, diced

Directions:
1.  In a large bowl, place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat the avocado with the lime juice. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated.

2.  Add the salt, cumin, and ancho chile powder.  With a potato masher, mash the avocados.

3.  Fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice.

4.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

The Salmon Burgers were a great success.  Both Keith and I really enjoyed eating these burgers.  The great thing is that we more burgers, which I froze to eat another day.  I am definitely going to make this recipe again.  As Keith would say,

ENJOY!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The First Smoking of the Season

Having returned from a vacation in the Outer Banks and really wanting to do my first barbecue for the year, I decided that I would smoke some pork in the Eastern Carolina style.  Barbecue in North Carolina is exclusively pork.  There is a historical reason for the pork-centric nature of Carolina BBQ. The early explorers from Spain, beginning with De Soto, and settlers from England brought pigs with them on their voyages to the new world.  The pigs thrived much better in the woodlands of the South than cattle.  Over the years, decades and even centuries, pork became the principal form of protein in the South.  And, in the eastern part of North Carolina, barbecue means smoking a whole hog, pulling the meat and bathing it with a vinegar/pepper based sauce. 

The problem is that I do not have the facilities to smoke a whole hog at my home.  (One of my dreams is to be able to smoke or roast a whole hog, but the strident objections from Clare remain an obstacle to realizing that dream.)  I initially wanted to smoke a boston butt, but the pork I bought had been sliced by the grocery store.  I did not realize this until I got the pork home and unwrapped the tight clear wrap, only to watch the shoulder fall apart.  A little annoyed at the grocery store, I decided to buy another one from a different store.  That store did not have any boston butts, but it did have picnic cuts.  I have never smoked with the picnic before; all of my prior BBQ adventures involved smoking boston butts.  

Photo from whatareyousmoking.files.wordpress.com
Now a little background about the terminology.  The "boston butt" and the "picnic" comprise an entire shoulder of the pig.  Actually, the front two haunches of a pig.  Although they are both part of the same haunches, the two cuts have some important differences.  Most notably, the boston butt has more fat on it than the picnic, while the picnic almost always has a good amount of the skin (which has some fat underneath it).  

The differences between the butt and the picnic are important when it comes to smoking, at least from what I have learned.   The picnic has less fat interspersed in the meat, with most of the fat in a layer just underneath the skin.  Thus, a picnic requires a good mop sauce and a lot of mopping to keep it from drying out.  By contrast, a boston butt has more fat throughout the cut, which helps to keep the meat more moist during the cooking process.  Normally, with the a boston butt, I would mop maybe once an hour after four or five hours of smoking.  With a picnic, however, I would do it once every forty-five minutes or even once every half hour after four hours depending upon how the smoking is going. 

My first smoking of the season was also my first effort at smoking a picnic.  The shape of the picnic proved to be an obstacle, because part of the edge dried out and  a little difficult to pull, while the rest of the pork, especially around the bone, remained most and easy to pull.  The pork is very good, although it was a little more like chopped pork than pulled pork.  Still, I would call this a success because the vinegary, East-Carolina sauce worked very well with the pork. It reinforced why I like Carolina BBQ.

All of the fixings I need for a good pulled pork sandwich
I debated about whether to post the recipe with this blog post.  I decided that I would hold off until after I tried to make this BBQ using a boston butt.  I think that it will be even better, and more blog worthy, when done with the butt rather than the picnic.  I'm already planning the next smoking sessions.  So, until next time ...

ENJOY!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Around the World in 80 Dishes: The Philippines

It has been a while since my last stop on my culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes.  The passage of time is due to two factors.  First, I usually spend a lot of time researching each challenge to make sure that the dish that I am making is authentic and that the recipe I use comes as close as possible to what cooks in the particular country would do to make the dish.  This research is important, because many of my prior challenges -- such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Mongolia -- are some of the most viewed posts on my blog.  Accordingly, I try to take the time to research the dish to make sure that it is at least representative of the country's cuisine, along with the appetizers, side dishes and, in some cases, beverages that I make to go along with that meal.  Second, I have not had the time in recent weeks to do the required research. 

Recently, I set aside time to get myself back on track.  I now find myself facing the challenge of preparing a main course from the Philippines.   Like most countries, the cuisine of the Philippines is strongly influenced by its history and its geography.  With respect to the former, the centuries of Spanish colonization has left its imprint on Filipino cuisine.  This influence is most apparent with is often referred to as the "national dish" of the Philippines ... Chicken Adobo or Adobong Manok.  The word "adobo" means marinade in Spanish, but the marinade used Adobong Manok is uniquely Filipino.  As for the geography, the proximity of the Philippines to China has resulted in a substantial Chinese population emigrating from the continent to the Filipino islands.  The influence of the Chinese is perhaps most evident in some of the noodle dishes served in the Philippines.   

For this challenge, I have decided to prepare Adobong Manok, which I served with some jasmine rice. This main dish satisfies the challenge, and, it also hearkens to the Spanish influences in Filipino cuisine.  I also decided to make an appetizer, Tahong Ng Sabaw or Green Mussel Soup, which pays tribute to the Asian influences on the Philippines and its food. 

 THE APPETIZER
  
The green mussel (Perna Viridis) is just that ... a mussel with a green shell.  Green mussels were cultivated in Asia, but are now found around the world.  Well, green mussels are found in many parts of the world, except around where I live.  Consequently, I used Prince Edward Island mussels, known for their black shells, to make this dish.  The Asian influences are readily apparent in the use of fish sauce, a popular condiment in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.  The mussels can be served with jasmine rice, although I did not do that because I was going to have rice with the main course.


TAHONG NG SABAW (GREEN MUSSEL SOUP)
Recipe adapted from All Fish Seafood Recipes.com
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds of fresh mussels, cleaned
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, diced
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
3 cups of water
2 handfuls of fresh Spinach, chiffonade
Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Saute the vegetablesHeat the oil in a pot over medium high heat.  Add the onions, garlic and ginger.  Saute and stir occasionally until the onion is translucent and the ingredients are fragrant, which should take about five minutes.

2.  Add the tomatoes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to saute for about two minutes.  Stir occasionally.

3.  Make the soup.  Add the water and fish sauce.  Bring the liquid to a boil.

4.  Steam the mussels.  Add the mussels.  Add enough water (if necessary)  When the mussels have opened, they are done.

5.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Add the spinach, stir and season with ground black pepper and, if you so desire, a little more fish sauce.  

THE MAIN COURSE

Chicken Adobo or Adobong Manok is a uniquely Filipino dish. The "adobo" or marinade consists of white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar, although plain white vinegar could be used as well), soy sauce, garlic, and bay leaves. After a stint in the marinade, usually between one to four hours, the chicken is then cooked in the marinade until tender. The typical preparation, based upon my research, would then be to remove the chicken and brown it in a separate pan, while the marinade cooks down into a sauce. The browned chicken is then returned to the sauce and is ready to serve.


ADOBONG MANOK (CHICKEN ADOBO)
Adapted from Whats4Eats
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
2 to 3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
3/4 cup of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, diced
1-2 bay leaves
6-8 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Marinate the chicken.  Add the chicken pieces, vinegar, soy sauce, onion, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt to a large, non-reactive bowl and refrigerate for one to four hours to marinate.

2.  Cook the chicken.  Place the chicken and its marinade in a large pot.  Add the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for thirty to forty-five minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.  Add water as necessary to keep the chicken from drying out.

3.  Brown the chicken.  Remove the chicken from its sauce, reserving the sauce, and pat dry.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high flame and saute the chicken pieces to brown them.  Remove from heat and set aside.

4.  Reduce the sauce.  Bring the remaining sauce to a boil over medium flame and cook until somewhat reduced and thickened.

5.  Add the chicken to the sauce.  Toss the browned chicken pieces with the reduced sauce and serve with jasmine rice. 

*     *     *

Overall, this was a good challenge to get back into the swing of the Around the World in 80 Dishes.  The Tahong Ng Sabaw turned out perfectly, although the mussels available to me were on the small side.  The key to the dish is that, after the mussels are put into the pot, you add just enough water to barely cover the mussels.  The mussels I used were so small that no additional water was necessary.  The Adobong Manok turned out very well and it was an interesting introduction to Filipino food.  The vinegar and soy sauce flavors of the sauce were actually delicious and did penetrate the chicken well.  I think the next time I make this dish I will let the sauce cook down a little more.

After a successful challenge in The Philippines, I now turn to planning the next challenge.  Until next time ... 

ENJOY!

For more about the influences on Filipino food, check out this website.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fiore Sardo Crusted Ribeye

This recipe is another one that I just thought up at the last minute.  Seeing a small chunk of Fiore Sardo cheese at my local grocery store, and, really wanting to make a steak, my mind wandered about what I could do to combine the cheese with the meat.   Of course, I could just eat the cheese on the side, but, I thought about dishes that I've had or seen in restaurants where steaks were served with cheese.  Most often, it is a blue cheese. But why not Fiore Sardo?

Fiore Sardo is a hard pecorino cheese made from the milk of sheep native to three provinces of Sardinia, which are Nuoro, Sassari and Cagliari.  It has its own DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), which specifies certain rules for the production of this cheese.  The rules require Fiore Sardo to be made only with whole sheep's milk, curdled with lamb or kid rennet.  After a brief stint in a brine, the cheese is dry salted and aged.  The rules also require that the crust be yellow to dark brown, while the interior is white or pale yellow. 

All of these rules and requirements lead to some differences between Fiore Sardo and other pecorino cheeses, such as Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Toscano, because the Fiore Sardo is richer and more mellow, with less salt than either the Romano or Toscano. When the cheese comes to room temperature, the oils are released and the grassy, flowery smell of the cheese is amazing. 

My thought was to take this great cheese and use it to make a "crust" on the ribeye.  I have not made cheese crusts for cuts of beef like ribeyes before.  This is because, the general rule is that great cuts of meat like strip steaks and ribeyes do not need such flavor enhancements.  This is especially true with respect to grass fed meat, whose cherry red meat is very flavorful and good enough by itself.  Nevertheless, there is always room for experimentation and, in this case, the experiment was a great success.  The cheese provided an interesting, grassy flavors that complement and contrast with the flavor of the beef, which is quite an amazing feat. 


FIORE SARDO CRUSTED RIBEYE
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1  bone-in ribeye of about 1.5 to 2 pounds
1/4 to 1/3 pound of Fiore Sardo, grated finely
1.5 tablespoons of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, freshly ground
1 small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1.  Prepare the Fiore Sardo topping.  Combine the Fiore Sardo, thyme, pepper and red pepper flakes.  You could add salt, but I think the salt in the cheese is sufficient for this dish.

2.  Add the topping to the ribeye.  Coat the entire ribeye with a little olive oil.  Maybe about two tablespoons of oil at most. The oil will help the cheese stick to the meat.  Use about 2/3 of the crust mixture and apply it to all sides of the meat.  

3.  Cook the ribeye.  Turn on the broiler.  Cook the meat for about fifteen minutes on each side.  About ten minutes before the steak is finished, put the remaining 1/3 of the crust mixture on the top of the meat.  

4.  Let the ribeye rest.  Remove from the heat and let it sit for five to ten minutes.  Cut the meat into slices and serve immediately.

I really liked this recipe and it is one of the better steak recipes that I have done recently.  It is always a great experience to combine two foods that you like, such as, for me, Italian cheese like the Fiore Sardo and grass-fed beef.  Just as following the rules can create an amazing cheese, breaking the rules by using that cheese with a ribeye can also create an amazing eating experience. 

ENJOY!

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Belgium's Fat Tire Amber Ale

Since 1991, New Belgium Brewing Company has defined itself by not only its beers, but also its corporate practices.  With regard to the former, New Belgium is employee-owned, with employees gaining a share of the business after having worked for one year with the brewer.  Also, on their first anniversary, the employee receives a cruiser bike.  The bikes are to encourage employees to forgo their cars and reduce their carbon footprint.

Bikes play an important role not only with the identity of New Belgium, but also its flagship beer, the Fat Tire Amber Ale.   The "Fat Tire" is named in honor of the founder's bike trip through Belgium.  Indeed, New Belgium is symbolic of that Belgian trip ... just as the founder pedaled his way from Belgian city to city, so the brewery goes from beer to beer, brewing in a style that brings the best of that Belgium's brewing traditions to the United States.

The Fat Tire is an amber ale and, as expected, the beer pours a very nice amber color.  The aromatic elements of this beer feature the malts used in the production of this beer.  The brewer uses Pale, C-80, Munich and Victory malts.  The aromas provided by these malts, as well as the yeast, give this beer a very pleasant aroma.  However, most red ales are known more for their hops than their malts or yeasts.  New Belgium uses Willamette, Golding and Target hops to make this beer.

As for the taste, the brewer notes that the beer has a biscuit like maltiness that is balanced with hoppy freshness.  I have to agree with this description.  The beer does have a sort of bready, biscuity flavor, that is clearly tied to the malts.  There are hints of the hops in the beer; however, the flavor of this ale is more about the malts than the hops.  This provides a different taste experience, setting the Fat Tire apart from other red ales in a very good way. 

The Fat Tire Amber Ale has an ABV of 5.2%.  I picked up a six pack of the beer after a morning of fishing in the Outer Banks for $8.99.  I have heard New Belgium is in the process of expanding its distribution, and, therefore, this beer should become more widely available in the near future.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chef's Choice Porterhouse Steak

Last year, I lamented in a blog post about the closing of an amazing butcher chop in Berea, Ohio.  For years, Chef Choice Meats was a great place to go if you were looking for Ohio-raised, grass fed beef.  Chef Choice Meats was also a great place for sausages and smoked meats that were prepared on the premises.  The man behind Chef's Choice was Kris Krieger, who I met a few times.  I would visit his store when I was back in the Cleveland area, usually to pick up some of his spice rub, which was great for pork and chicken, but also worked well with beef.  And, on a couple of occasions when I was cooking or grilling for my parents, I would buy the beef from Chef's Choice.

Each time I purchased beef, I would order porterhouse steaks.  Chef Krieger would personally cut the steaks.  Each steak was individually cut and weighed in at two pounds.   After cutting the steaks, Chef Krieger would bring them for my review.  The steaks were works of art, perfectly marbled with just enough fat along the edges.  I never had to trim any of the steaks when I got to my parents' house.  They were ready for the grill ... well, almost ready.    

Each time that I bought the steaks, Chef Krieger would ask, "do you know how to cook them?"  Although I thought I did, I would still ask him for his advice.  "Some salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and a little garlic, that's all."   And, he was right.  

It takes a little imagination, but it kind of looks like Ohio.
Unfortunately, Chef Krieger closed his butcher shop last year.  He was not getting enough business from the locals (and obviously could not survive on the business from out-of-town types like me).  However, his advice lives on whenever I grill porterhouse steaks.  Recently, I decided that I would take Chef Kris Krieger's advice and turn it into a recipe memorializing Chef's Choice Meats.  I kept it simple: one very large porterhouse steak, some kosher salt, some freshly ground pepper and a little finely diced garlic.  The best part, I was able to find a porterhouse steak that, when raw, vaguely resembled the shape of the State of Ohio.

I served this steak dish with grilled rosemary potatoes and grilled Vidalia onions.  And, as for the pairing, there is nothing better to go with a dish dedicated to a butcher who promoted Ohio beef than a craft beer from one of the best craft brewers in Ohio, Fat Head's Head Hunter IPA, which is brewed by brewmaster Matt Cole at Fat Head's in North Olmsted, Ohio.


CHEF'S CHOICE PORTERHOUSE
Inspired by the advice of Chef Kris Krieger
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 two pound porterhouse steak
1/2 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
Extra virgin olive oil, to coat the steak


Directions:
1.  Add the rub to the porterhouse steak.  Mix together the salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper over all sides of the steak.  Rub a little olive oil on all sides of the steak and then sprinkle the garlic, making sure that the garlic is pressed into the meat.

2.  Grill the steak.  Heat the grill on medium high heat.  Place the steak on the grill.  Let it grill for about four to five minutes and turn.  Grill for another four minutes and flip the steak.  Repeat the process by grilling for about four to five minutes and turn to grill for another four minutes.  This procedure will create the grill marks on the meat.

3.  Let the steak rest, then slice and serve.  Remove the steak and let it rest for about ten minutes.  Cut the meat from the bone and then slice it.

Chef Krieger's advice would work with just about any steak, not just a porterhouse.  For example, strip steaks, ribeye steaks, and cowboy steaks.  The only thing is trying to find beef that is worthy of his advice. I almost always buy local, grass-fed beef.  Nothing less will do.

ENJOY!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Schlafly Beer Pale Ale

I was introduced to Schlafly Beer by a couple of really good friends from Saint Louis.  I've previously told the story that I met them in the elevator the day before my wedding; and, after the introductions, they handed me a six pack of Schlafly Pale Ale. Our friends are such good friends that they traveled from St. Louis, Missouri to Birmingham, Alabama for the Guest Chef Night, when Clare's father Frank and I served as chefs for our good friends.  And, they brought more Schlafly, a mix of some of Schlafly's year-round beers, including the Pale Ale.  

Schlafly Beer describes the Pale Ale, which is its flagship beer, as a "rich, amber-colored, medium-bodied, British style ale with a smooth, mild hop character."  The brewer uses East Kent Golding, Northdown, and Pilgrim hops, all of which are from the United Kingdom.  These hops are "paired" with 2 row and caramel malted barley.  The end result is a copper colored beer with an ABV of about 4.4% and an IBU of 25.  An IBU of 25 is on the low end of the range for a Pale Ale, which generally is from 20 to 50 IBUs. However, the IBU is perfect for obtaining that "smooth, mild hop character" sought by the brewer.

The beer pours a copper color, which amber and orange hues in the glass.  There is a thin, off-color foam that continues long after the beer is poured.  The aromas of this beer feature grapefruit, along with some hints of bread, most likely from the yeast. The use of traditional British hops such as East Kent Goldings provide the beer with the flavor one would expect from a British pale ale.  The body of the beer is medium, although the finish is fairly dry. 

When it comes to pairing with this beer, the rules for pairing with pale ales generally apply.  The pairings include all types of meat, especially beef, bison and lamb.  Pale ales can also be paired with poultry and certain cheeses, like cheddar.  An Internet search produced one restaurant, which was doing a Schlafly beer tasting, paired this beer with a Seafood Bisque.  This is an interesting pairing, a mellow Pale Ale with a smooth soup. 

As its flagship beer, the Schlafly Pale Ale should be available at stores with large beer selections.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Riesling Steamed Hake with Sauteed Red Chard

I have to admit that I completely winged this recipe.  We have had a few ingredients that had been sitting around in our vegetable basket, like a sweet onion and a couple of shallots, that needed to be used.  Those ingredients can be used in a lot of ways, but neither really stands out as a principal ingredient, at least for the dish I wanted to cook.  

So, I bought some Hake and some red chard.  I immediately faced a problem.  Although very healthy, chard is a bitter leaf vegetable.  I needed to think of some ingredients to use to help smooth out the bitterness.  I bought a small bulb of fennel, which would provide some anise and licorice flavors. However, the ingredient that I thought would do the best job of taming the bitterness of the chard is wine.  And, not just any wine, but a Riesling.

Rieslings are white wines full of fruit flavors, such as pears, peaches, and other refreshing fruits.  Germany is well known for its Rieslings, as is the Alsace region of France.  However, I decided to go with an American Riesling.  I bought a Riesling from the Columbia Valley in Washington and proceeded home to make this dish. 

The dish basically involves the steaming of the hake with the Riesling wine.  I did not have a steam plate, so I used the sweet onion as the platform, filling the pan with wine until it was just below the top of the onions.  I put the hake on top and set the heat on high.  This dish is still a work in progress and I will update the post if I make any changes to it. 


RIESLING STEAMED HAKE WITH SAUTEED RED CHARD
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3
Ingredients: 
1 pound of Hake fillet, cut into even-sized pieces
1 bunch of red chard, stems diced finely and leaves sliced
1 large sweet onion, cut into thick slices
2 shallots, sliced
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 small bulb of fennel, stalks trimmed off and diced finely
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 bottle of Riesling
1 tomato, cut into eighths
1/2 lemon, cut into quarters
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Directions:
1.  Saute the chard.  Heat the butter and oil in a a large saute pan on medium-high heat.  Add the chard stems and fennel.  Saute for about five to eight minutes until the chard stems and fennel are soft.  Add the chard leaves and continue to saute the chard for about a minute or two.  Add about 1 1/2 cups of wine and let the chard cook until the wine cooks down, about five to eight minutes.

2.  Steam the fish.  Place the onions at the bottom of a rounded saute pan and pour about 1 1/2 cups of wine until the wine is just below the top of the onions.  Heat the pan on high and place the hake on the onion.  Cover and, when the wine begins to heat up and steam, it will cook the fish.  The fish will need to steam for about eight to twelve minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish.

3.  Finish the dish.  Remove the chard and place in a colander over the bowl to help drain any excess liquid  Then plate the chard first and the fish on top of the chard.  Plate with tomato and lemon wedges.  Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

As for the rest of the wine, drink it.  Rieslings are great, refreshing wines.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grilled Red Curry Duck Breast with Maytag Blue Mashed Potatoes

I think there is a special place in cooking for duck fat.  The layer of fat, comfortably sandwiched between the skin and the meat serves a few, very important purposes.  The fat helps to keep the meat moist during the cooking process.  It also helps to add a lot of rich flavors to that meat.  Chefs love to cook with duck fat because of those flavors. 

I am still reticient to cook with any animal fat out of concerns about the levels of saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as cholesterol.  However, in comparison to fat from other animals, duck fat is relatively healthier, with more beneficial unsaturated fats and a profile that is closer to olive oil than butter. It also contains lineolic acid, which is used by the body to keep muscle and neural cells healthy, as well as to help kidney function.  (For more about the health benefits of duck fat, check out Garrett McCord's article on the Epi-Log on Epicurious.com.)  Of course, it is still fat and it still contains unhealthy saturated fats.

Notwithstanding the above, I did not feel ready to spoon a good-sized dollop of duck fat onto a pan or immerse foods in duck fat.  Small steps are required, particularly because I have not cooked duck very often, let alone worked with duck fat.  In fact, I think I have only cooked duck a couple of times a long time ago.  Looking back on my blog, I noticed that I do not have any recipes for duck.  So, I decided that I would rectify thart situation and began to search the Internet for a good recipe.  I found a recipe for Red Curry Grilled Duck, which was fairly easy to make.  All the recipe calls for is a couple of duck breasts, some red curry paste, a little coconut milk and a small amount of dark brown sugar.  Add some salt and ground pepper, the dish is ready to go. 

I decided to pair the Thai flavors of red curry paste and coconut milk with an American side, Maytag blue mashed potatoes.  This side dish just required a few potatoes, a hunk of Maytag Blue Cheese, a stick of butter (I used extra butter because I did not have milk at the time), and some elbow grease.  The result was a very delicious red, white and blue meal.


GRILLED RED CURRY DUCK BREAST WITH 
MAYTAG BLUE MASHED POTATOES
Adapted from Firepit and Grilling Guru
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the Duck):
2 whole duck breasts
1/4 cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of red curry paste
1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the Potatoes):
4 to 6 small to medium sized potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
     cut into even-sized pieces 
1/4 to 1/3 pound of Maytag Blue Cheese, cut into small pieces
1 stick of unsalted butter

Directions:
1.  Make the mashed potatoes.  Put the potatoes into a pot filled with water and bring the pot to a boil.  Cook the potatoes for about ten minutes until they are soft when poked with a fork.  Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.  Add the butter and the cheese.  Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and whip them until they are the consistency you desire.

2.  Marinate the duck.  Combine the coconut milk, curry paste, and brown sugar and stir very well.  Season the duck with salt and ground pepper and then cover the duck on both sides with the curry and coconut mixture.  Let the duck marinate for about fifteen minutes but no more than one hour.  

3.  Grill the duck.  Heat the grill to about 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the duck on the grill, skin side down for about five minutes.  Turn the duck ninety degrees and grill for a couple minutes more.  Then flip the duck and grill for about ten minutes.  Turn the duck ninety degrees again and grill for about three to five more minutes.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Remove the duck and rest for five to ten minutes.  Carve and plate with the mashed potatoes.  

Garret McCord, the blogger at Epi-Log (noted above) said, "[j]ust cook once with duck fat and you will be converted to the Church of Quack." I think the same could be said about cooking with duck in general.  As you cook with duck breasts, the fat melts into and over the meat, imparting some amazing, rich flavors.

This recipe was a good initial foray into cooking duck and I can consider myself applicant for the Church of Quack.  Now, to gain full membership, I'll need to buy a vat of duck fat and start cooking with it.  That will have to wait for a future blog post.

ENJOY!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Vino del Corazon Cabernet Sauvignon

A few years ago, I traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico for work.  After several stressful hours of work, I had some free time to do some sightseeing.  For me, "sightseeing" includes, not only visits to historical sites, but also checking out local restaurants, breweries and gourmet stores.  I did all of the above during that visit, but there was an added bonus.  As I as walking back to the hotel, I saw a sign for a tasting room for a local winemaker called Vino del Corazon.  I was intrigued by the thought of winemaking in New Mexico.  After all, when the State of New Mexico is mentioned, one first thinks of the deserts, which seems to be the last place where one would expect to find acres and acres of grape vines. 

Not only does New Mexico have a growing wine movement, it also has a claim to being the oldest wine region in the United States.  According to the New Mexico Wine Growers Association, a Franciscan named Fray Gracia de Zuniga and a Capucin monk named Antonio de Arteaga planted the first grapes in 1629 at Senecu, a small pueblo south of Socorro.  The Franciscan and Capucin monk planted the grapes known as Vitis Vinifera, or the "Mission Grape" at the San Antonio de Padua mission.   After the grapes were introduced by missionaries, according to the Wine Growers Association, wine production continued and expanded throughout the State, with vineyards along the Rio Grande River from Bernalillo to Socorro, and from Mesilla to El Paso.  Eventually, New Mexico became the fifth largest wine producing state in the Region.  However, wine production ultimately faded due to the weather, the Rio Grande and Prohibition.

In recent years, there has been a renaissance of grape production and winemaking in New Mexico.  Today, there are over thirty-five winemakers, including Vino del Corazon or "Wine of the Heart."  Started by Erica and Richard Hunt, Vino del Corazon has a wide array of wines, from a Riesling to a Cabernet Sauvignon.  I purchased some of Vino del Corazon's wines for special occasions, when I could share the wines with my beautiful wife, Clare.  On night of our second anniversary, I opened a bottle of the winermaker's Cabernet Sauvignon for us to drink and celebrate that great day.  

The Cabernet Sauvignon pours a crimson red in color, which is to be expected of full-bodied red wines.  The winemaker suggests that the wine has aromas of black cherries and cocoa.  Personally, I was able to detect the cherries and the aroma of the wine was quite pleasant.  The taste of the wine was even better than the aroma, filled with dark plums and black cherries.  The most noteworthy part of the taste of the wine is the significant spice or black pepper.  This spice provided an interesting character to the wine, as if to reinforce the fact that it comes from a State known for its chile peppers.  I am someone who loves spice in just about everything, including wine.  Thus, it comes as no surprise that I really liked the contribution of the black pepper and spice notes to the overall taste of the wine.  As Clare and I drank the wine, I also noted the smooth body and slightly dry finish.  These characteristics made the wine very easy to drink and enjoy.

The Cabernet Sauvignon is available from Vino del Corazon's tasting room in Santa Fe or from the winemaker's website.  The wine sells for about $24.95 a bottle.

ENJOY!

For more about wine production in New Mexico, check out the website for the New Mexico Wine Growers Association.
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