Monday, April 30, 2012

Angels v. Devils

Two of my most favorite flavors in the world are oysters and bacon.  Recently, I came across a couple of recipes that combined both of these flavors.  The recipes are called "Angels on Horseback" and "Devils on Horseback."  A quick glance over the recipes and I knew I had to make these dishes. 

According to Wikipedia, Angels on Horseback are a hot appetizer of oysters wrapped in bacon that originated in England.  The first recorded reference to the dish was in 1888.  The dish eventually made its way to the United States shortly thereafter; however, it was never as popular as it was in England.  The height of popularity in the United States -- if one could call it that -- was reached in the 1960s, when, during the Kennedy Administration, the wife of Ambassador David K.E. Bruce, Evangeline Bruce, served this dish at her famous soirees in Washington, D.C. 

Add one ingredient to this recipe and the Angels become Devils.  All it takes is a few dashes of Tabasco sauce or, for that matter, any hot sauce.  The reference to "Devils" comes from the heat created by the hot sauce.  Although the recipe calls for only a couple of dashes, I like to use a lot of Tabasco sauce.  I would suggest at least two dashes for each oyster.  As for myself, I lost count of the dashes when I made the "Devils on Horseback." 

The most intriguing aspect of making both "Angels on Horseback" and "Devils on Horseback" at the same time is that both dishes will look identical when cooked.  One does not know if one is dealing with an Angel or a Devil until the first bite.  At that point, the true identity is revealed...


ANGELS ON HORSEBACK
Adapted from a recipe of the Oyster Company of Virginia
Serves 2

Ingredients:
6 oysters
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup of white wine
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
3 slices of bacon

Directions:
1.  Prepare the "Angels."  Mix the wine, garlic, salt and pepper together.  Add the oysters and marinate for ten to twenty minutes.  Preheat the broiler.  Cut each bacon slice in half and wrap each oyster with the half slice of bacon.  Secure each "Angel" with a toothpick.

2.  Broil the "Angels."  Broil each "Angel" on each side until the bacon is crisp. 



DEVILS ON HORSEBACK
Adapted from a recipe of the Oyster Company of Virginia
Serves 2

Ingredients:
6 oysters
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup of white wine
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
3 slices of bacon

Directions:
1.  Prepare the "Angels."  Mix the wine, garlic, salt, Tabasco sauce and pepper together.  Add the oysters and marinate for ten to twenty minutes.  Preheat the broiler.  Cut each bacon slice in half and wrap each oyster with the half slice of bacon.  Secure each "Angel" with a toothpick.

2.  Broil the "Angels."  Broil each "Angel" on each side until the bacon is crisp. 

PAIRING THIS RECIPE

This recipe calls for a white wine, and, really, any white wine will do.  A fruity, light wine always works well with oysters.  A smoother wine, such as a chardonnay, will also work well.  On this particular occasion, I paired both of these recipes with the following wine: 

Serpent Ridge Vineyard -- Albariño (2010)
100% Albariño
Carroll County, Maryland, USA
Flavors of green apple, apricot and a little peach

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Serpent Ridge Vineyard Albariño (2010)

Albariño is the quintessential grape of the Rias Biaxas DO in Galicia, Spain. However, it has firmly taken root in the United States. The first Albariño grapes were planted in Virginia; and plantings quickly spread to California, Oregon and Maryland.  In the "Free State," at least two vineyards -- Black Ankle Vineyards and Serpent Ridge Vineyards -- grow Albariño grapes.   Both my beautiful Angel, Clare, and I have made multiple visits to both vineyards.  And, at Serpent Ridge, we had the opportunity to taste their Albariño wine.

Before I get to the wine, a little background.  Serpent Ridge Vineyard opened in 2009, with two acres of vineyards in rural Carroll County, Maryland.  If I recall correctly, Serpent Ridge's Albariño vines are still too young to produce grapes for wine making.  Consequently, the wine maker purchases grapes from other growers at this time.  The plan is that, once their own vines are ready, Serpent Ridge will produce an Albariño wine from those grapes.  With the Albariño grapes, the winemaker ages them in stainless steel or new oak barrels.  When the wine is ready for bottling, Serpent Ridge does something that no other vineyard does ... they "cork" the bottles with a "zork."  The zork is an Australian invention; an alternative to corks and even screw caps.  The greatest feature of the zork is that it can be reused, making it very environmentally friendly.   

Serpent Ridge says that its Albariño is "very true to the original Spanish style with notes of apricots, peaches, green apples, and pears." I have reviewed a couple of Albariños in the past, the Pazo Serantellos Albariño and the Gran Vinum Albariño Nessa.   And, I have to say that the winemaker is right.  The Albariño pours a golden color, reminiscent of apple juice.  The color was slightly darker than the Pazo Serantellos and Gran Vinum.  The apple juice color of the wine foreshadows both the aroma and taste of the wine.  Much like the other Albariño wines that I have reviewed, the Serpent Ridge Albariño features green apples first and foremost both in the aroma and the taste.  Green apples are not the only element to the fruity aroma of this wine.  there are also apricots and a little peach, just as the winemaker suggests.  When it comes to the taste, the green apple is the star, shining from the light, fruity body of the wine.  The wine has a dry finish, which is to be expected from a fruity, crisp wine. 

The winemaker suggests that this wine pairs well with seafood, particularly shellfish and white fish.  This pairing makes sense, given that the Rias Biaxas DO is in Galicia, a region in Spain known for its amazing seafood.  In his book, Wine & Food: A New Look at Flavor, Joshua Wesson suggests pairing an Albariño wine with Sauteed Sole with Fennel and Lemon Compote. I paired this wine with an appetizer of Angels on Horseback and Devils on Horseback, which were oysters wrapped in bacon.  The apple flavors work well with the oysters (as apple always does) and the lightness helped to offset the bacon.

We purchased this wine straight from the winemaker at its tasting room in Carroll County.  A bottle sells for about $23.00.

ENJOY!  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Grenouille à la Provençale

After seeing a sign for frog legs at a local restaurant, Tubby asks himself, "Gosh, frogs' legs for sale. Imagine that! I wonder what people do with them. Well, it won't hurt to ask."  Tubby walks into the restaurant and inquires what people do with frog legs.  The answer ... we eat them!  This scene comes from the aptly named movie, Frog's Legs (1962).  

I have been in a few restaurants that served frog legs and have never felt the need to ask what people do with them.  I know to eat them, because, when done right, they are very delicious.  The best frog legs that I have ever had was a dish called Cuisses de Grenouille a l'Ail et au Persil, served at Le Bistro du Beaujolais.  Large frog legs, cooked with garlic, parsley and white wine, and served in a mesclun salad. I am salivating right now thinking about it. (Le Bistro du Beaujolais serves probably some of the best French food that I have ever had and it is always on the short list of Cleveland-area restaurants that I strive to visit whenever I am in the area.)  The frog legs were so delicious that I have been wanting to make frog legs for quite some time.

The only problem was finding the ingredient.  I had no desire to go gigging for frogs.  Gigging -- which involves using a gig or small spear to hunt frogs -- is usually done at night.   I like to sleep at night.  And, besides, I do not think gigging frogs is legal in Maryland.  So, I would search for the amphibians at the grocery stores, but to no avail ... until very recently.  I found frog legs at a local Asian store.  While everyone associates frog legs with French cuisine, they are also a popular ingredient in Chinese cooking.  So, I picked up a package of frozen frog legs and headed home.

I thought about making frog legs as I enjoyed them at Le Bistro du Beaujolais; however, I wanted a recipe to use as a guide, because this was the first time that I was cooking with this ingredient.  I found a recipe for Grenouille à la Provençale on Food Network's website.  Christophe Marguin provided the recipe that presumably is used in his restaurant, Marguin Restaurante, in Les Echets en Dombes, France, which is just outside of Lyon, France.

This dish turned out well, but it is was not as good as the frog legs that I had at Le Bistro du Beaujolais.  Still, it was great to cook with a new ingredient for the first time.  


GRENOUILLE A LA PROVENCALE
Recipe from Christophe Marguin of Marguin Restaurante in
Les Echets en Dombes, France, available at Food Network
Serves 1

Ingredients:
1/2 pound of frogs' legs
Salt
Ground white pepper
All purpose flour
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 tablespoon of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley

Directions:
1. Prepare the frogs' legs.  Season frog legs with salt and white pepper. Dust the frog legs with flour.

2.  Saute the frogs' legs.  Heat a large saute pan with butter over medium heat.  Add frog legs and saute until golden brown, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Turn over and brown other side, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Serve immediately.

3.  Plate the dish.  Plate the legs.  Spoon some of the garlic and parsley over the legs.

PAIRING THIS RECIPE

The Brotherhood of Frog Thigh Tasters (yes, there is a brotherhood, they host the yearly frog leg festival known as the Vittel Frog Fair in eastern France) recommends that frog legs be paired with a Riesling.  It is not hard to see why.  The light fruity wine pairs well with the flesh of the frog legs.  In addition, one does not have to go too far from Lyon, France to find some good Riesling wines.  The Alsace region produces some very good Riesling wines. 

ENJOY!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shaggin in the Wood

A Scottish proverb says that "double drinks are good for drouth (or thirst)."  The brewers at Tyranena channeled that proverb with their Shaggin in the Wood, which combines Scotch Ale with Bourbon barrels (although, without the bourbon). This beer is another of Tyranena's "Brewers Gone Wild! series.  I have previously reviewed the Bitter Woman IPA, another of the series; and, while both beers are from the same series, the Shaggin in the Woods was much more interesting.  

The Shaggin in the Woods originated as another, uniquely-named beer, "Sheep Shagger."  The Sheep Shagger is a Scotch Ale, brewed with 2-Row, Pale, Amber, Brown, Promise and Smoked Malts, as well as Northern Brewer and Golding hops.  The brewer took the Sheep Shagger and aged seventy percent of it in bourbon barrels.  The aged beer was then blended with the remaining thirty percent to, as the brewer describes it, "harness the same big caramel malt notes and smokiness that made the Sheep Shagger delectable, with added elements of bourbon and wood."

Shaggin in the Wood pours a bronze, almost rust color.  As the beer warmed in the glass, I could sense aromas of oak and bourbon, with tones of caramel and malts wrapped around those two elements.  The oak predominated over the bourbon, but the reason may be that the bourbon was merely waiting for its time to shine.  

With each sip of the beer, the bourbon begins to emerge.  Although it was present in the first sip, it became more pronounced with each taste.  Other flavors that also emerged, such as caramel and toffee.  As I tried to identify each individual flavor, I was impressed with how each one melded together to provide an enjoyable taste.  Normally, I have some reservations about bourbon aged beers (primarily due to the fact that I do not drink bourbon).  However, this beer was very drinkable, even for people like myself who ordinarily steer clear from hard liquor.  

This beer is available at stores in Wisconsin and Illinois.  This beer came from a Binny's located in suburban Chicago.  

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Acme's New Mexican Rub for "Roadrunner" (Chicken)

I was a big fan of Looney Tunes as a kid.  (Actually, I still am a big fan of the show.)  I love watching the whole crew ... Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky the Pig, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.  Recently, however, the last two characters got caught up in a recipe that I was thinking about.  The Roadrunner always outwitted the hapless Wile E. Coyote, whose odd contraptions for catching the elusive bird invariably backfired and left the predator in pain.  Why not make a recipe "inspired" by both Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

My mind went to work like one of Coyote's Rube Goldberg-inspired contraptions.  It went something like this: Roadrunners are the state bird of New Mexico.  The State of New Mexico is known for its Hatch chiles.  I have pounds of ground Hatch chiles in our cupboard.  The chiles have varying degrees of piquancy.   I could add some of each different chile in succession.  I also then add other base rub ingredients -- like paprika, ground garlic, ground onion, salt and pepper -- to create a spice mix.  I could then apply that mix to the bird using melted butter.

I envisioned the end result, a New Mexican chile rub, as something that Wile E. Coyote would have purchased from Acme when the "Genius" thought about what he would do when he caught the Roadrunner.  Wile E. Coyote would baste the Roadrunner with the rub and grill/roast/broil the bird.  After removing the bird from the heat and putting it on a platter, the Coyote would sit down at a table, tie the bib around his neck, grab his fork and knife and dig in to the enticing meat.  As he chewed the first bite, steam slowly would leak out of his ears and quickly followed by flames shooting out of his mouth.  Once again, Acme would let down the Coyote, allowing the Roadrunner to burn Wile E. Coyote, "Genius," one last time.


ACME'S NEW MEXICAN RUB FOR "ROADRUNNER"
(CHICKEN)
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 chicken quarters (thighs and legs)
1 teaspoon of ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon of ground garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of ground Hatch red chile (mild)
1/2 teaspoon of ground Hatch green chile (hot)
1/4 teaspoon of ground Hatch red chile (very hot)
2 tablespoons of butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Prepare the rub.  Combine all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix well.  Melt the butter and add the spice mix until the consistency is that of a wet rub.  Apply the spice mix/butter to all sides of the chicken, including under the skin.  

2.  Bake/broil the chicken.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook for twenty minutes.  Flip the chicken and cook for fifteen minutes more.  Finish the chicken by placing the chicken under the broiler, skin side up, for three to five minutes or until the chicken skin is crispy and browned.

Just a few remaining thoughts.  If you want to grill the chicken, I would suggest using olive oil instead of butter.  I would also make the consistency of spice mix more like a liquid paste than a wet rub.  Also, while this recipe calls for three different chiles, the end result is very spicy.  It was the right level of piquancy for me (no smoke or flames), but it may be a little too spicy for others.  You can always add a little less of the ground chiles (and a little more paprika) to tone down the heat of the recipe.

Finally, the disclaimer.  The Roadrunner is only the inspiration for the dish.  Do NOT attempt to go hunt an actual roadrunner for this recipe. I say this for two reasons.  First, you are not Wile E. Coyote. If you have any doubts, just look in the mirror.  Second, Federal law protects roadrunners (Geococcyx Califorianus) and makes it illegal to hunt the bird.  If you want to hunt something, track down organic, hormone free, cage-free chicken at your local grocery store.   

 PAIRING THIS RECIPE

For this recipe, the best pairing is with beer.  Personally, I enjoyed the chicken with a pale ale, which is probably the best beer to have with this dish.

D.C. Brau -- The Public Pale
American Pale Ale
Washington, D.C., USA
Flavors are balanced hop and malts, with some citrus

ENJOY!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

D.C. Brau's The Public

D.C. Brau is the first production craft brewery to brew beer for sale in the District of Columbia since the Heurich Brewery closed its doors. However, D.C. Brau's decision to sell their beer in cans follows follows a path taken by many other brewers over the past several decades.  According to Oxford Companion of Beer, which was edited by Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver, beer was first canned shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.  In 1993, Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company sold the first beer in a can, Krueger's Finest Beer.  Two thousand cans left the brewery into the hands of thirsty customers ... in Richmond, Virginia.  Gottfried Krueger decided to test the cans in a "remote location" (apparently Richmond, Virginia is considered a remote location to a brewer in Newark, New Jersey) just in case it flopped.  The locals would be none the wiser.  

Of course, others followed Gottfried Krueger and they have names that are much more recognizable.  Pabst.  Schlitz.  Schaeffer.  Busch.  Busch Lite.  Shudder.  (That last one is not a beer, just a reaction from typing the previous six words.)  These beers were basically the beers that dominated the market for decades.  Fortunately, in recent years, the craft beer movement has made great strides in the canned beer market.  It began with Oskar Blues, followed by others like Ska Brewing, and, most recently, D.C. Brau.

The Public is brewed in the style of an American Pale Ale, which is a variation of the English Pale Ale.  I searched for the different types of malts, hops and yeast used to produce this beer.  According to the D.C. Brau website, the brewers use C-60 and Munich malts, but they do not identify the hops or the yeast.

The Beer Judge Certification Program ("BJCP") describes an American Pale Ale as having a pale golden to deep amber color, a moderate to strong hop aroma (with primarily citrusy elements, but some malty, toasty elements as well) and a moderate to high hop flavor.  These are rather wide ranges in descriptions, which bespeaks of the varieties of American Pale Ales that are out in the market. 

D.C. Brau's The Public fits neatly within the BJCP's Guidelines.  While the brewers describe the appearance of the beer as a "crimson copper," I think it is more of an amber, orangish copper color.  The beer is nicely carbonated, pouring with a good, thick foam of large bubbles that takes its time to recede.  This foam provides a hint as to how to enjoy the beer ...  slowly.  The aromatic elements of The Public are a nice mix of the malts and hops.  No one predominates over the other, rather they are in a nice equilibrium.  The brewer suggests hints of white citrus and grapefruit, and I can get a sense of some of those aromas in the beer.  As for the taste, there is the piney, citrusy flavors that one expects from an pale ale.  The beer follows in the style of an American Pale Ale by not overwhelming the drinker with those bitter flavors as some India Pale Ales have a tendency to do.  Instead, the hop flavors are well balanced with the malt flavors, just like the aroma of the beer. 

One final thought about food pairing.  American Pale Ales are fairly versatile beers, pairing well with an array of foods.  The pairings include all types of meat, especially beef, bison, lamb and chicken.  The beers also fare well with foods that have a little spice or smoke element to them.  For that reason, American Pale Ales go well with grilled burgers or steaks, as well as spiced rubbed chicken or pork.  

If you are lucky to live in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, you could possibly find The Public at a local grocery store.  It sells for $10.99 for a six pack. 

ENJOY!

For more about canning beers, checkout The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver, at pages 214-215. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

General Tso's Catfish

A general cannot live by chicken alone.  That is the thought that passed through my mind when I decided to take the classic dish -- General Tso's Chicken -- and make a pescatarian version of it.  This recipe is an adaptation inspired by the one person who always inspires my cooking ... my beautiful Angel. 

The key to this dish is the pan-frying of the fish, rather than deep frying.  Don't get me wrong, I like deep fried fish.  I can remember as a kid going with my family to all-you-can-eat fish frys on Friday night.  I ate catfish fillet after catfish fillet.  A lot of time has passed, and, since then, I lean toward pan frying food rather than deep frying fish.  Recently, I found a General Tso's Chicken recipe from Food & Wine.  It was contributed by Grace Parisi, who described the recipe as one that is "adored" by Midtown Lunch blogger Zach Brooks. 

The thing I liked the most about Parisi's recipe is that it called for pan-frying, lightly coated chicken.   This method works well with fish (and pretty much most other proteins).  I knew I had a recipe that I could make General Tso's Catfish. 

However, the recipe needed a couple of alterations in order to make it fish-friendly.  First, I substituted catfish for the chicken.  Second, I substituted seafood stock for the chicken stock.  Third, I substituted Sambal Oelek for the chile-garlic sauce.  With these changes, the end result was still very delicious.  My inspiration wants me to make this dish again.  That is always a sign of success!



GENERAL TSO'S CATFISH
Adapted from Grace Parisi's recipe
contributed to Food & Wine

Ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil
1 large egg white
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons of corn starch
1 pound of catfish fillets or catfish nuggets
1 cup of seafood stock
1 teaspoon of Sambal Oelek
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, plus more for frying
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Steamed broccoli
White rice

Directions:
1.  Prepare the catfish. In a medium bowl, combine the toasted sesame oil with the egg white, one tablespoon of soy sauce and 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons of corn starch.  Add the fish, stirring to coat.  Let stand at room temperature for twenty minutes.

2.  Prepare the sauce.  In a small bowl, whisk the seafood broth with the Sambal Oelek, sugar and remaining 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.  In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of oil.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook over high heat until fragrant, which should take about one minute.    Stir in the broth mixture, add it to the pan and cook until thickened and glossy, about three minutes.  Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

3.  Cook the catfish.  In a large deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering.  Add the fish, one piece at a time and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until very browned and crisp, about four minutes.  Drain the fish on paper towels and add to the sauce immediately with the scallions.    Cook until just coated, about thirty seconds.

4.  Plate the dish. Spoon some rice and add some broccoli to the plate.  Spoon the catfish with the sauce next to the rice. 

PAIRING THIS RECIPE

Food & Wine suggests a Prosecco as a good pairing for this dish.  The effervescence of the wine helps to cut through the sauce that coats the fish.  To this end, Cava and other sparkling wines could also work well. 

ENJOY!

Monday, April 16, 2012

De Struise Brouwers Pannepot Grand Riserva Vintage (2005)

My father, brother-in-law and myself were shopping at a Binny's for some craft beers.  Personally, I was looking for beers that I had never seen before and cannot find around where I live.  My dad struck up a conversation with one of the employees about the beer selection.  The employee showed my dad a bottle of Pannepot Grand Riserva Vintage (2005), a beer that the Binny's had never stocked before and, according to the employee, probably would not stock again.  This particular beer is a very rare one.  Only 3,000 bottles were filled ... for the entire world.  Yet, there were half a dozen bottles on the shelf of that particular Binny's. Knowing of my particular objectives during this shopping trip, my dad alerted me to this beer.  We both bought a bottle and it sat in my basement for a few months.  Eventually, I decided to try it recently.  

The Pannepot is a beer brewed by De Struise Brouwers, a Belgian brewer located in Oostvleveren, Belgium.  De Struise first brewed the Pannepot in 2001, a Belgian quadrupel that is dedicated to the local fishermen from the village of De Panne.  After brewing the beer for a few years, one of the brewer's colleagues proposed to age the Pannepot in French oak barrels.  De Struise experimented with the aging of its beer with a batch brewed in 2005 (hence, the 2005 vintage).  The brewer aged the beer in those oak barrels for 24 months.  De Struise bottled some of the beer, which sold out immediately.  Rather than sell the remaining beer, the brewer decided to age it for another eight months in second hand Calvados barrels.  After this second aging, De Struise filled only 3,000 bottles.

The Pannepot Grand Riserva pours a chocolate brown in color.  The aroma has elements of caramel and yeast.  There is also a sweetness in the nose of this beer, reminiscent of Belgian candy, sugar or dark fruits. The sweetness carries over to the taste of this beer.  The aging in oak barrels and Calvados barrels has definitely contributed to the taste of this beer.  The oak wood has toned down some of the quadrupel flavors.  By contrast, the Calvados barrels provides a little apple tartness, which shines through every once in a while.  The tartness is an interesting contrast to the Belgian candy sweetness of the beer.  Finally, there is a little Bourbon vanilla interlaced amongst the sweetness and tartness, providing the final layer of complexity to the taste of this beer.   

This beer is definitely a sipping beer.  Of course, this is fine given it has a 10% ABV.  Given there is only 3,000 bottles, it is very rare and unlikely to be seen again.  If you see it, it sells for about $12.99 a bottle.  

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Bolek Family Turkey with Apple Sausage Stuffing

Turkey and stuffing represents a combination of the New and Old Worlds.  The explanation begins with the following scene ... Sixteenth Century Spanish explorers or conquistadors traveling through the New World region that would become part of northern Mexico.  As they pass through town after town, the Spaniards notice that the indigenous people have domesticated an odd, aggressive bird that struts around, "gobbling" all the time. The indigenous peoples may have roasted or stewed the turkey meat, but they did not stuff the birds.  When the Spaniards found that turkeys were delicious and decided to bring the birds back to the Old World.

The popularity of turkey spread throughout Western Europe.  It was a change from the swans, herons and peacocks that graced the plates of the wealthy.  European cooks began to prepare turkey incorporating their own cooking styles, creating a myriad of different recipes.  One such cookbook, Martha's Bradley's British Housewife (1758), collected several of those recipes: Roasted Turkey with Onion Sauce, Roasted with Oysters, "Forced the Italian Way" (i.e., stuffed with a sausage-like mixture), the Dutch Way, with Cray-Fish, au Bourgeois, Boiled the Dutch Way, Stewed, in a Pudding in Guts (sausage links), Glazed, and in a Cullis (sauce). Thus, the Old World way of stuffing birds combined with a New World bird most likely gave rise to what is often the centerpiece of holiday meals here in the United States.

This recipe does not come from any old cookbook.  Instead, this Turkey with Apple Sausage Stuffing recipe is my mom's recipe.  She makes this recipe for Thanksgiving, and, every year, she expertly produces an amazing dinner.  The turkey is always juicy and the stuffing is perfectly made.  I wanted to make this dish for a group of our friends who were coming over to our house for the Easter holiday.  I followed the recipe (with a couple of changes, such as the substitution of turkey stock for chicken broth) and everything turned out well.  However, it was not as good as my mom's Turkey with Apple Sausage Stuffing.  I guess I will need some more practice.  It is a good thing that holidays come several times a year....


THE BOLEK FAMILY TURKEY WITH
APPLE SAUSAGE STUFFING
Recipe provided by my Mom
Serves a lot

Ingredients (for the turkey):
1 whole turkey (about fifteen pounds)
1 cup of fresh thyme, chopped 
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the stuffing):
1 loaf of bread (white or white)
16 ounces of turkey stock (you can substitute chicken stock
     or chicken broth)
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of chopped onions 
1/2 to 3/4 cup of chopped celery
1 to 2 apples, peeled and diced
3/4 pound of mild Italian sausage, browned
1 cup of water
1 egg, beaten
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the gravy):
5 tablespoons of all purpose flour
3/4 to 1 cup of water
Reserved turkey stock (or chicken stock or broth)
A few drops of Gravy Master

Instructions:
1.  Begin to make the stuffing.  If the bread is fresh, leave on the counter overnight to get stale.  Heat a the butter in a skillet over medium to medium high heat, add the butter, then the onions and celery.  Cook it slowly and stir often to make sure that it does not burn.  Once the onion and celery are soft, remove from the heat. 

2.  Continue to make the stuffing.  Pour the turkey stock into a medium bowl.  Take a couple slices of bread and dip them into the broth.  Squeeze out all of the broth and put the slices into another bowl.  Repeat this process until you have used the whole loaf.  Strain the breadcrumbs and the stock for use later in the gravy.   Pour 1 beaten egg, about a  teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, and some poultry seasoning.  Add the apples and the sausage.  Mix everything well.  Set aside.

3.  Prepare the turkey.  The turkey should be defrosted.  (The best way to do this is buy the turkey a couple days in advance and let it sit in the refrigerator.  If it is still frozen on the morning you intend to serve it, place it in cold water for a couple of hours.)  Before taking off the wrapper, read the instructions regarding how long it will take to roast the turkey.  The instructions are usually fairly accurate.  Once you remove the wrapper, wash the turkey thoroughly, inside and out.  Remove the giblets, set aside. 

4.  Stuff the turkey.  Place the turkey in a roasting pan.  Stuff the turkey, starting in the back of the turkey.  Do not pack the stuffing, but make sure that the stuffing fills the cavity.  Also insert some stuffing at the head of the turkey.  (If you have leftover stuffing, place it in a glass baking dish and add it to the oven when there is about an hour left in the cooking time of the turkey.)  Lace the skin over the closures.  Place pats of butter in crevices or on top.  Add water to the bottom of the pan. 

5.  Roast the turkey: Cover the turkey with the roasting pan lid or foil and put the turkey in a 325 degree preheated oven.  About one hour or so before it is done or maybe sooner depending on size of turkey, baste turkey with drippings from bottom of pan, this will help brown up the turkey.  Also add more hot water if necessary so the turkey wont stick to the bottom of the pan.  Also baste any stuffing that is sticking out of turkey. When turkey is almost done, (1/2 hour or so before) uncover it and let finish roasting uncovered.  Also keep basting it if necessary.  When turkey is a nice golden brown, and the drumsticks are loose from turkey, it is probably done  You can use a thermometer to check.  Usually the pop up thermometers in the turkey are not too accurate.  Take from oven, let sit for a couple of minutes.  Pull turkey from roaster and carve.

6.  Make the gravy: Separate fat from juice in the drippings.  Put into medium size kettle.  Bring to a  boil.  Add saved chicken broth and maybe another can if necessary and bring to a boil again.   Use a mixture of several heaping tablespoons of flour to about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of water and shake together to get the lumps broken down.  Put into kettle and stir.  Add Kitchen Magic to make it a darker color.  Gravy should thicken.  Keep stirring and bring to a boil.  If it doesn't, repeat the flour/water mixture but not as much flour or water.

PAIRING THIS DISH

As with chicken and pork, the conventional pairing for turkey -- a white meat -- would be a white wine. Most white wines would work well, with the sole exception of sweet wines.  Some possibilities include Riesling wines from Alsace or Germany, along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines from California, Washington, State or Oregon.  Lesser known varietals, such as Viognier, or lesser known wines, like Vouvray, could work well with turkey.  A couple of white wines that I have previously reviewed that would work with this dish include the following:

Dr. H. Thanisch's Bernkasteler Badstube -- Riesling Kabinett (2009)
100% Riesling grapes
Mosel Valley, Germany
Flavors of green apples and pears

Black Ankle Vineyards -- Viognier (2009)
100% Viognier grapes
Mt. Airy, Maryland, USA
Flavors of pears, along with a little vanilla and oak

Some red wines will also well with turkey and stuffing dishes.  The wine that jumps to mind is a Pinot Noir, but also a Syrah from France could pair well with this dish.  A couple of red wines that I have reviewed that I think would pair well with this recipe are the following:

Thomas Henry -- Pinot Noir (2009)
100% Pinot Noir grapes
Napa Valley, California, USA
Flavors of dark cherries and strawberries

Privé Vineyard -- Le Nord (2006) or Le Nord (2008)
100% Pinot Noir grapes
Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
Flavors of cherries, pepper and spice

ENJOY!

For more on the history of turkey and stuffing, check out The American Turkey and Thanksgiving at The Journal of Antiques.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Black Ankle Vineyards Viognier (2009)

Legend says that the name "Viognier" originated with the Roman words "Via Gehennae" or "Valley of Hell."  It is thought that this name was an allusion to the difficulty of growing the grape.  The difficulty in growing the grape is belied by the fact that, today, it is grown around the world.  Most famously, it is grown in the Northern Rhône valley, where it is the only grape used in producing Condrieu wine.  According to Wikipedia, Viognier grapes are also cultivated in Chile, Argentina, Australia, Canada and eleven United States.

Well, in this regard, Wikipedia is wrong.  Viognier is grown in twelve States, with the twelfth state being Maryland.  One winemaker, Black Ankle Vineyards, produces a wine made with 100% Viognier.  According to the label, the grapes are grown on decomposing slate laced with quartz, on hills that face West and North.  Only 220 cases were made of this wine. 

The author of Wine & Food: A New Look at Flavor, Joshua Wesson, describes Viognier as a rich white wine, having delicate aromas and flavors of ripe apricot and pear, with a honey finish, a buttery mouthfeel, and a relatively high alcohol content. Black Ankle's Viognier pours a light gold in color. The wine does have the aromatic elements of a rich white wine.  I could sense some pear, but there were more prominent aroma of Parmesan, honey and even a little vanilla. 

The flavors of the Viognier are also very interesting.  The pear flavors were there, along with that vanilla, and, just as Wesson suggested, a buttery mouthfeel.  The Viognier had some mild oak flavors.  It was definitely not like an oaked Chardonnay, but the wine did have some hints of a wine aged in oak.  A little buttery feel, a little vanilla, some oak flavors.

I think this Viognier will pair well with a variety of dishes.  The best dishes are seafood, particularly lobster, crab and meatier fishes like bluefish, snapper or halibut.  It could also pair with chicken and pork dishes, provided that the dishes not have heavy cream or tomato based sauces.  This wine could also pair well with dishes that feature artichokes and mushrooms.  As for cheeses, this wine would pair well with soft and semi-soft cheeses, such as Gruyere and Brie.

Black Ankle's white wines, like the Viognier, are very hard to find.  Fortunately, Clare found a bottle at State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland.  A bottle sells for about $26.00.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Turkish Spiced Rockfish

Recently, I bought a small container of ground sumac berries.  Sumac is a small bush that grows throughout the Middle East and in Sicily and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean.  The sumac berries are ground into a burgundy-colored powder that is used in the cooking of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Iran.  The ground berries are a little astringent, with a citrus flavor.  The taste is a little like lemon.

I wanted to make a rub with sumac, so I had to choose some other ingredients.  I immediately thought of Aleppo pepper, a Turkish chile that would provide some spice and a little kick for the rub. The combination of sumac and Aleppo pepper is the reason why I thought of this as a "Turkish spice."  To round out the rub or marinade, I selected a couple of good standbys, ground onion and ground pepper.  The last ingredients I selected were coriander, fenugreek and paprika. With all of these ingredients, plus a little ground black pepper and salt, I had my rub.  

The next decision to make was the protein.  Since I was cooking for my beautiful wife, the protein had to be fish.  I decided to go with a sustainable choice ... local rockfish.  I've previously blogged about rockfish from the Chesapeake Bay.  The populations are sustainable, which makes it a good choice for a dinner.


TURKISH SPICED ROCKFISH
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients (for the Rockfish):
1 pound of rockfish, sliced into even-sized pieces
1 teaspoon of ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground onion
1/2 teaspoon of ground fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of ground garlic
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus two tablespoons
Black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Ingredients (for the Couscous):
2 tablespoons of green pepper, finely diced
2 tablespoons of yellow or sweet onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic finely diced
1/2 cup of Moroccan couscous
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Directions:
1.  Marinate the fish.  Place the fish in a plastic bag.  Add the Aleppo pepper, sumac, onion, fenugreek, coriander and garlic to a small bowl. Add the extra virgin olive oil and stir.  If it is too much like a paste, add some more oil so that it is like a thick liquid.  Pour the spice mixture into the plastic bag and work it so that it covers the fish.  Let the fish marinate for about fifteen to thirty minutes. 

2.  Prepare the couscous.  Prepare the couscous according to the directions.  In a separate pan, heat the butter on medium high heat.  Add the green pepper, onion and garlic. Saute until all are soft and translucent.  Stir in the green peppers, onion and garlic into the couscous.

3.  Saute the fish.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Add the fish fillets and cook for about four minutes.  Flip the fillets and cook for four minutes more or until done (which depends upon the thickness of the fillets).

4.  Plate the dish.  Spoon some of the couscous on one side of the plate.  Plate the fish on the other side of the plate.  You could also spoon the couscous on the middle of the plate and place the fish on top of the couscous. 

PAIRING THIS RECIPE

This dish has a little kick thanks to the Aleppo pepper and, besides the dish featuring a fish, the spice calls for a white wine.  Really, any white wine could do (except, perhaps, an oaked chardonnay).  I would gravitate toward a lighter, fruitier white wine, perhaps a Viognier or a Sémillon.  A couple of wines, which I have previously reviewed, that may pair well with this dish are the following:

L'Ecole No. 41 -- Columbia Valley Sémillon
87% Sémillon and 13% Sauvignon Blanc
Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
Flavors of honeysuckle, lemon and lime

Lemelson Vineyards -- Tikka's Run Pinot Gris
100% Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
Flavors of apricot, melon and fennel

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

La Trappe Quadrupel

The label reads, "[s]ince 1884, the monks of Koningshovoen have brewed La Trappe Ales to support themselves."  That immediately caught my attention.  I have always been fascinated by Trappist beers, and, I have even reviewed one such beer, Orval.   The fascination comes from the fact that monks have been brewing beer (or making wine) for centuries.  The beers often had a purpose ... they would consume the beers during fasting periods.

Another thing that fascinates me about Trappist beers is that there are few beers that are still brewed by, or under the direction of monks.  There are a lot of "abbey ales," but few to none of those ales are Trappist ales.  They are simply the efforts of those outside of the brotherhood to recreate Trappist beers.

Most Trappist beers are made in Belgium; however, there is one beer that is made by monks in the Netherlands ... La Trappe.  I recently purchased a bottle of La Trappe's Quadrupel. The monks produce this beer with pale, caramel, Munich and roast malts, along wtih Hallertau, Northern Brew, Slovenien and Super Steiner hops.  The monks also used a strain of yeast unique to Koningshovoen.  Each beer is bottle conditioned for a full, complex flavor and long shelf life.  It can be aged like a fine wine. 

The Quadrupel pours a rust, copper color. The beer is highly carbonated, as the pictures show.  The foam stuck around for quite a while.  The aromatic elements of the beer provide a traditional Belgian experience: yeast, bananas and cloves.  Some of those flavors carry through to the taste.  Most notably, the bananas and cloves can be detected with each taste.  These flavors are joined by flavors of caramel and a warming sense of alcohol.  (The beer has an ABV of 10%, along with 25 IBUs.) 

This beer is a sipping beer, meant to be enjoyed by itself.  For that reason, I really do not have any suggestions for food pairings.  Just pour a glass of the beer, sit out on a porch or a deck, take a deep breath, and enjoy.

This beer is available at stores with a large selection of imports.  A bottle will set you back about $16.99.  But it is worth it.  

ENJOY!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cuore di Agnello Brasato al Chianti (Lamb Heart Braised in Chianti)

Every once in a while, a local grocery store stocks lamb hearts. I have made lamb hearts once before, as part of my culinary challenge, Around the World in Eighty Dishes.  The dish was Khalyat Alkadba wal Galoob or Fried Heart and Livers, a main dish from Libya.  It was the first time that I cooked with lamb hearts, and, I told myself that I would work with the ingredient again.  

From a nutritional perspective, lamb hearts have their positive and negative attributes.  Lamb hearts are relatively high in cholesterol, which is a definite negative; however, they are also packed with many essential vitamins and minerals.  A serving of lamb hearts, which is about 4/10 of a pound, has a whopping 357% of the daily value of Vitamin B12, along with 134% of Riboflavin, 95% of Protein, 59% of Iron, 42% of Niacin and 22% of Vitamin C.  

Recently, the store stocked locally raised, lamb hearts.  I bought a couple of hearts with a specific recipe in mind.  I decided to braise the lamb hearts in wine, much like a Brasato al Barolo.  I thought about braising the hearts in Barolo wine, but a bottle of Barolo can be very expensive.  For that reason, a brasato is often done with other red wines, such as Chianti.  A good Chianti Riserva is much cheaper than Barolo and it can still produce a great sauce.  

I found a recipe for beef hearts braised in wine, so I used that as a guide.  However, I made a few changes to the recipe, apart from the use of lamb hearts and Chianti wine.  I substituted beef broth with veal stock.  I also added some ingredients, such as a shallot and crushed red pepper.  In the end, my efforts produced a nicely braised dish of lamb hearts coated in a velvety, rich sauce.  I have to say that this is a great success.


CUORE DI AGNELLO BRASATO AL CHIANTI
(Lamb Heart Braised in Chianti)
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com 
Serves 2 

Ingredients:
1 pound of lamb hearts (about two hearts)
1/8 cup of all purpose flour
2 tablespoons of butter
1 carrot, sliced
2 Vidalia bulbs, diced finely
1 shallot diced finely
1 pinch of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1/4 cup of Chianti Riserva
1/4 cup of veal stock
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely

Directions:
1.  Prepare the hearts.  Wash the hearts and dry them.  Trim the hearts of excess fat and arteries.  Slice the heart in half and then slice the halves in 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices.  

2.  Saute the hearts.  Heat the butter over medium high heat in a deep saute pan.  Coat the heart slices in flour and add to the saute pan.  Cook the heart slices for thirty seconds to one minute.  

3.  Add the vegetables and liquids.  Add the onions, shallots and carrots, along with the crushed red pepper and thyme.  Also add the wine and veal stock.  Cook for fifteen minutes at most. 

4.  Plate the dish.  Spoon the lamb hearts, vegetables and sauce into bowls.  Sprinkle with flat Italian parsley.  You can serve this dish with some mashed potatoes or rice.

PAIRING THIS RECIPE

Given the lamb hearts are braised in Chianti wine, the most obvious choice for a wine pairing is a Chianti wine.  Any Chianti wine -- Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, Chianti Ruffina, etc. -- will do.=  Other Sangiovese wines, including blends like Super Tuscans, will also pair well with this dish.  A couple of wines that I have reviewed, which I think would work well with this dish include:

La Mozza -- Aragone
40% Sangiovese, 25% Alicante, 25% Syrah and 10% Carignan
Tuscany, Italy
Flavors of cherries, raspberries and a little plum

Marchesi Frescobaldi -- Nipozzano Riserva
100% Sangiovese
Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Flavors of dark cherries, with a little spice

ENJOY!

For more about the nutritional value of lamb hearts, check out Self Nutritional Data.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Domaine de San de Guilhem (2010)

One of the greatest aspects of my culinary adventures, at least with respect to wines, is the opportunity to learn about the lesser known grape varietals.  I have previously posted about two lesser known Italian grapes, Celanese and Falaghina, and the wines produced using those varietals.  Recently, I came across Alain LaLanne's San de Guilhem, a wine made with three lesser-known grape varietals: Colombard, Gros Manseng and Ugni Blanc.  I bought a bottle to learn a little more about these three grapes.  

LaLanne produces the Domaine de San de Guilhem using 40% Colombard, 30% Gros Manseng and 30% Ugni Blanc.  Colombard grapes are white grapes used in Bordeaux blends, as well as Vin de Pays Côtes de Gascogne.  These grapes can be used to produce crisp white wines, but they have a high acidity, which results in it being used more in blends, where other grapes can offset that acidity.  Gros Manseng is a grape that ripens later than most others, that thrives in cooler and lighter soils.  It is a weaker and more temperamental grape,  easily damaged by heat or hail.  Like the Colombard, the Gros Mansang has a higher acidity and is also used in blends.  It is the last grape, Ugni Blanc, that provides a balance to a blend of Colombard and Ugni Blanc.  Unbeknownst to me, I have actually encountered Ugni Blanc before, because it is the French equivalent to Trebbiano, a white grape widely planted in Italy.  Ugni Blanc provides freshness and fruitiness that can help tame the acidity of other grapes.

Colombard and Ugni Blanc have as much to do with distilled liquor as they do wine.  Both grapes are distilled to make Armagnac, which is a brandy from the eponymous region of Gascony in Southwestern France.  Acres and acres of vineyards were cultivated with that brandy in mind.  However, when the global market for Armagnac began to decline, some growers in Gascony, like Alain LaLanne, turned their attention to making table wines rather than hard liquor.

Alain LaLaine grows grapes on a 50-hectare vineyard known as Domaine de San de Guilhem, which is located in the village of Ramouzens in the eastern portion of Bas-Armagnac in Gascony.  The region is described as having of sloping green hills, an oceanic climate, and sandy soils.

The Domaine de San de Guilhem pours a golden color.  There are floral notes, like a flowers in a field.  To the extent of fruit, there is some honeydew and melon.  With respect to the flavors, there is definitely citrus, like lemon and melon.  The wine is light and crisp, but there is a tartness from the Colombard and Gros Manseng that still prevails over the Ugni Blanc.   

I found this wine at a local grocery store.  It sells for about $10.99 a bottle.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pan Seared Tilapia and Cortez Bay Shrimp with Roasted Raddichio Salad

It has been a while since I tried to create a recipe or make a Chef Bolek Original.  The reason rests with the fact that I have been extremely busy at work.  By the time I get home, I either don't feel like cooking or I just want to make something quick. There were a couple of nights where I tried to make something original and "blog-worthy," except what I ended up with was something straight out of Hell's Kitchen.  As I looked at and ate the dish, I could just picture Gordon Ramsey in the room, screaming and swearing at me or the dish.  "What is that," Ramsey would yell in his Scottish/English accent, "that $#*+ is f*<k!^g disgusting.  I expect more from you."  So, with those thoughts in my head, the dishes never made it to the blog.  That is one reason why I have not been posting as much as I usually do. 

Still, the whole point of this blog is to chronicle the adventures of someone who, unlike Chef Ramsey, has no professional training, no Michelin stars, and no (recent) restaurant experience. Clare tells me that I should post the good, the bad and the ugly, but, quite frankly, while the good looks good, the bad is bad and the ugly can be ... at times ... downright ugly.

My greatest inspiration is my beautiful wife, because much of what I cook, I cook for her.  Recently, I wanted to make a nice dinner for her.  I purchased some Tilapia and some shrimp.  While that satisfied the protein for the dinner, I needed some vegetable or other side dish.  I saw a head of radicchio -- it is hard to miss the pinkish-purplish mass in the midst of greens -- and remembered my effort at grilling radicchio.  Radicchio is a very bitter vegetable, but grilling or roasting it helps to blunt the bitterness.  Add in some roasted sweet onions, along with some shallots and shiitake mushrooms sauteed in butter, and I had the makings of a warm salad. Some toasted pine nuts and walnuts, with whole parsley leaves, would finish the dish. 

As for the shrimp and fish, both are prepared with a simple saute. I wanted the protein to be relatively simple and experiment a little with the roasted radicchio salad.  The salad was good, but still a little too bitter for me.  An alternative that might help to reduce bitterness even further is to baste the radicchio quarters with a mixture of olive oil and butter or just use butter. 

This dish will not win any awards or, perhaps, Chef Ramsey's approval, but Clare liked it.  That is good enough for me.  


PAN-SEARED TILAPIA AND CORTEZ BAY SHRIMP
WITH ROASTED RADICCHIO SALAD
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the fish):
2 fillets of tilapia
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
1 lemon, juiced

Ingredients (for the shrimp):
6 large shrimp (16/20 count)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pinch of aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons of white wine
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the radicchio):
1 head of radicchio, sliced into wedges and cored
1 sweet onion, sliced into wedges
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons of walnuts, toasted

Directions:
1.  Roast the radicchio.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the radicchio wedges and onions on a large rimmed baking sheet and brush with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes to fifteen minutes, or until crisp around the edges and just tender. Serve at once.

2.  Saute the remaining ingredients for the salad. Heat a saute pan over medium to medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms.  Saute the mushrooms, stirring occasionally so they don't burn, until you begin to draw out the moisture (it will sound a little like hissing).  Add two tablespoons of butter and stir into the mushrooms.  Add the shallot and crushed red pepper.  Continue to saute until the shallot is translucent, about three to five minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside. 

3.  Saute the shrimp.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the shrimp and the aleppo pepper.  Cook the shrimp on each side for a minute or two, and flip, continuing to cook for another minute remove the shrimp and set aside.  Add the white wine and cook for a minute or two. 

4.  Cook the fish.  Add the fish to the pan and begin to saute the fish.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil if necessary.  Saute the fish for about four minutes and flip the fish.  Continue to cook for another four minutes or until done.  When the fish is nearly done, add the shrimp to the pan to heat the shrimp.

5.  Plate the dish.  Plate the fish and place the shrimp on top of the fish.  Plate the radicchio salad on the side.  Drizzle some lemon juice over all of the dish.

PAIRING THIS DISH

This dish calls for a white wine.  While selecting the ingredients for the grilled radicchio salad, I came across a white blend made with Colombard, Gros Manseng and Ugni Blanc.  This wine worked very well.  It had a slight tartness, from the citrusy flavors, that actually worked to reduce the bitterness of the radicchio. I was pleasantly surprised that the wine paired so well with the dish.  So here it is:

40% Colombard, 30% Gros Manseng, 30% Ugni Blanc 
Gascony, France
Flavors of lemon and melons

ENJOY!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Collina La Mora Barbera D'Asti (2009)

The story, as told by the label, goes like this: "[w]hen the work in the vineyard was beat out to the rhythm of oxen or horses, to which he confirmed, he chose the easily reached vineyards on gentle slopes close to the road."  The story continues, by explaining that the grandfather, Secondo Crivelli, bought "the more distant steeper vineyards which were harder to work.  But as the local winemakers have always said, 'a fa el vin bon'" or "it gives good wine."  The Collina la Mora Barbera d'Asti, which is produced by Crivelli, is produced from the grapes on those more distant, steeper vineyards."

Personally, I know little about the grapes and wines in northeastern Italy, especially the Piedmont region produces some very good wines, but, the most well-known wines, such as the Barolo and Barbaresco, are usually out of my price range.  (That is probably a truer statement with respect to Barolo than Barbaresco.)  However, when I recently made Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Ragu, the suggested wine pairing was a Barbera wine, which is a more affordable Piedmontese wine.  The wine I chose is Crivelli's Collina La Mora.

Indeed, the saying was that the Barbera wines were "what you drank while waiting for the Barolo to be ready."  Barbera wines are produced using the grape varietal with the same name. There are three DOCs or DOCGs connected with Barbera wine: Barbera d'Asti, Barbera d'Alba and Barbera del Monferrato.  The Collina La Mora is a Barbera d'Asti, which falls within the DOCG for the wines produced and made from grapes cultivated around the Piedmontese town of Asti.  According to the rules of the DOCG, require at least 85% of the grapes to be Barbera grapes.  Winemakers can use Freisa, Grignolino or Dolcetto grapes for the remaining 15% percent.  The wine must also be made by March 1 following the harvest or vintage year and must have a minimum alcohol of 11.5%.

The Collina La Mora Barbera D'Asti carries the DOCG on its label, which means it complies with the rules.  The wine pours pours a ruby red color, with purplish hues depending upon the light. The aromatic elements of this wine include cherries, raspberries and some floral notes.  These same elements carried through to the taste.  Although a relatively young wine, it was not too acidic, rough or tannic.  Indeed, it was surprisingly drinkable given its age.

As I noted above, I purchased this wine to specifically pair it with the Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Ragu.  The recommendation came from Josh Wesson, the founder of Best Cellars and the author of Wine & Food: A New Look at Flavor. Josh picked a Barbera wine, although he did not specify whether it should be a d'Alba, d'Asti or del Monferrato, suggesting any of them would do.  Josh believes that the Barbera has the natural acidity to match a rich food, such as ground lamb in the ragu sauce.  I said it once, and, I'll say it again, he is right.

The Collina La Mora Barbera d'Asti is available at wine and grocery stores.  If I recall correctly, it sells for about $19.99 a bottle.

ENJOY!

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