Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wine Club: America in Miniature

A couple of months ago, the Savage Boleks planned to take our Wine Club to a far exotic locale (Burma or Myanmar), but, unfortunately, one of the Savage Boleks (namely, me) got sick before the "trip." So, now, we have decided to take everyone to a different place. One that is not so far away. Closer. Much closer.  The theme for this Wine Club is Maryland.

The State of Maryland has many nicknames, and, one of them is "America in Miniature."   The name comes from the fact that one can find just about any American natural feature in the state (with the obvious exception of a desert).  As one person has described the State, "Maryland gently dips down from the beautiful mountains along the Appalachian Trail, through emerald mountain valleys and hollers, eventually spreading its watery fingers of tributaries, rivers and streams into the Chesapeake Bay."  Mountains, farms, rivers and the bay, all encompassed within one state.

This description comes from the foreword written by Baltimore chef, John Shields, in the book, Dishing Up Maryland.  Chef Shields goes on to describe Maryland's cuisine as one of the "oldest and simplest of North America's regional cuisines."  He notes that the cuisine of Maryland "has certain traits that shape its preparation, flavor and presentation."  It will be our goal to prepare a multiple course meal that highlights what is best about the cuisine of this great State.  All of the recipes, as well as the stories, come from the Dishing Up Maryland book.

Shrimp Pâté with Crostini and Cream of Asparagus Soup with Rice

One usually associates oysters and crabs with the Chesapeake Bay, which everyone associates with Maryland.  Making an oyster stew or steaming crabs would have been the traditional thing to do.  However, there is much more to Maryland than oysters and crabs.  The state is home to an organic shrimp farm, Marvesta Shrimp Farms, which is located in Dorchester County.  Marvesta raises shrimp in an environmentally conscious way, forgoing the chemicals, antibiotics and hormones that may be used by shrimp farms in other parts of the world.  Although Marvesta ships only to grocery stores and restaurants, their organic shrimp farm serves as the inspiration for the start of this meal ... Shrimp Pâté.  Shrimp are chopped and combined with a fat (cream cheese, mayonnaise and butter), along with some seasonings (Old Bay and Tabasco) and herbs (mainly dill) to create the pâté, which is served along with a toasted baguette.

As delicious as this sounds, one cannot start a meal with shrimp pâté and baguette alone.  We will also be serving a Cream of Asparagus Soup with Rice.  Farms on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, such as Godfrey's Farm, grow asparagus to sell at local grocery stores and farmer's markets.  This soup is particularly notable because it does not have any cream.  Instead, the soup consists of asparagus, onions, garlic, vegetable stock, and white rice, which helps to create the consistency of a cream of asparagus soup.

Boneless Spring Lamb Roast

Farms dot the Maryland countryside.  Many of these farms, such as Zekiah Farms in Charles County and Jehovah Jireh Farm in Washington County raise lamb.  For our second course, we will be making a lamb roast.  The roast will be seasoned with garlic, oregano, rosemary, and paprika and roasted until it reaches medium.  The lamb will be sliced and served with a pan juice and side dishes to be determined.

Smith Island Cake

We will end the evening with Maryland's official dessert ... the Smith Island cake.  This cake consists of eight to ten crepe-thin cake layers held together with a cooked chocolate icing.  The story behind the cake is that it is a recipe from the original inhabitants of Smith Island, which was discovered in 1606 but settled between 1650 and 1680.  The original cake was said to have only 4 layers; however, competition between the families led to taller and taller cakes.  Our version will have between eight to ten layers.

We are looking forward to this wine club and hope to see you all there.  (And, BTW, we will make the Burma menu for a wine club in the future.)


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