Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Privé Vineyard Le Sud (2013)

It has always been the retirement dream of my beautiful Angel and myself: to retire to a beautiful region, which happens to be a great wine-growing region where we own a small but successful vineyard and winery.   My Angel, Clare, would learn the art of winemaking, while I would help in the fields and have a small kitchen where I could cook meals for friends and guests that could be paired with the wines.

This retirement dream came to us during our visit to Privé Vineyards.  Privé is a very small vineyard, with less than 3 acres of vines.  The vines are located in "Le Nord" and "Le Sud," which are basically the front yard and back yard.  Despite that small size, Privé has produced some of the best wines generally and Pinot Noir wines in particular that Clare and I have tried.  

To date, I have reviewed five of those wines, including three vintages of the Le Nord, the wine Privé produces from the grapes grown on the acre that bears that name.  It has almost been five years since I reviewed a vintage of the Le Sud, the wine produced from the grapes grown on the other acre at the vineyard.   Recently, we opened a bottle from the 2013 vintage.  As we took in the aroma and taste of the wine, we were not only reminded of our retirement dream, but of how great Privé wines can be.

The grapes for the Le Sud are grown on vines facing the southwest and at an elevation of 400 feet.  After harvesting, the wine is aged for 12 months in 100% new French Oak barrels.  

The Le Sud pours with a garnet tones shining in the light.  Those tones give way to slight fruit-based variations, such as blackberry or plumb colors.  After the wine is poured into a glass, the aromas of black cherries and ripe raspberries greet the nose.  There is a little earthiness and some slight graphite in the aroma.  (One of the things that I love about Oregonian wines, including Privé wines, is the earthiness they bring to the Pinot Noir wines).  

As for the taste, the winemaker suggests that there are black cherries, cloves and violents.  For me, each sip of the wine gives rise to a bowl of black cherries, with some raspberries on the side and finished with a hint of vanilla. 

What is really interesting is a comparison between the 2013 Le Nord and the 2013 Le Sud.  While both wines share many of the same olefactory and taste elements, the Le Sud had a slight edge in terms of the body.  The body of the Le Sud was just a little fuller than the Le Nord.  Nevertheless, both wines are great wines.  Until next time ...


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Chinese-Style Steak

When I first started cooking as a hobby, there were two things that motivated me.  First, it was Italian cuisine.  This was due to my food-based trip through Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, which I took back in 2006.  However, the other source of motivation came from the other side of the world ... it was the original Iron Chef.

Iron Chef was a cooking competition show produced by Fuji Television.  Each episode generally pitted two of the three (and later four) Japanese Iron Chefs in an one-hour cooking battle focused around a secret ingredient.  The Iron Chefs were Japanese chefs who represent the pinnacle of a cuisine: Hiroyuke Sakai, who was Iron Chef French; Chen Kenichi, who was Iron Chef Chinese; and Rokusaburo Michiba, who was the original Iron Chef Japanese.  (Masahiro was later succeeded by Koumei Nakamura and Masahiro Morimoto as Iron Chef Japanese.)  The fourth Iron Chef was Masahiko Kobe, Iron Chef Italian.  

Iron Chef Chen Kenichi
While I enjoyed watching all of the Iron Chefs produce creative dishes, the one chef who I always seemed to root for the most was Iron Chef Kenichi.  The official records of the Iron Chef reveal that Chef Kenichi had the most losses of any Iron Chef, but that did not matter to me.  Chef Kenichi brought a Sichuan-inspired flair to his dishes, which earned him the nickname, "The Szechuan Sage." His dishes always left me hungry and his cooking inspired me to dabble with Chinese cuisine.  

Long after the show ended, and the reruns stopped, I came across Chen Kenichi's cookbook, Iron Chef Chen's Knockout Chinese.  While the book has sat on a shelf for a very long time, I have been wanting to make a dish from its recipes.   I paged through it one day and found a recipe for "Chinese-Style Steak."  Chef Chen writes that this was his favorite recipe as a child.  "If my mother said, 'Steak for dinner tonight,'" he recounts, "my head would be filled with mouth-watering visions all day at school."  The chef would head "straight home on those days" for that steak dinner.  

With that background, I thought that would be a good recipe for one of my Steak Nights. The recipe is incredibly easy to make.  That simplicity seems quite ironic for a chef who made some very complex recipes during his Iron Chef Battles.  In the end, this is just another lesson that has been become a theme in my cooking adventures.  Simplicity can be perfection.

(One last note: I did not have any watercress for the garnish.  But, who needs greens?  Steak and onions is a meal in and of itself!)

Recipe from Chen Kenichi, 
Iron Chef Chen's Knockout Chinese, pp. 58-59
Serves 1

1 cut beef tenderloin
Dash each salt and pepper
1 onion
Beef tallow or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Watercress, for garnish

1.  Prepare the beef and onion.  Score meat diagonally along the surface of the beef and season with salt and pepper.  Thinly slice the onion against the grain.

2.  Cook the beef.  Melt the beef tallow in a wok and add  steak.  Grill on both sides to desired level of doneness and remove from the wok.  Use remaining fat in pan to saute onions.  Add the sake and soy sauce.  

3.  Finish the dish.  Cut steak into bite-size strips, top with sauteed onions and garnish plate with watercress. 


Friday, March 9, 2018

The Irishman's Enforcer at the Market Garden

It seems like every time I visit Cleveland, I have to make a stop at the West Side Market.  I love that place, strolling from aisle to aisle, vendor to vendor.  As I look over the variety of produce, meats and seafood, I look for inspiration for something to cook.  But, as almost certain as it is that I will visit the West Side Market when I have a chance, it is equally as certain that I will also stop next door at the Market Garden Brewery to have a beer.  

During my last visit to Cleveland and the West Side Market, I made a stop at Market Garden Brewery for that beer.  There were twenty-one beers on tap, but there was one that caught my eye.  The Irishman's Enforcer.  The brewers describe this beer as "luscious and indulgent."  They add that it is a "sipping beer that offers plenty of warmth and satisfying malty richness but clears the palate quickly," and, "[a] perfect fireplace beer for mid-winter contemplation.  Well, I did not have a fireplace, and, I was not in the mood for any "mid-winter contemplation (after all, I was thinking about what I would be making for dinner).  But the Irishman's Enforcer was definitely a sipping beer with a lot of malty richness. 

The Irishman's Enforcer pours an oily black color, with a light chocolate foam that sat quietly on the surface, mocking the foam of the more commonly known Irish beer.  The aromas of the beer feature some cocoa or coffee, as well as some of the alcohol that lurks in the liquid.  Those aromas providing an inviting glimpse into what one can expect with that first sip.  Some coffee, a little bit of chocolate and an unexpected hint of anise, or perhaps boozy dark fruit like black cherries or raisins.There is definitely a lurking sweetness behind the big, bold beer.  That sweetness sets it apart from some of the other Imperial Stouts and Double Imperial Stouts that I have tried in the past.  

The Irishman's Enforcer also carries a very subtle but very noticeable alcohol element to it.  While the ABV is only 9.5%, which is relatively common for an imperial stout, the aroma and taste of the beer suggest that the ABV is actually quite higher. The alcohol sits quietly in the background, watching and waiting while one takes each sip. It sticks around for quite a while, as long as the finish of the beer.  

The Irishman's Enforcer Imperial Stout is a very good example of the style.  The booziness of the beer suggests that it has been aged in whisky or bourbon barrels, but I can't find anything to confirm that.  Needless to say, the beer is definitely worth getting and enjoying, as I did, with an order of the Saffron-Red Curry Mussels and Chicken Tinga Tacos.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Croatia

Slowly, but surely, I am making my way around the world with the goal of making a main course from 80 different countries (with four bonus meals made based upon the cuisines of peoples who do not have their own state).  The selection of countries is somewhat random, somewhat by opportunity.  My 29th challenge falls in the latter category.  I knew I would be making a seafood dish and I had it in my mind to make a brodetto, which is an Italian fish soup (also known as Cacciucco in Tuscany or even Bouillabaise in France).  As I was searching for a recipe online, I came across one for Brodet.  And that became my 29th challenge ... to make that dish, which is a main course from the country of Croatia.

Very briefly, an independent Croatian kingdom emerged in the 10th century A.D. The independence eventually faded when the country came under a personal union with Hungary.  While Croatia remained a separate state, it was effectively controlled from Budapest, and, the front lines in the wars against the Ottoman Empire.  When the Ottomans were driven back, Croatia became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.   After World War I ended, which saw the breakup of that empire, Croatia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  It was united with other states or regions, including Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. Croatia had a brief period of "independence" during World War II, when it was allied with Nazi Germany, but the country found itself back in a broader multi-ethnic state -- namely, Yugoslavia -- after that war.  Croatia remained part of Yugoslavia until it was able to obtain its independence in 1991.  Since that time, it has been known as the Republic of Croatia.

This history, as briefly recounted above, provides some insight into the culture and cuisine of Croatia.  As one could expect, the centuries under Austro-Hungarian rule would show through with German and Hungarian influences in some of the cuisine.  This influence is particularly pronounced in the cuisine of two of three regions of Croatia.  These regions are Slavonia, which consists of the North and East of the country, as well as central Croatia, which includes the capital of Zagreb.  The food features ingredients such as black pepper, paprika and garlic, as well as dishes of smoked meats, breaded meats, goulash and stuffed cabbage grace the plates here.

And, then there is the third region.  It is the coastal region, stretching from the Istrian peninsula down all the way down the coast.  This region is known as Istria and Dalmatia.  The coastline lies on the opposite side of the Adriatic sea from Italy.  Thus, it seems only logical that the Croats would have their own version of a Brodetto.  From Porec to Dubrovnik, and everywhere in between (except for that small sliver of coastline that belongs to Bosnia-Herzegovina), there are ports and fishing villages where local fishermen could go out and return with a bounty that could end up in a fish stew.  Of course, the fishermen sell off all the good fish and keep the less desirable ones for the stew.  That fish stew would become my personal culinary challenge. 


This challenge represents an instance where I am making a dish that represents the cuisine of one country, even though I know that there are similar dishes in other countries.  Indeed, there are some similarities between a Croatian Brodet and an Italian Brodetto.  The similarities lie in the use of garlic onions and tomatoes in the base.  There are also differences.  A Brodet uses additional vegetables, such as leeks, and red wine vinegar which is not usually used in a Brodetto.  (The cook probably drinks the wine as he makes the Brodetto, as I often do when I make the dish). 

This Brodet is a little more luxurious than one would probably find being made by local fishermen at a Croatian fishing town.  I used monkfish, black grouper and halibut.  Each fish contributed to the dish, whether by texture (monkfish) or taste (grouper and halibut).  I also used some medium sized shrimp (about 21 to 26 count) and some mussels.  As for the wine, I could not locate any Croatian red wine, so I went with a wine from an Italian province across the water ... a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (which is a wine I have used to make an Abruzzese Brodetto).

The recipe I used is from Arousing Appetites, which also recommended serving polenta with the Brodet.  A polenta was made for this dish, although it is not in the picture.  

Recipe adapted from Arousing Appetites
Serves 6-8

Ingredients (for the brodet):
2/3 cup olive oil
1 heaping handful of fresh parsley (about 1 cup when chopped)
1 lemon juiced
15 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of monkfish (or similar denser, firmer, meatier fish)
1 pound of grouper (or similar flavorful, flaky fish)
1 pound of halibut
1/2 pound of raw, medium size shrimp (21-26 count)
1/2 pound of mussels, washed
2 onions, chopped
2 small leeks, the white and green stalk parts halved and thinly sliced
2-3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup of red wine
1 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
3 stalks fresh rosemary, chopped
4 cups fish stock or water
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients (for the polenta):
2 cups water
2 cups fish broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated Parmesan (optional)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1.  Marinate the fish.  In a food processor, combine the fresh parsley, 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 cloves of garlic and lemon juice together to create a thick and rich puree.  In a large bowl, rub the puree into the fish and shrimp and then let marinate for at least 1 hour.

2.  Begin making the polenta.  Add water, fish broth and salt in a sauce pot and bring it to a boil.  Add the polenta and whisk vigorously through the water.  Keep the pot on high heat as the water beings to re-boil.  Once the pot begins to boil again, turn the heat down to the lowest possible simmer setting.  Simmer the polenta for at least 45 minutes, whisking and [ the polenta around as frequently as every 2 to 3 minutes.  

3.  Begin to make the Brodet.  After about 15 minutes of cooking the polenta, bring a soup pot with the remaining oil over high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and remaining minced garlic.  Saute for five minutes.  Add the leeks and saute for another 2 minutes.  As the leek and onion become gradually softer, add the tomatoes and tomato paste and mix vigorously.  Reduce the heat to medium high and cook for another 2 minutes.  Once everything is mixed well and the tomatoes have softened, add the red wine, red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes.  

4.  Add the fish.  Layer the fish on top of the vegetables in the soup pot.  Once all the fish is in, add the fish stock, bay leaves and rosemary into the pot.  Keep the soup pot uncovered and cook on high heat for 15 minutes, but do not stir the pot.  If you need to jostle the ingredients around, pick up the soup pot by the handles and give it a bit of a shake.  Add more fish stock or water as needed to keep the fish submerged in case of evaporation.  

5.  Add the shellfish.  After about 15 minutes, place the shrimp and mussels on top of all other ingredients and submerge in the broth.  Cover the soup pot and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes to help cook the shellfish. After 5 minutes, remove the brodet from the heat and set aside for a moment.

6.  Finish the dish.  Take the polenta off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter.  As the butter melts and the polenta becomes creamy, finish by adding the cheese to the polenta and whisking it through until the cheese melts.  Serve the brodet with a side of polenta. 

*          *          *

Having made Cacciucco and Brodetto, I have to admit that I was not expecting to have a different culinary experience with the Brodet.  However, the Brodet did have its own flavor and taste.  The use of the wine and the vinegar definitely gave the broth a more acidic taste that a Brodetto.  Also, the marination of the fish in the parsley, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice paste added another layer of flavors to the broth.

Overall, this was a very good dish.  The presentation was clearly lacking, but the taste made up for it.  With another challenge in the books, I can now look forward to the next one.  Given my last two challenges (this one and Italy) focused heavily on seafood, I might just tip the scales towards a challenge that involves something that walks on land, such as a cow, lamb or chicken.  Until next time ...

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