Friday, March 30, 2012

Bergström Winery Cumberland Reserve (2009)

When one talks of a "blend," it is often to describe a wine that is produced with two or more different grape varietals. A wine made with, for example, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes.  However, a blend can also be made with just one grape.  The "blend" comes from using grapes that are grown and cultivated from different vineyards.

One example of such a blend is Bergström Winery's Cumberland Reserve.  This wine is a "blend" of Pinot Noir grapes from at least four different vineyards in the Willamette Valley.  The vineyards from which Bergström gets the grapes for its blend include de Lancellotti, Bergström, Shea and Temperance Hill.  (I have previously reviewed Bergström's Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir, which was made with grapes from only that vineyard.)  The wine is aged for twelve months in oak barrels (17% of which is new French oak), which are one to five years old.

I looked for the notes to the 2009 vintage, but could only find the notes for the 2010 vintage.  Yet, those notes provide a good starting point for the 2009 vintage.  The winemaker describes the wine as having a vibrant and youthful ruby red color.  This is definitely true of the 2009 vintage. 

The winemaker describes the aromatic elements as having a "very expressive nose of dark chocolate, black cherry and dark raspberry fruits, sweet violet flowers and a toasty oak driven vanilla spice."  I could sense the black cherry and dark raspberry, along with a little oak or vanilla.  I had a harder time sensing the chocolate in the wine.  

Finally, the winemaker describes the flavors of the wine as "pure flavors of dark cherry and raspberry which echo on the richly textured palate and are framed in by pie spices, dried rose petal and earth flavors and nuances."  Once again, I could sense the fruits, but I had a little more difficulty sensing the pie spices or dried rose petals.  I did get the earthiness in the taste of the wine.

As with any Oregon Pinot Noir, it can be paired with a range of foods.  These wines are especially well paired with the iconic Oregonian flavors and ingredients, such as mushrooms and salmon.  

This wine is available at larger wine stores, such as Binny's in Chicago.  A bottle sells for about $42.00.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Ragu

For a couple of years, I went to wine tastings with Clare at the National Geographic Society.  At these tastings, Joshua Wesson (the founder of Best Cellars) introduced the audience to an array of different wines and, in the process, offer advice on pairing those wines with food.  I really enjoyed those tastings and, at one of them, I bought Josh's cookbook, Wine & Food: A New Look at Flavor.  This cookbook is a great read, especially for someone like myself ... who knows little about wine pairing but is eager to learn.  It contains over fifty recipes and, just like the wine tastings, Joshua provides wine pairing suggestions for each one. 

I have read Joshua's book a few times, trying to absorb as much as I can about wine tasting and pairing.  I have always wanted to make some of the recipes from the book and pair them to the wines that Josh recommends.  One particular recipe is the Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Ragu.  This dish draws its inspiration from Bolognese-style sauce.  Recently, I purchased a package of pappardelle from a local store with the specific intent of making this recipe.  However, I have been very busy at work lately and I kept putting off making this dish.  The package of pappardelle sat in our pantry for days and then weeks. 

After one particularly long and hard day at work, I decided that I would make the Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Ragu.  My decision was definitely worth it. I followed the recipe with one exception.  I substituted unsalted beef stock for beef broth.  I made this substitution because I generally prefer using stock to broth, and, when a recipe calls for broth, I almost invariably substitute stock.  The dish still turned out very well and, as exhausted as I was, I enjoyed a great meal  ... and two great lunches thereafter. 

Recipe from Joshua Wesson, Wine & Food, A New Look at Flavor, page 129
Serves 4

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound of ground lamb
1 yellow onion, minced
1 cup finely chopped fresh cremini mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, or to taste
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups of reduced sodium beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
2 small fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound dried pappardelle
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese,
     plus more for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1.  Brown the lamb.  In a non-stick frying pan large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta, heat the oil over high heat.  Add the lamb and saute, stirring to break up any clumps, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a plate.

2.  Saute the vegetables.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat.  Add the onion, mushrooms, and red pepper flakes and saute until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the onion is translucent and soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

3.  Finish the sauce.  Return the lamb to the pan and add the broth, 1/2 cup of water, the wine, tomato sauce, tomato paste and rosemary.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered until the sauce has thickened slightly, 25-30 minutes.  Add the vinegar and cook for 1 minute longer.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Keep warm over low heat.

4.  Cook the pasta.  About 15 minutes before the sauce is ready, bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil.  Add the pappardelle and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes or according to the package directions.   

5.  Finish the dish. Raise the heat under the sauce to medium.  Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce, and toss and stir to combine.  Add the 1/4 cup of Parmesan, the parsley and again toss to combine. 

6.  Plate the dish.  Divide the pasta among warmed shallow bowls and serve right away.  Pass additional Parmesan at the table. 


As I  mentioned at the outset of this post, the great thing about Joshua's book is that he offers pairing suggestions for each of the recipes.  The suggestions include New World wines, Old World wines, and alternative pairings.  For this recipe, the "New World" match was a Sangiovese wine from the Mendoza region of Argentina.  The "Old World" pairing was a northern Italian Barbara wine.  The "alternative pairing" was a Californian Blanc de Noirs or a Sangiovese Rose.  Of all these suggestions, I was able to find a Barbera d'Asti, which comes from the northern Italian region of Piedmont:

Crivelli -- Collina La Mora Barbera D'Asti (2009)
100% Barbera
D'Asti, Piedmont, Italy
Flavors of cherries and raspberries with faint hint of spice

According to Josh, a Barbera wine has the natural acidity to match with the tomato in the sauce and to balance the richness of the ground lamb.  He was right.  The Barbera worked perfectly with this dish. 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Japanese Green Tea IPA

Stone Brewing Company is primarily known for its aggressively hopped, in-your-face style of beers ... with names like Arrogant Bastard and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  Stone is also known for its collaborations with other brewers.  The general formula of these collaborations is to have three brewers from three different breweries join together to produce unique examples of beer styles.

Stone Brewing Company is a well established and well recognized brewer.  However, its collaborations offer a great opportunity learn about little-known brewers.  One example of this is the Japanese Green Tea IPA, which Stone brewed with the Japanese Brewery of Baird Beer and the Guam brewery of Ishii Brewing.  I had heard of Baird Beer while working on my blog post about Kiuchi Brewery's Hitachino XH.  With its motto of "Celebrating Beer," Baird Beer produces a line up of craft beers with names like Wheat King Ale, Rising Sun Pale Ale, Suruga Bay Imperial IPA, and Shimaguni Stout. Baird also produces a range of seasonal beers using ingredients such as Japanese figs, mikan fruit and yuzu.  Unlike Baird Beer, I had never heard of Ishii Brewing, a small brewer on the island of Guam.  According to its website, Ishii brews only two beers ... Minagof Pale Ale and Minagof India Pale Ale.  The word "Minagof" means happiness in Chamarro, which is the language of the indigenous peoples of Guam.

There is definitely some "minagof" in the Japanese Green Tea IPA. The beer pours a perfect apricot/orange color, which is, in my mind, the ideal color for an India Pale Ale or Imperial India Pale Ale.  As the picture shows, there is a decent amount of foam that rests gently on top of the beer.  The aromatic elements of this beer are largely the same as an India Pale Ale, although there is a hint of green tea in the aroma.  The tea comes out a little more in the taste, but not too much.  Rather, it is the traditional flavor of grapefruit, brought about by the hops, that is the principal flavor of this beer.

At 9.0% ABV, the beer provides not only a strong grapefruit flavor, but a good sense of alcohol with it.  These flavors, with the alcohol, could pair well with something grilled.  Perhaps it is the suggestion provided by the name of the beer, but, this beer could pair well with yakitori or teppanyaki.  Whether it is grilled chicken skewers or beef cooked on an iron griddle, that seems to work with this beer.  For those lacking an iron griddle, the beer could also be paired with steaks or chicken cooked on a backyard grill as well.

The beer sells for about $7.99 for a twelve ounce bottle, which is a steep price.  However, this beer was brewed as a fundraiser, with the proceeds going to Japanese tsunami relief programs.  On that basis alone, it is definitely worth the price, but you get the added benefit of a very good beer.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Corte alla Flora Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (2008)

Francesco Reddi, an Italian poet, has described the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano as the "King of Italian Wines."  The wine style gets its name from the town of Montepulciano, which is located in central Tuscany, as opposed to the grape varietal known as Montepulciano.  (The Montepulciano grape is used most commonly in Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines, which is a subject for another post, such as this one.)   

The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has its own Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or DOCG.  The rules of the DOCG provide that the wine must contain at least 70% Prugnolo Gentile grapes, which are a clone of the Sangiovese grapes.  Winemakers have options with respect to the remaining 30% of grapes, and, use varietals such as Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine is aged for 2 years in oak barrels.  If it is aged for 3 years in oak barrels, then the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano can have the name "Riserva."

Corte alla Flora produces its Vino di Montepulciano with a blend of 80% Prugnolo Gentile, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The Corte alla Flora Vino Nobile di Montepulciano pours a dark ruby red, with crimson tones.  The winemaker describes the aromas as raspberry, blackberry and sweet violet, followed by coffee and vanilla.  For me, the aromatic elements of this wine were ripe cherries and blackberries, with a little earth and leather.  After a while, I began to pick up some vanilla in the wine.  The body of the wine is subtle, with a little acidity on the finish.  The flavors brought out in this wine include cherries and plums. 

The Vino di Montepulciano can be paired much like a Chianti Classico, Sangiovese di Romagna or a Rosso di Montepulciano.  I paired this wine with Pollo di Parmigiana, my version of the classic Chicken Parmesan. This wine worked very well with the additional spices that I added both to the breading and the tomato sauce.  It also worked paired very well with the chicken, providing a juicy wine that complemented the juiciness of the baked -- as opposed to deep-fried -- chicken breast. 

The Corte alla Flora Vino Nobile di Monetpulciano is available at grocery stores and wine stores.  It sells for anywhere between $19.99 to $22.99.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chef Bolek's Pollo di Parmigiana

I both love and hate Chicken Parmesan.  I love the dish because, when it is made right, it combines chicken, cheese and tomatoes into one amazing meal.  However, when it is done poorly, it can be really bad.  And some Italian restaurants -- who shall remain nameless -- downright "butcher" the dish.  The prep cooks relentlessly pound the unfortunate chicken breasts until they are  flattened into a shape that resembles a two-dimensional football or a Frisbee.  As if that was not enough, the cooks then coat the breasts with a bland breading, deep fry the hell out of them and finish the dish by drowning the breasts not once but twice ... first with gooey "Parmesan" and then with runny tomato sauce.

One of my earliest cooking adventures was to develop what I thought would be a good Chicken Parmesan or Pollo di Parmigiana.  I said "good," not "best" or "perfect."  (I realize that, when it comes to cooking, I am far from perfect.) 

For me, there are four keys to a "good" Chicken Parmesan.  First, set the tenderizer or mallet aside and leave the breast in its original state.  This complicates the cooking of the dish because the average chicken breast has different thicknesses at each end.  Still, it is better than a flat piece of chicken.  Second, unplug the deep fryer.  A "good" Chicken Parmesan is NOT deep-fried.  The chicken should be pan-fried only as long as it takes to brown the bread crumbs.  The chicken should be finished in the oven, baked at a reasonable temperature to ensure that it does not dry out.  Third, two words ... Parmigiano Reggiano.  If you are going to make Chicken Parmesan or Pollo di Parmigiana, why not use the cheese that is actually produced in the areas around the city of Parma in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.  Finally, use home made sauce.  For this particular recipe, I used crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and, added the herbs and spices that I wanted.  I also made the sauce with a consistency that resembles marinara rather than the runny sauces used by some restaurants.  The chunks of the sauce, along with the cheese and the chicken provide a great range of flavors with each bite. 

So, there you have it.  A "good" Chicken Parmesan recipe.  It may not be the best, but it definitely works for me. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the Chicken):
2 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup of flour
2 cups of Italian style bread crumbs
1 tablespoon of dried basil
1/2 tablespoon of dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon of onion powder
1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper, plus 
     additional ground black pepper to taste
1 egg
1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Flat leaf parsley, chopped

Ingredients for the Tomato Sauce
1 can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon of dried basil
1/4 tablespoon of dried oregano
1/4 tablespoon of crushed red pepper
2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
1/4 onion, diced finely
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1.  Bread the chicken breasts.  Create a three stage breading process beginning with flour, then beaten egg and then bread crumbs.  Season the flour heavily with freshly ground black pepper.  Combine the basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper and ground black pepper with the bread crumbs.  Mix well.  Dip each breast first in the flour, then the egg and finally in the bread crumbs.  Let the breasts rest for about ten minutes. 

2.  Brown the chicken breasts.  Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in an oven proof pan.  Also heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once the oil is hot, place the breasts allow them to cook for about five minutes on each side.  After ten minutes, place the pan in the oven.  Continue to cook the breasts for about ten more minutes, flipping them after five minutes.  After about twenty minutes of pan frying and cooking in the oven, add a substantial amount of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top of the breast.  Continue to cook for at least five minutes or until the cheese has melted and begins to brown.  Remove the chicken to rest for about five minutes. 

3.  Make the sauce.  While the chicken is cooking in the oven, heat about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on medium high heat. Add the onions and saute for two minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for an additional two minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano and crushed red pepper.  Add salt and ground black pepper to taste.  Continue to simmer on low heat until the chicken is ready to be served.

4.  Plate the dish.  Plate the chicken breast.  Spoon some of the tomato sauce on top of the chicken breast.  Sprinkle the parsley over the top.  Serve the remainder of the sauce on the side.  


This dish is fairly easy to pair with wine. If you want to pair the dish with the region, I would suggest a Sangiovese di Romagna.  However, this dish goes well with other Italian wines, such as Chianti Classico, Super Tuscans and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Here are a couple of wines that I've reviewed that would pair well with this dish: 

Collina dei Lecce -- Sangiovese di Romagna Riserva
100% Sangiovese grapes
Emila-Romagna, Italy
Flavors of cherries and raspberries

Marchesi Antinori -- Villa Antinori
55% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah. 
Tuscany, Italy
Flavors of dark cherry, blueberries, earth and spice.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Haiti

It has been a while since my last challenge, which was to make Escudella, a main course from Andorra.  With the pleasant thoughts of my role as an Escullaire for a day, I turn to my next challenge ... to make a main course from Haiti.  I assumed this challenge in the context of cooking a four course meal Haitian meal with my beautiful Angel for our Wine Club friends.  While only the main course counts toward my personal culinary challenge, I have included all four courses -- which actually includes five dishes (more about that later) -- with this post.

For the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti's cuisine has benefited from a wealth of different cultural and culinary influences.  The indigenous peoples, the Arawak and Taíno, cultivated fruits and vegetables, including but not limited to  guavas, papayas, sweet potatoes, pineapples and corn.  With the Age of Discovery, the Europeans then left their mark on the cuisine.  European traders and settlers brought  oranges, lemons, mangoes, rice and sugarcane  The last ingredient also left a further mark upon Haiti, as Europeans brought slaves from Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations.   The Africans made a significant contribution to Haitian cuisine with ingredients such as  beans, taro root, pigeon peas and okra.

My goal with this challenge was to make a four course dinner featuring dishes that are commonly served on the tables of Haitian families.  Having not visited Haiti personally, this is quite a challenge.


The first course is Accra.  This dish is a Haitian version of Akkra, a Senegalese fritter made with black eye peas.  Rather than using peas, the Haitians use malanga, also known as eddoe, which is a close relative to taro root. This dish can be made either by deep frying the or pan frying the fritters.  This recipe calls for doing the latter, using about a cup of oil in a pan.  Make sure that the oil gets very hot and add a few tablespoons at a time so as to not cause the temperature to drop too much.  We served these fritters with a little sour cream, which works well with the root vegetable fritters.

ACCRA (Malanga Fritters)
Adapted from Haitian Recipes

1 egg
1 pound of malanga, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 teaspoon of adobo seasoning
Salt, to taste
2 teaspoons of flat leaf parsley
1 cup of oil
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 shallot minced
1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1.  Prepare the malanga.  Soak the malanga in water overnight.  Heat a  pot of water on high until the water begins to boil.  Boil the malanga for about ten minutes.  Check to see if they are cooked by piercing the root with a fork.    Remove the malanga and allow them to cool.  The cover or skin should come off easily.  Allow the taro root to cool before proceeding to the next step. 

2.   Prepare the fritters.   Grate the malanga.  Mash it with a fork.  Combine the remaining ingredients and mix them in well.

3.  Fry the fritters.  Use a skillet, heat the oil until it is very hot.  Pour a spoonful of batter at a time.  Flip over to brown evenly.  Remove and set aside.  Blot with a paper towel to remove excess oil. 


For the second course, I made a Soupe aux Pois Rouge or Red Pea Soup.  I could not find any red peas, so I substituted small red beans.  I followed the recipe and the resulting product closely resembled the texture of refried beans.  I added a couple cups of water to provide a more soup-like texture to the dish. 

Recipe adapted from Haitian Recipes
Serves 6

1 bag of small red beans
1 scallion, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon of adobo
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon of oil

1.  Boil the peas/beans.   Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the peas.  Boil for about one and one half hours until the peas are tender.  Drain the peas, set aside and reserve the liquid. 

2.  Prepare the soup.  Add the peas to a food processor, along with two cups of the reserve liquid and about another cup or two of water if you want to create a soup-like consistency, four cloves of garlic, and puree until smooth.

3.  Finish the soup.  Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Saute the shallot and scallions for three to five minutes.  Pour the pea soup into a large pot over medium heat.  Season to taste with the seasoning.  Stir in the thyme, parsley, scallion and shallot.  Remove from heat and serve with white rice.


Of course, the Around the World in 80 Dishes Challenge requires me to make a main course.  To satisfy the challenge, I decided to make Griots, which is a popular Haitian pork dish.  I have to admit that this is a dish that I have been wanting to make for quite a while.  I read a couple of articles about Griots and the process by which it is made.  I found the articles interesting and I was very happy to have the opportunity to make this dish.  

The process is fairly straightforward.  The pork is rinsed in citrus juice (orange and lime) and then marinated with various spices for a few hours.  The meat is then cooked twice.  It is first boiled with the marinade (although I have seen some recipes that call for roasting it).  Once the meat is tender, the meat is fried until it is browned in a pan with some oil.   

Recipe adapted from Haitian Recipes
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 pounds of pork
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper
1 teaspoon of parsley
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
1 teaspoon of adobo
1 lime 
1 orange
1.  Prepare the meat.  Cut the meat into medium pieces.  Wash thoroughly with lime and/or sour orange juice.  Season the meat well with adobo, rosemary, thyme, parsley, garlic powder, and pepper.  Marinate for about four hours.

2.  Boil the meat.  In a saucepan, cover the meat with water and boil over medium heat until water evaporates.  Stir occasionally and cook until the meat is tender.  Remove the meat and set aside.

3.  Fry the meat.  Heat the oil in a skillet, fry each side of the meat to brown evenly.


I decided that I would serve the Griots with the "National Dish" of Haiti, Diri Kole ak Pwa, which is also called "Ris et Pois" or "Rice and Beans."  My beautiful Angel made this dish and she did a great job.  The rice dish has quite a kick from the Scotch Bonnet peppers.  If you cannot find Scotch Bonnet peppers, you can do what I did and substitute Habanero peppers.  You can see the peppers, they are the little orange strips amongst the rice. 

DIRI KOLE AK PWA (Rice and Beans)
Recipe adapted from Tastebook
Serves 8-10

2 (8 ounce packages) of dry kidney beans
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallot bulbs, minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of uncooked long grain white rice
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
6 sprigs of fresh parsley
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Scotch Bonnet chile peppers 

1.  Prepare the beans  Place beans in a large pot, and cover with 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. Drain, reserving liquid.

2. Cook the beans and rice. Heat oil in a dutch oven or similar pot over medium heat. Saute shallot and garlic until fragrant. Stir in cooked beans, and cook for 2 minutes. Measure reserved liquid, and add water to equal 5 cups; stir into skillet. Stir in the uncooked rice. Season with bay leaves, adobo seasoning, salt, pepper, and cloves. Place sprigs of parsley and thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper on top, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove thyme, parsley, and scotch bonnet pepper to serve.


My beautiful Angel also made dessert for this meal ... Bonbon Sirop.  I would describe this dish as Haitian brownie with a citrus rum glaze, although it is technically a dense flour cake with a citrus rum glaze.  For this dish, we went all out, even using Rhum Barbancourt, a Haitian rum, when making the glaze.  The flavors of the cinnamon, ginger and molasses are very prominent in this dish. 

Adapted from Haitian Recipes
Serves Many
2 cups of butter
3 eggs
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
1/2 tbsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 cup of molasses
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract 
1 tsp of baking soda
4 cups of all-purpose flour

Glaze (optional)
1/3 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of butter
1 tablespoon of rum
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1 tablespoon of lemon zest

1.  Prepare the Bonbon Sirop.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Whisk eggs, butter and brown sugar together.  Combine the remaining ingredients and beat into a dough like paste.  Spread the paste into a pre-greased baking dish.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare the glaze.  Pour water, sugar, butter, lemon zest, and orange zest in a saucepan over high heat.  Stir constantly for 10 minutes until it caramelizes into a semi-thick syrup.  Take the glaze off of the heat and add rum. Drizzle the glaze over the Bonbon Sirop.

*     *     *

This is the first challenge in which I worked with my beautiful Angel to make a full meal as part of the Around the Woprld in 80 Dishes challenge.  Clare is an excellent cook and together, we make a great team.  Overall, I think we succeeded in creating a great meal.  Each dish was very good, although the Griots and Diri Kole ak Pwa were my favorites.  The Bonbon Sirop came in a close second.  And, finally, we made a donation in an amount equal to the food costs for our wine club dinner to Just Haiti, which, among other things, helps Haitian coffee growers and their families get a fair price for their crops.   

Good food and good times, all for a good cause.  What more could anyone ask for?  Until next time ...


Friday, March 16, 2012

Búsqueda de los Cerdos

A few years back, my beautiful Angel, Clare, and I bought a framed picture at the Bethesda Arts Festival.  We go to the festival every year and, inevitably, we purchase a picture or two of art.  That year, Clare stopped at the stall of Josh Axelrod.  Josh is a great photographer, who believes that "magic is everywhere" and whose goal is to seek out "the poetry of the landscape."

Clare focused on one of Josh's photographs.  The picture, which was shown to the left, is entitled "In Pursuit of Trouble."  The picture depicted three little pigs walking outside of what looks like an old building.  Clare immediately thought of me and my love of cooking with pork (and eating bacon).  Thinking that this would be a picture that I would be interested in buying, Clare went looking for me and brought me to Josh's stall.  

Josh explained that he took the picture during a trip to Peru.  He was walking through a small town when he came across those three little pigs.  The pigs were strutting around like they owned the place, conspiring to stir up some trouble.  Josh stopped, pulled out his camera, and took the picture.  And, we bought that picture.  It currently hangs in our kitchen, where I can look at it whenever I cook.

Recently, I was looking at the picture and its story motivated me motivated me to make a dish inspired by Peru.  I purchased a couple of Duroc pork chops and went to work thinking of a rub that draws from Peruvian flavors.  I decided to use a couple Aji Limo Rojo peppers, which are very hot chiles from Peru, along with adobo, onion, and other spices.  I made a simple rub and then placed the pork chops under the broiler.  Alternatively, the pork chops could be grilled under medium high heat (about 375 to 400 degrees).

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

2 boneless pork chops
2 Aji Limo Rojo peppers
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of adobo powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of paprika

1.  Make the rub. Grind the Aji Limo peppers and the peppercorns.  In a small bowl, add the pepper with the onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, adobo and paprika.  Mix well.  Apply the rub on all sides of the pork chops. 

2.  Cook the pork chops.  Preheat the broiler.  Place the pork chops under the broiler and cook for about fifteen minutes.  Flip and cook for fifteen minutes more or until done.  Remove and let the pork chops sit for about ten minutes.  

3.  Plate the dish.  Slice the pork chops and serve with rice.


The Aji Limo Rojo peppers are very spicy.  The peppers have Scoville Heat Units that range from 50,000 to 60,000.  This is 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.  This heat is most likely too much for any wine.  The best pairing for this dish is a beer.  The best beer is perhaps one that is somewhat fruity (like a white wine) and a little heavier in alcohol (to help one forget about the burn of the chiles).  I think the following beer would pair well with this dish:

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company -- Ovila Quadrupel
Belgian Trappist-Style Quadrupel 
California, USA.
Flavors of banana, malt, Belgian yeast.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Campos de Risca Monastrell (2009)

Some say Mourvèdre, some say Monastrell.  Still, others say Mataró.  They are all talking about the same thing, a red grape varietal that produces dark, strong red wines.  I previously blogged about a Monastrell wine, which I discovered as part of a wine pairing with Spanish cuisine.  I have also encountered Mourvèdre as part of a red blend produced by Bogle known as Phantom.  And, when I recently bought  a bottle of Campos de Risca Monastrell, I decided to take a further look into this varietal. 
Whether it is Mourvèdre (in France), Monastrell (in Spain) or Mataró (in Catalunia), the grape was introduced to the Western Mediterranean around 500 BCE by the Phoenicians.  The Phoencian settlers first planted the grape in Catalunia; however, others began to plant the vines in other areas of present-day Spain, such as Alicante and Murcia.  By the 16th century AD, the vines made their way to France.  The grape has made its way to other parts of the world, such as California.  In most places, the grape is used in blends, like the Phantom, to provide deeper flavors.  In Spain, winemakers use the grapes to produce Monastrell wines, like the Campos de Risca.

The Monastrell grape is a thick skinned grape that thrives in hot weather and drought like conditions.  Those conditions are found in the Jumilla DO, which is found within the region of Murcia.  Temperatures can reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and rain totals are rather low.  Yet, the soil in the region retains the moisture and the elevation provides some relief from the temperatures.  Still, the conditions have a profound impact on the wine ... producing big and bold wines that can rival, not only other Spanish wines like the Toro, but other bold reds, such as Californian Zinfandels. 

The Campos de Risca Monastrell pours a deep purple in color, with garnet or ruby hues around the edges. This wine needs  to breathe a little, but once it does, it exhales scents of blackberries and even a little dark cherry.  As for the flavor, the Monastrell is full of dark cherries, blackberries and plums.  Those flavors are rather tight and rigid, held in place by a fair amount of astringency produced by the tannins.  Those tannins really make their presence felt in the finish of the wine.  

A wine such as the Campos de Risca is best paired with grilled or roasted meats, including beef, bison and lamb. This wine could also be paired with grilled pork if the marinade or rub used on the pork has earthy flavors to it. 

I found this wine at a local grocery store.  If I recall correctly, it sold for about $10.00 a bottle. 

For more about the Jumilla DO, check out Winesearcher.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stuffed Rainbow Trout

I have made several whole fish dishes where the recipe calls for stuffing the cavity of the fish with various aromatics like lemons, limes, fresh thyme, basil and other herbs.  This is especially good with larger whole fish like snapper, branzino, and rockfish.  However, it makes less sense with trout.  Generally, "whole trout" have less in the way of bones, which means that they can be eaten as served without taking the time to debone or fillet the fish table-side.  

So, when Clare bought some whole trout, I decided to some up with an edible stuffing that could be cooked inside of the fish.  There were several recipes, but, I decided to do a fairly basic recipe of mushrooms, garlic, onions and breadcrumbs.  The stuffing is sauteed before being added to the trout.  Once the trout is stuffed, there are two options: baked or pan-sauteed.  If you choose the latter, you need some sturdy toothpicks to keep the cavity closed.  I did not have any such toothpicks, so I decided to bake the trout.  I have included both ways -- baking and sauteing -- to prepare the dish.

Recipe adapted from BBC Food and
Serves 2

2 butterflied rainbow trout
1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
8 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
2 cups of bread crumbs
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh sage, chopped finely
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

1.  Prepare the stuffing mixture.  Heat the two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter has melted, add the onions, mushrooms, thyme and sage.  Season with salt and ground pepper.  Saute the onions, mushrooms and garlic until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have been cooked, about four to give minutes.  Remove from the heat and strain to remove any remaining liquid.

2.  Prepare the trout.  Season the inside of the trout with salt and pepper.  Stuff half of the mixture into each trout.  Wrap the trout flesh around to seal the stuffing in the cavity.  Use three to four small toothpicks (which have been soaking in water for about five minutes) to hold the flesh together.

3.  Cook the trout.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place trout in buttered baking dish and brush some butter on the sides of the trout.  Cook for twenty-five to thirty five minutes, or until cooked through.  Alternatively, heat the oil in a saute pan on medium high.  Add the trout and fry for about five to six minutes on each side, or until completely cooked through.

4.  Plate the dish.  Plate one trout on each dish.  Add a side dish like a salad. 


This dish is best paired with a white wine. I would focus more on a wine like a Vouvray or an unoaked Chardonnay.    


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wine Club ... Yon Lannwit Pase Nan Yon Tablo Fanmi Ayisyen

Nou kontan anonse ke dine nan klib diven pou mas pral yon aswè nan yon tablo fanmi ayisyen ... or, as we would say, we are pleased to announce that the wine club dinner for March will be an evening at a Haitian family table.

Haitian cuisine has been strongly influenced by the Spanish and the French, as well as by Africans and Taíno Amerindians.  The Arawak and Taíno first left their print on Haitian food, cultivating fruits and vegetables including guavas, papayas, sweet potatoes, pineapples and corn.  The Europeans then left their mark on the cuisine, introducing oranges, lemons, mangoes, rice and sugarcane.  The last ingredient also left a further mark upon Haiti, as Europeans brought slaves from Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations.  Those Africans also contributed to Haitian cuisine, including the introduction of ingredients like taro root, pigeon peas and okra.  The Africans also introduced beans and rice, which has become one of the staples of cuisine for the everyday Haitian.

We are hoping to draw upon these influences to present a four course Haitian dinner for the wine club.  Our challenge is to try to make some of the dishes that might appear on the tables of an average Haitian family. 

The First Course: Accra.
This is a very simple start to the meal, with grated malanga (or taro root) made into fritters.  This dish exhibits the African influences on Haitian cuisine, because Accra is the Haitian version of Akkra, a Senegalese dish in which the fritters are made with black eye peas. 

The Second Course:  Soupe aux Pois Rouges.
The name translates to "red peas soup," although the dish is actually made with red beans rather than red peas.  Other ingredients, such as scallions, shallots and garlic, help to provide additional levels of flavor to this soup.  

The Third Course: Griots with Diri Kole ak Pwa. 
The main course will actually be two dishes.  The first dish is Griots, a pork dish.  A pork shoulder is marinated for a few hours before being boiled until it becomes very tender.  Before the pork is served, it is fried in a skillet until browned on all sides.  The Griots will be served with the national dish of Haiti ... Diri Kole ak Pwa, also known as Ris et Pois or Rice and Beans.  This dish is made with very cheap ingredients, which makes it available to most Haitians, and is full of carbohydrates.  While Diri Kole ak Pwa may be the national dish of Haiti, it is sometimes the only dish served at a dinner.

The Fourth Course: Bonbon Sirop.
For dessert, we will be making Bonbon Sirop.  This dish is something akin to a Haitian brownie, made with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses and vanilla extract.  The dish completes the Haitian (and, more generally, the Caribbean) experience with a little rum being added to the sugar, water and butter used to make the glaze.  

The irony of presenting a four course meal exhibiting the cuisine from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is not lost upon us.  For that reason, we will be donating the cost of the food to a charity.  We know well and have previously donated to Just Haiti, a non-profit dedicated to peace and sustainable development in Haiti.  Just Haiti works with subsistence coffee growers and their families to bring Cafe Lespwa (a type of arabica coffee) to consumers here in the United States.  Just Haiti works to ensure that the farmers receive a fair, sustainable price for their crops and is also working to help the farmers manage the coffee-processing themselves, rather than have middlemen do that.  Just Haiti's work is helping these Haitian farmers to overcome the economic injustice that has kept them in poverty.

As always, the menu is subject to change depending upon the availability of the ingredients.  (I am tracking down malanga or taro root as I write this post.)  We hope you can make it!


("Haiti" image is from Design for Haiti.  "Just Haiti" banner is from Just Haiti.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sierra Nevada's Ovila Quadrupel

Nearly a year ago, I posted a review about Sierra Nevada's Ovila Dubbel.  The beer caught my attention because I had never seen a Dubbel from Sierra Nevada, let alone one that was made in collaboration with the Abbey of New Clairvaux.  

I did a little research and discovered the interesting background behind Sierra Nevada and the Abbey.  The brewer and the monks have worked to produce beers that have historically been brewed by monasteries for centuries.  A portion of proceeds from the sale of the Ovila Dubbel goes toward the restoration of the historic Santa Maria de Ovila chapter house on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux.  This medieval style building stood for eight centuries in Spain.  William Randolph Hearst purchased the building in 1931 and planned to use the stones for a castle at San Simeon.  Although Hearst never built his castle, the stones will be used to build a house at the New Clairvaux Abbey.

A "Quadrupel" is the name of the is the brand name of the beer produced by De Koningshoeven Brewery, a trappist brewery in the Netherlands.  It is also the name of a Belgian strong beer that is brewed to be stronger than a Tripel or Dubbel. 

The Ovila Quad pours a color that resembles Coca-Cola or decaffeinated coffee.  A light tan foam was formed, which quickly receded to the edges of the glass.  The aromatic elements of this beer are classic Belgian aromas ... yeast, a little fruit (think bananas), and Belgian candy. The flavors of Quad feature that banana, with cloves.  Other flavors include malts, caramel or molasses and a sense of alcohol that comes with high-alcohol beers.  (The Ovila has an ABV of 10.4%.) 

The fruit and malt flavors of this beer make it a good pairing with foods that have a little spice.  Those flavors, along with the warmth of the alcohol, help to tame the heat of the chiles.  I think that this beer pairs well with the Busca de Cuerdo.  This beer is also paired well with sweet desserts.  Of course, the Ovila Quad is also enjoyable on its own.

I found this beer at a local grocery store.  A 22-ounce bottle sells for about $11.99.  


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Poisson Rouge

Recently, I was reading an article called The Light of Morning: The Cuisine of Haiti in Saveur.  It was an interesting perspective of Joceyln Zuckerman.  She traveled to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and discussed her experience with Haitian food during her trip.  In particular, the author went to the town of Gros-Morne, in northwestern Haiti.  Zuckerman's discussion of the food and cuisine is fascinating because it provides an insight into how people make the most out of the little that they have.

One of the dishes that Zuckerman had during her stay was Poisson Rouge or "Red Fish."   The name does not come from the use of red fish.  Instead, it comes from the deep red, spicy broth in which the fish is cooked and served.

As Zuckerman described the dish, "[m]y poisson rouge, a whole red snapper from the nearby seaside town of Gonaives, swims in a brick-colored sauce rich with garlic and the heat of Scotch bonnets; it comes with hunger-busting mounds of rice and cornmeal mush and dense cylinders of boiled plantain and cassava."  The recipe provided by Saveur produced that brick-red sauce, but it did not call for rice, cornmeal mush or boiled plantain and cassava.  Instead, it called for boiled beets and carrots. I am not a big fan of either boiled beets or carrots.  I tried to substitute a boiled yam, but that did not work well either. 

This is a great dish.  I will make rice with this dish the next time.  I think that the rice could absorb the "brick-colored sauce" and be just as tasty as the fish.

Adapted from Saveur Magazine
Serves 2-4

2 1-pound red snappers, scaled and cleaned
1 cup of thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion
1/2 teaspoon of mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme
1 Scotch Bonnet chile, split
1/4 cup canola oil 
6 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Boiled carrots, beets, or other root vegetables
Sliced tomatoes

1.  Marinate the fish.  Score sides of fish, and place in shallow dish.    Whisk together half the shallots, lime juice, scallions, mustard, thyme, chile, salt and pepper  in a bowl and pour over fish.  Marinate for 30 minutes.

2.  Begin making the cooking liquid.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomato paste and cook until it begins to caramelize, about two minutes.  Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, about eight to ten minutes.  Remove fish from marinade and set aside.  Add the marinade and sugar to the skillet.  Cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft, about four to five minutes.  

3.  Cook the fish.  Add the fish and 3/4 cup of water and cover skillet.  Cook, turning the fish once, until the fish is cooked through, about eight to twelve minutes.

4.  Plate the dish.  Transfer fish to a large serving platter.  Season cooking liquid with salt and pepper.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer over the fish.  Garnish with remaining shallots.  Serve with carrots, beets, yams or other boiled vegetables.  Also serve with tomato slices.


This dish is best paired with a white wine.  I think a lighter, fruitier wine could work well with this dish, such as a Pinot Grigio.  In this case, I paired a Chenin Blanc from South Africa with the Poisson Rouge.


Fairvalley Chenin Blanc (2008)

There is nothing better than buying a wine and knowing that a part of the proceeds will go to help others.  That is what happens with the purchase of a Fairvalley wine from South Africa.  

Fairvalley wines are produced by the Fairvalley Workers Association, near the town of Paarl.  The association dedicates the proceeds from its wine sales to fund two initiatives.  The first is the establishment of the Fairvalley Ecovillage housing development on the association's land.  The second is a community development project which includes a community center, the employment of a health worker and a full-time social worker, along with funding various community, youth and educational initiatives.  

This Chenin Blanc is produced from grapes grown at three vineyards.  The first is a bushvine vineyard outside of Darling on hills that face to the west.   The vineyard was planted in 2001 on Richter 99 rootstock and is dryland farmed. The second vineyard is located on the lower slopes of Paarl mountain. This is a older, low-yielding vineyard planted on duplex soils. The third vineyard is another dryland bushvine yard located  in the Piekenierskloof.

The Fairvalley Chenin Blanc pours a light golden color.  The winemaker describes the aromatic elements of this wine as having melon notes.  I think that is a fairly accurate description of the aroma, Others describe the aroma as having tropical fruit and even mandarin oranges in later vintages.  The taste of this Chenin Blanc also has elements of melon fruit.  There is also a little of pear in the front of the wine and a little pineapple in the background.  

The winemaker suggests that the Chenin Blanc is best paired with appetizers and salads, along with spicy dishes. I paired it with Poisson Rouge, a spicy Haitian dish of red snapper cooked and served with a spicy red broth.  This wine worked well to tame the kick of the broth, which was made with a Scotch Bonnet pepper and a lot of garlic.

I bought this wine at one of my favorite wine stores, which has unfortunately closed.  I have seen Fairvalley wines at other wine stores.  A bottle of the Chenin Blanc sells for about $9.99.


For more information, check out Fairvalley's specification sheet

Monday, March 5, 2012

Carne con Rosmarino e Risotto del Midollo Osseo (Rosemary Beef with Bone Marrow Risotto)

I have not been cooking a lot lately, primarily because I have not had the time or energy.  But, recently, I motivated myself to make a dish that I have never made before.  I drew upon my creativity to create a Chef Bolek dish that draws upon foods that I love to cook with or to eat ... beef, bone marrow, risotto, rosemary and mushrooms.  

I decided that I would use the bone marrow as a substitute for extra virgin olive oil.  When you heat bone marrow, it reduces to an oil, which is good for sauteing.  Bone marrow also adds a lot of flavor to the dish.  The flavor is further underscored by the use of veal stock.  If you cannot find veal stock, then you can substitute beef stock.  Also, any kind of mushrooms can be used.

As with any Chef Bolek original, this is a first run at this recipe.  Overall, it worked out well, although I probably used a little too much bone marrow when I sauteed the onions and mushrooms.  I have modified the recipe to call for less than I used.  However, if you love bone marrow as much as I do, then feel free to use as much as you want (within reason, of course).

(Rosemary Beef with Bone Marrow Risotto)
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 1-2

3 meat bones with marrow
1 pound ribeye
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons of sage
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup of olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
1 cup of risotto
1/2 sweet onion, diced finely
4 cups of veal stock
1 cup of water
8 small portabello mushrooms, sliced

1.  Roast the marrow bones.  Preheat the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Roast the marrow bones for about thirty minutes.  Remove the marrow from the bones into a bowl.  Once the marrow is ready, heat the veal stock and water in a pot.

2.  Marinate the steak.  Add the fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon of sage, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper in a food processor.  Process the ingredients, adding the oil in a slow drizzle.  Use the liquid as a marinade for the meat.  Make sure all sides of the meat are covered by the marinade.

3.  Broil the steak.  Turn on the broiler.  Place the steak under the broiler and cook until the steak reaches the desired doneness.  For medium rare, I would do about six to eight minutes on each side.  Add a couple of minutes if necessary. 

3.  Saute the onions.  Spoon about two or three tablespoons of the bone marrow into a deep pot or risotto pot.  Heat over medium heat.  Once the marrow is hot and melted, add the onions and saute until translucent, stirring occasionally, for about eight minutes.  Add the mushrooms, continue to stir occasionally until the mushrooms are coated with the marrow and cooked, about five minutes.  Add another teaspoon or tablespoon of bone marrow if needed to coat the onions and mushrooms.

4.  Add the rice and broth.  Add the rice and stir to coat the rice with the marrow, about one to two minutes.  Add 1 cup of stock.  Stir continuously until the rice absorbs the stock.  When most of the broth is absorbed, add another cup of stock.  Stir continuously until the rice absorbs the stock.  Add another cup and repeat until the risotto is al dente.  Toward the end, add 1 tablespoon of fresh sage.   

5.  Plate the dish.  Once the risotto is al dente, remove from the heat.  Spoon the risotto into the center of the bowl.  Slice the steak and place the slices over the risotto.  The heat of the risotto will cook the steak, so it is better to have the steak at medium rare rather than medium.


This recipe is inspired by Italian cuisine, with the use of risotto and a marinade that draws from the ingredients used to make Bistecca Fiorentina.  Any substantial Italian red wine will work, from a Barolo to a Chianti.  A couple of wines that I have reviewed, which I think will pair well with this dish, include the following: 

Marchesi Antinori -- Villa Antinori (2007)
55% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah
Tuscany, Italy
Flavors of dark cherry and a little blueberry

Marchesi di Frescobaldi -- Nipozzano Riserva (2006)
100% Sangiovese
Tuscany, Italy
Flavors of cherries, raspberries and plums