Spaghetti Red!

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Chili, Norcal Wingman Style

Two and a half years ago I made my first batch, it was worth a third place.  Although the results were clearly rigged (I have no real proof, but have a hunch) I probably had the best standard chili.  The second place chili was more of a spicy seafood chowder and the first place chili was handed out by its creator, totally not allowed in an anonymous contest!  Anyhow, last year I came back with a fury and won first place.  I’m hoping it wasn’t a fluke, there were less competitors last year.  So, this year I have to come back and defend my title.  I’ve been getting challenges from everyone in the office.  I had no idea someone had painted a bulls-eye on my back.

I’ve been trying, with each batch of chili I make, to increase the heat by adding more and different peppers.  I know I could cheat by adding hot sauce of various makes just to “add heat,” but I think that when you kick up the fire that way you really sacrifice flavor.  So, I’ve kept chasing the perfect level of pain through pepper additions.

Pepper Power

Additionally this year, I was lucky enough to have our good friends provide the beef for this chili.  My buddy Zippy (yep, that’s his name people), bought a whole beef earlier this year and still had a few roasts left over so he got me a 2.6 lb cross-rib roast.  Now, just to let you know, I’ve had a few other tastes of this beef (named Durham) and it’s been some of the most flavorful and yummy I’ve ever had.

With all this going for me, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
2.5 – 3.0 Lbs. Beef Roast
1 whole, large white Onion
3-4 cloves garlic (about 4 Tblspn, finely chopped)
3 Serano Peppers
2 Jalapeno Peppers
2 Fresno Peppers
2 Habanero Peppers
1 Large Red Bell Pepper
1 Large Green Bell Pepper
5-6 Fresh or Frozen Tomatoes (I used some watermelon heirlooms frozen from last summer)
1/2 Cup Whiskey (I chose Gentleman Jack)
EVOO
2 24oz. Cans of Fire-Roasted Stewed Tomatos
10oz./each Dried Beans (White, Black, Kidney)

Spices/Seasonings:
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Cayenne
Ancho Chili Powder
Chipotle Chili Powder
Chili Powder
Smoked Paprika
Cumin
Coriander
Oregano

In a crock pot, large enough to hold all of this, open the cans of stewed tomatoes and start cooking.  Put crock pot on low.  First thing is to get the meat ready.  Pat roast dry with paper towels and cut into 1cm/1cm cubes, place into a glass/non-reactive bowl, once the bowl is half-full, season beef with all off the spices/seasonings (best guess or according to your tastes) continue cutting meat and once finished season beef again.

Finely chop up the garlic.  In a large skillet 12″ or bigger, heat olive oil to medium-high heat and add beef and some of the chopped garlic.  NOTE:  This will probably take 2 or 3 batches depending on your skillet/stove.  Once beef is in skillet, chop the 3 serano peppers into little rings (don’t worry about de-seeding), take a portion of the seranos and place into skillet with beef.

As the beef starts to brown take a portion of the whiskey and add to the skillet (carefully!).  I use a lighter to ignite the alcohol and cook it off.  Once fully cooked place beef into the crock pot, repeat for as many times as necessary to cook all of the meat.

The rest is super simple, Chop and de-seed the remaining peppers and add to the crock pot.  I dice some of the jalapeno and make some “nacho rings” but chop the others more finely.  I chop the bell peppers and onion rather large.

A note on the beans.  I pre-prepared the beans before beginning my chili.  I do not soak them overnight or anything.  I do however put them in a large stock pot with salted water, bring to a boil and let sit one hour.  I had done this a week prior for my “test batch” and froze the unused portion of beans for use in this chili.

The crock pot really does the rest.  I set my heat on low and set to cook for 8 hours. Test your chili’s flavor while cooking and add spices and seasoning as needed.  I usually add more cumin and salt at some point.

Now, some of you probably know what I’m about to say, but it bears repeating.  Soups, chilis and other things, while tasty after cooking for this long, really develop their best flavor after cooling down and being reheated.  So, I planned my cooking time into this.  I started my chili in the evening so that it would be finished in the morning and I could turn it off and put it into the fridge to cool, then be reheated and perfectly ready for competition.  Please consider this when preparing yours.

There are many “condiments” that I would recommend with chili, included in those are: Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Nacho Rings, Chopped onion (red or white) and most importantly Corn bread!

I was exceptionally pleased with this batch, after cooling and reheating it maintained a very good “heat” from the peppers and the flavor was great.

Cheers,
Norcalwingman

Not Bad, no wait, About par for a Valentines Day!

Obviously the big V-Day is a very important day in the annual cycle of days, and is especially crucial to maintaining happiness around the home.  All this aside, it’s another good day and excuse to open a really good bottle of wine and cook some decent grub to boot!

Now I know that it may seem unoriginal, uninspired and otherwise rote, but Fillet Mignon really does make a great dinner on Valentines day.

I’m lucky enough (as I’ve mentioned on several previous occasions) I have a killer market, with an outstanding butcher.  It just so happens that I got a call from “the wife” today prior to leaving the office that I should swing by the store on the way home to pick up something for dinner.  Without to much grousing, I agreed and on my way home stopped in at our Oliver’s Market.  Fortunately for me, being the day that it is, the best cut of steak was available on sale.  With an ample selection of sizes and ages I picked two of the darkest selections of Fillet, knowing that they would be the most tender and tasty!

So blah blah blah, who cares, right?  Fillet Mignon finished with blue cheese, fresh, thin asparagus, and fingerling potatoes sauteed in evoo, herbs, and garlic.  Yummy, n’uff said.

Here’s the best part, the wine.  We always put off drinking that “good” bottle for that “special” occasion.  So, today has to be one of those, right?

In case you are not interested in saving that special bottle, there’s a cool site you might be interested in: http://www.openthatbottlenight.com/  This is a great idea since we all probably have one, two, ten, twenty really kick-ass bottles that we’re “saving for a special occasion.”  This site says buck that trend and just do it.  I guess they’re the Nike of wine or something!

Okay, back to business.  “The Wife”  picked out a really decent bottle of Geyser Peak Cab, a reserve from 2007, given to her by their winemaker, and  no doubt that it would be a seriously good bottle of grape juice, but…  I wanted to kick it up a notch, Emeril style.  So I put her completely decent selection back, and grabbed a bottle that I’ve been sitting on for quite some time.  A 1999 Alexander Valley, Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon.

So here’s the details:

1999 Silver Oak Cellars, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon
12.9 % ABV
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Release Date: August 1, 2003

Tasting Notes:  Herbaceous and earthy, reminiscent of many AV cabs, great fruit character, a blackberry jam (fresh, not cooked) on the mid-late palate.  Outstanding length of finish.  The color, brick to garnet.  Concentration is noticeable, but for a wine of this age very youthful.  The tannins have softened and mellowed, I would say this wine is in its prime.

Current Retail looks like $100/750ml

Again, we always save these great wines for that special moment, I’m guessing that we should be drinking these way more often!  Make yourself a great dinner and pair it up with the best you’ve got in your cellar.

Cheers and Happy Valentines Day!

Norcalwingman

The first of many – Head to Head Aerator Challenge

Yes it’s Thursday, and in all rights I should be typing up a sweet recipe for you to enjoy on another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner!”  Well, perhaps I’ll add a cooking tip at the bottom of this post…  Anyhow, Tonight we had some super delish, filet mignon steaks, so I wanted to have some good red to pair with my dinner.  I picked out a 2007, Valley of the Moon, Cuvee de la Luna.  This wine has held a lofty place in my “go-to” Bordeaux style blend list of yummy wines.  So, “the wife” said to me, “Oh, that’s young!”  I was thinking to myself that yeah but the 2007s are drinking like champs so go with it right?  But Wait!  I have my Soiree, and since Vinturi never hooked up a completely unimportant wine blobber named Norcalwingman with a free sample Vinturi, I had to pick one up on woot.com.

Now in the left corner, weighing in at slightly more than its competitor:  VINTURI

A heavy plastic or some other clear material V-shaped funnel type thing, with a nice filter screen and resting stand.

And in the right corner, don’t call him glass-jawed Joe: Soiree

A gasket wearing glass bulb, with some etched swirl lines.

Soiree v. Vinturi
Soiree v. Vinturi

Well, it’s not really that exiting but in my completely unscientific test.  The nose on the glass poured with the Soiree seems to have a higher/more robust aroma.  The taste of the two are nearly comparable, but the olfactory sensation on the Soiree glass does seem to edge ahead of the Vinturi.

Round 1 Victor, by 1 point:  Soiree

Stay tuned for more head to head action.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, a great tip on cooking your Filet Mignon.

I used my gas grill tonight, I fired it up and brought the temperature up to about 350 F, on the built-in thermometer using the left two burners of my 4-burner grill.  I placed my two steaks on the right side, upper grill shelf and cooked for approximately 20 minuted, until an instant read thermometer read 120 F.  I removed the steaks from the grill, placed on a plate and covered with foil.  In the mean time, I turned up the heat on the two burners to high.  After about 5 minutes of rest, I returned the two steaks to the grill and placed directly above the flames.  I seared each steak on both sides for approximately 3 min/side and served immediately.

These steaks may be the best I’ve cooked yet!  They were medium/medium-rare in temperature and supremely browned, just on the outside.  I hope this tip might help you with your next steak, you have got to try this method!

Cheers
Brian

Not Bad for a … Wait what night is it?

Well, regardless of what night it is, it has been way too long since I did a dinner post.  I’ve been very exited to get back to doing some dinner posts with recipes.

Valley End Farm
Valley End Farm

My work has brought in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm who provides us with fresh fruit and veggies every week for pittance! So in my first box from Valley End Farms, I received all sorts of inspiration for a good “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner.”   So it’s only Tuesday but what the hell, why not just get after it?

Tonight I had a huge hankerin’ for a nice juicy pork chop.  In my CSA box I got some pears and spinach, and for whatever reason I was thinking that those would be two great parts of a really good pork chop dinner.

I didn’t have any pork thawed, so I popped over to the local market (Oliver’s in Cotati) and picked up a couple of center cut, bone-in chops, some organic dried cranberries and bananas.  Never fear, the bananas were just for the wife’s breakfast!

I had started up some wild rice cooking before I left for the store, since it takes so damn long to cook the stuff.

Wild Rice:

1 Cup of rice
2 Cups of water
dash of salt
In a small saucepan, combine rice, water and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 50 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.  Fluff rice with a fork.

Wild Rice

Gas Grilled, Smoky Pork Chops:

Season pork chops with your favorite seasonings.  I used my “Rib Rub” which includes: Smoked Paprika, Chili Powder, Ancho Chile Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper, Kosher Salt, Garlic Powder, and Brown Sugar.  Fire up the grill to high heat and once hot, place the chops directly over the fire and sear the chops on both sides (about 3-5 min/side).

Chops on da Grill
Chops on da Grill

Once your chops have nice sear marks move to the other side of the grill or to the top rack and reduce the heat to medium/medium-low.  I prepared some smoking wood chips (apple wood) by soaking in a bowl of water and once the chops were moved to indirect heat I placed my smoker box onto the grill directly above the flames.  Close the lid and come back in about 20 minutes, you should get some good smoke going.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen….

Pear and Cranberry Compote:

2 Fresh Pears, diced
3 oz Organic Dried Cranberries
2-3 oz water
1-2 oz Apple Cider Vinegar

Pear and Cranberry Compote
Pear and Cranberry Compote

In a medium saucepan place diced pears, cranberries, water and apple cider vinegar over medium heat until mixture just starts to boil.  Reduce heat and continue to cook uncovered until pears become mushy.  Mash and mix, cover and remove from heat.

Last but not least the spinach.  I love fresh greens and since the wife doesn’t care for them I was super stoked to get some spinach (and kale…yet to cook) in my CSA box.

Sauteed Spinach:

5-6 bunches of fresh spinach
1-2 oz EVOO (Dry Creek Olive Oil Co.)
Dash Sea Salt
Dash Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Wash your spinach thoroughly and remove stems pile spinach in 12″ sautee pan and drizzle with oil, crack sea salt and black pepper.

Turn on heat to medium and stir occasionally as spinach begins to wilt.  Continue cooking until all spinach is wilted but is still bright green.  Try not to overcook it it would be a shame to cook the vitamins and flavor out of your fresh yummy green leafy goodness!

Plate all of these together and it makes for a great little meal.

Of course with pork my first inkling on wine pairing went to Pinot Noir.  So I started the ritual of perusing through the half dozen or so spaces we store our wine in, looking frantically for a Pinot that wasn’t Sonoma-Cutrer.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it (obviously), I just get more of that than any others… for obvious reasons.  Anyhow, I found one that I hadn’t previously had.  It was a bottle my co-worker brought over for a BBQ we had back in August.  His wife works for an importer of New Zealand wines so he brought over this Marlborough Pinot Noir.  A 2007 Big Barrel, Bird “Old School Vineyard,” Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Check back for that review!

2007 Bird, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
2007 Bird, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand

It has been a really long time since I’ve taken the time to cook a nice dinner and talk about it, hell, it’s been 2 weeks since my last post so I apologize to you for that.  I will try and keep the dinners flowing, they are fun and usually pretty tasty…  But tonight sure qualifies as a “Not Bad for Thursday Night” even if it is only Tuesday!

Not Bad For A ...
Not Bad For A ...

Until next time cheers,
Brian

Short on Time? How about a quickie!

Well if you’re lucky like me and have a 2 year old that means that your time is a resource that is in serious deficit.  Tonight I had to figure out something that would be not only be done quick, but not be demanding on my time so I could keep an eye on the little monster running amok in the living room, bathroom, kitchen and every other room in the house.

So here’s a great quickie and a surprising wine pairing.

Chicken & Dumplings

Defrost two boneless skinless chicken breasts in the microwave (approx 6-8 min)

While the chicken is defrosting, boil 3 cups of water in a saucepan add 3 cubes of chicken bullion (you could do veggie instead for less fat).  Once boiling take 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into 1/2 cup of cold water, reduce heat to low and whisk in starch/flour/water mixture and stir vigorously.

Chicken should be done by now, slice into 1/2 inch thick strips and place into 9×9 pan.  In a mixing bowl add 1 cup of Bisquick and 1 cup of low fat milk and stir until smooth.  By this time your “gravy” should be just about right.  Pour the gravy over the chicken in the 9×9 and leave about 1 to 3/4 inches of space from the lip of the pan.  Drop tablespoonful sized portions of the biscuit mix into the pan.  Cover the 9×9 pan with foil and place into an oven at 350 F for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the foil and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

I cooked some green beans in a saute pan with some fresh chopped garlic (1 clove) and some olive oil, you should start the beans when the time goes off after the 30 minutes.

Well, that’s about it.  I did end up turning the broiler on for about 2-3 minutes to brown  the tops of the biscuits at the very end.

Total time to prep and cook this was right around 40 Minutes, from freezer to plate.

Here’s the surprise.  I had a bottle of Greek wine in the fridge, the 2009 Santorini, Boutari, Assyrtiko, I thought well, American comfort food might just pair up with this light and lively Grecian Vinological delight.  The rich and salty biscuit and gravy really gets cut through by the great acidity of this wine and the citrus of the wine pairs up with the chicken just right!

2009 Santorini, Boutari, Assyrtiko
2009 Santorini, Boutari, Assyrtiko

Yep, that’s it.  Just a quickie.  And well, I’m satisfied.
Cheers
Brian

Tom Simoneau, “The Wine Guy” – A Make-a-Wish Charity Auction Lot

A few months back I attended the annual Make-a-Wish event at the Sonoma-Cutrer vineyards and was lucky enough to win one of the live auction lots, the Wine Experience with Tom Simoneau “The Wine Guy.”

Make-A-Wish May 2010
Make-A-Wish May 2010

The stars aligned and we were finally able to schedule this event and get together to taste some great wine, eat some great food, and have some amazing conversations about the juice we all love.

Here’s a little background on Tom, I snagged this clip from his website, http://www.tomsimoneau.com/ (I’ll add some personal color from our experience).

Tom Simoneau, the KSRO Wine Guy for the past thirteen years, knows the wine business. A grape grower, a winemaker, a wine marketer, wine educator, wine judge and wine critic, Tom Simoneau is the walking definition of “Wine Guy”.

Born in Maine and educated in Boston, Tom shunned graduate school at Boston University to form a country rock and roll band. It was his musical career that eventually placed Simoneau in wine country. “We based our California operation in Healdsburg because it reminded us of Maine and it was close enough to San Francisco, so we could pursue our dream of a record deal.”

Since Tom is “The Wine Guy” here is a his syndicated wine minute from our Make-A-Wish Event:  Click Here to play audio – Make-A-Wish072910.

Tom Simoneau - The Wine GuyNorcal Wingman on-air Live this Thursday!

I will be on the radio with Tom Simoneau this Thursday, July 29th around 4:30 PM, on KSRO’s The Drive with Steve Jaxon.  You can listen live by visiting KSRO.com and clicking on “Listen Live” or tuning into 1350 AM, if you live in the greater Sonoma County area.  The Drive is on daily, from 3:00PM to 6:00PM (Pacific Time of course) and usually features local Sonoma County luminaries, of a much higher caliber than myself.  Check it out HERE.

Tom and his wife Brenda really put out the red carpet for us. We decided upon a Cabernet Sauvignon tasting and Tom said he had something creative he’d put together for our group.

Our group, was not an ordinary tasting group, I can’t remember what Tom said exactly, but he said he was going to really have to put something special together.  Included in our tasting crew were Sonoma-Cutrer’s new winemaker, Mick Shroeter (formerly of Geyser Peak & Penfold’s) his lovely wife Linda, my wife’s Aunt and Uncle who are also wine grape growers and home winemakers, and me and “the wife.”

TastingCrew
The Tasting Crew - Pictured (from left to right): Brian & Michelle Wing, Mick & Linda Schroeter, Sharon & Bob Duste, Brenda & Tom Simoneau

Upon our arrival we were greeted with glasses of Chandon bubbly and we began getting acquainted over some fantastic hors d’oeuvres, prepared by Tom’s wife Brenda.

Chicken Salad on Fresh Cucumber
Chicken Salad on Fresh Cucumber

Now, just to be clear, Tom and Brenda’s house, “Simoneau Ranch,” has one of the most spectacular views of the Alexander Valley that I’ve ever seen.  They’re located just east of Hwy 101 in Healdsburg and the view from their back porch looks across the Simoneau vineyards, and up toward the Geysers and off to the right in the distance you see Mt. St. Helena, a truly stunning spectacle!  Anyhow, I digress.  We chatted about wine and toured the property.  Tom showed us his vineyards and gave us a nice look at his cellar where he has cases upon cases of wines stacked to the ceiling, ribbons and awards for his wines, and some empty bottles, “trophies” of past experiences, each with a story.

After the tour it was back up to the house where we enjoyed some more snacks and tasted Tom’s two wines, a Chardonnay, “Brenda Lee’s,” a lovely, lightly oaked Chard, with about 10% malolactic fermentation, and his Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oh, I forgot to mention, Tom used to sell his grapes to Silver Oak up until recently when the economy tanked so now he just makes his own Cab (it’s great by the way).  Well after some tasty snacks, a goat cheese flan (see recipes below) and some bacon wrapped figs stuffed with blanched almonds, we got on with the main event.

Tom and Brenda had set up a double-blind, Sonoma versus Napa, no-holds-barred Cabernet Sauvignon battle royale!

Double Blind
Six Cabernet Competitors

The Cabernet Contenders:

From the West (Sonoma County):

2005, Jordan, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvigon, $52
2005, Chateau St. Jean, Cinq Cepages, Sonoma County, $75
2004, Robert Young, Scion, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, $58

From the East (Napa County):

2006, Oakville Ranch, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, $60
2006, Swanson Vineyards, Alexis, Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
, $75
2005, Revana Family Vineyards, St. Helena, Cabernet Sauvignon, $149

All Set for a great Tasting
Table for 8 with 48 Glasses

We each tasted though the wines together and discussed the characteristics and qualities we saw, smelled and tasted.  It was quite an educational experience for me.  Having both Tom Simoneau (who also teaches wine tasting/judging at the local community college) and Mick Schroeter discussing and dissecting the wines and then sharing what they experienced and comparing that to what I was getting out of them was really cool.

A Great Tasting
Blind Tasting Crew at Simoneau Ranch

It gave me insight into what a world-class wine maker looks for when tasting and judging wines.  It also made me feel pretty good about my own palate and overall sensory capacity for wine, I’m making some incremental improvements (if I do say so myself).

So when it was all said and done, we had a clear winner and two wines that were so close that second and third place could have been combined into a tie for second.  Here are some of the scoring details:

First Place: 2006, Swanson Vineyards, Alexis, Oakville, Cabernet Sauvignon. Big and Juicy with grainy tannins, hints of licorice.

Second Place: 2004, Robert Young, Scion, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Coffee and Cocoa cover this Alexander Valley beauty, great tannic structure that is well representative of the AVA.

Third Place:  2005, Chateau St. Jean, Cinq Cepages, Sonoma County Red Wine.  Soft and supple, ripe red fruit and easy drinking tannins make this Sonoma Valley Red shine.

And the Winner is...
The Favorite Cabernet Is...

A great time was had by all and I can’t wait for next year’s Make-A-Wish event so I can try and win again.  Not only did we have some great wine and great conversation but the money made from Tom’s donation and my winning bid goes to help out a great cause.  The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation® grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.  Please support them if you can, it’s an amazing organization.

Again, I want to extend a heart felt thank you to Tom and his wife Brenda for being such gracious hosts.  This was truly an exceptional experience and it could not have been possible without their generosity to both the Make-A-Wish foundation, and to us.

Cheers!
Brian
norcalwingman

Below are the recipes of a few of the outstanding treats Brenda Simoneau prepared for us, Enjoy!  Be on the lookout for a cookbook by Brenda in the not to distant future.

Savory Goat Cheese Flan

Recipe by Brenda Simoneau

1 cup half-and-half
8 oz. sour cream
3 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. Bucheron goat cheese
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp. of unsalted butter at room temperature

Depending on the size of your ramekins (custard cups) generously butter 6 – 8.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While the goat cheese is cold remove the rind, place goat cheese in your mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it come to room temperature. Once at room temperature, mash with a fork. Add one egg at a time mixing well. Add the sour cream and mix well. Finally, add the salt, thyme, and half-and-half. Mix well.

Divide the custard among the ramekins, place them in a baking dish, and add very hot water to the pan so it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake until the custards are set, about 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Place the ramekins on a cooling rack and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each ramekin, turn them out, and serve with a simple green salad.

Kalamata Olive Breadsticks

Recipe by Brenda Simoneau

1 tsp. active dry yeast
5 oz. warm water
1 tbs. olive oil
2 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
30 pitted kalamata olives roughly chopped

This recipe makes about 76 skinny breadsticks. You’ll want to set up more than one baking sheet, so you can quickly rotate them in and out of your oven.

Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let it stand for about 10 minutes. Stir in the olive oil.  Add the salt, chopped olives, and 1 cup of flour. Stir until everything comes together. Add half cup flour and stir until the dough comes together. Add a ¼ cup of flour and stir until the dough comes together. Lightly sprinkle some of the remaining flour on your work surface and knead the dough. Sprinkle and incorporate more flour as needed until the dough is smooth and soft.

Pat the dough into a rectangle (roughly 6” x 14”) on a surface that you can use a knife on. Lightly brush with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

The dough should be very elastic now making it very easy to shape your breadsticks. Cut off a piece of dough about as thick as a finger. Lay it on your work surface, roll back and forth as your hands work out to the ends. This stretches out the dough to the desired length. Remember they will puff up in the oven to about twice the thickness that you rolled them out to. Lay them about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the pan and bake for 10 more minutes. Continue baking and checking every 3 minutes or so until they’re crisp and golden.

Chicken Salad

Recipe by Brenda Simoneau

1 poached boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ sour cream

Slice the chicken against the grain, and then chop into small pieces. You want about one cup. Place the chopped chicken and all other ingredients in a bowl. Mix together. Taste and then adjust the salt and pepper.

Serve on cucumber slices, crackers, or toast.

Not Bad For a Thursday Night – Dinner for One and a Half

It was hard for me to work up the motivation for doing up a “Not Bad” this week.  The wife is out of town on business and that means I’m on 100% Daddy Detail.  Keeping up with a two-year-old boy is a full-time job, to be sure.  I have nothing but mad respect for stay-at-home moms/dads and even more for single parents who have this privilege/challenge.  That being said, I found some motivation on Tuesday and I was thinking that I needed to write up a review of the Ravenswood wine that I received a couple weeks back since I”m going to miss out on their “2nd annual Coming Out tattoo party”

So after picking up the boy at daycare, we cruised down to the local market, Oliver’s in Cotati, to see what we could rustle up for dinner.  I had a flash of inspiration the moment we walked in the door.  Their mushrooms are pretty close to the entrance and I thought to myself, “oh yeah… the wife’s gone, I can cook whatever I want.”  And what goes better with sauteed mushrooms than a great big NY Strip Steak?  So, I grabbed some veg (fresh green beans) and a nice big NY Steak, since I’d be sharing with the boy.

This dinner is a simple one to prep and cook.

Mashed Potatoes:

3-4 Red potatoes
2 Tablespoons butter
1/3 Cup cream
Sea salt
Black Pepper

In a large pot start heating some salted water.  Wash then chop potatoes in quarters add to water.  Boil until tender.  Strain potatoes and return to pot.  Add butter, cream, salt and pepper, mash with hand masher to desired consistency.

Cookin!
Cookin!

NY Strip:

12 Oz New York Choice or Prime Steak
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Start gas grill and heat to 375 (Medium-High).  Salt and pepper steak on both sides (to desired taste)  Sear steak on both sides, approximately 3-5 min per side, reduce heat and move steak to indirect heat.

NY Steak
NY Steak - Indirect Heat

Continue cooking to desired temperature.  I went about 15 minutes and ended up with medium/medium-well.

Sauteed Green Beans:

8 – 10 oz Fresh Green Beans
2 oz olive oil
1 Clove garlic
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Wash beans and chop off ends, cut beans in half.  Finely chop garlic.  In a 10″ skillet add beans, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat covered until beans are tender, but still crisp.  Stir frequently.

Mushrooms:

1 clove of garlic
2 Tablespoons butter
1-2 Oz Dry White Sherry
6-10 button mushrooms

Chop garlic finely, wash mushrooms then slice into thirds (I like thick cut).

Chopped Mushrooms
Chopped Mushrooms

In a skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat, until it starts sizzling then put mushrooms in.  Cook mushrooms until they begin to brown add garlic and stir.  Once garlic starts to brown add sherry and deglaze pan, remove from heat.

Sauteed Mushrooms!
Sauteed Mushrooms!

I started the potatoes first since they take the longest, this gave me time to prep the rest of the meal.  I then started the steak, once the steak is cooking over indirect heat you can start the shrooms and beans, they should finish about the time your meat is ready.  As I mentioned my initial motivation for this was the Ravenswood wine.  I paired this meal with the 2007 Ravenswood, Sonoma County, Cabernet Franc.

Not Bad 17
Not Bad!

The spicy character of this wine and great acidity really did this meal a great service.  The boy loved his steak and green beans, it’s kind of funny though, he really doesn’t care for mashed potatoes… Go figure?  Oh and he loved the sauteed mushrooms, I guess we’ll have to start doing those more often, even though “the wife” doesn’t!

Cheers
Brian

Lazy Independence Day Post a Recommendation and a Review “Not Bad for the 4th” (Part 3)

I caught a streak of inspiration the other day while checking out a guest post on Tim Hilcove’s Weekly Wine Journal by Mike MacKinnon.  He put together a beautiful pork loin and it must have made an impression, because when “The Wife” mentioned to me that we were hosting some guests on Monday evening I thought to myself, how about doing up some pork loin.

I didn’t follow the recipe that Mike did over on Weekly Wine Journal, I actually did some poking around and found some other recipes with a similar vane.  I came across this post over on SeriousEats and took my inspiration from there.  I did modify it a bit, I went for fresh, Granny Smith apples and sugar cured cranberries instead of dried, but did some similar things with the stuffing and glaze.

Butterfly your pork loin by carefully slicing it 1/2 inch thick down one side then back the other direction.  Stupid me, I didn’t take any pictures of this meat splayed wide open so you only get to see the finished product.   Suffice it to say, that when butterflied this pork loin was the size of my entire cutting board which is about 14″ x 16″.

After straining out the juice from the filling, spread it evenly on the meat, and sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon (another mod by me).  Sprinkle chopped pecans over the fruit mixture then roll up the loin again and tie with cooking twine about every inch or so.  Sprinkle exterior with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, cayenne, and smoked paprika.

Fire up a chimney of coals and prep the Weber for indirect heat grilling.  When the coals are ready place the pork, fat side up, over the coals to sear.  After about 5 minutes rotate the grill and add apple chips to coals for smoke and place cover on the grill.  Cook for 30-40 minutes then flip tenderloin, at which time baste the tenderloin with the reserved, reduced juice from the filling pan.  Continue to cook until an instant read thermometer reads 130 F, remove from grill and let tenderloin rest covered with foil.

pork loin
Fresh off the grill

Internal temperature should rise to about 140 F.

Pork Loin
Look at the juiciness!

The Wife’s friends brought some sides, one of which was an absolutely perfect match for the pork.  It was a spinach salad with sliced strawberry, red onion and sliced almonds.  The dressing was a mayonnaise and milk dressing with sugar and poppy seeds.

I paired this meal with the new Pinot Noir from Sonoma-Cutrer, the 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

2007 Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot
2007 Sonoma-Cutrer, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir

The berry flavors mingled happily with the apple/cranberry filling and were phenomenal with the strawberry and spinach salad!

Pork Loin
Porcine Beauty!

All in all, this was an outstanding holiday weekend, I would like to extend special thanks again to the men and women of the US armed forces who make days like this possible.  Your service and sacrifice do not go unnoticed.  Happy Independence Day to all of you!

Cheers
Brian Wing

Oh and as a follow up.  Leftovers of this are just as awesome.  I cooked up a batch of wild rice along the lines of the post in Weekly Wine Journal’s Loin, I used 1 cup of apple cider and one cup of chicken broth, and just before it was done cooking I chopped up a quarter cup of pecans and toasted them in a skillet and added them to the rice at the last minute for some extra flavor.  Yeah, it was effin’ goo-ood!