Not Bad for a Thursday Night #13 – Saturday Summer School Edition #1

Wow.  What a week.  One full week off from school and back into the action, 3 days a week.  So basically I had  a short chance to catch my breath after this spring semester then dove right back in…  Someone told me they think I’m motivated, I would beg to differ, I think I may just be insane.

Regardless of all of this, I need to cook some good food and relax at the same time so for tonight’s Thursday Night Dinner (Saturday) I have for you Rotisserie Chicken and Pasta Salad paired with Verdejo.

Today was the first really Hot day of the season, thankfully we’re finally in some “typical” weather and we hit the 90’s today, so the obvious choice for dinner was a grilled or BBQ’d dish…  Anything that could be prepared outside as to not cook the house by firing up the oven and burners in the house.

I was thinking that an herb seasoned rotisserie chicken would really hit the spot and wanted to pair it up with something “summery” and light, so I decided on a pasta salad to go along with the chicken.

I’ve done a few rotisserie chickens now and they really are an amazing dish.  Super simple to prep and cook (which is a plus when you’re looking to relax a bit).

Ingredients for Rotisserie

I did this one slightly different than previous attempts.  I took a whole large “Fryer” chicken, removed the giblets and other goodies that chicken processors think you might actually want and washed out the inside and out, dried with a paper towel, inside and out.  I made a quick visit to my garden and clipped off about a large handful of fresh rosemary, wash this off and stuff into the cavity of the chicken.

stuffed bird
Stuff Bird with Rosemary

Prepare the chicken by cracking some sea salt, garlic powder, fresh cracked black pepper and some oregano.  Place the chicken on the rotisserie skewer and tie up the legs.

stuffed and tied
Stuffed, Tied, and ready to Spin

Sprinkle seasoning all over the chicken and place on the grill.  Start the rotisserie spinning.  I place a baking pan below the chicken to catch the drippings to avoid flare ups, something I did differently this time was to add water to the pan and refill the pan as the water evaporated.  This added humidity into the cooking environment and probably did some steaming of the chicken, I had to refill the 13×9 pan about 5 times during the cooking.  Monitor the grill temperature and maintain it between 250 and 275 Fahrenheit.

just started
Just Getting Started

The pasta salad was another easy dish.  I picked up some klamata and green olives and grape tomatoes at the store earlier.  I started a large pot of water boiling, added some salt and oil (to keep pasta from sticking) and once boiling added some fun radiatori pasta.  Cook pasta to al dente, about 8 minutes, drain and rinse with cool water.  Place in a bowl and put into the refrigerator  to cool for at least 1 hour.  After cooled, chop up about 1/2 cup each klamata and green olives and 1 cup tomatoes, mix with pasta and 1/3 cup champagne dressing (or Italian) add some crumbled feta cheese.

So I had grand plans of cooking this entire meal outside on the grill but I failed to take into consideration that when the rotisserie is rolling, the lid for the “side burner” on the grill is inaccessible.  You know, the side burner, that thing you never ever use.  I was actually hoping to use mine (still haven’t even lit the burner…).

One of the best things about cooking meals on the rotisserie is that they take some time and don’t require a whole lot of interaction, which leaves some time to take care of the “Important Things.”

benefits of slow cooking
Benefits of Slow Cooking

This was an enjoyable afternoon, sipped a few cold ones and played in the water with the boy and the wife, well mostly with the boy but, I digress.

the boy and I
Chilling out on a hot day

So the chicken should cook on the spit for about 2 1/2 hours at between 250-275 F, I kept the drip pan full of water and refilled it as it evaporated.

on the spit
on the spit

Once an instant read thermometer reads about 170 remove the bird from the BBQ and let rest about 10 minutes.  Quarter by cutting the bird in half lenghtwise, then in half again.  This works out really well for me since I am a dark meat fiend and the wife really prefers white meat.

Not Bad
Not Bad

I had decided to pair it with a light white wine and was thinking Sauvignon Blanc at first but really have  been interested in trying something different.  I found a nice Verdejo at the local market and the shelf-talker said similar to Sauv Blanc, I decided to take a chance on it and picked it up.  A very nice light white wine that I’ll post a review to soon.  It went exceptionally well with the rosemary infused chicken, klamata olives and tomatoes in the pasta salad.  Here’s to summer finally arriving in Sonoma County, and another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner” Summer School Edition.

Not Bad 13
Not Bad 13 - Summer School Edition




Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner – Chicken Carbonara

Oh what a nice week this has been, the sad thing is that it’s now Thursday again and my short, one-week break from school is coming to a close.  I just loved being able to make my “Not Bad” dinner without worrying about papers and presentations or chapters to read or studying for tests.  So I decided why not indulge a bit.  I did some perusing of recipes (like usual) and had a thought about carbonara.  I saw a post a few weeks or months or whatever ago on Rick Bakas’s site where he did a carbonara and I decided I could do that, perhaps better <grins>.  Well after seeing many different styles I decided to take the things I thought sounded good and go that route.

So Chicken Carbonara ala Norcal Wingman:


2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
6 oz. Columbus cubed pancetta (easier than chopping it up yourself)
8 or so skinny asparagus spears
4 Egg yolks
1/2 Cup Fresh grated Pecorino-Romano
1/2 Cup Fresh grated Parmesian
2 Cloves Garlic
Fresh Basil
1 Lemon
Splash of Dry White wine
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
Spaghetti, Fettuccine, or Linguine –  I used Spaghetti, which I would like to especially thank “the wife” for running back to the store to get.

First Thing,

Get yourself a big skillet, I only had a 12″ and wish I had something either a bit bigger or deeper… anyhow, start cooking the pancetta in the skillet over medium-low heat, you want the fat to render out.

Pancetta in the Skillet

In a bowl get your egg yolks ready and shred your parmesan and pecorino-romano cheese, stir together.  Prep the pot for cooking the pasta, fill it up with water, add salt and a dash of oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, start warming that up.  In a separate skillet or however you normally do your asparagus, boil/steam your veg until tender, remove from heat and cool to stop cooking, remove from water and set aside.  Finely chop garlic cloves.

Egg yolks, cheese and basil

Chop up your chicken into nice bite size chunks and when the pancetta is starting to brown and get crispy remove from skillet and reserve (heh, that’s what the cooks say, reserve…).  Raise the heat up to medium/medium-high and put chicken chunks into pancetta fat add chopped garlic and crack some black pepper.

Cooking Chicken
Chicken sauteeing in pancetta fat

Cook chicken turning as it gets golden brown.  Your water for the pasta should be close to a boil, if it’s not crank up the heat and get it boiling, start your pasta now!  Turn down the heat on the chicken and return the pancetta to the skillet, deglaze skillet with a splash of wine.  Chop asparagus into 1 inch bits.  Chop up basil into nice strips.  Zest half of the lemon.

Asparagus, Basi, and Lemon Zest

Pasta should be cooked al’ dente and should be just about ready.  Drain pasta and shake well to remove as much water as possible.  Place pasta into skillet and stir in asparagus, basil and lemon zest.  Remove skillet from heat and add egg yolk and cheese mixture, stir in well to thoroughly coat pasta, chicken and all the goodies.  You can add a splash of water (or wine) if it becomes to thick.  The idea is not to cook the eggs but rather to let them coat everything evenly.  Plate and garnish with a fresh sprig of basil over some lemon zest.

Chicken Carbonara

In addition to researching carbonara recipes I searched long and hard for a great wine to pair with this dinner.  I checked everywhere, Nat Decants, Hello Vino, Google, all sorts of differing opinions on this.  Many folks say that the bacon/pancetta smoky meat pairs well with a Syrah or a Chianti, but a red wine seemed out of place with a chicken pasta dish.  I decided on a white, Pinot Gris.  I thought that the higher acidity and lemon would really match up with this varietal.  I found a Taft Street 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris at Olivers and it was a great match.

Not Bad 12
Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner

The rich carbonara, bacon and egg really pack a wallop and the good acidity and citrus fruit of this wine cut through and bring out the lemon.  Yeah for great wine pairings!

This dinner is probably up in my top 3 now, it was really good and easy to cook, not to mention quick as compared to some others.  Now If I could just get Steve Poizner’s damn AutoDialer  to stop calling us every Effing Night I could thoroughly enjoy my “Not Bad” dinner.  By the way Steve, you are not going to get my vote, or “the wife’s” just because you call… every damn night.

Screw you Poizner!

I digress, plates are clean!

Clean Plate
Oh Yeah!

Well, that’s it for this week, oh and if you missed last week’s “Not Bad”  I was a special guest blogger over on Tim Hilcove’s Weekly Wine Journal, click over and check out my Memorial Day BBQ “Not Bad” of Ribs 3 Ways!

Norcal Wingman Guest blog
NorCal Wingman on Weekly Wine Journal

Cheers until next time,


Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner – #10 – Time to Kick it up a Notch!

Springtime has sprung in Sonoma County and I’ve done too much Chicken and Beef lately.  Barbecue was certainly an option, but I’ve done a fair amount of that too so I really wanted to do something that was a game changer.  I wanted to challenge myself while sticking with the spirit of the season.  I have been on a bit of a Pinot Noir kick lately, so I was thinking of something that would pair up really well with that.  Something that some fresh ripe cherries would grab onto and say… “I just kicked your tongues ass!”  So, for whatever reason, I had a thought that some duck confit would fit the bill.  Thanks to a quick search on the interweb, I found myself checking out some UK style recipes for confit with some side dishes that I’d never tried (or really heard of).

So here we go, Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner –  #10

I had no idea, but apparently confit was a way for people to preserve their meat for long periods of time.  Who knew that storing cooked meat in its own fat was a preservation method?  I sure as hell didn’t.  After a cursory search of the local markets, and not finding “jarred confit” as my first recipe suggested, I found a recipe that just cooks the duck in its own fat (thank you NY

So here’s the recipe for “Really Easy Duck Confit”  modified by me.

1 Whole Fresh Duck
3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons of Herb Mixture (bay leaves, oregano, thyme, tarragon, crushed red pepper, dried onion)

The duck I bought was from a Chinese owned family market so it was still walking and smiling at me when I brought it home.  No, it wasn’t alive, but like that Christmas Story movie, still had it’s feet and head attached.  I chopped those off and removed the guts.

Season the duck with the above mentioned ingredients and place in the fridge for 24 Hours.  When you’re ready to start, preheat your oven to 325 F.  Quarter duck, split in half, top to bottom then split front and back halves.  Place into large skillet skin side down, and begin cooking over medium-high heat.

Now I had no idea, but Duck has some seriously fat content.  Your bird will start rendering fat almost immediately.  Continue cooking on the stove-top until approximately 1/4 inch of fat is in the skillet, about 20 min, then turn duck skin side up, remove from heat, cover with foil and place into oven.

Roast duck for 2 hours covered, after which you will remove cover  and return to oven for another 30-45 min until skin is golden brown.

Side Dish:

Celeriac Mash

I had never heard of this side dish before, I had only ever seen celery root in the store in the produce section and always wondered to myself… “self, who the hell buys this sh*t?”  Well yesterday that person was me.  Apparently it mashes up well just like mashed potatoes.  I found several recipes that call for half celery root half potato.

1 Lb Celery Root
2 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 Oz Heavy Whipping Cream
3 Oz Butter
salt & pepper to taste

So here’s how I did it.  I washed the root to get most of the dirt off, chopped off most of the straggly roots with a knife and used a peeler to remove the exterior layer.

Once cleaned, chop into cubes.  Peel and chop up potatoes.  Boil both in salted water until tender.  Blend using hand blender  adding butter and cream.  Blend until smooth.

So here’s the deal.  I don’t know jack about celery root, but there is some chunky bits that I didn’t get rid of by peeling and the side had some seriously tough bits of stuff in it, which was unfortunate.  Perhaps I needed to peel deeper or something but, if you make this side, do some more research to find out just how to cook it.  The flavor was really tasty, it had a touch of celery character with the consistency of mashed potatoes (except for the tough bits of course).

The first recipe I found also had a recipe for a cherry glaze/sauce for the duck.  I modified this a bit too.

4 oz Cherry Preserves
1 Shallot
3 Oz Port (I used 2007 Sobon Estate, Amador County Zinfandel Port, certified Organic)
1 Oz Red wine Vinegar
2 Oz Butter
10-12 Fresh Bing Cherries, halved and pitted

In a skillet or sauce pan melt butter, finely chop shallot and cook until tender.  Add preserves, port, vinegar, and cherries.  Cook over low heat and reduce to thicken sauce

I cooked some fresh green beans for the veggie side dish, sauteed in some olive oil with salt and pepper.

This dinner was like getting away with sin.  With the amount of fat in it I may pay for it later, but it was soooo worth it.  The cherry sauce on the crispy duck was heaven.  I paired this dinner with a 2007 De La Montanya Pinot Noir, Tina’s Vineyard.  The cherry notes and great acidity of this wine matched the richness of the duck to perfection.  My mouth is watering again just writing this, goddamn it was definitely Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner!

Okay, I hope you try this recipe.  The duck was just awesome, I’m not sure the wifey liked it as much as I did, and the Celeriac mash was a bit of a FAIL but it still tasted really good.

Until next week, Cheers!



Spring IPA – Home Brew 2

Today is a beautiful day in Sonoma County.  I’ve been waiting to do my second brew and today is just perfect.

I got my new propane burner and have been itching to give it a go.  I had such a great brew from my first kit from The Beverage People but wanted a bigger hop character than their IPA kit delivered.  So I got another kit and got some extra Simcoe hops.  This batch got an extra 1/2 oz of these hops at 3o minutes into the boil.  It will get an extra dose at secondary fermentation in about a week.

Here’s some pics of the endeavor.

I take over the Kitchen when Brewing
Getting the Water Going
Adding the brewers barley "tea"

Boil Bubble, toil and trouble!

Good boil going strong
High Tech Wort Chiller

I love the way brewing beer smells…. Like a fresh loaf of bread in the oven!

Here’s one of the best reasons of brewing outdoors in Spring:

My boy!

Here’s to another great Brew.  Happy Spring All


Update:  Spring IPA – Home Brew 2 is in the bottle!

Assistant Brewmaster Michell filling up a Magnum of IPA. 5/16/2010.

10 Days of bottle conditioning and they should be ready for consumption, I can’t wait!

Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner — Saturday Night

Because of unfortunate circumstance, Thursday Night Dinner was postponed this week until Saturday.  However, I can say, without a doubt, it was TOTALLY worth the wait.

I picked up the fresh ingredients Thursday after work on my way home.  I stopped by the G&G market in Petaluma another great local grocery store.  They have an awesome deli, wine, cheese and butcher department.  I get my lunches there quite frequently…  Anyhow, stopped in Thursday afternoon and picked up all of the ingredients needed for dinner.  I got fresh organic thyme, basil, some parsley, chicken breast (boneless with skin on), half-n-half, shallots, garlic, green beans, pancetta, and of course chevre.

After a long hard day of yard work, I kicked of my shoes, got into some comfy clothes, and popped open a bottle of Sebastiani Merlot (check the review) and some cheese.  After relaxing for a bit, I embarked on another dinner creation excursion in the kitchen, 4:30 PM…

Prepped to cook

First things first.  Get some of the measured stuff taken care of.  2 Cups of water in the pot for rice (secret add a cube of chicken bouillon, or you can sub chicken stock for 1 cup of water)…  1 cup of mixed grain wild rice.   Fire up the oven 400, get 5 slices of pancetta on a baking sheet.  Oven ready, pancetta in, timer to 8 minutes.

Turn on water for rice medium-high heat.

Butter and olive oil in large skillet, chop up small clove of garlic and put in pan.  Chicken breasts, pat dry with paper towel, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper on both sides.

Water is steaming, put 1 cup of rice into water (wait for it to boil, then stir cover and reduce heat to simmer… see you in 50 minutes)

Skillet to high heat, olive oil starts to sizzle with butter and garlic, place chicken in skillet, breast skin side down:

Skin Side Down

Turn over breasts after about 3-5 minutes (golden brown color on skin)  same on other side, once done place breasts on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

While the chicken is cooking your pancetta should have finished up, it will be crispy and delicious (do not eat it now!  you will want to because it smells ridiculously awesome and it will go fantastically with the merlot you’ve been drinking… um, well yeah…)

Ok, prep the magic:  Chop, parsley, basil and rosemary about 1 tspn of each and mix with about 4 oz of the chevre.  Should look like a yummy cheese dip at this point, and probably would be, but restrain yourself:

Chevre with roasted pancetta, rosemary, basil, and parsley.

Get your chicken and slice into the thick part, cut most of the way through the breast, stuff about 2 oz of the chevre mix into the slice, repeat for each breast.  Place back on baking sheet, put into oven at 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.  Continue baking until instant read thermometer reaches 160 degrees F.

Chicken Goes In

Once you put the chicken in the oven you need to get on with making the sauce.  “Sweat” one shallot and a small clove of garlic.  (I had to look this up, so let me save you some time.)  Sweating, in this case, refers to cooking at low temp, in butter, until translucent.  So choppy chop your shallots and garlic, put them in a skillet with about 1-2 tablespoons of butter over low heat until they start to get limp and translucent.  Once they’re there, you add the thyme (about 1 tspn chopped) then put in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of dry white wine (I used Sauv. Blanc Honig) reduce this mix by half, then add 1 cup of half-and-half, reduce this by half again, add salt and pepper to taste.  I only added a dash of Kosher salt and a few twists of the pepper mill.

I paired this dinner with some fresh cut green beans.  Just boil these bad boys with a dash of salt until they start to get tender (do not overcook!).

Chances are the chicken will be done by the time you are done futzing with the sauce and green beans. 5:45 PM

Fresh from the oven

Okay, time to plate these bad boys and get them to the table while they’re hot!

Not Bad for a Thursday (Saturday) Night

I paired this meal with a Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay, 2005 Les Pierres.  This wine is not the standard buttery oak bomb California Chardonnay, it comes across closer to a traditional Chablis.  It has a crisp apple character, with a hint of oak, so the cream sauce pairs excellent with this Chard.  The touch of oak gives a bit of caramel essence which groves perfectly with the creamy sauce.  The green beans and wild rice fit outstandingly with the chicken and wine too.

2005 Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres

I have to say, this may just be the best meal I have ever prepared!

Special thanks to Natalie Maclean, she shared the chicken recipe a few days ago on her blog/twitter feed.  She shared the recipe from Tracey Black’s website Epicuria.

My most discerning critic even raved about this dinner, check back next week for the next “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner…”

Andrew Likey!

Nortstar at Tahoe – March 2010

March 2010 Trip to Northstar at Tahoe with friends and family.

Waiting for the shuttle to go up to the village.

We had an enjoyable dinner at Rubicon Pizza, in the Village. Andrew loves pizza!

Andrew and Mommy showing off thier "O" face

After dinner we sat by the fire and watched a few folks ice skating.

Brian trying to take a picture of himself with the damn'd iPhone.

Had a great day skiing with my brother Scott.