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!

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!

Lazy Independence Day Post a Recommendation and a Review “Not Bad for the 4th” (Part 1)

Howdy Y’all, I’ve been feeling exceptionally lazy and unmotivated to do much after finishing up my Summer inter-session class last week, but I did cook some great food over the weekend and definitely wanted to share this recipe for stuffed pork loin with you.  But first,  I don’t think it would be a good 4th of July without some good ass BBQ Ribs.  I was up at the Windsor, CA Farmer’s Market on Sunday morning and one of the vendors we stopped by was a Spicy little shop selling spices and spice blends.  The husband and wife team were fantastic and we chatted about cooking and wine for quite some time.  The husband, Patrick Fallon, Cellar Master over at that little winery Jordan, and his wife Kim, who writes a great little food blog over at  Anyhow, I picked up a couple of mixed rubs, one nice and spicy for ribs (see photos) and one mole (keep an eye out for a future “Not Bad”).

Sunday Night was ribs and 2007 Loxton Sonoma Hillside Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, Zinfandel

I did the ribs just a skosh different this time, I patted them dry with paper towels and then liberally coated the ribs with the “Red Rub.”

Baby Back Ribs
Rub Liberally yeah, rub it in!

The Red Rub is a mix of Ancho, Chipotle, Cayenne, Black Pepper and probably some other stuff (I’m sure it’s a secret).  Drop them an email at to pick some up for yourself.  Anyhow, I lathered up these bad boys, covered them up and let them soak up spice in the fridge for about three hours.

Anyhow, standard cooking here.  Fire up some coals in the chimney and once ready, put them off to one side for indirect heat grilling.  Sear ribs on both sides then put on the side furthest from the coals and cover.

ribs on the grill
Look good don't they?

Cook, turning around (bone side down) every 30-40 minutes, total cook time should be about 2 – 2 1/2 Hours.  Remove from heat, tent with foil and let stand for about 10 min.


I heated up some leftover Woodford Reserve BBQ Sauce, for me, and some Sweet Baby Ray’s for the wife in 3 oz ramekins to dip the ribs in.  Side dish of mashed taters and a side salad.  Paired this one up with a nice little Zinfandel from my buddy Chris Loxton over at Loxton Cellars from Sonoma Valley.  Yum!

not bad part1
Not Bad for a 4th of July (Part 1)

Check back tomorrow for the second part of this awesome weekend, a review of the Loxton Zinfandel.


2007 Peterson Sangiovese – Dry Creek Valley

A few months back we had a great trip through Dry Creek Valley and stopped at some great wineries and tasting rooms.  I had never been to the “Family Vineyards” tasting rooms just off of Dry Creek Road near Lambert Bridge. There are three or four winery tasting rooms and an olive oil company tasting room.  Our group all split up and we headed out to opposite corners, we decided to visit Peterson Winery’s room.  I must say, I am so happy that we did.  We left there with a six pack of wines, three of which were this Sangiovese.

Here it is, 2007 Peterson Winery, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley.

2007 Peterson Sangiovese
2007 Peterson Sangiovese

The Nose: Herbaceous and spicy, smoky meat like game, perhaps wild boar, dark plums and date, musk and sage.
The Taste: Big and complex, waves of spice and fruit scream “Old World Tuscan Countryside,” herbs and dark berry coupled with sandalwood and smoked wild boar roast (Cinghiale Anyone?)
The Mouth Feel:  Solid tannins grab the front palate and take a slow journey through the mid, pit-stop at the cheek and meander through a terrific finish
The Color: Deep and dark, this is no Chianti, this is Barolo or Montepulciano, heavy blood red, thick and massive.
The Nitty Gritty:
Varietal: 100% Sangiovese
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol: 13.9%
pH: 3.53
TA: 0.68g/100ml
Barrel Aging: 23 months
Type of Oak: 20% 2-year-old Hungarian oak,
80% 4-8-year-old neutral oak barrels
Bottled unfined and unfiltered
175 Cases Produced
$20 Retail at the winery, currently limited to wine club, with 6 bottle limit
Notes provided from Peterson Website

The Verdict:  It has been a very long time since a wine has had this kind of effect on me.  This wine brings me back to the Tuscan countryside like no other Sangiovese I’ve ever had.  If you ever take my advice or recommendations, buy this wine.  93 Pts / A

2007 Peterson Sangiovese
2007 Peterson Sangiovese

I paired up this wonderful wine with some 5 year aged parmesan a wonderful salty match for this big complex wine, enjoy!


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!



No está Mal para una Cena de Jueves – “Not Bad” -Cinco de Mayo Edición

Cinco de Mayo is one of those gratuitous holidays, and I use the term holiday very loosely.  It is the celebration of the Mexican army’s defeat of the French over something.  Here’s an article if you want the nitty gritty details…, the misconception is that it’s Mexican Independence day and misstating that gets some people’s panties in a wad, but I digress.

It’s a great reason to fire up the grill, drink some margaritas and enjoy the awesome weather, Latin style!

I posted over on’s website the other day when he was having one of his giveaways and I won a cool Latin Dance CD.  So to get this party started I threw that bad boy in the Disco Player and jammed.  (Thanks again Joe, this music is way fun!)

My lovely bride found a killer recipe for tacos in Food & Wine magazine, there were actually 5 recipes in this article but here’s the one I chose.

Skirt Steak Tacos: recipe from Food&

2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 5-inch strips
12 corn tortillas, warmed

Exited to get this marinade right, I stopped off at the local market, Oliver’s Cotati for the missing ingredients.  I picked up some skirt steak (which was on manager’s special, score!), missing spices from my cabinet, Ancho Chile Powder and ground coriander.  I also picked up some fresh veggies to make a fun succotash that I saw made on a food TV show.

I came home at lunch to get the marinade ready.  I placed the meat into a large (1 gallon) zip-lock and started dumping in the spices.  Wow!  I marinated about 3lbs of steak so I used about double what the recipe above called for.  It looked awesome so much chile powder in there…  Anyhow, once you get all the dry ingredients in I took about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and drizzled it in (recipe called for vegetable, I figure olives are vegetables right?) then I squeezed the juice out of 3 limes, then close up the bag and shake and roll and massage the spices around to ensure an even coating of spices and juice.  I put it into the fridge and headed back to work.  Total marinade time probably ended up closer to 6 hours.

Marinated Carne Asada

Grill the meat over high heat, char on both sides and remove from heat.

Let stand 10 Minutes

Let stand about 10 min, should make for a medium-rare Carne Asada.

Carne Asada Supremo

The side dish:

I can’t remember what show it was, but I was at the gym the other day and now all of the workout equipment has private TVs.  So the guys were doing a cinco-de-mayo thing, I couldn’t hear them (i was rocking out on my iPod) but had it on closed caption.  They cooked up this mix of corn and zucchini with some other stuff and simmered it in some cream.  I didn’t get the recipe exact but here’s what’s in it.

2 Ears of Corn (fresh sweet or white)
3 medium-small zucchini
1 Pasilla pepper
1/2 yellow onion
1 large tomato
1 teaspoon Ancho Chile powder
1/2 cup Cream
dash of Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon olive oil (EVOO)

Shuck and rinse the corn, cut the kernels from the cob and place in a large skillet.

Corn off the cob

Core the pasilla, removing the top and seeds, dice into about 1/2 inch bits, put those in the pan.

–Mambo Wine, and Margarita are mandatory–

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, these we will start cooking on the grill.


I cooked mine, flesh side down for about 5-10 minutes over low heat on the gas grill, just so they get the little cooked lines in them, remove from grill then chop into bite size pieces, place those into the pan too.  Finely dice 1/2 of a yellow or white onion, into the pan it goes.  Dice up the tomato, set aside.

Drizzle the oil over the veggies and fire up the burner at medium heat.  Stir frequently to keep veggies from browning too much.  Once the veggies are close to ready pour cream into pan, reduce heat, add tomatoes.

Cooking up the veg.

Let this simmer a little to reduce down the cream.

Suffering Succotash!

I cooked up some black beans with this meal also,  I chopped up half a jalapeno and some onion and cooked that in with the beans.

I whipped up an avocado salsa to go with this, this was super simple and really yummy.

3 Haas Avocados
1/2 yellow onion
2 Tablespoons Ancho Chile Powder
3 Limes

Put all of these ingredients together in the food processor, fire it up until the mixture is smooth.  Done!

I like my tacos in corn tortillas, but you can use whatever you like!

So the Food & Wine magazine has a wine pairing with each of its taco recipes, I was lucky to find the exact wine they recommended.  Hey Mambo, Sultry California Red Wine.  They friggin’ pegged this pairing.


Hey Mambo is a blend of Petite Syrah, Barbera, Malbec, Zin, and some other stuff I can’t remember.  It was 13.5% ABV and comes across the palate spicy and fruity.  It cost around $10 or $11 bucks and was worth every penny!

I have to say this is the best Carne Asada I have ever made.  I am always bummed out (prior to today) when I try and cook up some skirt steak and expect it to taste like it does at the local taqueria.  This one hits the mark and is perfection on a tortilla!

I got to eat off the “Celebrate” plate because I recently got a promotion at work, yeah me!  No está Mal para una Cena de Jueves!

Special Thanks to Joe Roberts for Providing the soundtrack to the evening, please visit him at he always has excellent wine reviews and information. (Latin Party CD image from

Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner – 8 – Mirepoix

So one of the advantages of hanging out online and chatting it up on twitter with like minded folks is the influx of ideas, recipes, wine reviews and all-in-all general good-vibeness.  I came across a fantastic blog this week, which I highly recommend following.  @SavourSonoma on twitter, and which turns out to be a great resource for recipies and general Sonoma County info.

Anyhow, Danielle posted a blog about mirepoix this week.  For those who don’t now, mirepoix has something to do with onion, carrots, and celery.  A great mix of yumminess no doubt.  She prepped up some chicken with said onion, celery and carrots and used them in a baked dish that sounded worthy of a Thursday Night dinner.

So I stopped by Oliver’s Market this afternoon to pick up some missing ingredients, celery, oninon, and carrot in addition to some dry sherry.  I choppy chopped up the veg, and put the chicken in the foil pouch with some fresh cracked pepper and sea salt, with a dash of Dry Creek Olive Co. EVOO.


So into the oven with this mixed bag of goodies for about 50 minutes.  One side note here.  I used frozen, skin-on boneless breasts.  I’m thinking that 75 minutes might be better if you start with frozen chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 F
Chop up 2 carrots
Chop up 3 stalks of Celery
Chop Up 1 white onion


Place veg on tin/aluminum foil, put breasts on top, crack pepper and sea salt over mix, and drizzle 3-4 oz of really good olive oil over the whole bunch.

Here’s the advantage with mirepoix, at this point you can take your mirepoix and fridge it up for use later in soup or whatever chicken dish you want.  I took the mix and placed it in a caserole with the following.

Prep some chicken broth 1 cup, add 1/2 cup dry sherry, reduce in saucepan.

Cooked for a bit

In caserole add 1 cup of brown rice (I used a wild brown mix).

Here’s probably where I messed up.  I think the best bet is to cook up your rice to tender status prior to addint into the caserole.  My rice was, uber “al dentel,” in other words crunchy.  So place 1 cup of rice, pre-cooked in caserole, add broth/sherry to rice, place chicken mirepoix into caserole, squeeze one lemon into caserole dish and stir up (remove any seeds that may drop in).  Cover and put the caserole into the oven at 350 F for 30 min.  After 30 min remove cover, put panko bread crumbs over entire surface and then shred sharp white cheddar and fontina cheese, cover completely.

Fresh Cheese and Panko Covered Caserole

Place caserole back into oven and increase heat to 375F for another 20 min.

Looks Great!

I served some fresh cut green beans with this main dish.

This dish pairs excellently with a great Sauvigonon Blanc, we had a 2007 Rued, Dry Creek Valley,  Sauvignon Blanc.

So here’s my own personal verdict.  I screwed up this dinner, the rice was crunch which was truly unfortunate.  While cooking the house smelled awesome.  The good thing was that the chicken was done and tasted great.  It was juicy and tender, the veggies in the mirepoix were cooked but not overdone.

To do this better I would have pre-cooked the rice for a bit, the rice I used usually calls for boiling for almost an hour, I thought the oven baking would get the job done but it failed.

Needless to say, the flavors in the dish were superb and the wine pairing was spot-on, the rice… not so much.

Well, it was still not “too” bad for a Thursday Night Dinner!


PS: Stop by my Facebook page for daily updates of things that are good and extremely important… or not, but still fun!

Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner – 7 – Spring Chicken

I can’t believe we are nearing the close of April.  Time just doesn’t friggin’ slow down.  Can we get a breather please.

So, on that note, before Spring has left us I decided last night that Spring Chicken sounded like a fun idea for this week’s “Not bad for a Thursday Night Dinner.”  I started perusing some of the usual sites, trolling for a great recipe that I just had to try.  I didn’t find any specific but found some inspiration.

—Okay break in thought stream:  I’m sitting here writing my blog post about Spring Chicken and this song I haven’t heard since I was in High School just came on, “Spring Love” by Stevie B.  Wow, what a blast from the past.  It was 1988…  I was dating this great girl Tonantzin.  Crazy.—

So back to the task at hand, where was I?  Oh yeah, inspiration.  I visited Natalie Maclean’s site, always get good ideas there…. and I found a delicious sounding side dish, Garden Veggie Pasta.  I didn’t go exactly by their recipe, but pretty close.  For the main dish I sort of made it up as I went along.

Spring Chicken:

2 Boneless Skin-on Chicken Breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs total)
3 tablespoons butter
1 Clove of Garlic
2 Lemons
3 Teaspoons of Tamarya’s Herb Mix (not sure where you can get it out there in the real world, she’s an old co-worker who is now a farmer)
Dash Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 Shallot
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon of capers

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Season Chicken breasts on skinless side with half of herbs, some salt and pepper.  In a large, oven safe skillet melt butter on high heat, add clove of garlic.  Once melted and sizzling, place chicken breasts in pan, skin side up, while searing sprinkle remaining herbs and salt and pepper.  Grill chicken breasts on both sides for about 3-5 min until golden brown.  make sure breasts are skin side down and place into oven.  They should cook about another 20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 160 F.

Finely Chop Shallot.

Once chicken is out of the oven remove breasts from pan and set aside while you prepare the sauce.  Put shallots into skillet and add chicken broth, capers and squeeze 1 1/2 of the lemons in.  Cook over medium-low heat to reduce.  I left the squeezed lemon rind in the skillet for some added zest. Just prior to serving (about 5 minutes or so) add 1/3 cup of warm water with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch well stirred into skillet.  Stir into sauce thoroughly it should thicken quickly, remove from heat.

Garden Veggie Pasta
1/2 Lb bowtie pasta
4 sticks of asparagus
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 Cup of chopped carrots (about 1 inch, cut long ways)

Cook pasta as you normally would, in a second sauce pan boil some water, once boiling add veggies, blanch veg until tender and strain.  Mix veggies with pasta, toss with some really good Olive oil.  I used some Dry Creek Olive Company, Manzanilla.  Crack some sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, toss well, top with some Parmesan when ready.

Plate pasta first, then place chicken, spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with a lemon slice.  Sprinkle some fresh Parmesan cheese on the pasta.

Time to prep and cook this was about an hour and a half.

Spring Chicken

I paired this dinner with a 2008 Leveroni Vineyards, Felder Creek Vineyard Chardonnay.  The oaky character of this Chardonnay and good acid did excellent with the lemon and caper sauce.

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Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner 6

I have had a hankering for a good steak, nah, scratch that, a great steak.  And what steak is better than Fillet Mignon?  Okay, on occasion Flat Irons are good, or Skirt, yeah, some fajitas… ooh.  I digress.  Let’s get back to the task at hand.

So I’ve been thinking about this since after last week’s dinner, or at least since Saturday, last week’s meatloaf was killer (so were leftovers).  Anyhow, half of the challenge of these is finding the proper motivation.  This week I came across a new (new to me) blogger’s site and she had a great sounding recipe for “Pencil-Thin-Asparagus” (thanks Tammy).  I commented on her blog that I would definitely have to come up with a good main course to go along with this, that was pretty easy since I was already thinking steak, and steak and asparagus go together like, well like Forest Gump would say he and Jenny go together “Like Peas and Carrots” (BTW, not a huge fan of peas so it never made too much sense to me, but it sounds good!).  Additionally I wanted a starch that I hadn’t done before and I’ve heard on cooking shows and other foodie sites of “truffled this” or “truffled that” and of course mashed potatoes can be truffled, so I decided that would be my starch dish.

We all know, now, that the best (IMHO) wine to go with steak is a great big Cab, I just happened to have the perfect match for that steak; a 2001 Gallo of Sonoma, Barrelli Creek, Single Vineyard, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

This dinner was really fairly simple to prepare as opposed to some of the other recipes I’ve tried out.  However, the grocery bill for this one definitely came up bigger than the rest.  This was due to the lack of certain spendy ingredients/spices that I hadn’t previously bought.

As usual a trip to Oliver’s Market Cotati.  Produce section first.  I needed about 1 1/2 lbs of red potatoes and some asparagus.  I already had some garlic and thyme which were the only other produce items used.  I visited the butcher and picked up some nice 1 1/2 thick fillets about 1/2 lb each.  So the expensive stuff was the truffle oil, some sea salt, and grape seed oil.

Steak prep:

Pat steaks dry with paper towel
fresh cracked black pepper and a dash of kosher salt on both sides

2 Great Steaks

Sear steaks on gas grill high to medium-high heat on both sides (approx 3 min per side), reduce heat to about 275-300 F and move steaks to top rack for roasting (about 15-20 min)


1 1/2 lb of Red Potatoes
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
3/4 Cup Whole Milk
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
2 Tablespoons Truffle Oil

Wash potatoes and dice into about 2 inch cubes, place into pot and boil until tender (about 20 min)

Diced Red Potatoes

Strain potatoes in colander and return to cooking pot over low heat.  I just put them back on the same burner they cooked on (electric stove blues).  This will cook off most of the remaining water.

Add garlic, butter, milk, pepper and mash with potato smasher until creamy smooth, even out in pan.  Drizzle oil over potatoes and let sit for a minute or two to allow oil to infuse.  Thoroughly stir in oil and serve.

Asparagus:  (copied from

Properly Wunxed!

1) Trim off last 2 inches
2) Douse with olive oil (or try Hazlenut or Grapeseed)  I used Grapeseed oil
3) Sprinkle Sea Salt
4) Sprinkle Lemon Pepper
5) Sprinkle Cracked Pepper
6) Wunx it up  (Asked Tammy about this, she says her Grandmother used to say this and it means mix thoroughly, I wunxed it up good!)
7) Put in 450-degree oven for 6 1/2 minutes (for a slightly crunchy, but non mushy texture)  Your oven may take longer, I ended up going closer to 10 minutes
8) Sprinkle microplaned Paremesan Cheese over all (the microplane makes the cheese delicate and curly…beautiful)  I friggin forgot the cheese!  What the hell was I thinking, must have been distracted by that first bottle of vino, it was corked — (see review)

I read some interesting blogs/articles on garnishing and plating this week so I tried to spruce it up a tad with the plating.  I think it looks pretty good!

Not Bad

The wine paired very well with the steak and potatoes, the lemon pepper on the asparagus was super yummy and gave just a hint of zest to the dish.  Total cook time, including prep, was probably under an hour.

Fillets are always a treat, especially on Thursday.  See you guys next week for another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night.”

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2005 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The wife came home with a fresh marinated pork loin that she wanted me to grill up.  No, it’s not “Not Bad for a Thursday” Tuesday edition, just another furlough day for SSU.  Which means I get to stay home and help out in the kitchen.

Just a tasting blog today though, I’m not sure I have the motivation for a full-on dinner blog.

Sonoma-Cutrer Pinots are done in a Burgundian style.  These are full-bodied Reds, not the light and delicate strawberry bombs from Carneros or Paso.

The nose: Dark red fruit with fresh earthy notes.  Kind of like when you dig in the garden you get that first wiff of wet mulchy dirt… but in a good way.  There is a touch of alcohol on the nose, but it carries some toasted wood, maybe like a cedar or cigar box.

The taste: Spicy black cherries, with toasty hints of vanilla and a dash of cloves, but just a hint.  Like someone said cloves in the room and you think about what it tastes like.

Mouth feel: It’s actually a bit on the wimpy side at the start but it picks up speed to the mid palate and has a great finish.  You know the kind that makes the sides of your tongue taste sweet.

Color: Dark Brick to ruby, not fading at the edges.  Beautiful deep red color, no strawberries here!

The Nitty Gritty Details:

Alcohol 14.9%
pH: 3.35
TA:  .66gms/100ml
RS: .08
46% Vine Hill Vineyards
43% Owsley Vineyards
with contributions from Les Pierres and The Cutrer Vineyards

Bottled, un-fined & unfiltered after 10 months in French Oak.
Winemaker Terry Adams

Cost:$34  2005 Vintage only available by calling (it’s not on the website and 2006/07 is in the stores) 707-528-1181, tell them Norcal Wingman Sent you.

91 Points, James Laube, Wine Spectator June 15, 2008

This wine has gotten really good since I first opened it and I’m loving it more as I’m writing up these notes.  Still only on the first glass I promise…

2005 Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast

By the way, the pairing with garlic and herb marinated pork loin, served with StoveTop and Artichokes kicked ass!  Check back in a couple of days for another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner.”


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