What’s the Norcalwingman been up to?

Hanging out at wineries and barbecuing!



BBQ at Sonoma-Cutrer

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



2008 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel

I have been dying for some good weather so I can fire up the barbecue and do some of the things that people normally do here in Sonoma County this time of the year.  However, up until this weekend we’ve been getting soaked by the rain.  I”m starting to wonder if this is how people in Seattle feel most of the time.  Anyhow, the forecast over the Holiday weekend was outstanding, the clouds parted and the sun shined through!  I’ve been keeping up with Seghesio on twitter(@seghesio) and they keep telling me I need to have some of their Zinfandel with my BBQ, so I obliged and grabbed the only bottle offered at Safeway while I was picking up some ingredients for the BBQ.

2008 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel

So here is their 2008 Sonoma County Zinfandel

The nose: Ripe plums simmer up through a fairly hot nose, there is some spice, a touch of toasted oak/vanilla and that standard issue Jammy Zin character.

The Taste: You are greeted with a 50-50 blast of big fruit and black pepper.  When I first tried this wine the fruit was a bit over ripe or cooked however as it has opened up that seems to have faded and now is on par with the other big jam fruity Zins.

The Mouth Feel: For being such a big fruit bomb there are not enough tannins to support the wine and it comes off a touch flabby.  I would expect more structure for that much fruit.  The mid palate through finish is a bit weak.

The Color: The wine is a dark purple thinning at the edges, very clear and pretty in the glass.

The Nitty Gritty:
15.5% ABV
Barrel aged for 10 months in 75% American (20% new) and 25% French oak
89% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah
Average Brix at Harvest 26.8°
I paid a little over $20 and have seen it online from $20-$28

The Verdict: I’m not a big fan of the big jammy Zins so this one falls out of my favor a bit due to that, but it’s very typical of many other Zinfandels.  There are no major flaws that I could detect and it pairs nicely with the sweet, tart and spicy BBQ sauces I used.

81 Pts. or a C+/B-

Tasting Notes and Seghesio
Tasting Notes and Seghesio

Nitty Gritty reference from Seghesio’s Website http://www.seghesio.com/

Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner – 5 – BBQ Meatloaf

A couple years back we had a subscription to Gourmet magazine, which always had killer recipes and foodie stuff.  I was reading last June’s when an interesting advertisement caught my eye.  Mostly by the sweet Weber grill on the opposite page, but the title of the other page was “Way To Barbecue Meat Loaf”  I was intrigued, being both a fan of BBQing and Meatloaf.  I tried it and was amazed at how good it was.  I couldn’t find that magazine (til after I had already put this meatloaf on the grill) and my wife dug it out for me.  I compared the recipe and apparently I have ingrained it in my memory, because I didn’t miss any of the important ingredients.  I improved and added a few that I think have mad it mo’bettah.

I stopped off at Oliver’s Market Cotati to pick up the stuff I didn’t already have, picked up the ground pork and the ground round.  I got the grass-fed ground round instead of the regular old “ground chuck.”  I also grabbed some Mustard Greens and a block of Havarti (see Adult-Mac-n-Cheese).  I had the onion, garlic and fresh herbs.

BBQ Meatloaf Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef  (I used grass fed ground round this time, very lean)
Dash of Kosher Salt
chopped up fresh Basil, Thyme, and Oregano
1/2 yellow onion chopped up fine
1 clove garlic
3 big dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 whole egg
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs (this is the secret ingredient that makes this recipe work)
dash Cayenne Pepper

In a large stainless steel mixing bowl combine pork and beef, chop up the onion and garlic, throw in bowl, splash in 3 big dashes of Worcestershire sauce, about a teaspoon of kosher salt, a few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper, sneak in some cayenne.  Finely chop basil, thyme and oregano put that in the bowl.  Then crack 1 egg and add 1 cup of panko crumbs.  Mix thoroughly with your hands, a fork just won’t do the trick, you gotta get this stuff under your fingernails!  Once the mixture is ready no panko crumbs left around the edges, form the meat mixture into a ball and place on a chopping board or baking sheet.

Pat firmly into a loaf shape, you want this to be durable since your putting it directly on the grill.

Formed up and ready to go on the grill

Oh, did I mention by this point you should have your charcoal ready to go?  No, crap, sorry!  You know the drill, prep your Weber for indirect grilling.  Place meatloaf on hot side of grill to sear the bottom.  We will only sear one side this time.  After searing (about 5 minutes) move loaf to opposite side of grill  for indirect cooking, you should close vents to about half-open, cooking time for the meatloaf will be close to 1 hour.

Meatloaf on the grill

I saw a recipe on Natalie Maclean’s site the other day for Adult Macaroni and Cheese.  I have always been a big fan of making your own mac, so I decided to pair my meatloaf with some really good Mac.  I had prepped some spiral noodles earlier, while I was mixing up the meatloaf.  Shred about 4 – 6 oz each Cheddar, Havarti, and Jack.  I would have used Gouda too, but I didn’t see any in the cool box and I was in a hurry so didn’t look really hard.  Anyhow, preheat the oven to 350F, then in a 9×9 pan toss the pasta with the shredded cheese and mix with about 1/3 cup half-and-half.  I topped my Mac with some slices of deli pancetta.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes remove foil and put back in oven for another 10 minutes at 375F.

Oh yeah.

Adult Mac-n-Cheese

1 Cup each Shredded Havarti, Cheddar, Jack
1/3 Cup half-n-half
9 slices of deli style thin sliced Pancetta

I love cooked greens.  Unfortunately the wife doesn’t so occasionally I just make them for my own self!  Oliver’s had some nice fresh organic Mustard greens, I almost got Collard.  I prepared these as follows.  I unbundled the greens and rinsed thoroughly with cold water (get them organic bugs off).  Shake most of the water off, but don’t dry them completely.

Fresh Organic Mustard Greens

In a large skillet heat up about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Chop greens into 2 inch strips.  I think that in previous times I’ve cut out the stalk, but I didn’t this time.  Anyhow, once the oil is hot grab about half of the greens and place in the skillet, throw in a dash of salt.  As they start cooking they will begin to wilt and shrink down quickly, the left over water helps to steam them.  Place the remaining greens in the skillet and cook until they have fully wilted, but not so much they get mushy.  I added about 2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar for added flavor.

Mustard Greens:
1 Bunch Fresh Greens
Dash Kosher Salt
3 Tblspn Olive Oil
2 Tblspn White Balsamic Vinegar

The meatloaf should be just about ready.  I checked mine with an instant read thermometer, it should be close to 140F.  Time to slather this badboy with some BBQ Sauce.

BBQ Sauce Applied!

Use what you like, I used Sweet Baby Rays.

Sweet, sweet Baby Ray's

Coat meatloaf thoroughly and replace BBQ cover.  Close vents down and cook another 7-10 minutes, remove from grill and let stand for another 5-10 minutes.

That’s it, it’s time to eat.  I paired this dinner with a 2006 Sausal Private Reserve (90 Year old vines) Zinfandel from Alexander Valley.  A Petite Syrah might also fit the bill for this dinner.

Ready to Eat

Enjoy dinner… I did.

Dinner fit for a BBQ King

Thanks all, Talk to you all soon.


PS.  If you haven’t done it already, join my Facebook Fan page http://bit.ly/norcalWingmanonFB