More oysters!

oyster-stew-with-trufflesSince my last oyster fest occurred on the same days as the Women’s March, one of my guests couldn’t be here so, since there was a “leftover” truffle, it’s happened again. Fortunately I was able to get more oysters though they seem to be in very short supply around Durham these days.

It was oysters poached in their liquor and black truffle and black pepper cream poured over them just as the edges curl. Immediately popped into warmed bowls. No waiting around for anything–they need to be eaten right away! Fresh briny bites of ocean with earthy black truffle, and just a hint of black pepper piquancy.

The wines  that we had today–since there were three of us–the 2013 vintage of the one we had last time, with a verdicchio (never had it before, but it was recommended by a good wine shop as likely to be good with this dish).

Domaine des Gandines, Macon-Peronne Blanc, Burgundy, 2009 vintage with the last batch of oysters just a couple weeks ago was excellent. Today it was the 2013 vintage was “fresh” and not nearly so complex as the 2009–it certainly wasn’t bad (is it possible to have a “bad” white burgundy?) but I’ll look for an older one to go with the next batch of oyster stew (if it has truffles in it).

385762The Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013  was very slightly fizzy and excellent with the oyster stew. It was the unanimous favorite of all of us of the two this evening; however, I think that my favorite so far is an older burgundy that is more complex.

We ended with a sampling of liqueurs from Brothers Vilgalys  and a tiny taste of blueberry/lavender chocolate from Chuao Chocolates. Definitely satisfied and replete!

It seems that I’m lucky enough to have found two oyster eaters who also enjoy conversing about food and wine! The makings of a perfect meal though the search for the perfect wine goes on, and oysters offer so many possibilities. There will be oysters next winter, but who knows how they will be fixed. That’s part of the pleasure–planning and then eating!

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The oysters that I had today put out much more liquid than the last batch, so I have a “leftover” to deal with: cream infused with black truffle and black pepper. I’m thinking potato soup, perhaps? Or…we’ll just see what evolves. It will be good whatever happens. And now the planning starts for next year’s oyster tradition.

 A son gôut!

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Lamb Stew (Alentejo-style)

My bargain shopping got me a butterflied leg of lamb that was on special. Rather than roast it whole, I decided our chilly, grey, damp weather needed stew.

I cut the lamb leg into 3 cm cubes; I decided that I wanted some variety in my stews so since I had two pounds of lamb so all I needed to do was halve the recipes.Since I’ve not done much Iberian cookery I got out The Food of Spain & Portugal: The Complete Iberian Cuisine by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz (page 152).  

pimenton-de-la-veraThere are a lot of lamb stew recipes in this book. I finally made a decision based on seasonings that sounded interesting: garlic, parsley, pimenton de la vera (smoked), cayenne, and cloves. (The recipe only said “paprika”–which I’m sure would work fine, but I particularly like the smokiness of the pimenton de la vera, but I used the amount called for.)

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Carneiro à Alentejana

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 900 g (2 pounds), lean, boneless lamb, cut into 3.5 cm/1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil or lard
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 175 mL/ 3/4 cup dry white wine

Preparation

  • Mix garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the lamb to the garlic mixture and marinate about 2 hours. (I left mine overnight)
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil or lard and brown the lamb pieces all over.
  • Transfer lamb to a flameproof casserole.
  • In the remaining oil and sauté the onion until soft and add to the casserole.
  • Add paprika, cayenne, cloves to the casserole. (I like to “bloom” dry spices in oil before adding liquid so I added the paprika while sautéing the onions)
  • Bring to a simmer on the stovetop.
  • Cover and put in a moderate oven (180ºC/350ºF) and cook until the lamb is tender (about 1-1/2 hours).

The author recommends serving with a light red wine (red Vinho Verde or Dão, and notes that in Portugal meats are usually served with both potatoes and rice.

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I halved the recipe above and used the other pound of lamb to make my favorite lamb and cabbage stew (Fårikål) with the other half. I considered being very energy conscious and making both at the same time; however, my hedonism won and I made them on different days because I love to luxuriate in the aromas of cooking–that’s part of the anticipation and enjoyment of cooking and eating. I just didn’t think I would get to enjoy them in the same way if I were to cook both at the same time. I would have missed some of the pleasure of cooking had I done that. The smell (especially of the pimenton de la vera) was particularly appetizing.

The combination of the pimenton, cayenne, and clove was wonderful. I don’t often use the “sweeter” spices with meats but that little dash of clove has made me wonder why I haven’t used them more with meat. I need to broaden my perspective on the “appropriate” spices to use with meats.

The balance of the seasoning in this recipe (I didn’t change anything) was wonderful–just enough cayenne to give a little “burn” as you eat your way through a serving, but not every getting to the point where you felt as if you had blisters on your taste buds–and the clove didn’t smack you in the face either. All in all a very well-balanced seasoning. I’ll probably try this with lamb shoulder chops–even without cutting them up.

Oh, wine? Well since there was a bottle of my “house wine” already open, I used that–it’s one of the things I like about that wine: it’s very versatile. Rice? Potatoes? Nope–garbanzo beans.

There is one modification I think I’ll make next time–I’ll add more onions they were luscious after cooking with the lamb and seemed just right with the pimenton.

Christmas evening supper

Christmas eve–what’s for supper? Your basic duck breast, pan-seared and dressed with some of the spoils of my visit to Bull City Olive Oil. Just a take-off on a vinaigrette, but what fun. A nice fatty duck breast pan-seared so that the skin is cracklin’ crispy–with a very simple sauce–fruity.

Turn off the smoke alarm so you won’t be interrupted while cooking. You need to start with a skillet that will tolerate high heat–it needs to be almost smoking hot to begin–and no worries about sticking given the fat in the duck skin. I used my favorite carbon steel skillet–very well cured (now black and nonstick), and has the advantages of cast iron, without the weight. Just the right size for two duck breasts.

20161224_173256I had thought that perhaps just a drizzle of one of the infused vinegars would be good, but after tasting the vinegars with a piece of breast that was loose in the package, I decided it needed  more complexity, so I started with  extra-virgin olive oil infused with mushroom and sage–awesome as a condiment in its own right, but for nice fatty duck it needs to be brightened a bit with one of the infused balsamic vinegars. Decisions, decisions!

I had black mission fig, black cherry, and blackberry with ginger. After tasting I decided that blackberry-ginger was what I wanted this evening, though any of these would have been good with duck. I didn’t use typical vinaigrette proportions but I did emulsify the oil and the vinegar (1:1). The mushroom-sage oil is very earthy and a great contrast to the fruitiness of the blackberry with that little spark of ginger.

20161224_174026To prep the breasts I patted them dry and scored the skin side, careful not to cut into the meat–just to help the fat render while pan-searing. You need a very sharp knife so that just the weight of the knife pulled across the skin will cut into it. Then I salted the meat side of the breasts and let them sit for about 20 minutes to season.

After patting them dry I put them into a  very hot skillet, skin side down, and cooked until most of the fat rendered and the skin side was brown and crispy (about 5 to 8 minutes), reducing the heat a bit to keep them from getting too brown before a sufficient amount of fat had rendered. Then turned them and continued to cook until the temperature was 135ºF by instant read thermometer (about 5 minutes).

While the breasts were searing, I whisked the oil and vinegar together, and got the roasted potatoes out of the oven. While the breasts rested (and continued with carry-over cooking), I poured off the excess fat from the pan, left just enough to  sauté a mix of  baby arugula and radicchio for a side. Very quick. Very tasty!

The bitterness of the arugula and radicchio was a great contrast to the richness of the duck, and the blackberry-ginger/mushroom-sage sauce. (Blackberry and sage are awesome together–makes me want to try a sorbet with that combination.)  The Les Hérétiques wine (old vine Carignane grapes) has lots of berry fruit (blackberry  with some earthiness, and minerals) all in all a great wine for this meal even though it’s just my “house” wine.

All together a very flavorful supper for no more time than it took.  So many possible flavor variations possible with this simple sauce. A son gôut!

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Jabberwock

Jabberwok liqueurI love the names of the liqueurs from the Brothers Vilgalys. Jabberwock conjures up some interesting images for me–something dark, smoky,  and exciting, and maybe just a tad bit scary.

I can’t say which of these liqueurs I like best–they are all so different, so I  have them all, but this one is close to the top of the list–partly because I love strong, black coffee and I like the spice of chilies.

The ingredient list for this one includes coffee, chicory, lemongrass, eucalyptus, manzano & chipotle peppers. Just like the other liqueurs from Brothers Vilgalys the flavors just unfold as you sip. There is definitely some heat–it’s going to make your mouth feel warm. With the first sip there is the “brightness” of the lemongrass and the eucalyptus, then the heat starts to build, but the heat doesn’t hide the “dark” coffee and chickory. The lemongrass and the eucalyptus come through in the nose. There’s a long, warm finish where the smokiness of the chipotles lingers, even as the heat fades. Another winner!

(It’s a fantastic addition to hot drinking chocolate–the coffee and the chickory enhancing the chocolate flavor and the chilies adding some spice.)

Fresh Fig Ice Cream (Gelato di Fichi)

I just have to pass along this post from Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. I love figs, love ice cream, and this is easy. I’ll be anticipating the fig season next year, though we have brown Turkey figs here, rather than the deep purple ones.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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Fresh figs have to be imported and because they are quite perishable they are not often of a great quality, but sometimes some nice figs are available in the Netherlands. A nice way to use them is to make ice cream. I’ve used a recipe from SeriousEats that uses lemon zest and lemon juice to enhance the flavor, and it was very nice indeed. The recipe is quite easy as nog eggs are involved. Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

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Makes about 750 ml (3 cups)

900 grams (2 lbs) fresh figs, plus additional figs for garnish (optional)

1 untreated lemon

150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar

250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream

Preparation

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Wash and dry the figs and remove the tough stem.

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Chop the figs.

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Put the figs in a saucepan with 125 ml (1/2 cup) of water.

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Add the grated zest of a lemon.

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Bring to a boil, stirring…

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Recipe: Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake

I like this wine–just for drinking, and can imagine that this will be awesome.

Wine by Ari

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I came across this amazing recipe for Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake from Chasing Delicious.

Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces flour
  • 2 ounces cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 14 ounces vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⅓ cup sweet red wine (try Apothic Dark)
  • 1 cup cinnamon red wine sauce, recipe below

Instructions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter and flour or grease a bundt pan. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Beat the sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then the vanilla, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Add half of the dry mixture and mix in well. Pour in the wine and mix…

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An Overview of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation and Its Wines

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of my favorite wine regions. It’s great to see this information pulled together here. Thank you!

Flora's Table

As a prelude to our next post in which we will temporarily leave Italy and review a French Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, in this post we will provide a brief overview of the southern French wine region that goes by the same name, including its history, terroir, permitted grape varieties and winemaking practices.

In General

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an area encompassing 3,200 HA of vineyards that is located in the southern part of the Rhône Valley, in France, between the towns of Orange (to the north) and Avignon (to the south).

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation Map Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation Map – Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Thirteen different grape varieties are authorized in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards, with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (the so-called “GSM“) being the dominating varieties, as well as the traditional core grapes in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend (see below for more information about these grape varieties). Other permitted varieties include Cinsaut

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