Wine areators do work

Great to know that this actually works. I was given one quite recently so haven’t used it much yet. I don’t think it’s quite as straight-forward as this one, but does definitely help. Thanks for the tip about old wines!

Areators, what?

thewinelifestyle

Dear readers,

Have you ever wondered how and if the areators for red wine work? Well, let’s find out.

Recently, I have seen many types of this kind of accessory, which are different from the traditional decanter: they don’t have the function of decanting the red wine sediments, but allow to oxygenate the red wine very quickly. It’s an handy accessory: for example, if we have guests for dinner and we don’t have time to open bottles an hour or two before drinking it!

1_Ventorosso_areator_Thewinelifestyle

I really like this type of aerator, the Ventorosso, ease to use, with a very linear and functional design: it is composed of a base, to be placed above the glass, and a sphere on which you pour the red wine, so as to increase its surface exposed to air, “opening” it faster than a simple wine rotation in the glass.

2_Ventorosso_areator_Thewinelifestyle

Let’s go a bit ‘in…

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Shad roe redux

from The Garum Factory imagesJust a quick follow-up on the shad roe post from yesterday: The seasoning and cooking method from The Garum Factory was a success–absolutely as good as I thought it would be from looking at the recipe.

The purging over night in salt water does make a difference–I like the roe either way. If it’s your first time preparing roe, I’d recommend doing the salt-water soak.

Cooking the roe over low heat–kind of a steam-sauté) works well–it eliminates the popping and spattering that you usually get over higher heat and the texture of the roe more tender than cooked over higher heat.

The ginger added to the more traditional bacon, capers, garlic, lemon, and butter definitely adds a nice sparkle to the roe. I’d certainly recommend this as an introduction to shad roe if you’ve not tried it before.

The Reverse Wine Snob: The Best Box Wines - Esporao Alandra White 2013(The roe image above is from The Garum Factory–the picture that I took did not come out well at all so–clicking on that image will take you to the original post which I reblogged.)

I just had steamed potatoes (small Yukon Golds) and a salad. A glass of the Alandra white (Portugal)  was a lovely accompaniment to the roe.

A son goût

Search for a perfect wine

I’ve told you about my Christmas eve oysters with black truffle cream–and the cava that we had with them.  Well, here’s a follow-up on the wine conundrum. While it was excellent cava, it just didn’t do quite what I wanted with that particular combination.  So I headed back to Wine Authorities here in Durham for another consultation. After a lot of consultation, I came home with two wines to try.

I had enough black truffle cream left to try a repeat of the combination with different wines, and my neighbor was willing to do a repeat, too. Here’s what we tasted:

We gave some close attention to the wine as well as the oysters. Both these are excellent wines which I would definitely buy again. Both were definitely closer to what I was looking for than then cava–though I’d certainly not refuse that again (even with oysters and black truffles).

After some very serious consideration, we decided that the white burgundy worked extremely well with the oyster/truffle combination. It just seemed to flow right in with both tastes–bridging the briny oyster and the earthy truffle with the fruit.  I was not familiar with the Viré-Clessé though I do have a particular fondness for white burgundies–thank you Wine Authorities for expanding my horizons.  It is an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for white wine in the Mâconnais subregion in Burgundy in central France. It is a wonderful wine.

The more I considered this, I thought that the Muscadet would be good with oysters alone, and perhaps with truffles alone.  Being in experimental mood, this evening I have made a simple dish of pasta, truffle oil and butter to continue the tasting experiments.

As I expected, the white burgundy is very good with the pasta–it’s not overwhelmed by the flavor and aroma of the truffle, and the fruit is a great contrast to the earthiness of the truffle; the fruit here is not as sharply contrasting as with the Muscadet citrus–but enough fruit with a mineral nature to accentuate, while blending with the woodsy truffle (that tiny hint of oak?).  Bottom line, and awesome combination. I hope there will be more of this!

The Muscadet is also excellent with the truffle pasta–in fact I think I prefer it to the burgundy with just truffle flavor and aroma–the bright, citrus and honey are a contrast to the earthiness of the truffles.  I think that it must be the notes of goat cheese and the gouda (definitely an aged gouda) that tie in with the truffle’s woodsy, earthy flavor.  The citrus then cuts the richness of the butter–a very delightful contrast. Bottom line here, an awesome combination again.

I can’t honestly say which of these I’d choose to go with something featuring truffle–I’d have to decide after considering the other foods served–this was a very unadorned taste test–just pasta and truffle!

Thanks to my little experiment of oysters with black truffle cream, I’ve been introduced to three very special wines–two which were good but just not quite right, and an exquisite burgundy which seemed to bridge the gap between the briny oyster and the woodsiness of the truffle.

Unfortunately, I don’t have oysters to hand so I can’t taste these two with just oysters, which seems the next logical step….though I’m sure both will be excellent with just oysters alone.

This was such a striking flavor combination that it’s very likely to be the new Christmas Eve tradition in my house.

Now as for the wine?  Will I be satisfied with a white burgundy, or will the search continue?

A son goût!

…and now it’s turkey soup!

Remember those turkey thighs that I roasted a couple days ago? They have really been a bargain.  I spent about $5 on the package of thighs–two small-to-medium ones.

I had my roast turkey with sides of potatoes and cabbage (with juniper berries). Then I had two full-size sandwiches, and a half sandwich for lunches. Now I’m finishing the turkey thighs with a very hearty bowl of soup (and a  glass of good wine).

small Rival Crockette

a crockette

I popped those thigh bones (with what meat wasn’t easy to carve for sandwiches) in to my tiny little single-serving crock-pot to make some stock–I just added a little salt, a bay leaf, the brown stuff that I deglazed from the roasting pan, and enough water to cover the bones. After slow cooking overnight, I removed the thigh bones.  The meat just fell off into the pot.

In the same little crock-pot (don’t want extra dishes to wash), I added a small handful of barley, some dried mushrooms of various sorts–including shiitake, chanterelle, and porcini. The other things that went into this soup were the leftover cabbage (with juniper berries) and a few potatoes that were roasted with the turkey.  (You may be thinking that this is pretty heavy on starch, but to finish the soup, I added some green stuff.)

small leaves of greens

mixed greens

About half an hour before I was ready to eat, I went out to the garden (which I share through the good graces of a neighbor) and picked a good size handful of small kale, turnip, and mustard greens.

After washing, I cut these in bite size pieces (though that was almost unnecessary as they were really not as big as my hand). They went into the crock-pot; in about 20 minutes they were still bright green but tender.

I did a final adjustment of salt using French Grey sea salt, and finally added several drops of black truffle oil to finish the soup.

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I’ve had my bowl of soup for supper this evening–and it looks as if I’ll get one more meal out of those turkey thighs–with the barley, and the amount of meat that was left on the bones, there is easily another serving of this soup for lunch or supper tomorrow. (I’m sure that by the time I reheat it, those greens won’t be quite so bright green, but the flavors may have melded with the other ingredients so it should be good–maybe even better than this evening.

bowl of soup with greens

a warm, hearty supper

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I opened a bottle of wine this evening that was a completely unknown to me. It was a limited release called “Dark” from Apothic. I was completely beguiled by the description that said that it “blends dark fruit flavors of blueberry and blackberry with opulent notes of coffee and dark chocolate”.  How could I possibly pass that up? (I found it while shopping at Harris Teeter–just after I had bought a case of something called “Besieged”–more about that one later.)

I was surprised how dark it was when I poured it into the glass! (I even tried to take a picture–but it just looks almost black–so forget that.) It is definitely a “big” wine and right out of the bottle it was fruity and mellow–but after breathing for a bit it lives up to its description.

I thought it might overwhelm my bowl of turkey soup, but with the juniper berries, the rather emphatic mushrooms, the flavors of the greens, and the truffle oil, it turned out to be a great combination.  Fortunately there is some of the wine left for tomorrow’s soup! This is one time when I’m looking forward to the “leftovers”.

Cooking monkfish

TGIEOT—yes, that’s a bit more than TGIF!  It’s end-of-term.  The Spring term was the school term from hell, starting right at the end of Fall term!  Over the winter break I had unexpected course preparation to do for two online classes—switching from Blackboard to Sakai—for content management.  Top that off with an ongoing indexing project, and it’s—well, let’s just say it left very little time for cleaning, cooking, or writing!  Then, add to that a hard-drive failure for my computer….but it’s over now.

I’ve taken some time to work on revising the on-deck herb garden since I had plants that needed to go into their home pots, and a couple of days to do nothing but have quality time with the cat.  All that has left me yearning for some relaxation time and some really good food—cooked by me.

My day was absolutely made when I got my email delivery of the “Fresh Catch” specials from my local Harris Teeter this morning: they had monkfish! In terms of favorite fish, that’s right up there with Chilean sea bass for me.  Needless to say, I scarfed down my morning coffee and headed right off to HT.

fennel, leeks and garlic ready to roast

fennel, leeks and garlic

Supper this evening was roasted monkfish, with roasted fennel with leeks, garlic, and a dash of red pepper flakes, with a nice un-oaked chardonnay.  The fennel was an in-store, spur of the moment thing since it looked so gorgeous.

Even though it is warm this afternoon, I opted to cook in the oven because I wanted roasted fennel as well. I’ve done monkfish in hobo-pack style before but I thought I’d try roasting it this time and see if I couldn’t have a one-pot dinner.

monkfish

monkfish

I’d seen a post by Edward Schneider in Mark Bittman’s NY Times column (Diner’s Journal) about roasting monkfish, and the differences in monkfish on both sides of the Atlantic. After reading that I salted my monkfish for about an hour, and then roasted it.  I did manage to make a one-pan meal out of it. Since I had to allow about 40 minutes for the fennel to roast, I started that first.  After about 15 minutes, I laid the monkfish on top of the leeks, pushing the fennel wedges to the side, and popped it back into the oven for about 15 minutes.  I used very simple seasoning on the fish—olive oil and salt before going into the oven, and nothing for than fresh-ground black pepper and a pat of unsalted butter after it came out of the oven. So very simple—so very good, and even healthy.

(The only thing I wish I had done differently would have been to add some sweet red (or orange or yellow) bell pepper with the fennel. A glass of un-oaked chardonnay complemented the meal very nicely.)

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Gift ideas 2012….

STILL doing holiday shopping?    If you’ve got some last-minute shopping to do for your favorite foodie (that includes yourself, too), here are some of my suggestions based on some of the things that I use a lot.

Let me insert a disclaimer here and now–I do not receive any remuneration, discounts, or any other consideration for any products that I recommend on this website–it’s all based on my satisfaction from my use in my home kitchen! 

1.  Rice cooker, steamer, and slow cooker all in one

Krups rice cooker, steamer and slow cookerSomething that never gets put away is my Krups rice cooker–that is also a steamer (even while cooking rice), and a slow cooker.  It even cooks pasta! I’ve used all it’s features and once you understand that it quits cooking when water evaporates and the temperature begins to go above boiling point, you can get away from recipes and get it to do what you want it to do.

The recipes that came with the instructions will do for a start–but it lends itself to cooking things without much attention.  One of the recipes in the booklet that I do find useful is one for mac ‘n’ cheese (one of my favorite comfort foods).  I was really skeptical the first time that I tried this, but it’s become a go-to for quick comfort foods.   One of the rather neat things about this is that when the water has evaporated and the temperature starts to rise, you do get a brown crust on the bottom (that’s normal in rice cookers) which really makes the mac and cheese (with or without the ham).  I’ve even tried using cheddar to do this (adding some extra) and it doesn’t get stringy.  I think that it must be the starch from the pasta in the water that does that.

From the Krups booklet that came with the rice cooker, here’s mac ‘n’ cheese:

Ingredients

  • 200 gm or 1/2 pound macaroni (small penne or other hollow pasta also works)
  • 30 gm or 1/4 cup butter cut in small pieces (I’ve use less and it works fine)
  • 1 slice ham (or not, or more as you choose)
  • 20 gm or 1/4 cup Gruyère cheese (I like a bit more, or use another cheese that melts well)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust according to the saltiness of the ham)
  • 500 mL or 2-1/4 cups water

Assembly & cooking

  • Cut ham into small pieces (if using)
  • Place the butter, macaroni, ham, Gruyère, water, and salt in the bowl and mix.
  • Close the lid, select the Rice cooking mode and press Start.
  • When the cooker switches to keep warm mode, let stand for 5 or 10 minutes, then dig in.

The rice cooker automatically switches to keep warm after about 20 minutes of cooking. You do need the stand time for the pasta to finish cooking.  But…how much simpler can you get?  I’m still playing with variations on this recipe, but it’ a keeper.  Admittedly, this is not a stocking stuffer, but it’s a useful addition to the kitchen and I don’t say that about many stand-alone appliances.

2.  Home espresso machine for the coffee lover

Krups home espresso machine with carafe

espresso in the making

No, I’m not talking about a huge price tag that you see in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.  I was wandering through Bed, Bath & Beyond one day and I saw this small espresso machine on display–with a very reasonable price tag.  It just had to come home with me (with the rationale that Frankie, the cat, needed to give me a Christmas present).

I’ve used the stove-top espresso pot for a long time, but it wasn’t an every morning thing–a little too demanding for my early morning mental state!  But this is simple, and you can froth milk with it, too!

It’s been used evey day since it arrived in the kitchen, to make plain unadorned espresso, cappuccino, or latte, or just a cup of regular strength flavorful coffee.  Since I’m not wild about very dark roasted coffee, I continue to use the Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend that I buy at Costco, grinding my own.

The only down side is that if you want to grind your own coffee, the whirligig-blade spice/coffee grinder won’t do it–you do need to have a burr grinder–but those are not that expensive.  So, if you’re a coffee fiend, this might be a good gift.

3.  Clever coffee dripper

drip-style individual cup coffee ffunnel

Clever Coffee Dripper

Until the espresso machine arrived, this was my gadget of choice for morning coffee.  It has the advantage of not requiring much effort–but making coffee that is close to that of a French press. (I decided to try this after it was recommended in Cook’s Illustrated–and was very pleased.)

This is in the stocking-stuffer range of gift, but does improve the quality of coffee over the usual drip machine or funnel-and-filter apparatus.  It uses the readily available filters from the supermarket, and it’s not demanding in terms of how the coffee is ground.

4.  The proper-size pan

petit brasier with lid

petit brasier from All Clad

If you, or the cook in your life, often prepare meals for one or two, an appropriately sized pan will make life easier and the food better.  One of my most often used items is the “Petit Brasier” from All Clad.

It’s definitely a useful addition to the kitchen.  It can go from stove top to oven; it can function as a skillet, too.  It has the same shape as what is sometimes called an “everyday” pan, but it’s sized for cooking for one or two.

5.  Cookbooks

cover of The Science of Good cookingFor serious cooks,  good cookbooks are always welcome!  We’re always looking for new ideas–especially those that get us away from feeling that we need a recipe for anything that we cook.

One of the stand-out cookbooks for this is The Science of Good Cooking from Cook’s Illustrated. This one supplies food science in a low-key useful way to go along with some great recipes.

For some great recipes and thought on cooking for one are in order, then here are two books that are likely to titillate that favorite foodie who cooks for one.

Cover of Serve Yourself

 

Serve Yourself is delightful reading with recipes for lots of condiments that make dressing up that second serving (also known as left-over) for a rerun–or just for dressing up any meal.

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Another for the cook who does single-serving cooking is The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones.  It includes not only recipes but JonesFC9780307270726some food philosophy and thoughts on dining alone–from someone who does not view dining alone in a negative way.

…and just in case you’re wondering, giving serious cook a cookbook, no matter whether they are just beginning or are accomplished is not insulting…we LOVE cookbooks.

6.  Other miscellaneous stocking stuffers

Still undecided, or just need something small how about:

  • a gift certificate from Penzeys Spices–a chance to try some wild and wonderful herbs and spices that you won’t find in the grocery store.
  • a subscription to Eat Your Books–a search engine for cookbooks.  Yes–the ones that you or your favorite foodie have on the shelves.  You enter titles, and then you can search those books for recipes.  No more frustrating moments trying to remember just which book that recipe was in.
  • A new knife to complete or add to the set in constant use would always be welcome.
  • If you are still undecided see Kitchen equipment for small-time cooking, e.g. immersion blender, or other cookware alternatives for cooking for one or two.  There are other suggestions in posts from previous year’s gift suggestions.
  • You’ll also find some of my favorite books in the Bibliography.
  • If you love planning meals to showcase a great wine, then there’s a gift possibility–a special bottle of wine to anticipate and plan a great meal around.  Price doesn’t necessarily dictate whether a wine is special–there are lots of great wines just waiting for a meal to happen.  It’s always been my treat for myself on my birthday to go to my favorite wine shop (Wine Authorities) and buy a special (not necessarily expensive wine) and then plan a meal around it.  (If you’re from Durham NC it’s the Wine Authorities–and are awesome in helping coordinate food and wine.  Not local, they do ship.)
  • I’ll leave you with one final suggestion–a gift certificate for Kindle books.  A number of the books mentioned here are available for the Kindle, including The Science of Good Cooking.

I do hope that I’ve helped with any last-minute shopping dilemmas, and wish you and your favorite foodie (and the cat) another year of pleasures from the kitchen–good food, good wine, good friends.

A son goût! 

orange tabby on kitchen counter with mixer and knives

the sous chef

Another cookbook for single-serving cooking

Cover of Serve YourselfI’m always browsing cookbooks–especially those that appear to deal with single-serving cooking.  A friend recently mentioned Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One to me. True to form, I immediately went in search of it–and was pleased to find it available in Kindle format.

I really identified with a statement made in this book: “…we solo artists deserve just as varied a diet as anyone.  While I love having some leftovers around that can morph into new dishes, I also appreciate the beauty of starting and finishing a single cooking project on a given night.” (Kindle location 173)

One of the things that I find delightful is that there are suggestions and recipes that are incredibly helpful in allowing morphing leftovers.  These include condiments (to use not only on leftovers) but suggestions on using those extra ingredients that seem to be the bane of single-serving cooking–such as what’s left of that bottle of wine that you opened to go with dinner yesterday evening.  Personally I think that this is a book worth having in your library if you cook for one, but I suggest that, at least, you check the local library and peruse this one.

I’d also recommend his website for fun reading of his “Cooking for One” column for more thoughts on cooking for one, and more recipes.  Even cooking for one it can still be a son goût!