Popcorn!

I am a big fan of popcorn. I’ll take that over potato chips, or any other variety of chips almost any time. It’s just the thing to go with a good book while you’re having a duvet day.

PopCorn MakerYou can probably even make a case that it is at least “healthy-ish”–compared to most other snacks that come in bags from the grocery store–and it’s more fun. You can custom tailor the seasoning to fit your mood. At least I know what’s in it if I’ve popped and seasoned it myself.

I’ve gotten very fond of my Lékué PopCorn Maker for making popcorn in the microwave (and that’s about the only thing I do in the microwave).  I will admit to using oil (usually about 1-1/2  tablespoons of olive oil for about 1/3 cup popcorn) when popping popcorn. For some awesome popcorn, use just a little Baklouti chili pepper (fused) olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) with the regular olive oil. Wow!

Other favorite infused oils (all from Bull City Olive Oil) to touch up my popcorn with are harissa, chipotle, or garlic.

While I don’t often do stove-top popcorn, I did find some interesting suggestions for other flavorings to try from Taste in “Really Good Popcorn“: brewer’s yeast, dulse flakes (I know I like other seaweed seasonings), and Urfa biber (described as in that article as “a dried Turkish chile pepper with a raisin-like sweetness, a subtle spice, and the gentle acidity of a lightly roasted Ethiopian coffee”–that sounds totally great.  Since I’ve used Aleppo pepper on popcorn and that makes this sound very interesting to me.

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

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Winter oyster tradition continues

As I’ve posted before, oysters with special wine are a Christmas and New Year’s tradition in my home. When I finally got it back together from the C. difficile, it was way past prime oyster season. But it is again prime oyster season so my thoughts are turning to oysters and wine. Eating oysters on the half-shell recently at Burger Bach (yes, they “do” excellent burgers, and oysters) really got me thinking about oysters in a very serious way. Even though I’ve not made it for either Christmas eve or New Year’s eve, I still intend to have my winter oysters. I’d arranged to share with two good friends who are also oyster lovers–but we had to reschedule first because of snow and horrendous cold, and then, again, because all the snow and cold left Durham essentially without oysters!

I’ve done some fun things with oysters: oyster and corn chowder, and a in 2013-2014, with black truffle (good friend gave me truffles) and experimented with some wines.  I liked the “surf & turf” combination so well that I’m continuing it this year as well.

I’ve started the hunt for wine for this winter’s oyster feast. So far the wines recommended are:

2011 Pouilly-Fuisse (Gilles Noblet, France)

“Gilles Noblet, Pouilly-Fuisse, Burgundy, France, 2011{sustainable} 100% Chardonnay EXOTIC FRUITS, DRIED CITRUS & WHISP OF VANILLA Thirty year old Chardonnay vines provide the heart and soul of Noblet’s Pouilly Fuissé, right from the village of Fuissé. This area was originally comprised of negociant producers and Gilles Noblet was the first in his region to independently bottle his wine under his own name. This style is racy, rich and elegant with hints of kiwi and pineapple fruits. The finish goes on and on and on… Serving Suggestion: White Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay and this one is extremely versatile. A perfect match for dishes with heavy cream sauces.”  From Wine Authorities.

2013 Macon-Peronne (Gandines, Domaine des, France)

domaine-des-gandines-macon-peronne-burgundy-france-10338034“100% Chardonnay FULL & FLAVORFUL, LEMON, HAZELNUT, CARAMEL. SERIOUS! Gandines really surprised us with this compelling, and serious White Burgundy. Fully ripe and lush, but with juicy acidity and complex minerality. This kind of power usually comes from the big boys north of the Macon in the Cotes de Beaune. Aged in enormous 3000 liter old oak barrels that soften the wine without giving it any oak flavor, it is possibly the most impressive Chardonnay available at this price! Serving Suggestion: Steamed or raw oysters. Black sea bass poached in olive oil with fresh thyme. Roast turkey with truffles or chanterelles.”  From Wine Authorities.

Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013 

385762“Verdicchio is central Italy’s most distinctive white varietal. The mineral-rich soils of the Classico Superiore sector of the Marches’ Castelli di Jesi zone – just a few miles from the Adriatic Sea – imbues the finest Verdicchios with extra complexity and a deeply etched soil signature. A radiant green-gold in the bowl, Marchetti’s Verdicchio shows all the minerally snap pea and smoky white pepper notes that we so love in the very finest Verdicchios. The wine’s smoky mineral expression yields to a fleshy core of pear and melon fruit backed by riveting acidity, a tactile mineral expression, and suggestions of green tea, grapefruit zest and sappy dried herbs. Full bodied yet balanced and elegant, Marchetti’s Verdicchio begs for rich vegetarian recipes and fish steaks. Pair it now and over the coming five years with hearty fare that calls for a bold white wine, like swordfish, fresh albacore tuna, rabbit, zucchini casseroles, white pizzas, and pastas dressed with olive oil, garlic and seasonal vegetables. Impressive Verdicchio! ” Found this one at Hope Valley Bottle Shop.

Finally, the weather is cooperating, and I’ll be eating oysters on Saturday evening. I haven’t yet decided which wine will accompany this round of oyster stew with black truffles!  I keep reading the descriptions of each and just can’t decide, but I do know that three is too many–I have to make a decision.

 

Turkey–with truffle butter

Thanksgiving does have its good points–getting together with friends! There’s another positive thing, especially if you are like me, someone whose favorite part of the turkey is the dark meat: you can find turkey thighs in the grocery store. That means dark meat in quantities suitable for cooking for one.

Perusing my food-related emails a few days ago I found one from D’Artganan–my favorite source of foodstuff that can be hard to find (e.g. the cassoulet  ingredients–no, I didn’t say it was inexpensive). There was a link to a delightful video on preparing your Thanksgiving turkey using truffle butter. (Attempting not to drool on my keyboard.)

You’ve seen from some of my previous posts that I really like truffles (not the candy–well, those, too, but…), even in my comfort food. In my attempts to be frugal and still indulge my tastes for the expensive stuff I do skulk through the “manager’s specials” and those carts full of end-of-season bargains. Sometimes I’m lucky and find an indulgence elsewhere. Not long ago I found a small tub of truffle butter at my local supermarket–marked down as it was lingering with the cheese and spreads, but not past it’s sell-by date. Needless to say, it came home with me–some of just have no willpower when it comes to food!

20161119_165833After seeing the turkey with truffle butter video, realizing that I had truffle butter, and turkey thighs to hand, I decided to try  turkey this way. I decided (since I was roasting all dark meat) to use my Schlemmertopf  for this. I carefully loosened the skin over my turkey thighs, and as directed in the video, put bits of truffle butter under the skin. After soaking the clay cooker properly, I patted my turkey thighs in, sprinkled some kosher salt over them, and put the pot into a cold, 300ºF oven for about 2-1/2 hours–until they were nice and brown, and very tender. (Many recipes will suggest oven temperatures of about 450ºF, but I chose to use a lower temperature because dark meat can tolerate longer cooking, and it often tends to be tough. I wanted slower cooking to break down collagen and make my turkey really tender.

The skin did shrink away from the edges of one of the thighs–I would rather have had one big thigh instead of two small ones, but it seems those haven’t hit the stores yet. Size and skin shrinkage aside, I had some lovely dark-meat turkey nicely flavored with black truffle. Turkey my way!

A son gôut!

Parmesan, Chive and Truffle Madeleines and a Paris Snapshot

Despite Paris being so close to London – three hours on the Eurostar – we had never been with big A and little Z. Mr B and I had been on numerous occasions in the past both for work and…

Source: Parmesan, Chive and Truffle Madeleines and a Paris Snapshot

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!