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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Popping the Cork for New Year's?

In case you can't tell from my previous posts, Champagne is definitely one of my favorite things. With it's lively fruit flavors, crisp acidity and signature, nose-tickling carbonation, it just calls to mind good times with friends and happy occasions.

I have even kept some of my most memorable bottles over the years (empty of course!): the bottle of Freixenet I drank on Pledge Saturday at Rollins College (yay, Kappa Alpha Theta!), my first bottle of vintage Champagne (a 1966 Dom Perignon), as well as my first bottle of Cristal. A few years ago, I even had the opportunity to open a bottle of Champagne using "sabrage," a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber. I was terrified, but luckily the top popped off on my first try - whew!

I plan on opening a bottle of Champagne (or 3) on New Year's Eve (although not with a saber!) and, if you are planning on doing the same, I have included some tips from "Savor the Moment" on how best to handle your bubbly. You can also check out one of my favorite SNL skits where Christopher Walken as "The Continental" describes "shum-pan-yeh" in the most eloquent way. Whatever your drink of choice may be, enjoy and have a happy and safe New Year's!

Popping the Cork (pg. 21)
The best way to pop a cork on a bottle of Champagne is to first make sure the bottle has been stationary for at least a coupe of hours. This reduces the volatility of the carbonation, lessening the liklihood of the cork's flying out when the bottle is opened. Hold the cork in place with one hand and, with the other hand, untwist the wire cage that secures the cork in the bottle. Rest the bottle on your hip, and twist the bottle slowly, while continuing to hold the cork in place. Ease the cork upward, applying gentle pressure to keep it from popping out and making sure that the bottle is not pointed toward anyone. To prevent accidents, wrap the top of the bottle in a towel.

Also, ever wonder what the heck someone was talking about when they referred to a "Jeroboam" of their favorite wine or Champagne? Below is your cheat sheet to wine bottle sizes - some are even named after Biblical kings to sound even more fabulous!

A Champagne bottle contains 750 milliliters. A split is 1/4 of a bottle. A magnum is 2 bottles; a Jeroboam is 4 bottles; a Rehoboam is 6 bottles; a Methuselah or Imperial is 8 bottles; a Salmanazar is 12 bottles; a Balthazar is 16 bottles; and a Nebuchadnezzar is 20 bottles

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve Dinner 2009: Maryland Crab Cakes, Herbed Beef Tenderloin & a "Tilt to Milt!"

With the passing of Steve’s dad, Milton Miskew, on December 9th, this holiday season had somewhat of a somber tone. Milt had been in declining health in recent years, but his mind was sharp and his warm sense of humor indelible. He passed away peacefully at home during his usual nap...a true blessing. We had just been up to North Carolina to visit him in October to celebrate his 85th birthday. We had crabs flown in from Baltimore for an authentic Maryland crab feast with the entire family – one of his favorite meals. We are so happy to have had that time with him.
On Christmas Eve this year, Steve and I were looking forward to attending an early Mass at St. Vincent’s and making a quiet, albeit delicious, dinner at home. In honor of his Dad, Steve made real Maryland crab cakes using his family’s closely gaurded recipe. They are almost entirely jumbo lump crab meat with just a little bit of the secret “sauce” to bind them together. Don’t worry, Uncle Tom & Aunt Marthy, the family secret is safe with us! With the crab cakes we enjoyed Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne NV which was a wonderful pairing with its lively apple and citrus notes and the perfect choice for a “tilt to Milt.”

For our second course, I made the Herbed Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Wine Sauce (pg. 148) from “Savor the Moment.” I halved the recipe since, as is, it feeds eight: nothing wrong with having some leftovers! The tenderloin is marinated in a delicious mixture of rosemary, thyme, garlic, shallots, orange zest and spices including ground nutmeg, cloves and bay leaf. It’s very convenient to make since you pop it in the fridge in the morning, let it marinate for 8 hours or longer and then pop it into the oven.
With meats, especially larger cuts, it’s always best to let them come to room temperature before roasting or cooking; this process is called “tempering.” Thomas Keller includes a page dedicated to the importance of tempering and resting both meats and fish in his new book “Ad Hoc at Home.” He writes, “If you put a piece of meat, poultry or fish straight from the refrigerator into a hot pan or oven, it can’t possibly cook evenly. To ensure even cooking, you must allow it to come to room temperature.” This can take as long as an hour for larger cuts of meat such as a prime rib or beef tenderloin. Hey, who am I to argue with the genius of Thomas Keller?! I do what the man says.
Once sufficiently “tempered”, I placed a meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the tenderloin before putting it into the oven. When preparing a large, read “expensive,” piece of meat, the only truly reliable way to ensure it is not over (or under) done is to use a meat thermometer. I love my Williams-Sonoma digital roasting thermometer & timer. It’s gotten us through many a Thanksgiving meal and dinner party with perfectly cooked meats and greatly decreased our reliance on the “cross your fingers” method of preparation.

The recipe states to roast the tenderloin at 400 degrees to an internal temperature of 130 degrees for rare and 140 degrees for medium. Best to opt on the under side since, when you remove the meat from the oven, it will continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes or so. Nobody likes an overdone beef tenderloin and it’s very avoidable! I cooked until the thermometer said 135 degrees and the meat came out a beautiful medium rare.
The Shallot Wine Sauce is the perfect accompaniment to the tenderloin and is made with the pan drippings from the meat together with butter, chopped shallots, fresh chives, red wine vinegar and red wine. You just reduce the mixture over medium heat for a few minutes and then spoon over the meat. Hungry yet?
I served the tenderloin with sautéed mushrooms, steamed asparagus and a special bottle of red wine: a 2003 Nickel & Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Stelling Vineyard. Nickel & Nickel was established by the partners of Far Niente in 1997 and produces 100 percent varietal, single-vineyard wines that best express the distinct personality of each vineyard. The 100 acre Martin Stelling Vineyard, where the grapes for this wine are grown, is located in the Oakville, Napa Valley appellation and is the primary vineyard for renowned Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon (fabulous!). The Stelling is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and, upon pouring, had a gorgeous deep, ruby color with aromas of ripe berry, vanilla and spice. It was a wonderful pairing with the beef tenderloin with its rich, ripe blackberry, currant and cassis flavors with nice spiciness from the oak. Milt definitely would have approved, with his signature Ukranian toast of “Na Zdorov'ye!”
We thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas Eve dinner for two, reminiscing about Christmases past and looking forward to the beautiful day ahead.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Share "Savor the Moment" with Friends this Holiday Season!

I don't know about you, but I love getting homemade, baked treats around the holidays from our friends and neighbors. That's probably because we are fortunate enough to know some pretty good cooks! We look forward to delicious sticky buns from the Langfords, tasty bread from the Plamanns, we even got a stollen from Bill & Peg Emes last year that was pretty darn good! I usually make Ina Garten’s Rosemary Cashews from her “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook (one of my favorites), package them in a glass jar and tie it with a decorative, holiday ribbon. This year, however, my lucky friends and neighbors are in for a different treat: they will be receiving the famed “Savor the Moment” Magical Toffee.

Now, you may have actually had this particular confection or something similar before. Upon sampling “The Toffee” I’ve heard many people comment, “Oh, I had that at so and so’s party, luncheon, etc.” It's a mouth-watering mixture of brown sugar, chocolate, nuts and saltines (the secret ingredient), that come together in a deliciously, decadent way. In addition, it only has 5 ingredients, takes about 10 minutes to make and is pretty much foolproof. A word of caution though, this recipe has the same addictive quality as crack OR the The Real Housewives of Atlanta depending on how you roll. Be sure you have a plan to move it out of your house in a timely fashion or you will find yourself eating the whole batch! It was always the most popular sample item we served at any Savor the Moment promotional event, people would come back for thirds. I once had a lady try to copy the recipe down right in front of me – without buying the book! Thankfully, that was an isolated incident and I have included the recipe below because it is just that good.

I usually make “The Toffee” and stick it in the freezer overnight to let it set up really well. I use light brown sugar, milk chocolate chips and chopped pecans but cashews would be really nice too. In addition to the Magical Toffee, there are a few other recipes from “Savor the Moment” that would be fabulous for holiday gift giving as well:
1. Spiced Boca Nuts (pg. 66) – the coconut, curry and cayenne will have you craving these.
2. Celestial Sugar Cookies with Royal Frosting (pg. 48) – yummy and you can omit the frosting & sprinkle with sugar crystals if you prefer.
3. Poppy Seed Bread (pg. 89 ) – pour the delicious, festive almond orange glaze over the freshly baked bread.

Present your favorite hostess, friend, relative or other lucky recipient with their very own copy of “Savor the Moment” along with a sample of any of the abovementioned treats and they are sure to have a very happy holiday. I hope you enjoy making these recipes and have a very happy & healthy holiday season as well. Cheers!

To purchase copies of "Savor the Moment" please visit

Magical Toffee
Arrange 40 saltine crackers on a foil-lined 11x17-inch baking pan. Bring 1 cup butter or margarine and 1 cup packed brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan and boil for 3 minutes. Pour over the crackers. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes. Sprinkle with 12 ounces chocolate chips and let stand until softened. Spread over the top and sprinkle with 1/2 cup nuts. Place in the freezer to cool. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In a Hurry? Savor some Raspberry and Thyme Glazed Pork Medallions

This time of year, while we are all running around in a cocktail party and holiday shopping induced haze, it is nice to know that a delicious, home-cooked, weeknight dinner is only 30 minutes away. It’s an added bonus when that meal could also double as the main course at a dinner party. That, my friends, is the beauty of “Savor the Moment”; a treasure trove of fabulous, fast and, in many instances, frugal meals right at your fingertips.

Tonight’s recipe, Raspberry and Thyme-Glazed Pork Medallions (pg. 165), is tasty as well as a real time saver: the recipe itself is only 5 sentences long. In addition, I bet you even have most of the ingredients in your pantry right now (yes, even you "non-cookers"): canola oil, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and raspberry preserves. All I had to pick up at the store was the pork tenderloin, red onion and some haricorts verts. I actually doubled the recipe because it only “serves two” and, of course, I always like to have some leftovers.

Once home, I sliced the tenderloin into 1 ½ ” thick medallions and sautéed them in the heated canola oil until they had some nice, brown color to them. As Anne Burrell, one of my favorite chefs, says, “brown food tastes good!” So true! I watch her show "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" religiously every Saturday morning at 10:30am on Food Network (don't ever call me then). I always learn something new and, in additon to being a brilliant chef, she's also the kind of gal you'd love to hang out with because she just seems like so much fun. I had the chance to meet her at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami back in January. What a fun night!

After the pork was seared, I added the onion, vinegar, orange juice and raspberry preserves and simmered for a few minutes. Next, I stirred in the thyme, salt and pepper and cooked until the sauce was slightly reduced and voilà – dinner was ready! I served the pork with the sauce generously spooned over the top with steamed haricorts verts, wild mushroom orzo and, of course, a nice red wine. I went with the 2007 Brophy Clark Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir. This wine is from California’s Central Coast and is bursting with ripe, red cherry flavor and light toasty oak; a great match for this dish. The dish itself is actually sweeter than I anticipated because of the raspberry preserves so be prepared for that juicy, burst of sweetness.

All in all another tasty dish perfect for satisfying your appetite for less time in the kitchen this holiday season, without sacrificing any of the fabulous flavor. Don't forget to purchase your copies of "Savor the Moment" for holiday gift-giving at This is one gift that definitely keeps on giving!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Over Your Leftovers? Try Roasted Sea Bass in Prosciutto

For anyone who’s hit their limit with Thanksgiving leftovers – they were definitely great while they lasted – this is a fantastic, Quick Cook recipe perfect for a tasty weeknight meal or even entertaining friends. It takes all of about 30 minutes to make including prep time – no joke! It was so good I just had to include the recipe:
Roasted Sea Bass in Prosciutto
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves, crushed
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 (6-ounce, ½ inch-thick) pieces Chilean sea bass fillet, cod or other firm white fish
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
5 or 6 (or more) very thin slices prosciutto
Garnish: shaved fresh Parmesan cheese; 4 rosemary sprigs
Combine the butter, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small nonreactive bowl and mix well. Arrange the fish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and spread with the butter mixture. Arrange the prosciutto over the fish, covering the tops and sides.
Roast at 450 degrees on the middle oven rack for 15 minutes or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Remove to a serving platter and garnish with the shaved Parmesan cheese and rosemary sprigs.
Note: The herb butter can be prepared in advance and chilled until needed; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. The fish can be prepared in advance and stored, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before roasting.
Serves four
I made the butter mixture right before assembling the fish - softening the butter in the microwave at 10 second increments to be sure it didn’t get melty. I spread each fish fillet with the mixture, then wrapped each one with two pieces of prosciutto. I served the dish with creamy, Parmesan rice and asparagus. The creamy texture of the fish is so nicely enhanced by the lemony, herb butter and saltiness of the prosciutto – truly a mouth-watering combination!
I served this delicious dish with a 2007 Masi Masianco, an Italian, white wine made from a blend of Pinot Grigio and Verduzzo grapes (75%/25%). This wine is a “Supervenetian,” which are wines made from a combination of grapes from the Veneto and Friuli regions of Italy that utilize the "appassimento" process which involves laying grapes out for partial drying after harvesting. This process adds more body, richness and complexity to the finished wine. In this case, the Verduzzo grapes were harvested and then ripened on racks for three weeks before beginning fermentation.
With its flavors of lemon cream, peaches and dried apricots the wine was a perfect pairing for the sea bass. The maker of this wine, Masi Agricola, is slated as one of the Featured Vintners for the upcoming 2010 Boca Bacchanal. Masi is a producer of wines from the Venetian region and specializes in the production of Amarones and Reciotos, using the aforementioned historic technique of "appassimento" (drying of the grapes). Masi rediscovered and refined the technique of double fermentation using semi-dried grapes, and markets successful wines such as Campofiorin, its special selection Brolo di Campofiorin, Valpolicella dell'Anniversario Serego Alighieri and Passo Doble, produced in Argentina. After trying the Masianco, I look forward to sampling their other selections at Boca Bacchanal, March 19-21, 2010. Hope to see you there! For more information please visit:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

DIAD at the Caring Kitchen in Delray Beach

The Junior League of Boca Raton, with its dedication to promoting voluntarism and improving the community, requires its active members to complete a number of volunteer hours each year. Today, I completed my "Done in a Day" (DIAD) shift at the Caring Kitchen here in Delray Beach. I have done this shift every year since joining the League almost 5 years ago. It is truly time well spent and I love it since it benefits my immediate community - we live just a few miles away!
During a shift, approximately 10 Junior Leaguers descend on the facility and whip together about 200 turkey sandwiches, in efficient assembly-line style, for children in local after care programs. It's such a great feeling knowing those kids will have a nutritious snack between the time they get out of school and when they get home. The girls were nice enough to let me photograph them today, latex gloves and all. Thanks, Ladies!
The Caring Kitchen is the hot meal program of C.R.O.S. Ministries in Delray Beach located at 196 NW 8th Ave. It is primarily carried out with food donations and volunteers from the community. The program has also recently added additonal services in an effort to help people acheive self-sufficiency. If you are interested in volunteering or making a donation please visit: 'Tis the Season!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Trifecta: Scalloped Potatoes & Butternut Squash with Leeks, Deep Dish Caramel Apple Pie & Fabulous Fudge Cake!

I hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving 2009! We certainly did with the help of some fabulous recipes from “Savor the Moment.” While the main course was our traditional Roasted Turkey with Rosemary & Sage Butter, done on the grill this year with excellent results (thanks, Hon), we managed to incorporate a delicious side dish and a couple desserts from STM as well.
The side dish we chose was the Scalloped Potatoes and Butternut Squash with Leeks (pg. 221). It sounded like the perfect side dish to go with Thanksgiving dinner and I just love leeks and butternut squash. I doubled the recipe since I was having 12 guests and baked it in a buttered, 13" x 9” glass baking dish. Like a lot of potato gratin dishes, it takes some time to assemble. I grated the Fontina cheese and sliced the leeks and squash the night before. Unfortunately, while slicing the butternut squash, I forgot to use the blade guard on my mandolin and, before I knew it, off went a good portion of my fingertip! Can you say "ouch"?! I think I might have said some other things but, hey, I was in pain. Anyway, I’m happy to report the finger is healing nicely - it definitely could’ve been a lot worse.
After doing most of the prep the night before, the day of the meal I sauteed the leeks in butter until they were nice and tender. While they were sautéing, I warmed the milk in a saucepan. Be sure to keep an eye on the milk because, if it starts boiling, it will overflow onto your stove top and is veerry difficult to get off! Once the milk is hot, you essentially use it to make a béchamel sauce that is layered over the potatoes, squash and leeks – yummy! A béchamel also known as white sauce, is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. It is traditionally made by whisking scalded milk gradually into a white flour - butter roux (equal parts clarified butter and flour) – which is what this recipe calls for. The thickness of the final sauce depends on the proportions of milk and flour. Be sure to season the sauce liberally with salt and pepper to add some nice flavor.
Once the sauce was ready, I peeled and warily sliced my Yukon Gold potatoes with that menacing mandolin and started layering. It’s ok to slice the leeks and squash the night before but do NOT slice the potatoes in advance or they will turn a very icky gray color. Once everything is ready, layer the sauce, potatoes, squash, cooked leeks and cheese and repeat 3 times until you’ve got a gorgeous looking dish - before it even hits the oven! After baking 30 minutes I removed the foil and unfortunately most of the cheese came with it – be sure the foil is not touching the top of the dish when you put it in the oven. I quickly grated some more and sprinkled it on top and back in the oven. Because the carving of the turkey took longer than expected I think the dish may have baked slightly longer than the recommended 20 minutes which may explain why the potatoes were a little “firm." It looked so beautiful coming out of the oven though, all bubbly and brown on top. The orange of the butternut squash also looked terrific on the Thanksgiving table! This dish had lots of delicious creamy, oniony flavor and was a nice additon to our Thanksgiving meal.
Once sufficiently stuffed with turkey, caramelized onion and corn bread stuffing, ham, potatoes, cranberry sauce and Brussels sprouts with pancetta we sluggishly yet eagerly moved on to dessert. I made the Deep-Dish Caramel Apple Pie (pg. 267) and my standard Pumpkin Gingersnap Trifle while my sister tackled the Fabulous Fudge Cake (pg. 252). I must confess, I recruited my sister Jennifer to make one of the desserts after my kitchen injury.
The apple pie sounded like a perfect choice to follow Thanksgiving dinner. I had never made an “oil pastry” before and, it turns out, it’s pretty easy. The problem, I think, was that there was so much of it. I am not much of a baker but it seemed like there was just a lot of dough for the 10” pie dish. However, I chose to follow the directions as is, and it did turn out a little on the doughy side. The caramel mixture is delicious and, once assembled and baked, it truly is a gorgeous pie (see photo). If anyone has made this recipe I’d love to hear from you. Perhaps I needed to cook it for a longer period of time since the inside was a little watery as well…help! Not sure where I went wrong...
I am happy to report the Fabulous Fudge Cake definitely lived up to its tagline, “sophisticated, yet unpretentious; rich, moist and delicious.” The cake itself is fabulous enough and the marshmallow fudge frosting poured over the top adds an extra layer of decadence. While slightly difficult to transport, simply because you’re supposed to pour the frosting over warm cake, it was definitely worth the effort. We reheated the frosting in the microwave before pouring. Be sure to blend the frosting well to avoid any clumps of confectioners’ sugar but, more importantly, sit back and enjoy this fabulous cake just like we did - it is truly delicious! Also, when you make it, be sure to send some home with your guests because unfortunately, it gets better and better with each passing day - very dangerous.
Many times over the holidays, Thanksgiving in particular, which wine to serve can be quite a conundrum. There are so many diverse flavors, it's hard to pick just one to base your wine choice on. For Thanksgiving, I start by narrowing things down considerable by serving only American wines – being an intrinsically American holiday after all. I also stick with wines that complement a variety of dishes - not too light or too heavy. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are generally good contenders and satisfy a variety of palates as well. Of course no holiday meal is complete without a sparkling wine to create a festive mood and, fortunately, sparkling wine goes very well with a variety of holiday dishes (remember, it's not Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France!) This year we served a magnum of 1999 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Anderson Valley Brut Rosé, a vintage, sparkling wine from California we had been saving for a special occasion and the 2007 Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. It’s always fun to open a large format bottle on a holiday - #1 because it makes a very festive presentation and #2 you know it won’t go to waste – at least not in my family! Both wines complemented our meal very nicely and were also enjoyable to sip on their own.
I sincerely hope your Thanksgiving Day was mishap free and was enjoyed with family and friends. I’d love to hear about your experiences and any advice you might have on any of the abovementioned recipes. Overall, it was a fabulous meal on the perfect day of the year to Savor the Moment.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sun-Dried Tomato Deliciousness!

I’m really happy to be writing about this recipe because it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s actually the first recipe I ever made out of “Savor the Moment” and, in my opinion, one of the best so far. I’ve made it many, many times; at our first Savor the Moment Dinner Club in 2006, various holiday parties throughout the year, and generally whenever out-of-town guests visit for the weekend. Recently, I had a special request for it and once you make it, you’ll understand why. I am talking about the Sun-Dried Tomato Mousse (pg. 72), a delicious and versatile appetizer that your guests will absolutely love!
Don’t be put off by the term “mousse” or that the recipe requires a springform pan to make. I must confess, I rarely ever use a springform pan, opting to serve it in a decorative bowl instead and the “mousse” simply results from blending the ingredients in your mixer – no special French technique needed! It is a delicious mixture of butter, cream cheese, garlic, dried basil, tomato paste and chopped, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes – how can that possibly NOT be good? It has a very low degree of difficulty (yay!); if you can place ingredients in your mixer, you are pretty much there. I like to make it the night before serving, which gives the mousse time to set up and lets all the flavors meld together and make friends. If you do decide to use the springform pan, which does make a nice presentation, be sure to place the pan in hot water prior to releasing. I serve it with Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits (highly addictive) or Carr's Table Water Crackers with Roasted Garlic & Herbs, but it would taste great on just about anything. Use any leftovers the next day spooned onto a dish of pasta – delicioso! It's a great dish to bring to a holiday party and the bright, red color looks very festive on a Christmas-themed table. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and/or chopped, fresh parsley then sit back and await the compliments!
The special request for this dish came from my good friend, Christina Price who was re-opening her store, the Linen Closet, here in downtown Delray Beach. She sells fabulous and affordable linens for bed, table and bath as well as chic home décor items such as Lampe Berger and Seda France candles. She also just introduced a beautiful stationery and accessory line from Sigrid Olsen. If you're in the mood for some holiday shopping, check out the Linen Closet at it’s new location: 303 NE 4th Street, Delray Beach, FL 33483.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chutney Chicken Salad & Chardonnay - YAY!

Well, the streak continues with another fabulous recipe that had us going back for more (and more and more). The dish is Chutney Chicken Salad (pg. 130 ) and, let me tell you, this is not your mother’s chicken salad. It is a mouth-watering combination of chicken breast, curry powder, mango chutney, fresh lime juice, raisins, celery and almonds. It has terrific texture and fantastic flavor!
Cooking the chicken breasts adds a little bit of cook time to this dish but it is definitely worth it. The mango chutney was a nice surprise – I had never had it before and it turned out to be delicious. A quick shopping tip though, the chutney isn’t located on the jelly/jam aisle, it’s on the mayonnaise/salad dressing aisle – who knew? I also used golden raisins, my favorite, instead of the brown ones. They just look prettier against the beautiful, yellowy golden curried salad. It really is true, you do eat with your eyes first. I even converted a non-raisin eater once with the goldens’ magic raisin powers – could you be next?
Once you cook, cool and chop the chicken, the rest of the recipe is a snap. Place all the ingredients except the chicken, scallions and celery in a large bowl and mix well. Then, add the remaining three, mix again and you’re done! I served it on a bed of mixed greens and it was just delicious. This dish would be perfect for a Ladies lunch or a weeknight meal and, let me tell you, you WILL be going back for seconds…possibly thirds.
Below the title of this recipe in “Savor the Moment” the caption reads, “As an alternative (to greens), serve on French bread and enjoy with a glass of Chardonnay.” You don’t have to ask me twice! Tonight I selected the 2005 Martin Ray Russian River Chardonnay. The Russian River Valley is located in Sonoma County and is well know for producing beautiful, crisp, cool-climate Chardonnays. This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and had lush aromas of peach, apple and vanilla. It had a yummy, creamy mouthfeel with flavors of vanilla, honey, ripe peach and some nice toasty oak – it went perfectly with the Chutney Chicken Salad! Because I liked the wine so much, I was glad to discover Martin Ray is known for providing high quality wines at affordable prices.
I am also happy to report the wine for tonight’s dish was sponsored by Republic National Distributing Company. RNDC is a presenting sponsor for the annual "Boca Bacchanal," a fabulous, weekend-long celebration of food and wine featuring some of world’s most renowned Chefs and Vintners. The event benefits the Boca Raton Historical Society Heritage Education Program. Last February Steve and I hosted a Vintner dinner featuring the Chefs of Nantucket’s Straight Wharf Restaurant paired with the wines of Cakebread Cellars. It was such an amazing evening! If you are a fan of food and/or wine I highly recommend attending one or all of the events planned for 2010. Mark your calendars for the 8th Annual Boca Bacchanal Winefest & Auction 2010 which will take place March 19-21. A pre-event party entitled Bacchus Beckon will be held Thursday, November 19th at the Boca Raton Historical Society from 5:30-7:30pm. Come sip, savor and toast the upcoming 8th annual Boca Bacchanal. Tickets are available at Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Calling all Vegetarians AND Carnivores: Black Bottom Soup!

Vegetarians and carnivores alike looking for something delicious to put on the table tonight – look no further! Turn to page 112 of “Savor the Moment” and make your shopping list for Black Bottom Soup. Calling for canned black beans, onion, garlic, and fresh tomato, this one pot meal is incredibly easy to make and economically savvy as well.
While the total cook time is about 2 hrs., don’t let that scare you! Only about 20 minutes is actual, hands-on prep time. The rest of the time, the pot is simmering away on the stove leaving you free to do laundry, help your children with homework, have a glass of wine – or all three. Love that multitasking!
I used Bush’s canned black beans which I drained and rinsed in a strainer easily enough. I couldn’t find anything fitting the exact description of “Cajun” tomatoes so I used the canned tomatoes with chopped green chilies and they worked out perfectly. Perhaps the ingredient that gives this dish its fabulous flavor, surprisingly enough, is the red wine vinegar. It really enhances all the other ingredients in the dish so please don’t leave it out! Instead of Tabasco, I used my latest hot sauce obsession: Frank’s Red Hot. I had it for the first time on a lobster roll at Woodman’s in Essex, MA this summer and was instantly smitten! Apparently it has quite a following and now I understand why – I could put it on my cereal it’s so good. The saffron rice called for in the recipe is a pre-packaged rice with the flavoring already added. It was very good but contains MSG, so if you are sensitive, white rice would be a great alternative.
When serving, after ladling the soup over the saffron rice, don’t forget to top it with the fresh chopped tomato, scallions and sour cream. It really gives the dish great flavor and, let’s face it, who doesn’t look for an excuse to eat sour cream. Am I right? After Steve and I finished our (second) bowls, I can honestly say, we really didn’t even miss the meat! The next morning, the soup was also delicious topped with two fried eggs (and more hot sauce) – YUM! I really look forward to making the Black Bottom Soup again - it definitely makes the Super Bowl short list as it’s also perfect for feeding a crowd. Try this versatile, affordable, delicious recipe tonight and I guarantee you will be savoring the moment too!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chicken Veronique with Fresh Peaches - Très Chic!

I am happy to report, the past week in my culinary adventure has been particularly “savor-worthy.” By that I mean the recipes have been disproportionately good for the amount of effort that went into them. Tonight is no exception. The recipe is Chicken Veronique with Fresh Peaches (pg. 172). Doesn't it just sound très bien!
The term “Veronique” is of Parisian origin and refers to a dish in which grapes, generally white and seedless, figure in to the preparation. The recipe from “Savor the Moment” calls for seedless grapes as well as fresh peaches that are first marinated in white wine and sugar. The chicken is then coated with ground ginger, paprika, flour, salt and pepper and browned in a tasty mixture of butter and garlic in a large saute pan. The marinade from the fruit is then added to the pan and the chicken is baked in the oven until it is cooked through. Let me tell you, it smells heavenly! Once the chicken is cooked, the grapes and peaches are added and the pan is returned to the oven until the fruit is heated through. By that point it is just bursting with sweetness.
Some helpful hints for preparation are, when seasoning the chicken you might want to use a gallon capacity, plastic bag which makes the “shaking” easier and you don’t risk a paper bag ripping. (I also didn't have a paper bag in my kitchen at the time!) I also had to cut the peach from the pit since it would not cooperate. I had one inch chunks instead of halves which still worked out very well. As an accompaniment, I served the dish with Couscous, perfect for absorbing all the delicious, golden juices.
In keeping with our French-inspired dish, I think a fabulous pairing for our Chicken Veronique with Fresh Peaches would be a white bordeaux. This dry, white wine is generally made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle grapes with Sauvignon Blanc usually comprising the majority of the blend. These wines have a very nice minerality to them and would complement our dish beautifully with delicate notes of lemon, honey and peach. When purchasing, look for the appellations of Pessac-Léognan, Graves, and Entre-Deux-Mers which are know for producing consistently good wines. These underappreciated and frequently undervalued wines can generally be found for around $20 a bottle. Thankfully, they do NOT carry the hefty price tags of the reds of the region!
So invite some friends or that special someone over and dazzle them with a meal that is both très chic and très cheap! Bon Appètit!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Savor the Moment" featured on Mayor Susan Whelchel's Blog

Great news! Mayor Susan Whelchel of Boca Raton will be featuring recipes from "Savor the Moment," the official cookbook of Boca Raton, on her new blog. A different, seasonally-inspired recipe will be featured every week from our fabulous, James Beard award winning book. This week's recipe: Deep Dish Caramel Apple Pie - perfect for the holiday season. Check it out and enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Perfect for Pinot: Pork with Cherry Sauce

It’s Wednesday night and Pork with Cherry Sauce (pg. 166) is on the menu. Doesn’t it just sound like a perfect dish for Fall? Bone-in, pork loin chops with a delicious sauce of balsamic vinegar and cherries – yummy! Even though we are still struggling with 90 degree temperatures I decided to forge ahead and make it anyway.
While the recipe sounded a little daunting at first, it’s actually pretty easy. The only things I needed to pick up at the store were the pork chops and dried cherries – love that! In fact, you probably have all the other required ingredients in your pantry right now: balsamic vinegar, olive oil and chicken broth. This recipe does take slightly longer to make than some of the others I've made because you need to remove the bones from the chops and use them to make the base for the sauce. The results are definitely worth the effort though. My only issue regarding the prep for the chops is, when removing the bones, I was left with 2 pieces of meat – the bigger, longer piece and the smaller, round piece. I didn’t see any way to keep the two pieces intact and was just a little perplexed as to how to serve it. It would definitely not prevent me from making it again, however. I kept the meal on the lighter side by serving it with haricorts verts – those lovely, French green beans and the two went beautifully together. A simple, elegant weeknight meal!
As for the beverage, this dish just begs for a Pinot Noir with lots of ripe, cherry flavors. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it! A New World Pinot would generally be a better choice than an Old World one like a Burgundy. New World wines are generally more “fruit forward,” meaning the flavors of the fruit are more pronounced and readily perceptible which might be more desirable with the pork and cherry sauce. A New Zealand Pinot Noir would be a great choice and a good value as well. If you wanted to kick it up a notch, try one from the Sonoma Coast appellation in California or the Willamette Valley in Oregon. These two areas are very well known for their Pinots and the wines may be a bit more pricey, not to say good deals can’t be found however. I’d love to hear about your favorite selections as well – let me know!
We attended an "Industry Style" wine tasting this weekend at 32 East here in Delray Beach and there were many delicious Pinot Noirs to choose from: think “kid” and “candy store”! A few favorite Pinot Noirs in particular included the Talley Arroyo Grande Valley, the David Bruce Russian River Valley and the Martinelli Belle Vigna. Definitely worth seeking out! So pick a perfect Pinot and put the Pork with Cherry Sauce on the calendar this week. You will not be disappointed!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bookclub 2009: "My Life in France" meets "Savor the Moment"

As I had mentioned before in a previous entry, last month I offered to host our October Bookclub meeting at Chez Miskew. The book selected this month was “My Life in France” by Julia Child and my plan for the menu was to make something inspired by Julia as well as a dish (or two) from “Savor the Moment."
Now, if you have seen the movie Julie & Julia or are familiar with Julia Child you are probably aware of a particular dish that's synonymous with her cuisine. Yes, I am talking about Boeuf Bourguignon. I am a big fan of this dish, making it AND eating it. It also generally garners rave reviews from my guests. It is made with an entire bottle of red wine (usually Burgundy), sautéed mushrooms, carrots, bacon, thyme and pearl onions. The recipe I use also calls for some Cognac which gives it a wonderful, rich flavor. While it is absolutely delicious, the only problem I’ve had involves the meat called for in the recipe. Beef chuck tends to dry out the longer you cook it. So while the soup itself tastes better the longer it cooks, the meat - not so much. Enter Thomas Keller, culinary god and chef/creator of world-renowned, Michelin 3 star restaurants French Laundry and Per Se. The month the movie was released, as an homage to Julia Child, he shared his version of this classic French dish with Wine Spectator Magazine and made it with short ribs. I was so excited when I saw this – problem solved! The beautiful thing about short ribs is the longer you cook them the better they get. In fact, they need to be cooked at least 4 hours in order to reach the perfect consistency; at which point they literally melt in your mouth. So that was the top secret, experimental recipe at my dinner party the previous weekend. I used my tried and true Boeuf Bourguignon recipe, and used short ribs instead of the beef chuck. I am happy to report it turned out perfectly both times.
Because there are a few vegetarian girlies in Bookclub, I wanted to have an alternate, non-meat dish as well. (Although, come to find out, the Boeuf Bourguignon was fabulous enough to get a few non-meat eaters to convert – at least for the night!) I had been wanting to make the Golden Butternut Squash Lasagne (pg. 195) and being as the weather had dipped below 90 degrees last week, it seemed like the perfect choice. One of the great things about this dish is the filling, consisting of roasted butternut squash and rosemary infused milk. I opted to use fresh rosemary which gave it a fresher flavor. This recipe can also be made a day or so in advance. The day of Bookclub, all I had to do was cook up the noodles, assemble the lasagna and whip up the topping. Let me assure you, this dish is worth every amount of effort that goes into it and then some. I know I have previously mentioned my disdain for vegetarian dishes but this one was almost enough to convert ME. It has a creamy texture and a wonderful sweetness as well. You absolutely have to make this dish at some point during the holiday season - it will definitely be making an appearance at my Thanksgiving dinner and, judging by the requests for seconds, it seemed to be a big hit with the girls as well, vegetarians and carnivores alike.
As for the wines, because I know you were wondering, I decided to have a little pairing contest. With the help of Bob Leone, Manager of Crown Wine & Spirits, I selected 3 different wines from 3 very different areas of the world: a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia and a Rioja from Spain. Now you might ask, “Where is the French wine? It is Beouf Bourguignon after all.” I selected the other wines, frankly, based on value. European wines are currently quite costly and with a nice sized guest list, people requesting suggestions of wines to bring and a husband in commercial real estate I decided to go with great values. I chose great wine-making areas and stuck with what they did best. I set out the 3 wine selections on each table and let my guests experiment with tasting. By the third wine, these girls were getting pretty darn good with their tasting notes. You might think the Pinot Noir would’ve been a sure bet to win the best pairing. Boeuf Bourguignon is made with Pinot Noir after all; however, the hands down winner of the evening was...drumroll…the 2006 Kaesler Shiraz from Australia!!! The luscious fruit flavors of ripe black cherry and some nice spice really complemented the dish beautifully. I think the short ribs gave the Boeuf Bourguignon an extra layer of decadence that required something with more body to it. I will tell you though, we had a lot of fun in the process!
As for dessert, I served Crème Brulee with fresh raspberries and the Deep Chocolate Raspberry Cake (pg. 253) from “Savor the Moment.” I made the Crème Brulee the night before and carmelized the sugar right before serving. It turned out perfectly creamy and I got to use my new, bad-ass Home-Depot blowtorch. Despite having a few glasses of wine, it worked out just fine. I love digging into a Crème Brulee while the sugar is still warm and the custard is nice and chilled – YUM! The cake was also delicious: rich, dense and veeery chocolately. It was made with mostly semisweet chocolate with creamy chocolate ganache frosting and luscious, raspberry filling. To be honest, I could have pulled the cake out of the oven a few minutes earlier – it was a lit-tle on the dry side. But as Julia Child famously said, "Make no apologies!" The cake did go very well with the creamy Crème Brulee. Judging from what was left, I think the two desserts were pretty well received.
After going around the table and taking turns sharing everyone’s most memorable dining experience (ranging from dessert at J. Alexander’s to a meal on the Orient Express) the evening drew to a close. I sent everyone home with a CD of music inspired by my trip to France in May and offered a selection of Halloween candy to go. It was such a wonderful evening enjoying food, wine and lots of laughs with some fabulous girls. I think Julia definitely would have approved!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things: Linguine with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Maria cheerfully sang in The Sound of Music, “these are a few of my favorite things…” and in this dish we have pasta, asparagus, and prosciutto - definitely a few of MY favorite things! In addition to being delicious, this is a pasta dish you don’t have to feel guilty about. There’s no heavy cream or red sauce to contend with that'll follow you around through the holidays and beyond. Just lovely linguine tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. It's also a great dish for Fall. I don't know about you but when the temperature starts to drop, I start to crave pasta. The prosciutto and asparagus work together so nicely too. The slightly sweet, salty flavor of the prosciutto contrasts beautifully with the color and crunch of the green asparagus. It is also, essentially, a one pot meal – less clean up for whomever's responsible for the “dish-doing” in your house - and the recipe can be easily doubled, in case you want to share with friends or have leftovers hanging around in the fridge. As an added bonus, it's also a cinch to make. The entire recipe is only 6 sentences long - another one of my favorite things.
As for wine, a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc would be great with this dish. Something with a lighter, crisper style to highlight the asparagus and lemon flavors yet enough body to complement the creaminess of the olive oil and Parmesan cheese. If you were in the mood for red wine, you might want to try a Dolcetto. This light and fruity red is from the Piedmont region in Italy. It is a great “everyday” wine and would be a nice alternative to white. So make it a date night at home or invite some friends over for a nice, light pre-holiday meal. The Linguine with Asparagus and Prosciutto will not disappoint. Buon appetito!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Delicious Dinner in a Dash: Tropical Island Shrimp

Looking for a delicious, low-maintenance meal to make tonight? Something not too labor or time intensive that your loved ones will think you slaved over? Grab your copy of “Savor the Moment” and flip to page 187, girlfriend. The Tropical Island Shrimp is what's for dinner!
As I've said before, “Savor the Moment” is chock full of fabulous, time-saving "Dinners in a Dash"and this is definitely one of them. Provided your grocery store has ripe mangoes, avocados and peeled & deveined shrimp - you are all set! (Trust me, if mine does, I'm certain yours will!) This recipe is delicious and has a distinctly Florida vibe, calling for lots of fabulous, fresh ingredients: garlic, red bell pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, lemon juice – what’s not to like about that!
To maximize efficiency, I got the basmati rice started first and prepped the avocado and mango. I sliced them and tossed them with the lemon juice as indicated in the recipe. Be sure to coat the avocado especially well with the lemon juice to prevent it from browning. Then, I prepped the shrimp and got them marinating in their delicious little shrimp jacuzzi. The combination of jalapeño, cilantro and lemon juice smelled heavenly! Once the rice was done and the shrimp were through marinating, I cranked up the skillet and sautéed the bell pepper. Then, I tossed in the shrimp with the marinade followed by the avocado and mango mixture. I’ve never really “cooked” avocado or mango before and, I have to tell you, it is really delicious. The mango becomes even sweeter and the avocado takes on a richer, more buttery texture.
Once the shrimp were cooked through and everything was sufficiently warmed up, I spooned the mixture over the warm, fragrant basmati rice and sprinkled generously with the chopped cilantro. Voila! Tropical Island Shrimp is served and you are a "Savor the Moment" rock star - in 30 minutes or less! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Perfect Prelude to a Meal: Baby Greens with Pears

After a long weekend visiting family in North Carolina, I am running a little behind on my cooking. That and the fact I had a dinner party on Saturday for which I have to admit I, um, made a recipe that wasn’t from "Savor the Moment." Gasp! In my defense, it was a recipe I had wanted to try for awhile - actually an adaptation of a recipe. I can’t go into detail because I am serving it next week at Bookclub. I’m hosting the meeting at my house and the book, you may ask, is Julia Child’s “My Life in France.” My plan is to make one of Julia’s recipes and one from "Savor the Moment" – and yes, in case your were wondering, there will be wine involved as well. Should be a fun night!
But I digress, back to Saturday’s dinner party. Even though the main course wasn’t from "Savor the Moment," the first course was. I chose the Baby Greens with Pears as a prelude to my experimental meal. We invited our good friends Chad & Jean who were very willing accomplices and taste-testers. They also brought some fabulous wine as well! I chose the salad because it includes some of my favorite things: pears and Gorgonzola cheese. I was also intrigued by the vinaigrette which called for walnut oil, cinnamon and balsamic vinegar. I had never used walnut oil before so I did purchase that but I already had everything else in my pantry. After assembling the vinaigrette the salad is really a cinch to prepare. Be sure to purchase your pears a day or so ahead so they are nice and ripe. I used the prepackaged Baby Romaine mix at Publix which was sooo convenient. As a pairing for the salad, we had a Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris, a white wine from Alsace, France. This dish needed something with a little sweetness to it to complement the tangy deliciousness of the cheese. A Riesling would also be a wonderful choice.

The Dish:
Baby Greens with Pears (pg. 121)

The Wine:
2004 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve, Alsace, France

I am happy to report the top secret, experimental dish turned out to be a big success and will definitely be making an appearance next week at Bookclub. The flavors of the salad also melded together beautifully: the sweetness of the pears together with the salty, tanginess of the cheese = fabulous! I loved the flavor of the walnut oil in the dressing too – it added a rich smoky, nutty flavor to the salad. The wine was also a nice pairing with subtle flavors of honey and starfruit with nutty overtones and nice acidity. In light of the yumminess of the salad I just might have to make it next Wednesday night too – we shall see. It really is a perfect prelude to a delicious dinner with friends.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ooh La La: Romantic Dinner for Two!

Tonight a nice romantic dinner for two is on the menu: Dijon Lamb Chops with Shallot Sauce and Green Beans and Friends. Ooh la la! Now, I am a big fan of lamb chops but they are not something I make on a regular basis. There’s always the leg of lamb on Easter Sunday but lamb chops, not so much. Also, as it turns out, they are quite expensive. At the butcher I had the option of the New Zealand lamb, which apparently is a bit gamy, or the domestic lamb which were bigger, cleaner-tasting chops but, coincidentally, slightly more expensive. I decided to go with the domestic (against my husband's newly instituted fiscal policy) and asked them to cut them with the double rib as indicated in the recipe. I must say they were some nice-looking chops! Though a non-veggie fan, the Green Beans and Friends sounded surprisingly good with bacon, shallots and mushrooms. Those are definitely some of MY best friends. Instead of regular green beans I bought haricorts verts, I think they make a nicer presentation than your typical green beans and have a nicer flavor...a little more ooh la la since they are French too!
Once home, I got to prepping the two dishes. I started with the shallot sauce for the lamb chops. Since it has to reduce, I got that going first. Then, the green beans. You need to blanch them for five minutes, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process – yes, just like they do on Food Network! It was easy enough and I felt very chef-y in the process. Then I sautéed the bacon in the skillet and chopped it up to top the beans when they were done. I then proceeded with the shallots and mushrooms and finally added the green beans back to the skillet to warm though. Since the lamb chops only were supposed to take 10 minutes I figured they could hang out for a little know, since they're all friends.
The prep for the lamb chops was easy enough and reminiscent of the pork chops I made for my sister’s birthday with the Dijon mustard and bread crumbs. I think the key to this recipe, however, is to stick with 1 1/2 inch lamb chops or thinner. Mine were closer to 2 inches. Although I thought that was close enough, as it turns out, 5 minutes per side under the broiler was not near enough time to cook them. The coating started to burn and they were a very underdone rare in the center after the indicated cook time – YIKES! I decided at this point to just set the broiler to low and leave them in awhile longer keeping my fingers crossed that the inside would cook before the outside completely charred. Meanwhile the shallot sauce was approaching the perfect level of reduction on the stove and smelling absolutely fabulous.
The sauce calls for white wine otherwise I might have chosen a Pinot Noir to go with this meal, which, frankly, would still be a great choice. For a dry white wine I selected a Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé - a French Chardonnay from the Burgundy region. This wine has a nice minerality to it with fruit overtones and a touch of oak; unlike the heavy oak influence you find in some American Chardonnays. Maison Louis Jadot is know for producing great wines from the Burgundy Region. They were also participants in last year’s Boca Bacchanal and poured some fabulous wines we had the opportunity to sample.

The Dishes:
Dijon Lamb Chops with Shallot Sauce (pg. 156)
Green Beans and Friends (pg. 216)

The Drink:
2007 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé Burgundy, France

Fortunately, the lamb chops cooked to a beautiful medium rare before all the breading charred on them – whew! The great thing about the shallot sauce is, besides being absolutely delicious, it can also hide any, um, imperfections when spooned atop the chops. The addition of the butter to the sauce when taken off the heat is also truly decadent. The lamb chops also, thankfully, turned out to be amazing – the Dijon mustard baked with the breadcrumbs had such a fabulous, rich, mouth-watering flavor. Even the beans which had to hang out a little longer than expected were truly delightful. With its mineral and apple notes and touch of oak the Pouilly Fuissé went well with the meal as well. I would definitely pair these two dishes together again in the future.
So, after a little nail-biting, dinner for two turned out to be a great success! Although, much to my dismay, the pictures of this beautiful dish mysteriously disappeared from my camera (much like the two remaining lamb chops I had hoped to save for the next day!) Fortunately, that was the only thing that turned out to be disappointing. Definitely well worth the effort for that special someone – enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Passion for Poultry: Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken

I absolutely adore a roasted chicken. It is one of my favorite things to make OR eat. I have my own, personal recipe involving carmelized onions and rosemary that is absolutely delicious and makes the house smell outrageously good. As testament to my roast chicken obsession, after hearing Diane Keaton in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” refer to Paris’ Le Grande Colbert’s roast chicken as “the best in the universe” I just had to check it out while we were there in May. Turns out she was right. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to making “Savor the Moment’s” Herb and Lemon-Roasted Chicken.
After reading the recipe, it was clear this chicken had all the makings of a tasty bird. Chopped fresh rosemary and thyme, garlic, and lemon…what’s not to love about that? The visually appealing idea of spreading the herb mixture under the skin also sounded great. I usually do my Thanksgiving turkey this way and it makes a beautiful presentation.
After chopping the herbs, I took my poultry shears and removed the wing tips of the chicken and then proceeded to loosen the skin from the breast and legs. This part definitely takes a bit of patience (not necessarily my forte!) but is relatively easy. You don’t want to tear the skin if at all possible, but, if it does happen, it’s not THAT big a deal. Once I had the skin pretty well separated I used my fingers to spread the herb mixture over the breast, thighs and legs – again a little patience required but well worth the effort. Once sufficiently “schmeared” with the mixture, I chucked the lemon rinds, garlic and fresh herbs into the poor bird’s, um, “cavity”, slathered on some olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkled liberally with kosher salt and pepper, and popped it into the pre-heated 450 degree oven.
There’s something about the aroma that begins to fill the house within the first 5-10 minutes after you put a chicken in the oven that is intoxicating. Within minutes the smell of rosemary, thyme, garlic and lemon were wafting through the kitchen…just dreamy! To go with our lovely bird I selected a medium-bodied California white wine that is a blend of Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier grapes called Blancaneaux. This particular wine is the proprietary white wine of Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate. A proprietary wine is one referred to by name alone, not varietal or vineyard, and is usually a blend of several grape varieties. Proprietary labels are owned by certain producers to distinguish a particular wine that they feel has consistent qualities year after year. Other examples of proprietary wines include Opus One and Insignia. Tonight’s wine received a rating of 90 points and is a little pricey for an everyday wine at $40 retail. But tonight it was definitely worth it!

The Dish:
Herb and Lemon-Roasted Chicken (pg. 170)

The Drink:
2006 Rubicon Estate Blancaneaux Rutherford, CA

After reducing the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roasting the chicken for about 40 minutes longer, it was looking beautifully browned. I pulled it out of the oven and let it hang out while I made the gravy. I skimmed the fat from the drippings and transferred them to a saucepan rather than making it in the roasting pan. I actually used a baking sheet to cook the chicken because my roasting pan was too large for this bird. I do recommend using an appropriate size roasting pan if you have one handy even though the baking sheet worked just fine. Although I do occasionally suffer from gravy phobia (“making it” not “eating it” - just to clarify) this is not your traditional gravy. This gravy is made simply by adding water to the drippings to deglaze the pan and simmering until reduced to ¾ cup. It was so easy to make and also smelled fantastic while simmering away on the stove.
Once the gravy was reduced, I was excited to carve up that bird and see if it was as good as I’d hoped it would be. I am happy to report the chicken was dee-licious: crisp-skinned with the beautiful herb-design visible underneath and very tasty! The gravy was also fabulous - definitely worth the effort and lighter than traditional gravy which calls for the use of flour or some other thickening agent. The wine also went beautifully with the bird with its overtones of fig and apple with a nice acidity on the finish. Garnished with fresh herbs and lemon slices, the chicken really made a nice presentation. And although this recipe claims it “serves four” tonight, I’m afraid, it only served two!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Indoor Grilling - Round 2: Flank Steak Marinade

Since I am on a roll with the grilling, tonight I decided to try the recipe for Flank Steak Marinade. This little gem was included in last week’s JLBR e-mail newsletter as a “Quick Cook” recipe. I heard great things about it at our last Cookbook meeting and thought I'd give it a try. Today was a busy workday and the recipe looked easy enough – but was it? It sounded delicious with soy sauce, ginger, chopped garlic cloves and honey. Marinate the flank steak for 2 hours or so…ok, I’m game. I had some beautiful, ripe tomatoes at home to serve with it so why not!
The marinade was a cinch to assemble with only the blender to clean – YES! Two hours later I heated up my trusty grill pan once again and opened a bottle of red wine. Tonight I picked a red from the Rapel Valley in Chile. It is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere and Petit Verdot and was made from organically grown grapes. This wine received a 90 point rating and retails for under $25. After grilling the steak about 6-7 minutes per side it was ready to go with beautiful grill marks, a nice char and a delicious aroma!

The Dish:
Flank Steak Marinade (pg. 153)

The Drink:
2005 Emiliana Coyam Colchagua Valley, Chile

After letting the steak rest for about 10 minutes I sliced it and served it with the gorgeous, ripe tomatoes. The steak was a perfectly cooked medium rare and the tomatoes were especially delicious when sprinkled generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper. With its black pepper, blackberry and cassis overtones, the wine went perfectly with the steak - WOW. A simple weeknight dinner – what’s not to like about that? An easy meal to go home and make tonight!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall-Schmall! Citrus Chicken Carribean & Tropical Tomato Salad

Fall is finally upon us although you’d never know it if you stepped outside. Still 90+ degrees out and the humidity is enough to frizz even the most diligently straightened hair (trust me – I know!) In keeping with the aforementioned weather pattern, I’ve decided to do some grilling tonight. Not your standard go outside and crank up the grill, man-grilling – I mean the stand in your kitchen and avoid the frizzed hair grilling on your handy kitchen grill pan.
We received a grill pan as a wedding gift and I have to say it is one of my favorite and most used kitchen gifts (thanks, Milt & Diane!). It’s perfect for steaks, chicken, fish – you name it – especially for a quick, weeknight dinner when you don’t want to deal with cranking up the outside grill for whatever reason (like you don’t know how to turn it on?) The grill pan also creates those beautiful grill marks and cooks food in no time. If you don’t have one already I highly recommend getting one. Then you can grill any night of the year regardless of weather conditions or motivation level.
The Citrus Chicken Caribbean is another fabulous, user friendly chicken dish from “Savor the Moment”. I decided to go with the Tropical Tomato Salad to accompany it - I loved the sound of mangoes, tomatoes, curry powder and fresh basil... and I just happened to have a nice little Sauvignon Blanc chilling in the fridge to go with. This one is from the Marlborough region of New Zealand which is known for producing excellent Sauvignon Blancs. Like most Sauvignon Blancs this wine is fermented in stainless steel to help it retain its crisp, citrus and fruit flavors. It also received a 92 point rating and retails for under $20.

The Dishes:
Citrus Chicken Caribbean (pg. 171)
Tropical Tomato Salad (p. 128)

The Drink:
2008 Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand

First, I prepped the chicken and got that marinating (of course I knew this beforehand because I read through the entire recipe!) It has to marinate for 2 hours - definitely reasonable and allowed me to prep the salad with ample time to spare. The salad was pretty easy too, as long as you are familiar with how to slice a mango and deal with the pit. The pit is essentially flat so you need to cut alongside it, separating the flesh from the pit. For detailed instructions check out: . Once everything is sliced, just alternate the tomato and mango on a platter and drizzle with that delicious dressing. The color combination makes a beautiful presentation and it definitely tastes as good as it looks.
Once I was ready to cook the chicken, I heated up the grill pan, drained the marinade and popped the boneless, skinless breasts in the pan. You don’t want to crowd the pan so if you are doing all 6 chicken breasts do them in 2 batches. Once done, the chicken had the beautiful grill marks and a nice light char on it from the marinade which had a wonderful flavor. You could really taste the delicious ginger, garlic and citrus. With its mouth watering crisp, citrus and mineral flavors, the wine paired very well with both dishes.
And there you have it, a nice “it’s-not-quite-fall-yet” summer dinner that you and your family will enjoy. And you don’t even have to step outside to make it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Get Well"/"Welcome Home" Meal: Classic Chicken Tetrazzini

I know I just wrote about my sister, Jennifer’s, birthday dinner a week ago. Well, now I’m writing about her “Get Well”/ "Welcome Home” meal. No need to worry, she’ll be just fine, but it’s nice to come home to some home-cooked meals after a stint in the hospital! I was flipping through “Savor the Moment” trying to pick out something that would fall into the “comfort food” category when I landed on the recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini. Hello, flashback moment. I remember growing up with Stouffer’s Turkey Tetrazzini. White meat turkey, pasta and cream sauce – what’s not to like about that? It was preeetty darn good, although I really don’t remember having it since. It seemed to meet the "comfort food" criteria, so I thought the chicken version of this comforting meal would be a great choice.
Because the recipe says it serves four, I doubled it. I had six people to feed and you just have to have some leftovers. Doubled, the recipe fit perfectly into a 13” x 9” glass baking dish. You don’t really need to double the liquid in the dish completely, maybe just 1.5 x’s – the same goes for the flour. For the chicken, I baked a few boneless, skinless, chicken breasts and chopped them up into 1” cubes. Also, this dish calls for vermouth which I have always associated with my grandparent’s favorite Happy Hour drink: The Martini. They would appreciate that I capitalized that. At every family event they would arrive, martini travel case in hand with all the requisite ingredients: gin (check), vermouth (check), shaker (check), olives (check). These people took their martini-making very seriously! They’d emerge from the kitchen after 15 minutes of a mixing and shaking ritual with the perfectly shaken, icy cold cocktail. Needless to say, as I added the vermouth I was wondering if it would be too overpowering, but then I realized this is the ingredient that gives the Chicken Tetrazzini its signature flavor. Don’t be afraid to also double the vermouth if you double the recipe and by no means omit it – it is very necessary!
Coincidentally (or is it?), when we arrived at my sister’s house, Tetrazzini in hand, my Brother-in-law was mixing up a batch of martinis to celebrate Jen’s return – or maybe because he had the kids for 72 hours straight. In any event, tonight they happened to be the perfect pairing for this dish! Alternately, I would definitely recommend a nice, buttery Chardonnay.

The Dish:
Classic Chicken Tetrazzini (pg. 207)

The Drink:
Chardonnay or, if you are so inclined, a Martini

I baked the dish for an hour at my house and then popped it under the broiler when I got to my sister's. This did beautiful things to the Parmesan cheese, turning it all brown and bubbly. After about 10 minutes the house smelled fantastic! By the time I pulled it out of the oven we could barely wait for it to cool off to eat it. I brought a salad to serve with the Tetrazzini but it never really made it to the table. I think we were all in agreement, this dish was very delicious – decadent, creamy, rich and fabulous. Definitely some serious comfort food at its best!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Look Out Superbowl Sunday!: White Chicken Chili

It’s been a little over a month since my first post and I feel like that's a small milestone - YAY! It has been alot of fun so far and, although I have been cooking for awhile, I have definitely learned a couple how to section a grapefruit like a pro, how to make a killer coconut cake and how to make an amazing meatloaf. In the process of learning all these wonderful facts and techniques another very important point has come to light, one that may seem like a total no brainer: be sure to read through the entire recipe before you start it. Seemingly obvious I know, but I have been so used to making my own favorite, everyday recipes it’s been a little challenging getting used to making something new (almost) every day! So this crucial step, I have found, helps tremendously in avoiding any unwanted surprises. It will also help you select the appropriate cookware, utensils and ingredients to pick up at the store so you are not scrambling around at the last minute like a crazy person – which, coincidentally, has NEVER happened to me. For instance, tonight’s meal, the White Chicken Chili, was originally planned for last week. I bought all the ingredients, got them home and, to my dismay, the first step was: soak beans for 8 hours or longer. Well, it was 5pm and I’m no math expert but - it just wasn’t going to happen. Needless to say Plan B went into effect (hello, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza). So, again, I highly recommend giving that recipe a good read through before finalizing your dinner plans.
Now back to the White Chicken Chili. My second attempt at this recipe involved me soaking those beans for 10 hours. This time I was soo prepared! I put them in the water before I went to work and was looking forward to a great dinner when I got home. But, despite my best efforts and advance planning, those beans still weren’t soft (more like al dente!) But please don’t let this deter you from this recipe because it’s really a good one. The Chili itself was delicious and the addition of the beer (I used Corona) really gave it such a nice flavor. It had a little bit of heat from the chopped green chilies and cayenne pepper; if you like it spicier you could certainly add more. And, to circumvent the “bean” dilemma, the “Note” at the bottom of the recipe states you can substitute 2 cans of white beans for the dried ones. Definitely next time!

The Dish:
White Chicken Chili (pg. 120)

The Drink:
Corona with lime (or whatever beer you add to the Chili)

I served the Chili with sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges which really enhanced its flavor. I also loved the color contrast! The shredded Monterey Jack cheese added at the end also gave the Chili a nice creaminess without being too heavy. And, as an added bonus, the next morning this dish can be transformed into a delicious “white” variation of Huevos Rancheros: just top the chili with two fried eggs, cilantro and sour cream – dee-licious! I have to give Steve credit for that one. This will also be a great dish to have around once the weather starts to get a little "chillier" but really, why wait until then! Although, I must say, come Super Bowl Sunday, the White Chicken Chili will definitely be in attendance. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jennifer's Birthday Dinner/Triathlon

This may come as a surprise to some of you (no one who knows me of course) but I am not much of an athlete. Just wasn’t my thing. Not really a runner, biker or swimmer. However, after preparing dinner for my sister’s birthday on Sunday I felt like I had completed a full scale culinary triathlon. It started out simply enough, ok I’ll bring the cake and then ok, an hors d'oeuvre too and heck, why not the main course as well. I am not sure what possessed me (maybe that I was behind on my cooking that week?) but I rose at the crack of dawn on Sunday determined to establish a personal best.
First up, the Toasted Coconut Cake. Now I have endured “Battle Coconut Cake” before (with another recipe) and I’m sorry to say the cake kicked my butt. It was dry, didn’t look very pretty and was definitely not worth the effort that went into it. BUT knowing how much my sister likes Coconut Cake I decided this would be the appropriate time to tackle yet another one. Making the cake itself is a three part process involving the cake, coconut filling and the “fluffy” white frosting (no pressure there!). So after rising at the crack of dawn on Sunday, (did I already mention that?), like the true triathlete that I am, I dove right in. I have to admit, I was just waiting for disaster to strike, especially since there is special equipment involved (i.e. KitchenAid mixer, candy thermometer, etc). But with each step I gained more and more confidence. That frosting is really just spectacular: glossy, white and, I am happy to report, fluffy!
For the second leg, it was the Shrimp with Cajun Remoulade Sauce. I had had this dish before at our very first “Savor the Moment” Dinner Club a few years ago. My past Co-chair for Cookbook, Lynne Gayle, and her boyfriend (now husband) Jeff made it. The shrimp were amazing and I was so looking forward to having it again and what better occasion! The shrimp were easy enough to make (be sure to marinate them at least 3 hours) and the remoulade was absolutely delicious. It is an interesting mixture of shallots, cilantro, capers and chopped, hard-boiled egg. I have to admit I was a little wary of the chopped egg but it really worked out perfectly. I also doubled the amount and was very glad I did – it was a BIG hit!
For the third and final leg of the race, I tackled the Mustard Pork Chops with Brie. If you are a fan of pork chops, heck even if you’re not, find an excuse to make these for your family and/or friends sometime VERY soon! It is such a unique recipe with the pork chops (we used bone-in), Dijon mustard, brie cheese, bread crumbs, parsley and garlic. I am telling you when we pulled them out of the oven; the bread crumbs lightly browned and the Brie oozing down the sides - the aroma was pure heaven! To top it off they tasted even better than they looked.
To hydrate properly for the race, it was a group effort with family members pitching in some of the wines. We began with Champagne, because it is, after all, a birthday (or a Sunday, whichever works for you!) We then proceeded to the Caymus Conundrum to pair with the Shrimp. Because this white wine was 9 years old we were all curious to see how it held up over such a long time. Most white wines are meant to be drunk at a young age but, much to our delight, it had a wonderful sweetness to it that really went perfectly with the spicy shrimp. For the Pork Chops we enjoyed a couple nice and very different Chardonnays. The first being the Tapestry Chardonnay from South Australia, specifically, the McLaren Vale region. It was a lighter style wine with notes of pear and citrus – no heavy oak at all and a lovely, light finish. Next was the Hob Nob Chardonnay from Southern France which was a richer, fuller bodied wine. It had a nice buttery quality to it with notes of apple and almonds which went great with the Pork Chops and Brie. Needless to say Team Miskew was sufficiently hydrated for the remainder of the evening.

The Dishes:
Shrimp with Cajun Remoulade Sauce (pg. 80)
Mustard Pork Chops with Brie (pg. 165)
Toasted Coconut Cake (pg. 251)

The Drink:
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne Réserve Particulière, NV
2000 Caymus Conundrum, California
2006 Tapestry Chardonnay McLaren Vale
2006 Hob Nob Chardonnay

All in all Jennifer’s birthday dinner was a big success and I finished my first triathlon very respectably: time 8 hours, 6 minutes and 34 seconds. All the dishes were relatively easy to make given the appropriate prep time, even the cake which turned out to be very delicious and not dry at all (whew!) – and what a beautiful presentation with that gorgeous frosting! Don’t I get some kind of medal for that?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tortellini alla Prosciutto and Designated Brownies

“A heady mix of sherry, cream, mushrooms and prosciutto” is the caption for this recipe and, let me just tell you, it is every bit as seductive as it sounds! I have Emily McMullin to thank (or blame!) for recommending this dish the other night after the GMM (fabulous meeting by the way). I have not even cooked for a few days due to the surplus stashed in the fridge and, much to my dismay (delight), it has just gotten better and better with each passing day! But finally, inevitably, thankfully it is gone. While the Tortellini alla Prosciutto made a perfectly, decadent midweek meal it would be a fabulous dish for a dinner party: not too many ingredients, minimal prep time and I defy your guests not to love it. I chose a Côtes du Rhône to drink which is a red wine from the Rhone wine region in France. These wines are generally the everyday wines of the Rhone Valley which is know for such distinctive and noteworthy wines as Châteauneuf du Pape and Côte Rôtie. This particular wine received a 91 point rating and retails for around $20 a bottle – gotta love that!
For dessert I decided to make the Designated Brownies, so named, due to their high alcohol content. The recipe calls for bourbon AND rum. “You don’t need a designated driver after eating these spirited brownies; they just taste like you do!” is the caption but I am not entirely sure you could pass a breathalyzer after eating one – buckle your seatbelts!

The Dish:
Tortellini alla Prosciutto (pg. 205)
Designated Brownies (pg. 258)

The Drink:
2006 Jean-Louis Chave, Côtes du Rhône, Mon Coeur

As I mentioned before, the prep time for this dish is minimal - especially since you get to purchase pre-made, cheese-filled tortellini. Just be sure to get a high quality brand since it is really the star of the dish. Also, get a quality prosciutto such as Prosciutto di Parma and go with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. These items are very readily available and, again, with so few ingredients you really want them to shine. I used the cremini mushrooms, which are actually baby portobellos, because I love their color and I think they have better flavor than the white ones. I use a wet paper towel to wipe the dirt off of them rather than washing them and having them absorb any excess water. Also, I am usually a salt girl. I mean I would salt ice cream if I could but for some reason, in this dish, the pepper is key. And if you wanted to throw in some peas for color – I think they’d make a nice addition. The actual cook time is only about 15-20 minutes and you are left with a meal you will be happy to revisit for a few days - if you’re lucky! The wine also complemented the tortellini very nicely with its subtle fruit and notes of cocoa, fig and plum. It also really highlighted the pepper in the dish as well.
As for the brownies, I have to admit, I was loving them up until the addition of the bourbon. I was right there with it, mixing in the melted chocolate, sugar, vanilla and chocolate chips, sneaking a spoonful every chance I got but apparently I am not a bourbon fan. Otherwise, sans bourbon, I think I would have enjoyed them a lot more. They have a very intense, sweet, chocolate flavor and are definitely for the seriously chocolate-inclined. I loved the touch of drizzling the melted chocolate over the white icing – it really looked fantastic; however, you might want to slice them before you put them back in the fridge. Once the chocolate sets it can be difficult to cut without ruining your beautiful, chocolatey, drizzly design. And you don’t want THAT to happen! All in all it was a fabulous meal and now that it’s gone (sigh) back to the kitchen for me… up, birthday dinner for my sister, Jennifer – YAY!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bon Appétit! Shrimp Provençale and Rosé

Bon jour! My husband Steve and I took a trip to France in May of this year for our fifth wedding anniversary - it was amazing! We visited Paris and the Champagne region and proceeded to eat (and, yes, drink) our way through this fabulous country. Needless to say, ever since we returned I have been preoccupied with any and all types of French cooking. So while poring through “Savor the Moment” today in search of tonight’s dinner I was delighted to see the recipe for Shrimp Provençale. In addition to sounding delicious it also looked relatively easy to prepare with plenty of fresh ingredients including tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, lemon juice, and of course shrimp - YUM! And, with summer (technically) coming to a close, I decided to enjoy one of the few bottles of rosé we had left. Now, when I talk about rosé I am, of course, referring to that wonderfully pink, berry-scented, refreshing, dry wine which is, in my opinion, summer in a glass. No white zinfandel here! The one I chose for tonight’s meal is also, (not so) coincidentally, from the Provençal region and is made from Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah grapes. The juice from these red grapes is allowed to remain in contact with the skins just long enough to impart the wonderful pink hue we see in our glass.

The Dish:
Shrimp Provençale (pg. 185)

The Drink:
Les Domaniers Cotes de Provence Rosé 2007

This meal is a cinch to shop for; however, I highly recommend finding shrimp that are already peeled and deveined. The “peeling them yourself” situation will add a bit to the prep time. (Yes, I did get stuck doing the peeling on this one.) Otherwise just a little chopping and in 20 minutes you have a nice light, summer meal on your hands. While the meal is just fine “as is,” as someone who likes things a little spicy, I think a dash of red pepper flakes would certainly kick it up a notch and add some nice heat. If you were inclined to add some fresh herbs, some fresh thyme would be a great choice. Also, as a nice finishing touch, be sure to season with some Maldon sea salt or other “finishing” salt which looks great and adds a nice little salty “crunch” to the dish. The rosé was also a great pairing: fruity, light and refreshing – très magnifique!
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