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Friday, December 31, 2010

Savoring the Year's End: "Savor the Moment" Featured in the Palm Beach Post!

Big thanks to Liz Balmaseda, Food Editor of the Palm Beach Post, for her article on "Savoring the Year's End with Savor the Moment" on the cover of Wednesday's Food & Accent section! Many of the recipes included are ideal for a New Year's Eve cocktail party. Check it out:

Boca Raton’s Junior Leaguers relive scenes from landmark cookbook, ‘Savor the Moment’

By Liz Balmaseda
December 22, 2010

Scenes from a cookbook, circa 2000: Tables, dressed in lavish detail, await well-heeled guests and their champagne and caviar notions. It’s a time of abundance, of glittery themes, of parties for parties’ sake.

So much has happened since then – and many cookbooks have come and gone since the publication of Savor the Moment: Entertaining Without Reservations. But somehow this treasury of recipes, compiled and published by the Junior League of Boca Raton a decade ago, not only endures, it thrives.

It’s as if the book took on a life of its own years ago. Not only did it win a prestigious James Beard Award in 2001, it came to reflect the personality of its city, Boca Raton, the way it loves to entertain and be entertained.

Predicated on the philosophy that “there’s an art to celebrating the everyday things,” Savor was designed and photographed at a series of parties at some of Boca Raton’s “most eye-catching” landmarks.

The book inspired Junior Leaguer Stephanie Miskew, a Delray Beach wine writer and lecturer, to cook her way through its 255 recipes, much like the way Julie Powell cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the book and film Julie & Julia.

She meandered through the “amazing” lamb dishes, the mousses and soufflés, and she says she felt a culinary kinship with the hundreds of home cooks who contributed those recipes. The former speech pathologist fell in love with some of the dishes – like the filet mignon with shallot sauce – and bravely pressed through the more intricate ones.

“The apple tarte tatin with oatmeal crust kicked my butt,” she says with a laugh.

Not so for her favorite of the appetizers.

“I just adore the sun-dried tomato mousse. Anytime I bring it to someone’s house, they want the recipe,” says Miskew, who also loved making the book’s fallen chocolate soufflé cake and, in the spring, the frozen lemon mousse.

“It’s a three-step, involved process,” she says of the latter, “But it’s great.”

An adventure to savor

Miskew has been chronicling her Savor adventures on her blog, Stephanie Savors the Moment (

There was one notable Savor the Moment night when she did not cook. It was the night in November when she joined fellow leaguers, including original cookbook committee members Cindy Krebsbach and Lisa Mulhall, in celebrating the book’s 10th anniversary at the Seagate Beach Club in Delray Beach over drinks and bites inspired by the book. That night the beach club’s chef de cuisine, Chris Schaefer, did the cooking.

He says he was inspired by the story Miskew told him about the book, during the planning stages of the fund-raising event.

“It was very heartfelt and it gave me an inspiration, off the bat, to make some of these recipes and put my own spin on them,” says Schaefer, who went to work at the Seagate three years. “I took the recipes and put more of a 2010 shine to it.”

For instance, he took the recipe for stuffed cherry tomatoes with orzo pesto and flipped it around, skewering the cherry tomatoes and small spheres of mozzarella with pipettes filled with a broken vinaigrette. Each bite is flavored with a gentle squeeze of the tube.

Putting a personal spin on recipes is something the chef greatly encourages.

“A couple of words of advice I’d have for home cooks is to be patient – a recipe is only a recipe. If you overthink things, it can become more daunting than what it needs to be,” he says. “I wouldn’t follow a recipe per se. Instead, try to make it your own.”

“Savor the Moment” is available for $29.95 at the Junior League of Boca Raton’s website,

• Jerk Marinated Grouper, Banana Chutney & Crisp Plantain
• Nueske Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Point Reyes Bleu Cheese & Marcona Almonds
• Chicken Marakesh, Peppadew, Red Pepper & Onion
• Marinated Cherry Tomato, Spicy Mozzarella & Broken Balsamic Vinaigrette
• Brie en croute with Raspberry Jam
• Crab Tater Tots with Black Truffle and Old Bay Aioli

“Take a trip to the islands with every crunchy bite,” says the cookbook.
(Serves 4)
1⁄2 cup chopped green pepper
1⁄2 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 small jalapeño, seeded, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
2 medium bananas, chopped
11⁄2 cups crushed potato chips
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 pound grouper fillets, cut into strips
1⁄4 cup milk
For the salsa, combine the bell peppers, green onions, cilantro, jalapeño, brown sugar, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Add the bananas and mix gently. Chill, covered, for 3 hours or longer.
For the grouper, mix the potato chips, cheese and thyme in a shallow dish. Dip the fish into the milk and then into the potato chip mixture, coating well.
Arrange in a single layer in a greased baking dish. Bake at 500 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with the salsa.

“Your guests will cross 100 miles of sand for these.”
(Serves 8)
1⁄2 cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup bleu cheese, at room temperature
1⁄4 cup whipped cream cheese, softened
Coarse salt to taste
16 large dates
Saute the walnuts in the butter in a skillet until light brown. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. Combine the bleu cheese, cream cheese and salt in a bowl and mix well. Cut the dates into halves. Sprinkle with the walnuts. Serve at room temperature.
NOTE: You may substitute whole pitted small dates for the larger ones.

“Be prepared to double this recipe.”
(Serves 8)
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1⁄4 cup orange marmalade
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
12 slices bacon
1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, cut into halves
Cut the chicken into 24 bite-size pieces. Combine the marmalade, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and stir to coat well. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes; drain.
Broil the bacon for 1 to 2 minutes or until partially cooked but not crisp; drain and cut into halves crosswise. Wrap 1 piece of bacon around each chicken piece and a water chestnut half; secure with wooden picks.
Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat source for 3 to 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

“Delicious! The perfect bite to eat while balancing a cocktail.”
(Serves 18)
2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 ounces uncooked orzo
1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
1⁄4 cup walnuts
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1⁄4 cup Romano Locatelli cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place the tomatoes stem side down and scoop out the centers with a sharp knife. Invert onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Chill in the refrigerator.
Cook the pasta using the package directions; drain.
Combine the basil, garlic and walnuts in a food processor container and process until smooth. Add the olive oil gradually, processing constantly. Combine with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Romano Locatelli cheese, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Add the pasta and mix gently. Chill, covered, for 1 hour.
Spoon mixture into the tomato shells. Arrange on a serving plate.

“Festive in both taste and presentation for your next special holiday party.”
(Serves 10 to 12)
1⁄4 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
1⁄4 cup whole cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon spiced rum
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 (4-inch) round Brie cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 kiwi fruit, peeled, cut into wedges
For the sauce, press the raspberries through a sieve to remove the seeds. Combine the puree with the cranberry sauce in a bowl. Add the spiced rum and mix well. Set aside.
For the Brie, place 1 sheet of the pastry on a work surface and place the Brie cheese in the center. Trim 1 to 2-inch triangular pieces off the corners of the pastry.
Roll 1 of the trimmed pieces into a ball and set aside; discard the remaining trimmings. Bring up the pastry to enclose the cheese, overlapping and pleating as needed; there will be an opening over the center of the cheese.
Place the remaining pastry sheet on the work surface and cut 4 lengthwise strips 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 inch wide. Fold the strips over to form loops and position on the wrapped cheese to form a bow, trimming the ends to resemble trailing ribbons. Place the reserved dough ball in the center of the bow and press to secure.
Place on a baking sheet and brush with the egg. Bake at 375º for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a 12-inch platter. Spoon the sauce carefully around the outer edge. Garnish with kiwifruit and serve with sliced rounds of Cuban bread.
NOTE: For a quick sauce, combine 1⁄2 package Ocean Spray cran-raspberry sauce with 1 tablespoon spiced rum.

Recipe by Chris Schaefer, chef de cuisine, Seagate Beach Club
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1 cup Yukon gold potato mash (recipe to follow)
1⁄2 pound peekytoe crab meat
2 tablespoons sliced black truffle
Panko bread crumbs
In a small sauce pan, combine the butter with cup water over high heat. When the water comes to a simmer and the butter is melted, add the flour. Reduce the heat to medium and stir until the resulting paste pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
Add the egg to the pan and stir until the egg is incorporated into the flour mixture.
Stir in the Yukon gold potato mash. Add slices of truffle and crab meat, making sure not to over mix as the crab tends to break apart. Season with salt and pepper
Lay mixture out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and chill. Remove and portion to desired “tater tot” sizes. Use standard breading procedure to coat tots, dipping them in flour, egg wash, and panko bread crumbs.
Fry in a sauce pot, maintaining the oil at 350°.
For the Yukon gold potato mash:
3 Yukon gold potatoes
1⁄2 pound unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Place whole, unpeeled potatoes in a large pot with cold water and season well with salt. Cook until tender.
In a separate pot, combine butter and cream. Heat and remove
Once potatoes are tender, remove and peel. Run the potatoes through a food mill or ricer. (If you don’t have a ricer, you can use a mixer or a fork.) Add cream and butter, and season with salt and pepper.
All recipes, except for the Crab Tater Tots, are reprinted from “Savor the Moment: Entertaining Without Reservations.”

Inspired by the Savor the Moment cookbook, chef Chris Schaefer of the Seagate Beach Club created this menu for the book’s 10th anniversary celebration last month.

One of the chef’s own recipes (Crab Tater Tots with Black Truffle and Old Bay Aioli) appears below, along with some of the original recipes that inspired his menu.

Still today, they make killer cocktail dishes for holiday parties.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Got Bubbles? Some Fun & Festive Options for Ringing in the New Year!

New Year's Eve is the perfect time to reflect on the year gone by and contemplate resolutions for the year ahead - or - if that option seems a bit too tame, it's also the perfect night of the year to drink Champagne indiscriminately and be completely justified in doing so. I'll let you guess which option I'll be choosing!

With the endless selection of sparkling wines available on store shelves, there are plenty of ways to "get your bubble on." I recently hosted "Holiday Sparklers," a wine tasting event at The Museum of Art Ft. Lauderdale featuring sparkling wines from around the world perfect for celebrating the holidays and ringing in the New Year. We sampled wines from three different countries at a variety of price points to suit your celebratory needs.

Prosecco is Italy's signature sparkling wine that's become increasingly popular in recent years. Hailing from the Veneto region, this sparkler is made from the Prosecco grape and is light, fruity and meant to be consumed now! Prosecco is made using the Charmat method, meaning the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks which helps keep production costs down. Prosecco's reasonable price point makes it a great option for entertaining a group, using in sparkling wine based recipes (i.e. Bellini) or plain old everyday consumption. Try the Astoria Lounge Prosecco NV ($12).

California sparklers labelled Méthode Traditionelle (aka Méthode Champenoise) are created using the same process used to make Champagne, requiring the secondary fermentation to occur in the bottle. The same grape varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, are generally used although winemakers enjoy much more leeway in making sparkling wines in the US than in France. A delightfully pink Brut Rosé is a fabulous, festive option and also pairs tremendously well with a variety of dishes. Try the Domaine Carneros Brut Rose Cuvée de la Pompadour NV ($34), created to celebrate the life and times of Madame Pompadour, the great courtesan and mistress of Louis XV. If Brut is more your style, opt for the delicious J Cuvée 20 Brut NV ($22) created to celebrate J Vineyards 20 years of winemaking excellence.

If you are feeling particularly festive this New Year's, why not opt for the real deal! In order for a sparkling wine to be called Champagne, it has to be from the Champagne region of France (a sparkler from any other region in France is referred to as "Crémant" or "Mousseux"). Bottlings from this exclusive region tend to eclipse sparkling wines from other areas of the world in terms of price and quality. Champagne Ruinart is the oldest Champage House in the world and was founded by Nicolas Ruinart in 1729. The Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV ($62), made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, is a deliciously elegant option for ringing in the New Year!

No matter which sparkler you choose, I hope you have a spectacular New Year's Eve and a very healthy and happy New Year! At our Museum Event earlier this month, my husband Steve thought it would be funny to put Christmas ornaments on my crutches - I can only imagine what he will come up with for New Year's. See you next year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Christmas Eve Menu & An Injury Update!

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Crème Fraîche & Caviar
Every Christmas Eve, my husband and I host dinner for the family at Chez Miskew prior to a fabulous Christmas Day feast at my sister's house. Since being on crutches since late October, getting around the kitchen has been a challenge to say the least. I've had to rely on my husband, friends and family for help with the grocery shopping - a big change after being there just about every other day! In any event, after having to defer doing Thanksgiving dinner this year due to my injury, I was looking forward to hosting Christmas Eve dinner for my family.

Florida Seafood Gratin
Our menu was inspired by "The Feast of the Seven Fishes," a meal that is thought to have originated in Southern Italy and is traditionally held on Christmas Eve. The meal typically consists of seven seafood dishes and is a commemoration of the wait, Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. Ok, so the Miskews are not even 1% Italian but we are Catholic and let's face it, the Italians know their way around great food! Our Christmas Eve menu consisted of:

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with
Crème Fraîche & Caviar
Shrimp Cocktail
Rosemary Roasted Cashews
Florida Seafood Gratin
Miskew Family Secret Recipe Crab Cakes
Fennel and Basil Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
The Bubble Room's Red Velvet Cake

Miskew Family Crab Cakes
We served the Champagne Gosset "Brut Excellence" NV with hors d'oeuvres and the Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Napa Valley Chardonnay 2007 with the more decadent main course. If you are looking for a special recipe to make for guests in the coming weeks, I strongly suggest the Seafood Gratin. I adapted it from Ina Garten's (aka The Barefoot Contessa) recipe and it is seriously amazing! You will look like a superstar when you serve this - I promise! I have included the recipe below - we used Florida lobster, grouper and Gulf shrimp to "keep it local." I also doubled the recipe and it is a good thing if you can purchase the lobster meat already cooked since that saves you from having to boil those suckers yourself!

The Bubble Room Red Velvet Cake
The meal turned out extremely well and The Bubble Room Red Velvet Cake is simply the best I've ever tasted. The Bubble Room is a restaurant in Captiva Island, Florida we went to every Summer during family vacations and their Red Velvet Cake takes me right back to my childhood. The recipe was actually originally published in the Junior League of Ft. Myers Cookbook - so I'm not that far off topic! In fact, we were returning from my first trip to Captiva in over a decade when I tripped up a step and broke the bone in my hip. Unfortunately, it hasn't healed as we hoped it would and I have to have surgery next month to correct it. I do look forward to a "Hip Hip Hooray!" party once I'm all healed and will do my best to keep cooking and blogging in the meantime. Wish me luck!

Bon Appétit,

Florida Seafood Gratin
adapted from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa at Home"

For the sauce:
2 cups clam juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons good dry, white wine, such as Chablis, divided
6 tablespoons tomato puree
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 pound raw Gulf pink shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half crosswise
1 pound raw grouper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound cooked Florida lobster meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups julienned leeks, white and light green parts (4 large)
3 cups julienned carrots (5 carrots)
2 cups panko (Japanese dried bread crumbs)
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
4 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the sauce:
Combine the stock, cream, 1 cup of the wine, the tomato puree, and saffron in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and add the shrimp. After 5 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp to a bowl. Add the grouper to the stock for 5 minutes, until just cooked through, and remove to the same bowl. Add the cooked Florida lobster to the bowl.
Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Mash 2 tablespoons of the butter together with the flour. Whisk the butter mixture into the sauce along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saute pan. Add the leeks and carrots and cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of wine, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook for 7-10 minutes, until tender. Set aside.
Combine the panko, Parmesan, parsley, tarragon, and garlic. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and mix it into the crumbs until they're moistened.
Spoon the seafood evenly over the bottom of a 14 by 9 1/4-inch oval gratin dish or glass baking dish. Strew the vegetables on top of the seafood and pour the sauce evenly over the seafood and vegetables. Spoon the crumbs evenly on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Serve hot.
Serves eight

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas & "The Wine Lovers Twelve Days of Christmas!"

My husband Steve and I wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! May your day be filled with fabulous family, friends, food and wine. I also wanted to share with you "The Wine Lovers Twelve Days of Christmas," an alternate and fun version of this Christmas classic. I first saw it on a tea towel I found at Sur La Table - gotta love that store!

"A Wine Lover's Twelve Days of Christmas"
1. A Pinot Noir in a Pear Tree
2. Two Toasting Friends
3. Three French Blends
4. Four Hearty Cabernets
5. Five Sparkling Wines
6. Six Corkscrews Turning
7. Seven Sommeliers Serving
8. Eight Charming Chardonnays
9. Nine Vines a-Winding
10. Ten Snobs Sniffing
11. Eleven Casks a-Corking
12. Twelve Fabulous Toasts

Tonight, after my sister cooks a wonderful Christmas feast, my family will be singing the original version of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" after we each draw a "day" out of a hat. We then have to put our signature spin on our "day" - believe me, there's alot of pressure on whoever gets "Five Golden Rings!" It usually gets pretty creative, especially after a few glasses of wine. Do you have any fun, family traditions you enjoy over the holidays? Cheers to a magical day!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Entertaining with Style" by Jorge Pérez and a Fabulous Waterford Crystal Giveaway!

Me & Waterford Crystal Spokesperson, Jorge Pérez
I recently attended a special signing event at Bloomingdales in Boca Raton honoring Vincent Rellis, Master Cutter for Waterford Crystal. Fresh in from Ireland, Rellis spoke to us about his remarkable family history with Waterford and also hand signed crystal purchases made at the evening's event.

Joining him was National Spokesperson for Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal DoultonJorge Pérez, who gave a wonderful presentation and shared fabulous entertaining tips that had us "oohing and ahhing" and lining up to purchase all the Lismore we could carry! You may recognize Pérez from his appearance on the Real Housewives of New York City and he also designs a fabulous wedding gown collection  - click here for more info!

Vincent Rellis, Master Cutter for Waterford
Pérez was kind enough to agree to do a guest post for my blog and share some great advice on "entertaining with style." This time of year we could all use a little brushing up on our entertaining skills! In addition to his sage advice, he ALSO offered to provide some fabulous Robert Mondavi Waterford stemware for a giveaway to 2 lucky readers! Please read below for instructions on how to enter to win a pair of fabulous crystal glasses, but first, check out these amazing and timeless tips for entertaining:

Entertaining with Style!

1. Always begin with the perfect invitation. It’s the first point of contact with your guests and your first opportunity to set the tone of your soiree/dinner/event.
2. Plan ahead. Stock up on your entertaining essentials: Platters, extra dinner plates, serving bowls, candlesticks, pitchers, stemware, flatware, barware and linens.
3. The perfect table deserves the perfect menu. But don’t be a hero and try to make all new recipes. Go with what you know and try one or two new things. Remember, it is not just the recipe but how you present it that makes your gathering so memorable. Display your menu in a classic Waterford or modern Vera Wang frame.
4. All good parties begin with a glass of champagne. I like to set a champagne bar near the front entrance with a variety of Waterford Crystal fluted champagnes to greet my quests with a splash of bubbly the moment they arrive. Your champagne welcome will be an added dimension and it says so much about your entertaining skills.
5. Your table’s centerpiece should represent the theme of your event. Keep it low (to see your guests) and fragrance-free. For your holiday centerpieces, be more festive and creative by layering in gold and silver accents, like opulent tassels. Sprinkle Waterford Holiday Heirloom ornaments throughout the table. Be sure that each guest leaves with one as your gift to them.
6. Festive, non-fragrant candles help to set the perfect mood. In addition to having candles on your table, also place them in interesting, but safe, locations both inside and outside. Crystal candlesticks add elegance, grace and sophistication to any table.
7. Be creative, Use your Wedgwood or Royal Doulton fine china teacups and saucers to serve soup, shrimp cocktail, dessert or even use as beautiful individual votives or vases. You’ll score points for creativity!
8. If you are serving finger foods, offer a small bowl with lemon water to use as a finger bowl. Your guests will think you “thought of every detail!”
9. Having a buffet? Wrap your 3-piece flatware set (knife, fork, spoon) with a colorful cloth napkins and place inside your Waterford Iced Beverage glasses, then stack them at the end of your buffet. Fun and functional.
10. No matter what type of function you’re having, be courteous to your neighbors. Let them know you will be hosting a party and apologize ahead for any disturbance it may cause. (or just invite them!)
Always Entertain With Style!

To qualify to win a pair of Robert Mondavi Waterford Crystal Wine Glasses (that retail for $50 per pair), all you need to do is leave a brief comment saying what your favorite wine is and why - it’s that simple!

This giveaway is open to bloggers worldwide; however, if you live outside the United States you will be responsible for shipping your glasses (shipping is free within the US). The contest will end December 30, 2010.

For TWO chances to win, if you follow Stephanie Savors the Moment, please leave a second comment saying so.

For an ADDITIONAL TWO chances to win, blog about this giveaway on your blog or put it on your Facebook page.

There will be two winners of this giveaway and each will receive a pair of glasses. Best of luck, thanks for reading and happy entertaining!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Quick" Coq Au Vin and a Fabulous French Red!

The other night, my friend Tony Ventura, wine writer extraordinaire and fabulous cook, mentioned he was making Coq Au Vin on a very snowy night in Buffalo, NY. With the cold weather finally upon us here in South Florida, I quickly asked him if he would be kind enough to share his recipe - I just knew it would be a good one. Wow, was it ever!

He shared a quick version of the classic French recipe which is a rustic, braised, chicken dish made with wine, mushrooms, and lardons (bacon). While Coq Au Vin is typically made with Burgundy, many regions of France have their own variations using their local wine including coq au vin jaune (Jura), coq au Riesling (Alsace), coq au Champagne, and so on. The most extravagant version is coq au Chambertin, but this generally involves Chambertin more in name than in practice. I have to say, the recipe was delicious, extremely easy to make, taking about thirty minutes from start to finish. I served it over egg noodles and it was the perfect dish for a wintery night in Buffalo or Delray Beach!

Despite the above-mentioned suggestions, I used a red wine from Southern France, specifically the Languedoc's Minervois AOC. The 2006 Gérard Bertrand Minervois is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Carignan, rife with blackberry and roasted coffee with hints of mocha on the finish. The wine has great minerality, indicative of the region's soils, ample tannins and a food friendly acidity. It was a nice match for the Coq Au Vin and a great value as well! What's not to love about that?

So do yourself a favor and hit the store tonight, pick up the few ingredients you don't already have in your fridge and treat your family or friends to a delicious French dish. Also be sure to check out Tony's fabulous wine column "Tony's Tastings" on the website Ciao Italia with MaryAnn Esposito. Thank you, Tony!

Bon Appétit,

Coq au Vin (Rapide)

From Debra F. Weber, Your Guide to French Cuisine.
Serves 6
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
12 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/3 cup diced Canadian bacon
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon tomato paste

1. In a large zip-lock plastic bag, combine the flour, thyme, and salt. Add chicken and shake to coat.
2. Over med-high heat in a large non-stick skillet, heat oil. Add chicken and cook until browned ~ about 8 minutes. Remove.
3. Add mushrooms and bacon and sauté 2 minutes.
4. Stir in the wine, broth and tomato paste and cook 10 minutes.
5. Return chicken to the pan; cook 8 minutes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Celebrity Press Judging" for the 4th Annual American Fine Wine Competition!

Fabulous Flight of Syrah
In anticipation of the 4th Annual American Fine Wine Competition, a Press Judging was recently held that offered a sneak peek at some of this years vinous contenders! As the name implies, this South Florida-based competition celebrates only American produced wines while raising money for some fabulous local charities in the process. The wines for the event are selected by Co-founders Shari Gherman and Monty and Sara Preiser, all wine industry insiders who held the first AFWC event in 2007.

2007 Mithra Cabernet Sauvignon

The press judging was held at Jet Runway Café in Ft. Lauderdale and involved a presentation of four flights of wine including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The setting was impressive, featuring a lineup of private jets lined up on the tarmac directly outside the expansive windows that surrounded our tables - appropriate ambiance for the presentation of the "flights!" We swirled and sipped our way though the four wines in each flight, assigning them rankings and an ultimate "medal" designation during the interactive judging process. Of the sixteen wines, standouts included those from Phelps Creek VineyardsRussian Hill Estate, Mithra Winery, Brochelle Vineyards and Papapietro Perry Winery.

Pan Seared Salmon = Perfect for Pinot!
Following the judging portion of the evening, we were treated to a five course dinner prepared by Silver Lining Catering that paired beautifully with the selection of wines. The fabulous menu I just have to share with you consisted of Lobster, Crab and Coconut Ceviche which harmonized beautifully with the selection of Chardonnays from Phelps Creek, Castillo de Amorosa, Deerfield, and Mattabella; Crisped Pan Seared Salmon with Braised Red Cabbage, Parsnip Puree and Balsamic Reduction that was perfect with Pinot Noirs from Russian Hill, Z’IVO, Gunthier, and Papapietro; Hand Rolled Three Mushroom Ravioli with Pesto Cream Sauce, Cabernet Reduction and Fresh Herbs that paired beautifully with both the Cabernet Sauvignon from Pope Valley, Mithra, Seven Hills, Barnett AND the Pinot Noir (yes, I cheated!) and lastly, one of my all time faves, Syrah Braised Short Rib with Sage Infused Winter Root Vegetable Hash that was positively delicious paired with the Syrah selections from David Earthquake, Bianchi, Brochelle and Hyde Vineyard. Ahhh, all in a days tasting!

The 4th Annual American Fine Wine Competition takes place on January 16 & 17, 2011 at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The competition, featuring more than 600 wines and judged by some of South Florida's most respected wine professionals, is closed to the public, but don't fret! All of the wines can be tasted, accompanied by a wine-inspired four course dinner, at the American Fine Wine Competition Gala on February 12, 2011. In addition to the food and wine, highlights include Guest emcee, Alan Kalter (announcer for the Late Show with David Letterman), performing artist Michael Israel and internationally acclaimed Saxophonist Dayve Stewart & The Vibe. Proceeds from the Gala will benefit the Diabetes Research Institute and the Sun Sentinel Children’s Fund. Hope to see you there for an evening of food, wine and fun all for a very good cause!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wines for the Top 10 Tough-To-Buy-For People on Your Holiday List!

Planning on giving the gift of wine this Holiday Season? Then check out this helpful list from Natalie MacLean, wine expert and e-sommelier of the eponymous wine website and author of the informative and extremely entertaining "Red, White and Drunk all Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass," one of my favorite wine reads of all time! 

 Natalie’s Top Ten Gift Wines for Your ...
1. Hairdresser: For the person who combines humor and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif.
2. Psychiatrist: Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavor. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counselors and bartenders.
3. The Boss: Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgement. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.
4. Personal Trainer: Think a muscular, robust red would work? Hold that position. Instead, try riesling: this light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.
5. Financial Planner: You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This fortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.
6. Travel Agent: She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine. Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.
7. Teacher: If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Case of the Amontillado.
 8. Mail Deliverer: Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.
9. Mechanic: Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?
10. Online Date: So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.

And after all that shopping, don’t forget yourself: even Santa’s little helpers need more than milk and cookies. Try something with high-alcohol like Italian Amarone or Rhone syrah: these big reds easily drown out tone-deaf caroling and pair beautifully with tired feet.

Great advice, Natalie, thanks so much for sharing - Cheers!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A "Savor the Moment" Classic: Over Your Leftovers? Try the Roasted Sea Bass in Prosciutto

I originally posted this entry last year right after Thanksgiving. It is such a delicious recipe and was so well-received I just had to post it again. It is the perfect dish to enjoy once you are "over" your leftovers. I hope you enjoy it!

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. Masi 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.

Hope you enjoy this delicious post-Thanksgiving pairing!

Bon Appétit,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Need a Delicious, Make Ahead Thanksgiving Dessert? Try this Pumpkin Pie Trifle!

Aaaaahh, Pumpkin Pie Season is finally here!  No doubt this time of year there is ample opportunity to get your fill of it, perhaps even to the point where it becomes, dare I say, passé?!

If you find yourself in this enviable position or you're just in the mood to try something new, you should give this delicious alternative a try. I made this Pumpkin Pie Trifle a few years ago and my family never even noticed the pumpkin pie was missing - it is THAT good!

I am a big fan of trifles since you can make them the day before your big event and the flavors and texture only improve overnight in the fridge. They also travel remarkably well if you are bringing one to a lucky friend or relative's house.

A trifle is a dessert dish made from thick custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice or gelatin, and whipped cream. Research indicates it evolved from a similar dessert known as a fool or foole, and originally the two names were used interchangeably. The ingredients are usually arranged in layers with fruit and sponge on the bottom, and custard and cream on top.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest known use of the name trifle was for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, the recipe for which was published in England, 1596, in a book called "The good huswife's Jewell" by Thomas Dawson. It wasn't until sixty years later when milk was added and the custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread. While some people consider the inclusion of gelatin to be a recent variation, the earliest known recipe to include jelly dates from 1747, and the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of trifles containing jelly in 1861. Some trifles contain a small amount of alcohol such as port, or, most commonly, sweet sherry or madeira wine. Non-alcoholic versions may use sweet juices or soft drinks such as ginger ale instead, as the liquid is necessary to moisten the cake layers.

If you are in the market for a trifle bowl, the Miranda Trifle Bowl is available at Crate and Barrel and is a great basic to have, but there are plenty of options available depending on where you like to shop.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you are looking to kick it up a notch with a wine pairing, a Late Harvest Gewürztraminer or Ice Wine would work very nicely. Cheers and I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Bon Appétit,

Pumpkin Pie Trifle
• 2 (15-ounce) packages pumpkin bread mix
• 1 (4.6-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
• 2 (15-ounce) cans pure pumpkin
• 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp. ground ginger
• ½ tsp. ground cloves
• 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping
• 1/2 cup gingersnaps
Bake the pumpkin bread according to the package directions and cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the canned pumpkin, brown sugar, and spices into the pudding. Cube 1 batch of the pumpkin bread and arrange in the bottom of a trifle bowl. Depending on the size of your bowl, you may have some leftover. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the pumpkin bread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining pumpkin bread, pudding, and whipped topping. If preparing the day before, simply cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Once ready to serve, sprinkle the top with the crushed gingersnaps. Enjoy!
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