Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekend Wino: Casas Del Toqui Carmenere Single Estate & Cilantro Pork Pitas

Its the weekend again!  Time to pick out a special bottle of wine to ring-in your days off and savor the fresh Spring air!  We have once again been working with Wine Chateau to 'uncork life' and taste luxury. 

This week I've had the pleasure of tasting Casas Del Toqui Carmenere Single Estate from Chile!  This Carmenere wine contains soft black & blue berry flavors with chocolate and tobacco notes.

THE WINE: Casas Del Toqui Carmenere Single Estate

Fun Fact: Carmenere grapes are originally grown for a Bordeaux, but have gained popularity on their own in Chile.

Other types of dishes that would work with the Carmenere:You will have good luck pairing this wine
with heavy, dark meat.  I think next time I may try pairing this with duck.

Tip: Since this wine is in the Bordeaux family, it is important to decant the wine to aerate out the harsh tannins of the wine.  This wine, I found was no exception-initially it was very harsh. 

Here is my favorite aerator:

Essential Wine Aerator
  This is easy to use, easy to store and easy to clean!  Plus it works quickly! 

Cilantro Pork Pitas
Serves 4

4 pork chops-marinated in a pineapple juice (overnight) and then rubbed with your choice of seasoning
1/2 yellow onion - thinly sliced
1 tomato - sliced
pita bread
sour cream mixed with some of the grill seasoning

Grill off the pork chops to desired temp.  Warm pita bread in the microwave or in a skillet.  Smear sour cream mixture on pita, followed by pork, and toppings.

Serve with grilled brussel sprouts (cut in half and seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper) and grilled pineapple slices.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cooking with Animal: How to make a Quiche

My girlfriend, The Animal, lives in a faraway land and is a cooking neophyte.  Recently married, she and her husband, Thunder Chicken (TC), are looking to enjoy a few more dinners at home each week.  Upon her ecstatic request, I am teaching her how to cook via blog.  Enjoy!

Dear Animal,

I do not remember when or where I picked up making quiche, but it is another item in my regular rotation of menu items.  I throw a quiche together for a variety of purposes: to impress, because I have leftovers in the fridge, but primarily I make quiche because I'm feeling lazy.

Its SO easy to make and you can vary it however you choose!  I will say, I find a three ingredient quiche to be ideal.  I also use store-bought crust.  All those snooty foodies can scoff-I know how to make crust, but this is easier and totally plays into the 'lazy' aspect of this dinner.

What you will need:
  • A glass (or metal) pie dish

Serves 2-4

  • 1 9 inch pie crust (you can find them with the cans of crescent rolls in the refrigerated section)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I prefer cheddar or colby jack)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 small onion - chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper - chopped
  • 4oz can of mushrooms - drained
  • Tony Chachere's

Take pie plate and spray a light dusting of PAM over the inside.  Next roll crust out over the pie plate.  Think of pie crust like play-dough, if it comes apart a little, you just smoosh it back in place.  Gently press the dough around the inside of the plate so it settles into the right shape (perfection not required!).  Take your shredded cheese and cover the bottom of the shell with cheese.

Tip: The reason was layer the cheese first is because it creates a barrier between the water in the veggies and the pie crust.  Without the cheese there to protect it, your shell will be a gooey mess.

Layer your onion, pepper and mushrooms evenly over the top.

In a bowl, crack open 5 eggs.  Add 1/2 cup milk and a heavy dusting of Tony's (or Charley's).  Whisk together with a whisk or fork until everything is blended.  Pour over veggies.

Bake in oven on the lowest shelf, uncovered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or until the top of the quiche doesn't jiggle when moved.

I will serve this with a little salad or just some veggies and dip.


PS:  Bacon is awesome in this, but I recommend cooking and crumbling the bacon first! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cooking with Animal: How to Slow-Cook a Chicken

My girlfriend, The Animal, lives in a faraway land and is a cooking neophyte.  Recently married, she and her husband, Thunder Chicken (TC), are looking to enjoy a few more dinners at home each week.  Upon her ecstatic request, I am teaching her how to cook via blog.  Enjoy!

Dear Animal,

If you really want to drive the hubby crazy, this is a great technique to try and you're going to laugh at how simple it is (but dont tell TC its easy-we want him to think you slaved a bit). 

Since he works from home, this will drive him nuts All. Day. Long.  You know the fastest way to a man's heart is through his stomach?...but please keep in mind-their stomachs are also wonderful torture devices for us girls to play with.

First a few words of safety:
  1. Be sure to wash your hands before handling the raw chicken and before handling something after touching the raw chicken.  Salmonella can be easily transferred.  Rule of thumb: when in doubt, wash your hands. 
  2. Be sure to thoroughly wash everything that has come into contact with the raw chicken.
  3. Chicken should be cooked until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is important that the end of the thermometer is not touching a bone.  I will check the temp in a few different places on the chicken to get an accurate read.
Here are a few thermometers I recommend:
So here's your chicken:
  When you go to the store you are looking for a 'whole roaster chicken'.  They are typically cheaper per pound than chicken breasts.  Five pounds is a lot for Levi and I, but this is the smallest they had that day.  I typically go for the 3-4lb size, but if you're planning to eat off of this for a couple days-go for a bigger size!

Next: cut this bad-boy open over the sink!  They add tons of water to these to inflate the size, weight and price.  Some 'free range' or 'local' farms wont add water, but more often than not-you are paying for excess water at some point.  I will take a serrated knife and cut the plastic off over the sink, then move the chicken around to ensure I have drained as much of the water from the orifices as possible.

Important Note: check the chicken's hole.  Water and possibly a bag of extra pieces (neck, liver, gizzards) will be in a little bag inside.  Drain the water and throw away the extra pieces for now (I'll show you how to do fun things with that later).    
Next step: Get out your crock pot.  Loosely crumple up some tin foil and lay it in the bottom of the crock.  We are making a little bed to lay the chicken on-only an inch deep.  This little bed will allow for the juices to drain off the bird so the bird can cook nicely.  If we cook him without the little bed, he will sit in the juice and boil in the juices.  Boiling the chicken causes it to fall apart and doesn't taste as good!
Lets flavor the dude!  Take your serrated knife and make a small cut (about 3 inches) around the edge of each chicken breast, one on each leg and one on each side of the back.  Use your finger to seperate the skin from the meat.  You're going to feel a little Silence of the Lambs doing this, but this is where the seasoning goes.  If you just dump the seasoning over the top, you won't taste the flavor in the meat because the skin is too thick for the seasoning to penetrate. 

How do you want to flavor your chicken?
  •   Lemon/Pepper: take a lemon and cut it into thin slices, pepper each slice and place them between the skin and meat.  Replace skin, salt/pepper skin.
  • Grill seasoning: season under the skin and over the skin using your hands to evenly distribute the seasoning.
  • Orange or with BBQ sauce: take orange marmalade and coat the chicken under and over the skin.
 Finally place chicken breast side up in crock-pot and cover with lid.
  • 4 hour cook time: Set crock pot to High
  • 8 hour cook time: Set crock pot to Low
  • 1 hour cook time: place chicken in baking dish, cover with foil, cook in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45min-1 hour.   
Serve with bread and a bag of steam-able veggies!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Authentic New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

In 2009 a friend and I made a road-trip to New Orleans in my car.  The drive was a quick 12 hours, allowing us to arrive around 7pm on a Sunday.  We decided to stay with my cousin while we were down there-they lived just East of the French Quarter, a quick 10 minute walk from the heart of the city.

French Quarter
Her 5-room shotgun had plenty of room for us all to stay, yet we congregated outside in the courtyard behind the house.  The fence was surrounded by lush plants and in the middle there was a trickling fountain.  The scene was serene and while it was late June, the heat was just a reminder that we were in the South.  Patio tables and chairs made a nice circle for us to catch up, drink from our pony-neck beers we purchased from a neighborhood grocer and smoke cigarettes.  People would stop-by and visit, drink in hand-often a reusable plastic cup, but if you had no drink or no cup-a stack of travelers had a permanent residence on the kitchen counter.

One night, a local musician, JD, came by the house for a drink and a visit.  He played the guitar for a time and told us stories about growing up in NOLA.  With him was a book that was recently published on Post-Katrina musicians and how the music scene had changed since the hurricane.  JD was interviewed and photographed for the book. 

I quickly go used to the NOLA way of life, although I never acclimated to NOLA-time (a two-hour delay)-5 days wasn't enough to take the high-strung from this Northerner.  But still, I loved how small this city felt. 
Drinking rose in the courtyard
How the people here still would 'stop-by' for a visit and a cold refreshment.  How the city is defined by the people and the people's credo is 'Be nice or leave' (I still regret not buying a Dr. Bob sign in the quarter).  I loved walking and taking bikes almost anywhere you needed to go.  Slowing down and enjoying.  When I came home, my friend and I took a serious look at our way of life.  He got a bicycle and I left my corporate job for something walking-distance.  We both wanted to bring NOLA back with us.  We wanted to continue to savor our moments of life.

I will say, I cycle between savoring and disregarding moments.  Food has always been, for me, moments of forced savoring.  The process is as rewarding as the result.  Red Beans and Rice is a great recipe to let you savor each moment.  In NOLA, its the special in almost every restaurant as Mondays were traditionally laundry days.  Red beans, was a fairly cheap dish and made a lot of food-perfect for large families.  It also takes about 4 hours to cook.  Since it requires some babysitting, its easy to get distracted with laundry for awhile and go back to check it.

This recipe was given to me on my trip by a born-and-raised NOLA man.  He made it each week and this was the first time he had ever written it down.

Red Beans & Rice
Serves 8-10

1 lb. Taso (smoked pork)
1 lb. Andouille sausage
1 lb. red kidney beans (dry beans)
2 med yellow onions - chopped
6 toes garlic - minced
3 celery sticks - chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley - chopped
5 bay leaves
1 Tblsp vinegar
Salt, pepper & cayenne

Wash beans and put in a mid-sized pot.  Add water 1/3 from top.  Add sausage and Taso.  Turn heat to boil.  Add everything else and let boil 1 hour with top off, stirring ever 20 minutes.

After 1 1/2 hour, you may need to add some water.  Put top on and cook another 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, cook it with the top off until it thickens up (probably another 30min+).

Cook rice on a separate burner.

Serve over rice.

Drinking a beer in a grocery store-my favorite photo from the trip!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Wino: Stage's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon & Braised Beef Ribs

Its the weekend again!  Time to pick out a special bottle of wine to ring-in your days off and savor the fresh Spring air!  We have once again been working with Wine Chateau to 'uncork life' and taste luxury. 

This week I've had the pleasure of tasting Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley!  This medium bodied wine has a blend of fruit (berries and plums), mint and cloves-making it easy to drink alone or with food.  Anyone who enjoys a nice red with dinner will not be disappointed by what Stag's Leap has produced!

According to Wine Chateau's website- this wine can be stored for up to ten years!  A great collector's item! 

THE WINE: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Artemis 2011

Wine Advocate gave this wine 91 points!

Fun Fact: The main house at Stag's Leap Vineyard is a large stone manor and was a retreat in the early to mid 20th Century.  It was used by bootleggers, gangsters, gypsies and its thought a few ghosts have made themselves a home there.

Other types of dishes that would work with the Masi: This wine is very easy to drink and could be paired with something as light as fish or as heavy as steak.

Braised Beef Ribs with Red Wine
Serves 4

4 lbs. Beef Ribs
2 cups beef stock
2 cups red wine
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped celery
3 strips bacon
4 Tablespoons butter

Dry Rub:
1/2 cup Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme

Trim any excess fat off of ribs.  Mix dry rub together and rub all over ribs.  Let sit.  In the meantime, cut up
bacon into pieces, then add to Dutch oven over med-high heat cooking until all the fat is cooked out.  Remove bacon, set aside for later use.  Add butter and allow to melt.  As soon as the butter is melted, sear the ribs, one at a time in the liquid.  Remove ribs from Dutch oven and set aside.

Add onion and celery to Dutch oven.  Cook until softened.  Add stock, wine and bacon.  Add ribs.  Cover and slow cook in 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for 4 hours. Uncover and turn heat up to 400 degrees for 30 minutes prior to serving.  Meat should be pulling away from the bones.

You will be tempted to add BBQ sauce, but PLEASE try it without!  They are amazing as-is!  Be sure to handle carefully when removing ribs from Dutch oven as they will be tempted to fall apart.  Get a good grip with your favorite pair of tongs and you'll be in great shape!

Serve over buttered grits and carrots.