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!