Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wine Club 2nd Anniversary Dinner

A couple of weeks ago my wine club celebrated its second anniversary with another fabulous dinner. You can read about last year's here: it was a 9-course extravaganza with a paired wine for each course. This year we decided to go a little easier on ourselves, and do fewer courses but have a couple of wines with each, so we could compare and contrast. With some canapes for nibbling and some chocolates at the very end, it still ended up with nominally seven courses, although I personally prefer to think of it as 5+. As it turned out, in addition to having fewer courses, they were for the most part each less complex than last year, so all in all it was a pretty relaxing afternoon and evening of cooking dinner for 16.

Canape: Belgian Endive with Pigeon Rillette and Onion Confit
Gruet Brut New Mexico
Wegeler Riesling Sekt Brut Germany

The pigeon rillette was a gift from a friend who picked them up in France. As garnish, we made some onion confit by slowly and deeply caramelizing yellow onions and then deglazing them and the pan with a splash of white wine vinegar. Delicious. The goat cheese ones in the background were for our vegetarian.

First course: Asian Summer Rolls with Fresh Herbs and Blood Orange Dipping Sauce
2004 Zed Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
2005 Quinta da Alorna Arintho, Ribatejo DOC, Portuga

Smitten by some beautiful organic blood oranges at the grocery store, I bought some without really knowing what I was going to do with them. In the end, I cut them into supremes, and tossed them with some fresh parsley and cilantro, and served them as a little salad on the side of the spring rolls. I mixed the juice with lime, fish sauce, sugar and ginger to make a dipping sauce for the rolls. The rolls included mango, jicama, carrots, cucumber, mint and cilantro, and were really exceedingly tasty.

Second course: Hake Puttanesca
2004 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
2001 Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva

This is a horrid picture of what was one of the best tasting things I've made recently. I should probably be ashamed to admit that my Puttanesca recipe came from Rachel Ray, but it was so good that I can't really mind. We used awesome ingredients - imported olives and anchovies and salt-packed capers from Zingerman's, San Marzano tomatoes - which is essential in such a simple dish. So good - I think I need to make this for dinner tomorrow.

Entree: Rosemary Garlic Smoked Leg of Lamb, Flageolets, Truffled Green Beans
2003 Mas Amiel Notre Terre, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, France
2005 Theirry Germain SauMur Champigny, Saumur Champigny, France

One of our wine club members loves to smoke meats on his grill, and offered to do something that way for the dinner. We went back and forth on a number of different preparations, and ended up settling on this one. We made a paste of garlic and rosemary to stuff a boneless leg of lamb, then included some dried rosemary sprigs on with the wood chips for the smoke. Very nice flavor, although we got our timing wrong and ended up having to rush the cooking along. For our vegetarian member, we marinated some shiitake mushrooms with the same flavors, then smoked them briefly alongside the meat. Just before serving I seared them up in a hot pan. Yum.

Cheese course: Selection of “Stinky” Cheeses
Chateau d’Orignac Pineau des Charentes, Charentes, France

For this course, I picked the wine (on the recommendation of my excellent wine seller, Everyday Wines), and then got to decide what kind of cheese course to go with it. Pineau des Charentes is actually a blend of Cognac and unfermented grape juice, and my god this stuff is amazing. So smooth, so drinkable, and - at 18% alcohol - so dangerous. Wow. My wineseller suggested that it would stand up well to some stinky cheeses, so I sent one of our members (who works with Zingerman's) off on the task of finding some. Apparently all the people working the cheese counter that day had different ideas about what a "stinky" cheese was, so we ended up with four quite different and quite tasty cheeses.

The wrinkly looking yellow one is Langues from Champagne in France. Moving clockwise, Hoch y Brig from Switzerland, followed by Epoisses from Burgundy in France, and lastly a Golwydd Caerphilly from Wales. That's a little bit of fig preserve in the center - it was the one thing all the cheesemongers agreed on.

Dessert: Baked Pears with Goat Cheese, BLiS Maple Syrup
Lustau Capataz Andres Solera Reserva Deluxe Cream Sherry

Not much to look at, but very tasty. The recipe came from my friend Alex, who usually serves it with honey, but thought it would be a great foil for the BLiS maple syrup. This syrup is produced outside Grand Rapids, MI, and is mostly only available to restaurants. Alex lives in Grand Rapids and swapped me some for a box of chocolates. There are a few varieties, but this one is aged in used Bourbon barrels and is remarkably complex and delicious. We baked the pears with some melted butter for 20 minutes, then drizzled them with a bit of 10-yr aged balsamic and baked for five minutes more. They were served warm with a round of fresh goat cheese (from Prairie Fruits Farms, which was well worth effort it took to bring it back from Champaign-Urbana with me on the glowing recommendation of a food friend there) and drizzled with the maple syrup. It was an excellent combination, although next time, I'd skip the balsamic in order to let the maple stand out more. As it turned out, this was an absolutely perfect match with the dregs of the Pineau des Charentes from the previous course, making us all wish we had another bottle of that!

Chocolates: Lavender Caramel, Orange

I took this opportunity to try out a couple of recipes that I was working on for my Mother's Day chocolate selection. People seemed to like them, but we were all a little tipsy by then!

As usual, it was a blast. I'm looking forward to next year already!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I haven't really abandoned you all...

I've just been sooo busy! I usually write about things here when they're done, and right now I've got lots of things in progress.

I spent the last two days in Champaign-Urbana, and while it might not be known as a culinary destination, I did my best to eke out some blog-worthy activity. Stay tuned to hear all about the Meat Science Laboratory, my purchase from which is destined for dinner Friday night.

This weekend is my wine club's 2nd anniversary. We always do a big dinner to celebrate, and this year is no exception - we've got a 5+ course, 10 wine extravaganza in the works, and I'll have pictures and words to share with you about that.

Easter was a busy time for the chocolate making part of my Tammy's Tastings business. But once I finished filling all those orders, I barely had time to breathe before I needed to start testing Mother's Day recipes.