Archive for the ‘Eating’ Category

Friulano Anyone?

In Basil, Crab, Drinking, Eating, Friulano on July 18, 2013 at 11:39 am



More notes from “what to do with all that basil”: basil, help peaches, crab, radishes.  Delightful with a crisp Friulano or your handy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc!

An amazing lunch…

In Drinking, Eating, Veal, Vin Jaune on July 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm



Puffeney 2


An amazing lunch.  Veal Blanquette with summer vegetables

and Puffeney’s Vin Jaune.  To die for.

Now this is just pure heaven… but you have to look at the fine print.

In Chanterelle, Chianti Classico, Drinking, Eating, Mushrooms, Sangiovese on July 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm



A hearty vegan meal – fresh chanterelles roasted in Selvapiana’s fresh olive oil with parsley; and then  red wine vinegar reduction of shallots and garlic poured on top.  But the real stunner was the Selvapiana 1978 Chianti Rufina.  Check the fine print!

In Beans, Belgain Endive, Drinking, Eating, Friulano on July 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm


Another sure sign of summer:

Local long beans blanched with fresh olive oil, served with grilled belgain endive marinated in herbs and spices.  Bright, fresh and a perfect pairing for Friulano, especially that very bright Zamo’.

What to do with all that basil?

In Basil, Drinking, Eating, Sauvignon Blanc on June 28, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Cullen & Salad small

What do you do when your CSA (community sponsored agriculture) farm delivers five pounds of basil?  Make a basil salad served and serve it with Cullen’s Sauvignon Blanc, of course!

Here — basil, seared lightly curred chicken, roasted baby corn, creamy garlic vinaigrette and fresh baby radish.  Absolutely delightful with the Cullen!

Crazy good

In Drinking, Eating, Ramps, Scallops on June 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm


Scallop crudo with shaved ramp leafs in lemon oil and smoked paprika.  Paired with, yes, you guessed it, Brovia’s Frezia and Valentini’s Trebbiano.  Beautiful.

Granato… how I love thee so…

In Drinking, Eating on June 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm



Grilled Belgain endive with fresh olive oil, cialis melted Fontina, chives and oregano.  A perfect partner for a very youthful Granato.

Beautiful Rioja

In Drinking, Eating, Nuts, Salmon, Tempranillo, Tomato on June 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm


E’splette gilled salmon with roasted tomato and Marcona almond sauce, olive oil poached yellow pepper and chippolini onion, smoked olives.  An absolute treat with Heredia’s Grand Riserva Riojas.

The Last Morels of the Season?

In Chardonnay, Chicken, Drinking, Eating on June 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm



A beautiful sight — morels in a cream poached chicken sauce, sovaldi shallots and a touch of white wine.  And of course, perfect with Jermann Where Dreams.  But alas…  are they the last morels of the season?

A Pasta dish for Gulfi’s single Cru Nero d’Avolas

In Drinking, Eating, Nero d'Avola, Pasta, Uncategorized on September 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Again, site excuse the writing but I just had to jot the amazing pairing down:


The “red” pasta dish was as follows (this is a much longer process).


Buy beef short ribs.  Salt and pepper heavily.  In a large braising pot well coated with oil sear the beef short ribs until well caramelized on each side.  This may take some time.  I used to have very fancy Viking stove in my old condo.  With the power of that stove (and a big brazier set on top) I could do about 20 short ribs at a time.  With my current stove and cook ware I can only handle about three.  So this is a slow process.  But the caramelization makes the dish very tasty.


Once all short ribs are caramelized add them all into the pot, preferably the one you seared them in.  You need a big pot.  Top with water.  Add carrots, onions and celery until you are at the top of the pot in a ratio of 4:2:1.  Add a bay leaf and parsley stems if you want to be extra fancy.  Cover with cheap but not sweet red wine.


Bring to a simmer.  Not a boil.  A simmer.  If you boil the dish the meat will be tough and the grease will be forced into the sauce which makes the sauce tasty slimy instead of silky.


Simmer for three to five hours or until beef is tender.


Remove all vegetables.  Throw them away or puree them into a very rustic (yet very tasty) tapenade for bread (and add salt to).  Remove the beef.  It should shred apart.  After shredding the beef put the beef bones back in the pot.  There should still be a significant amount of liquid still in the pot.  Reserve the beef and refrigerate.


Simmer the liquid until reduced by a factor of ten, skimming the pot of all grease.  This may take an additional 10 more hours or so (my batch this time took overnight).


When liquid is reduced gather two more components.  First freshly peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes in an amount equal in volume to the remaining beef liquid.  Italians typically used canned so you can save quite a bit of labor using canned tomatoes.  I did not do this.  Second, get a volume of heavy cream equal to the amount of beef liquid.


Combine the beef stock, tomatoes and cream.  This will become your sauce.


Reduce the sauce until desired consistency is reach.  Add salt to taste.  Add pepper to taste.


Add the beef back to the sauce.  Adjust seasonings.  Keep warm.


Make and cook pasta.


Toss with warmed sauce and beef.  Top with Parmesan (the parmesan is really important, it harmonizes and pulls the dish together).




A Pasta For Gulfi’s Carjcanti

In Chardonnay, Drinking, Eating, Nuts, Pasta on September 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Excuse my poor writing but this pasta dish is just an amazing paring with Gulfi’s Carjcanti.  I jotted it down as fast as I could.


The “white” pasta dish was as follows:

Puree marcona almonds in a blender with water until smooth, like a sauce.  Add salt to taste.

In a sauce pot cover “no-sulfured” apricots (they will be brown but more tasty than the bright orange ones) with white wine, mixing in small quantities of garlic, ginger, sweet curry, clove, bay, shallot.  Turn on heat and reduce slowly until wine is gone.  Remove apricots, chop.  Add salt to taste.  Chop some more marcona almonds, mix into chop apricots.

Make pasta and cook until el dente.  Toss with sauce, top with apricot mixture.  Top with nice (meaning expensive or fancy) Pecorino cheese.

That is the vegetarian version.  If you wish for a non-vegetarian version take a scant amount of speck (or another smoked prosciutto, but do not use prosciutto, only smoked prosciutto – and I do mean a scant amount, just a little hint of meaty complexity is all you need, any strong and the dish tastes odd) and toss with the apricot mixture.



Uncle Sam Wants You! TintoNegro Malbec

In Burgers, Drinking, Eating, Malbec, Special Offers on January 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen we are about to be the greatest nation on earth.

2012 is America’s year.  With your all-out effort, we are about to create a global power-shift, tilting the decanter towards us and letting the nectar of the gods flow.  You see, we are set to become the greatest wine consuming nation on earth… by volume. 

So come on, it’s January 10 – time to break that New Year’s resolution and debauch yourself.  Let’s all jump off the wagon, get Hammurabi-ed, and make bad decisions together.  As your coach and cheer leader I am willing to help, and I don’t come empty handed.

I bring you Malbec. 

Yes Malbec, that grape of Argentina that is perfect for this unusually warm winter we are having.  Made by Jeff Mausbach this Malbec, TintoNegro, showcases the best of what Malbec can be.

You don’t know Jeff and that’s ok.  Working for two decades at Catena Zapata, Argentina’s most renowned winery, he’s got unparalleled experience making great Malbec.  Recently striking out on his own TintoNegro is a combination of great Malbec fruit from long term friends and Catena’s storied wine-making techniques. 

Grown in Argentina’s premier districts of Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley, TintoNegro opens with a wide template of expressive flavors.  Lujan de Cuyo brings dark fruit aromas to the wine – black cherry, over-ripe blackberry and a savory lingering note of freshly roasted coffee.  Uco Valley is higher, with a greater daytime temperature swing, and this preserves the freshness of the wine, giving a gentle aromatic lift to all of Cuyo’s dark fruit aromas, drawing in strawberry like overtones.

Jeff then uses a slow, cool fermentation combined with gentle pump-overs of the juice to eliminate bitter harsh tannins and leaving an opulent, soft texture.  The result is a wine whose finish lingers with flavors of chocolate, caramel and hints of graphite.  While it drinks beautifully now, it will age at least five more years in your cellar.

But I don’t want you to wait five years to drink this.  Like Army posters of yore, America Wants You to pound as much of this as you can, and straight away.  This is no time for excuses.  There’s no “I” in team and you’re not a punter: get out your glass, get off the wagon, and figure out what is under the table.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country – let’s make 2012 a great year for America – with Tinto Negro Malbec! 

2010 TintoNegro Malbec

Suggested List Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $7.99

And what Malbec is made better by an awesome burger?

Buffalo, Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Pear Burgers

We will be tasting this wine Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Bottled tag: dark, robustly fruited Malbec.  Serve with boldly flavored red meat.  Drink now until 2017.

Notes From the Cellar:  In 2009 Waterford wine took you “back into the black” with Maipe Malbec and allusions to AC/DC.  We’re still fans of AC/DC as well as Maipe.  If you still have any of the 2007 Maipe Malbec you are in for a treat: on the nose aromas of raisin, fig, mocha, bittersweet chocolate mix with a touch of black pepper.  Nicely evolved, smelling harmonious, nothing out of place, nothing coarse. What a prize to find in the cellar!  Palate is much brighter fruit than expected, much more cherry than fig. Lively finish, a touch of lingering tannins.  What a delight!

Buffalo Burger with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Pear

In Burgers, Eating on January 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm

It’s the walnuts and buffalo that make the burger.  Though their flavors are mild, capsule they are the base that allows the dramatic blue cheese, medicine pear and balsamic vinegar to really soar.  Beware – this is no ordinary burger and it is addictive.

Wine pairing

Only a red wine will do and frankly, the bolder, the better.  The flavors of this burger are powerful and deep and the more massive the red wine, the better.  Acidity in the wine is not a problem – if there ever was a time for flabby red wine it is now.  With the balsamic vinegar all of a flabby wine’s problems are cured.

My favorites are Malbec, Zinfandel and Aussie Shiraz.  Any and all will do but for me, I love my red meat with Malbec.


This makes four burgers.

4                                  buns, toasted

1 lb.                             buffalo meat, ground

¼ cup                           walnut pieces (whole walnuts are unnecessary)

4 oz.                             blue cheese – of very high quality. 

2                                  pears (Anjou, or other red skin variety), sliced 1/2” thick

4 tsp.                           16 – 25 year old balsamic (or regular balsamic reduced to syrup)

1 tbs.                           olive oil

To taste                       Salt

To taste                       black pepper



1.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Gently toast the walnut pieces until golden brown.  I used to skip this step thinking that it was unimportant.  I couldn’t have been more mistaken.  The toasting until golden brown is what makes the walnuts rich and full bodied, accenting the their earthy, sous bois characteristics.  So don’t skip this step!  These flavors tie the burger together and make it harmonious.     

2.  Cool the walnut pieces.  When cool crumble the blue cheese and mix together.  Combine with the buffalo and mix, keeping all very cool.    

3.  Heat the oil in a sauté pan.  Sauté the burgers until done.  Remove from pan, reserve and keep in a warm place.

I prefer my burgers rare.  But however you like the burgers much of the blue cheese will render into the pan.  When the burgers are done remove them and add the thick pear slices to the pan.  Cook the pear slices briefly, until they have soaked up the blue cheese grease.   

4.  Place sliced buns on a plate.  Top with burger and then sautéed pear slice.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top.  Serve!

Braised Lamb Soup with Hearty Greens and Cannellini Beans

In Barolo, Drinking, Eating, Lamb on November 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Is there anything more relaxing than a slow Sunday?  Made even slower by the ease of Saturday night’s dinner party fare being transformed into a simple, purchase yet extravagantly tasty noon meal?  And made yet slower and easier by a bottle of wine to pair with it?  Ahh well, here here it is – a slow Sunday lunch – delicious, click tasty and easy.  

Wine pairing

The original dinner party that inspired this slow Sunday transformation was actually focused on Bordeaux.  However, given that the wine stayed with the host but the leftovers came home with me, I opted for something slightly different – Barolo.  

And once Barolo was decided upon the rest of the ingredients fell into place – a touch of Italian ingredients that I could find in the pantry as well as whatever local greens were still in season.  Hence, collard greens and cannellini beans, parmesan and fresh olive oil.

If I would have had any remainder of the bottles of the Bordeaux I probably would have cast the soup in a slightly different manner.  Maybe lentils, bacon, collard greens and garlic croutons with mayonnaise.  But you get the point – simple is best with this soup.


For the soup:

2 shanks                      lamb leftovers previously braised (or lamb stew meat braised until tender)

2 cups                          leftover braising liquid or chicken stock

2 cups                          Chicken stock – in addition to above

2 tbs.                           olive oil

1                                  onion, chopped fine

5 cloves                       garlic, chopped fine

1 head                         collard greens, kale, or other hearty fall leafy green

1 -15 oz can                 cannellini beans, or other canned bean

2 oz.                            Parmesan, shaved

1 tbs. per person          olive oil, very fresh, in addition to above



1.  Add the 2 tbs. of olive oil to a sauce pot.  Heat over high until warm.  Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft. 

2.  Chop the stems from the hearty greens.  Sauté with the onions and garlic until soft.  Chop the leaves, reserve. 

3.  Add the stock or braising liquid / stock combination to the pot.  Heat through.

4.  Add the braised lamb and cannellini beans to the pot. Heat through. 

5.  Ladle a portion of the soup into a bowl and top with shaved parmesan and olive oil.  Serve.



Chilled Tomato Soup with Blue Crab

In Barbera, Beaujolais, Crab, Dolcetto, Drinking, Eating, Tomato on October 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

This recipe is the beautiful combination of fresh Wisconsin late summer tomatoes and what I swear is one of the ultimate picnic red wines: Dolcetto.  Its quick, ed easy and with the Dolcetto is one of those ultimate food pairings where the sum tastes ten times greater than the parts. 

That being said, let it be a special summer treat – don’t bother making when you can’t get fresh, super ripe tomatoes.  And don’t skimp on the crab.  Get the best jumbo lump that money can buy.  And although tomatoes are the focus all the rest of the ingredients should be in season right at the same time. 

Wine pairing

Dolcetto.  Especially Marchesi di Gresi Dolcetto.  Di Gresi Dolcetto is one of those chill-able red wines.  Light, tart and tangy perfectly off-sets the tomatoes’ acidity and the crab’s creaminess. 

Some producers, both Italian and American, are now making “super-Dolcettos”, dark, earthy, rich in fruit.  Don’t choose one of these.

Otherwise, another favorite, a Cru Beaujolais would be a great fit.  Or a drier, spicy style Zinfandel.   


For the soup:

4                                  tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1                                  onion, small, blanched and roughly chopped

1                                  garlic clove, blanched

To taste                       salt

For the garnish:

1 can or jar                  jumbo lump blue crab

1                                  red onion, small, small diced

1                                  green pepper, small diced

1                                  cucumber, small, seeded and small dice

1                                  small tomato, peel and seeded, small dice

1                                  lemon

2 tbs.                           cream

To taste                       salt



For the soup:

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Season with salt.  Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.   

For the garnish:

1.  Combine all the ingredients gently so as to not break up the lump crab meat.  Season with salt. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary

To complete:

1.  Pour soup into bowls.  Pile garnish in the middle gently, showing off the cream.  Serve!


Grilled Asparagus in a Crème Fraiche and Oregano Dressing

In Asparagus on May 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Such a simple dish, pharm such dramatic results.

Plus, treat it’s versatile – use it as a appetizer, with the dressing as essentially a
dipping sauce.  Or as an individually plated, elegant first or second course.
Or, as a substantial vegetable side passed at the table – all work equally well and all are equally easy to create.

Wine pairing

The absolute best pairing is Gruner Veltliner. In fact, nothing else really quite works as the asparagus makes most wines taste metallic.  And with Gruner Veltliner’s precise spring-green flavors pairing so perfectly, why choose something else?

In Gruner Veltliner look for a producer who balances precision and acid
characteristics with weight and fruit characteristics.  One of my favorites is Schloss Gobelsburger but Austria makes few poor wines almost any Gruner Veltliner will taste
delicious with this dish.


1 bunch                       asparagus

2 tbs.                           crème fraiche

1 tbs.                           olive oil

1                                  lemon

1                                  clove garlic, finely chopped

4                                  branches  fresh oregano, stems removed

1 tbs.                           chives, finely chopped

To taste                       salt

To taste                       black pepper


1.  Juice the lemon and combine with the garlic and olive oil.  Add salt.  This will “de-flame” the garlic moderating its bite.

2.  Combine the lemon, garlic and olive oil mixture with the crème fraiche.

3.  Grill the asparagus to desired doneness.  Thick or thin spears will work equally well,
just make sure you cook them all the way.

4.  When fully cooked remove the asparagus to a dish that is large enough to toss them in the dressing.

5.  Toss the asparagus in the dressing, adding the herbs as you go.  Check the seasoning
and serve family style or on individual plates, letting the dressing break slightly from the heat of the freshly grilled asparagus.

If you are serving this dish as an appetizer the method is slightly different.  Mix the dressing with the herb and place in a ramekin or other appropriate dish.  Serve alongside the asparagus.



Duo of Lamb: Loin and Shank with Cannellini Beans and Porcini Mushrooms in a Reduction Sauce with Mint Pesto

In Eating, Lamb on April 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm


Another long and complicated recipe but once again almost everything can be made in advance, prostate leaving only plating for the very end.  While there is no getting around the complexity of this dish it is not all that hard to execute.  Its complexity lies in its combination of components, not in how they are handled.  The results, plated and served family style or plated individually, are very dramatic and well worth the time and effort.

This recipe is actually a bit of a restaurant trick.  But a good one I assure you!

Lamb loin is extremely expensive especially if you want to serve large “steak” sized portions of it.  This recipe offsets some of the cost by pairing the loin with a much cheaper cut, the shank.  Essentially the loin becomes a garnish with the main protein element being the braised shank.  The ultimate dish looks great, provides a substantial amount of protein, and is far cheaper than a full sized portion of lamb loin.

A great trick for cutting costs – and delicious too!


Wine pairing

Bordeaux is the classic pairing with lamb, meaning Cabernet.  But I also happen to love Languedoc wines as well, and you can’t go wrong with Bandol or a simple Cote du Rhone.

I have another love with lamb though – the great wines of Northern Italy: Barolo and Barbaresco.  The soaring beauty and tannic power of these wines offer a rich reward to the lamb.


For the shank and reduction sauce:

1 tbs.                           olive oil

4                                  lamb shanks

1                                  yellow onion, roughly chopped

4                                  carrots, roughly chopped

2                                  celery sticks, roughly chopped

2                                  bay leafs

1 bottle                        red wine

16 cups                        stock, homemade or prepared

To taste                       salt

To taste                       pepper

For the loin:

1                                  rack of lamb, frenched, approximately 8 bones long

2 tbs.                           olive oil

To taste                       cumin

To taste                       coriander

To taste                       salt

To taste                       pepper

For the cannellini beans:

2 cups                          dried cannellini beans

16 cups                        water (approximately)

To taste                       salt

To taste                       olive oil

For the porcini mushrooms:

1 cup                           porcini mushrooms, whole (see note below)

2 tbs.                           olive oil

To taste                       salt

For the mint pesto:

1 cup                           basil

1 cup                           mint

3 tbs.                           pine nuts

1 clove                         garlic

½ cup                           Parmesan

½ cup                           olive oil



For the lamb shank and reduction sauce:

1.  Heat the oil in a braising pot.  Thoroughly season each shank with salt and black pepper.

2.  Sear each shank on all sides in the pan.  Once a rich brown crust has developed turn the heat down.

3.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, wine and stock.  Bring the pot up to a simmer.

4.  Simmer for four hours or until meat pulls away from the bone freely.  If you start to run out of liquid add more stock.

During this time you can make the rest of the meal.

5.  Remove the meat from the braising liquid.  Using your hands break the meat apart into its natural, bite sized pieces.  Reserve.

6.  Continue to simmer the braising liquid until it is reduced to 1 cup.  Strain using a colander and then pass through a fine messed sieve.  Degrease the liquid using a degreasing cup or skimming off the surface.  Season the reduction sauce now, and reserve.

For the Cannellini beans:

1.  In a large pot combine the water and beans.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender.  This may take six to ten hours depending on how old your beans are.  Add water if needed.

When the beans are cooking is a great time to prepare the rest of the meal!

2.  Once tender strain the beans.  Gently toss with the olive oil, season with salt, and reserve.

For the mint pesto:

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.  Process until just smooth.  Reserve.

For the Porcini mushrooms:

Porcini mushrooms can be hard to find.  Sometimes specialty grocery stores will have them frozen, if not fresh.  If you can’t find Porcinis substitute baby Portabellas.

1.  Slice the porcini mushrooms into thick slices.

2.  Heat the oil in a sauté pan.  Sear the slices over high heat, season, and reserve.

For the lamb loin:

1.  Season the loin with the salt, black pepper, cumin and coriander.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Heat the oil in a sauté pan until shimmering.  Add the lamb loin.

3.  Cook the lamb loin on all sides until rare, or about two minutes each side via turning three times.

At this point the lamb will be extremely rare – too rare for most Americans.  If you are finishing the dish then pop the lamb in the oven while you are plating everything else.  About five minutes in a 400 degree oven will put the lamb loin at rare.

If you are not about to finish the dish then reserve the lamb loin, finishing it in the oven to the correct temperature when you are ready.

Rack of lamb can be forgiving in terms of temperature, and here is a restaurant trick as to how: once the lamb comes out of the oven let it rest for five minutes but leave the oven on.  Once rested slice the lamb loin in half.  If the lamb is underdone simply push the loin back together and put back in the oven.  Yes, your slice will cause those two pieces to heat more, but just barely.  Repeat the process until you hit the desired temperature.

For plating:

I like to serve this dish on one long platter, family style, where the frenched lamb loin can make its most dramatic impact.  These instructions however are per plate.  If you want to do a large platter simply put more ingredients on the platter and make a row of chops!

1.  Reheat all components of the dish, except the pesto.  Bring the pesto to room temperature.

2.  Spoon some of the reduction sauce on the plate.

3.  In the center of the plate mound some of the braised, shredded lamb shank.

4.  Top the shank with the Cannellini beans and a porcini slice or two.

5.  Spoon the mint pesto over the top.  Try to have some of the pesto showing, as the green color is quite dramatic for the dish.  If the pesto breaks because of the heat that is just fine too.  The green oil will be quite a showcase then!

6.  Slice the lamb loin and top the dish with a single chop, bone standing upright.  If you wish add more mint pesto.

7.  Serve!

Mache and Golden Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

In Eating, Lettuces on April 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

Mache and Golden Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

A play on words: Mache, ampoule whose other name is lamb’s lettuce or lamb’s tongue lettuce, check I always think makes a perfect counterpoint to lamb.  Yes, buy cialis that is a silly reason, but a fun one, and why not be whimsical?

If you are using Golden Beets try to find blood oranges for an exciting color contrast.  Or, switch the colors around and use red beets and regular oranges!

Wine pairing

I use this salad as an intermezzo, typically before the main dish of lamb.  I like it to be quite small, simple and refreshing.  Therefore I  don’t routinely serve wine with it. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t serve wine though.  Try a dry Riesling with some body, or a tart and tangy red, maybe a Loire Valley Pinot.  And, if it is near Easter, you just might be able to find a rosé!


 This makes about two small servings (the way I like to serve it).  Scale as necessary.

1 bunch                       mache

1 small                         yellow beet

2                                  oranges, peeled and segmented, pulp squeezed, juice reserved 

To taste                       olive oil

To taste                       salt

To taste                       black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.   

2.  Rub the beet in olive oil.  Cover in aluminum foil.  Roast until tender.  Let cool.    

 3.  Cut the beet into thin slices.  A mandoline is probably the easiest way to accomplish this.   

4.  Mix together all components of the salad, checking for seasoning as you go.  Serve!

Spring Vegetable Lasagna with Artichokes

In Artichokes, Eating, Fava Beans, Pasta, Ramps on April 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

The recipe looks long and complicated because it is. 

But oh, no rx oh, look oh, advice the rewards are so well worth the trouble.  Creamy, rich, boldly flavored, this is a lasagna that you want to curl up around and take to bed with you.  Eat this until you feel robustly satisfied, like a smiling Buddha.   

The one saving grace of preparing the meal is that it can be done at any time.  The dish reheats well and is probably at its best on day two.  So feel free to make it a day in advance, clean up the kitchen, and quickly pop it back in the oven once the guests arrive.

Wine pairing

With all these spring vegetables why not try a Gruner Veltliner? 

However, lasagna is so Italian that to serve an Austrian wine might be just a bit too cross-cultural.  In Italian whites try a Ribolla, Friulano, Pinot Grigio or Soave, even better might be an “orange wine” – if you can find one!

In a red try a bright, juicy red.  An un-oaked Barbera, a Dolcetto, something Sangiovese but in a classic style with bright high cherry notes would also do the trick!



For the sauce:

4 tbs.                           butter

4 tbs.                           flour

4 cups                          whole milk

1 cup                           shallots, finely chopped

¼ tsp.                           nutmeg

¼ tsp.                           cloves

To taste                       salt

4 oz.                             Mascarpone

For the filling:

2 cups                          fava beans, shelled and blanched, with second shell removed

4 cups                          ramps, chopped

2 lemons                     sliced in half

16 artichokes              leaves removed, choke removed, rubbed with lemon

or                                 16 oz. canned artichoke hearts in water

2 tbs.                           olive oil

2 tbs.                           garlic, finely chopped

4 tbs.                           parsley, finely chopped

1 cup                           white wine

2 cups                          vegetable stock

8 oz.                             buffalo mozzarella

To taste                       salt

To taste                       black pepper

For the pasta (if using fresh pasta):

2 cups                          flour

4                                  eggs

2 tsp.                           salt


To make the pasta:

1.  Make the pasta: Mix together the flour, eggs and salt into a firm dough.  Let rest for 30 minutes up to several hours while working on the other components of the dish.  

2.  Once pasta has rested bring a pot of water to the boil.  Begin rolling out the pasta.  

3.  Using a pasta machine (or rolling pin), roll out the pasta dough to the second thinnest thickness you can.  Cut into sections that are approximately 1” longer than the casserole dish you will use to form the lasagna.

4.  Cook pasta until al dente, or just done.  Drain in a cool water bath.  Reserve. 

To make the sauce:

1.  Heat the butter in a sauce pot.  Add the shallots and cook until translucent.   

2.  Add the flour, stir, creating a roux.  

3.  Add in the milk a cup at a time.  Whisking constantly, raise the heat.  The roux will start to thicken the milk.  Whisking keeps it from getting lumpy.  Keep adding the milk a cup at a time until all the milk is added.

A roux based sauce does not finish tightening until brought to a boil.  Therefore the sauce will keep getting tighter and tighter unless you bring it up to a boil.  However, milk based sauces burn easily.  To moderate the process stir constantly, holding the heat just below the boil for a short period of time, say 30 seconds, and then turning it down to low. 

4.  Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and mascarpone.  Check for seasonings.  It should be slightly saltier than you wish – it will need to season the pasta as well.

To make the filling:

1.  In a sauce pot heat the olive oil.  Add the shallots.  Add the prepared artichokes with stems sticking upright.  Add the white wine and loosely cover the pot.

2.  Sweat the artichokes for 10 minutes or until the white wine is gone.  Add the vegetable stock and recover.

3.  Sweat the artichokes for 10 more minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.  If tender remove from sauce pot.  Reserve.  If not tender add more stock and repeat the process every ten minutes. So either the leaves are altogether gone or after cooking you cut the leaves off so that it is just the base of the artichokes?

4.  Roughly chop the tender artichokes.  Add back into the pot.  Add the ramps and fava beans to the pot.  Add the parsley.  Check the seasoning: add more lemon and salt as necessary.  

5.  Remove the entire mixture from the heat and reserve.

To assemble:

1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Lay a thin layer of the white sauce down on a casserole dish.  Place a piece of pasta on top.  Place a layer of vegetables.  Repeat pattern finishing with a final pasta sheet. 

3.  Cut the buffalo mozzarella very thin.  This is most easily accomplished by freezing it briefly.  Place thin sheets of mozzarella on top of the final layer of pasta, covering it.

4.  Bake until mozzarella is browned, or the lasagna is heated all the way through. Everything is already cooked so you are really only heating and stabilizing the whole thing at this point.

5.  Reserve until dinner time.

Reheat and serve when ready! 

Whew, it’s a lot of effort but it really is worth it.

Shaved Asparagus and Parmesan in Balsamic Vinaigrette

In Asparagus, Eating on April 19, 2011 at 8:47 am

An always welcome sign of spring: fresh asparagus. 

Use this recipe only when asparagus can be found incredibly fresh.  Eat as an intermezzo, ambulance or relieve, to brighten the palate and give a small moment for the digestion to catch up.

Wine pairing

Perhaps the best pairing is Gruner Veltliner, marrying the greenness of asparagus with the fresh pea-pod like aroma of the Veltliner.  Together, these two could be a meal in and of themselves.

But as part of a larger meal the course may not demand an individual wine.  If so, try to place this dish as the second course in a larger meal, just after the first major dish.  Most probably it will then be paired with a brighter red wine with which it should pair nicely. 


1 bunch                       asparagus

1 oz.                             parmesan

To taste                       Balsamic vinegar

To taste                       olive oil

To taste                       Salt


1.  Bring a large pot of water to the boil.

2.  Snap off the hard ends of the asparagus.   

3.  “Shave” the asparagus very thin lengthwise, a thin as you can.  A knife, mandolin or vegetable peeler will aid you.

4.  Blanch the asparagus for 10 seconds and then immediately place in an ice water bath.  If blanched fast enough the asparagus should curl, making the presentation of the dish more elegant.    

5.  This part is optional: Boil the blanching water down until only 2 tablespoons remain.  This could take a very long time which is why it is optional. Once reduced combine with balsamic vinegar and a scant amount of very fresh olive oil.  Season with salt. 

This should create a very flavorsome liquid.  Use it to dress the salad.  If you do not make the reduction simply combine the balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a little vinaigrette.   

6.  Shave the parmesan into thin, curly strips.

7.  On individual plates toss together the asparagus, parmesan and liquid. Mound into a high, tangled pile – the dish is more dramatic the higher you can get the pile.  Serve.

Leek Gratin with Black Truffles

In Eating, Leeks on April 19, 2011 at 8:39 am

This recipe celebrates the coming of spring by sharing the glorious wealth that is cream and pairing it with one of the New Year’s first vegetables – leeks.  Cream in the Piedmont region of Italy would at one point have been a very precious commodity. 

Incredibly easy to make the dish can be held and reheated at any time.  If you are having a large dinner party, for sale say for Easter, nurse you can make this dish a day ahead and simply put it back in the oven once the guests arrive!

Wine pairing

For reds anything with a bit of “cut” – a bright backbone of acidity to slice through the richness of the dish and enliven the palate: Italian Barbera, if unoaked; Gamay, especially cru Beaujolais; Cote du Rhones without much new oak, or a Schiava, Lagrein, or Bardolino from Italy’s more far flung regions.


Alright, keep calm. 

The ingredients are all proportional to the size of the dish you are using.  Scale and purchase accordingly.    

Trust me, this dish is going to taste great no matter what happens.

To scale                       Leeks, sliced into 1” batons, washed

To scale                       Cream

To taste                       Salt

To taste                       Pepper

To taste                       Black truffles


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 350.   

2.  Cover the bottom of a large casserole dish with the leeks in a single layer.  If you have one, a fancy casserole dish works well.  You can then take the leeks straight from oven to table.   

3.  Pour the cream into the dish until it reaches half way up the side of the leeks.  This is the “scaling” part.  The leeks need to completely cover the bottom of the dish and the cream needs to reach all the leeks.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Be aware, as the cream heats it will bubble up.  Use a casserole dish with sides at least 1” higher (but no more than 3” higher – the leeks get to hard to maneuver) than the leeks.     

4.  Bake in the oven until the cream starts to brown on top of the leeks, about 35 minutes.   

5.  If you have used a fancy casserole dish simply remove it from the oven and place in the center of the table.  Using a truffle knife (or the side of an old-style box-cheese grater), shave truffles over the leeks.  Spoon onto plates, making sure to sauce with plenty of the cream. 

6.  Serve with plenty of bread.  Truly delicious.

It’s Never Too Early to Grill in Wisconsin, or Dry Cured Flank Steak with Chimmichurri

In Eating, Steak on April 5, 2011 at 2:18 pm

It’s time to fire up the grill.

Sure, there it’s 30 degrees outside and Milwaukee just saw a hailstorm of epic proportions.  But that shouldn’t stop you from grilling.  So get your bottle of Malbec, and grab a glass, here and fire up the grill! 

Chimmichurri, in this version at least, is a piquant green sauce.  It marries to Malbec by harmonizing its bright, green pungency with Malbec’s deep, low-toned, richness.  The dry cure on the meat adds a note of sweetness and in combination the whole thing is irresistible.

Wine pairing

Malbec, Malbec, Malbec!  What a perfect pairing for Malbec!  So perfect it often makes me wonder which developed first – the wine or the sauce? 


1                                              Flank steak, whole; or skirt steak, whole

2 tsp.                                       sugar

2 tsp.                                       cumin

2 tsp.                                       coriander

1 tsp.                                       salt

1 tsp.                                       black pepper

1 clove                                     garlic

2 cups                                      cilantro

2 cups                                      flat leaf parsley

¼ cup                                      white vinegar

¼ cup                                      olive oil

¼ tsp.                                      cayenne pepper

To taste                                   salt


1.  Combine the sugar, cumin, coriander, salt and black pepper.  Rub over the steak.  Cure for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 3 days.  Refrigerate if curing for extended periods of time.

2.  Combine all the other ingredients in a high powered blender and puree until smooth.  If you have a lightweight blender start with the olive oil and vinegar and add ingredients one at a time.  If you are still having trouble add a little water to the blender.  Sauce should be very piquant. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.  

3.  Light up the grill and cook the meat to desired doneness. 

4.  With flank steak I always like slicing it for guests.  So let the meat rest for 10 minutes, slice very thinly, and then spread onto a serving platter.  Place a thick line of chimmichurri down the middle of the cut steak, serving the rest of the sauce on the side. 


Red, Hot and Blue Burgers

In Burgers, Eating on February 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm


Wine pairing

To me, stomach because of the spice, salve I want Tempranillo.  Probably a Grenache, Cote du Rhone or otherwise would do; but why take half measures when so much good, cheap Tempranillo is around?


This is for one person, scale as necessary.

½ lbs.                           ground pork

¼ lbs.                           Andouille sausage, chopped.  I like the hard, hot kind.

¼ lbs.                           Spanish blue cheese

1 tsp.                           clove

½ tsp.                          coriander

½ tsp.                          nutmeg

½ tsp.                          mace

½ tsp.                          paprika

¼ tsp.                          cayenne pepper

Salt                              to taste

Pepper                         to taste

2 tbs.                           mayo

8 “chips”                     bread and butter pickle slices

1                                  bun


1.  Mix the ground pork, Andouille, and blue cheese. 

2.  This is supposed to be a very potent burger.  Some might say too potent.  Therefore, you should make a tester. 

3.  Start mixing in the spices with the meat and cheese mixture a little at a time.  Every time you add a spice, grill or fry a 1 tbs. mini-burger until done.  Taste.  Keep adding spices until you are satisfied.

4.  Once you spices have reached a pitch, sauté you burger until it is cooked through. 

5.  Spread the mayo – there should be a lot – onto the bun.  Then top with the bread and butter chips.  The chips are critical to the dish, don’t skimp.  You need a little bit of sweetness to tame the blue heat of the burger.  Once a super-abundant amount of chips have been placed on the bun, top with the hot burger.  Serve!

Underwater Cockroaches!

In Eating, Lobster on February 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Back in a time before wine, link when I was cooking professionally, I cooked a lot of lobsters.  Once, while winning a tag-team grudge match against 30 lobsters, my partner referred to them as underwater cockroaches.  I know they are one of the most expensive, and therefore sacred food products you can buy, but forever hence I have known them as Underwater Cockroaches. 

 This dish is less a dish and more a reason to make a mess while getting drunk.  Under that aegis use very large plates for each guest, spread out lots of butcher paper, open plenty of wine and plan to get messy!

Wine pairing

Sure, there are lots of white wines you could choose.  But I love surprises.  And a good, complex but not complicated, straight out, spicy Tempranillo does the trick.  The more the merrier. 

Whatever you do don’t choose a wine you have to contemplate.  Choose one that deserves to be pounded and quickly forgotten.  It’s just that kind of party.   


These quantities are per person.  Scale as necessary.

1                                              lobster, alive; male best

1 tbs. + 2 tbs.                          olive oil, and very fresh olive oil

½ cup                                      garbanzo beans

4 cloves                                   garlic, chopped

1 cup                                       vegetable stock

4 tbs.                                       Mayonnaise (aioli)

1 lemon                                   halved, in a pretty shape if you can

1 tbs.                                       Paprika

To taste                                   salt

To taste                                   black pepper


1.  Lifting your lobster up by the thorax turn upside down.  Gently stroke the underside of the thorax where the legs attach.  Stroke heavily.  This will calm the lobster, rather noticeably.    

2.  Once your lobster has mellowed place on cutting board.  A chilled out lobster will not move.   

3.  Heat 1 tbs. of olive oil in a sauté pan under shimmering.    

4.  Place the tip of a large cutting knife against the top of the lobster’s thorax with the blade facing headword.  If lobster is sufficiently mellow this will result only in antenna movement as opposed to general alarm. 

5.  With much vigor and great force plunge the knife through the lobster’s thorax completing the downward motion by severing the head in two.  Very quickly remove the knife and rotate the lobster 180 degrees.  Sever the rest of the body in two by cutting through the tail. 

Calmly admire your place at the top of the food chain.  Flex muscles just a bit. 

6.  With haste place lobster halves shell side down in sauté pan and cook, basting with olive oil, salt and pepper.  It is quite common for recently dead things to wiggle a bit, and your lobster may do this.  Make sure all body parts stay within the sauté pan.  Cook for five minutes, or until done. 

Test doneness by eating a part of the lobster.  If the meat is tasty, moist and firm, you’re done.  If it is translucent you are underdone.  If it is rubbery, you are overdone.

7.  Meanwhile, heat the stock with the garlic, add the beans.  Warm until heated through.

8.  Now, for serving.

9.  Using the largest plates you have, or, say, a cookie sheet with a rim, pour out the stock, beans and garlic.  Pour the extra 2 tbs. olive oil all around beans.  Sprinkle lots of paprika and some salt and pepper on the beans. Mound the mayonnaise in center of dish.

10.  Place both lobster halves on a separate dish, squirt with one lemon half, and place near the beans. 

The idea here is to have lots of fun breaking the cooked lobster out of its shell.  In crowds of people the more wine and the more lobsters the more fun this becomes.  The bean dish is there to catch any lobster scraps (or liquid) and at the end of the meal you essentially end up with an extra dish – lobster cassoulet.  

11.  Breaking the lobster out of its shell, dip the meat into the mayo.  Let the juice and bits of meat fall and collect into the beans below.  Once the lobster is done squirt the rest of the lemon on the beans and plow through the rest of the meal.   

Drink plenty of wine and wear a bib.  Enjoy!

Sometimes Potatoes Get Angry

In Eating, Potato on February 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm

And there is nothing you can do about it. Except open a good Tempranillo.

Wine pairing

A dry sherry works but what you really need is a bold, search modern, search lush Tempranillo to take this over the top.


This is a large “family style” dish.  Half or quarter the recipe as necessary.  Or just eat all the wonderful leftovers!

3 lbs.                                        Fingerling potatoes cut in half lengthwise

½ lbs.                                       Serrano ham, chopped           

6 tbs.                                       olive oil

20 cloves (or to taste)              garlic, approximately 2 heads, roasted & crushed

1 cup                                       crème fraiche

1 tbs. (or to taste)                    hot Spanish paprika

2 tbs. (or to taste)                    smoked paprika

1 tbs. (or to taste)                    piment d’Espelette – this stuff is awesome, use if you can find it.  If you can’t find it, ignore this.

To taste                                   salt

To taste                                   black pepper


1.  Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat.  If you are making the full recipe you may need two sauté pans.  Place the potatoes in the pan.  Sauté until turning golden brown and then turn down the heat.  Cook until done, about 20 minutes longer.  Test by eating a potato.  If you think it’s tasty, it’s done. 

2.  Add the ham. 

3.  Meanwhile, crush the 20 cloves of roasted garlic.  Combine with the sour cream and spices.  If you feel intimidated by the flavor of 20 cloves of garlic here is what you do:

4.  Crush the garlic in one bowl.  Keep the sour cream separate. 

5.  Start mixing the garlic into the sour cream.  When you think you have enough, start adding the various paprikas.   

6.  Once you have got all the paprika you need add more garlic, then the salt and pepper.  Remember, these are called “angry” not “soft” or “generous” or “stupefying with fat-” potatoes, although they might be all those things.

7.  Now that the “dip” or sauce is done you have two options.  Either turn the potatoes out onto a serving tray and top with the sauce or leave the sauce on the side, as something to dip the potatoes in.  Let your whimsy and crockery dictate!


Julia’s Nuts!

In Eating, Nuts on February 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Years ago, cheap while inebriated, buy cialis I accidentally made fun of an employee’s attempt at candied spiced nuts.  After eating all of her proffered nuts and sobering up a bit, I realized I owed her not only an apology but also an answer.  The apology was forthright the answer is / was slow in coming.

 Julia, here is your answer!

For the rest of you:

This recipe takes two forms.  As we like to say at Waterford: there is an easy way, and there is a hard way.  The easy way is super easy and super tasty, it will leave party goers thinking you are creative and inspired as a cook.

The hard way requires quite a bit of skill but done well will be irresistible.  If done well thousands of naked janissaries will genuflect in your name while throwing gherkins at their now irrelevant idols.  But only if you can make it well. 

Serious DIY cooks go ahead; everyone else, be cool and stay easy.  

Wine pairing

The perfect pairing here is Oloroso sherry.  Yes, it’s true.  The nuts’ savory, salty, spiciness perfectly cuts and compliments the nutty, dry, delectable sumptuousness of Oloroso sherry.  Alas, very few of us drink sherry anymore.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find other pairings!

A very nutty, dry, almost oxidized white wine works well.  Old Chardonnay, traditionally styled Spanish wines, or very high oaked domestic Chardonnays tend to fit. 

But beyond these, modern-styled Spanish Tempranillo melds seamlessly with the nuts.  Made in a modern style Tempranillo can take on notes of cream backed by rich fruit and spice notes.  These, along with Tempranillo’s typically fuller body, matches the spiced nuts nicely.


The easy way:

1 jar                             honey roasted mixed nuts

1- 4 tbs.                       chili powder

Salt                              to taste

The hard way: 

3 cups                          water

3 cups                          sugar

3 cups                          mixed roasted nuts

1-4 tbs.                        chili powder

1 cup                           vegetable oil

Salt                              to taste


The easy way:

1.  Open the jar of nuts.  Begin mixing in the chili powder while tasting the nuts.  Stop mixing in the chili powder once the desired taste has been reached.  The mixture should be hot, spicy, sweet, savory, salty, and delicious.  Serve. 

The hard way:

1.  Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pot.  Here is the hard part – caramelize the sugar without burning nor crystalizing. 

Which means:

Cook this mixture until the water is boiled off.  If there is sugar on the side of your pan dip a pastry brush in water and touch the pan just above the sugar.  Using this technique “wash” the extra sugar down the side of the pan.  Do not stick anything else in the sugar water mixture less it will crystalize.

A note: I have caramelized sugar hundreds of times in my life and still have only about a 50% batting average.  If your sugar crystalizes you’re screwed. 

A further note: If you sugar crystalizes, you’ve already got the wine, the nuts, and the spice.  Open the wine, drink with abandon and eventually those nuts will taste good. 

2.  Once the water is gone (the mixture will start to turn beige / light brown) turn the heat to low.  Add the mixture of roasted nuts.  Cook for 10 minutes on low heat while occasionally stirring.   

3.  Using a cheap strainer drain the nuts from the caramel mixture.  This will create a huge mess which is why you are using a cheap strainer instead of a chinoise.  Do this step in a clean sink. 

4.  Immediately turn the strained nuts out onto a cookie sheet.  With boiling hot water you can wash the caramel off your sink and strainer.

5.  Heat the oil in a sauté pan until shimmering (just under smoking).

6.  In batches “deep fry” the caramelized nuts.  This will take 1-3 minutes depending on how big your nuts are.  Remove them from the oil and strain them in your freshly rinsed strainer.  Once again turn out onto a cookie sheet.

7.  Toss the deep fried nuts with the chili powder as in step 1 of the simple method.  Add salt to taste and serve!

Roasted Turnips and Carrots with Apricots

In Carrots, Eating, Turnip on January 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Serving a big platter of vegetables as the first course is a bit unconventional but very exciting!  Waking up your guests to the fact that you aren’t going to serve them yet another gut busting antipasto platter of meat and cheese, viagra it brightens the meal, gets everyone a healthy serving of veggies, and makes attendees come alive to your savoir faire. 

I like serving this on a monumentally sized platter – the dish is gorgeous, with its kaleidoscope of white turnips and orange carrots brilliantly offset by the slightest bit of chives (a French affectation, I know, but I was trained at a French school).  Sometimes I serve it at the table, but other times I serve it straightaway, right with the Prosecco and overture.

This dish is meant to highlight the classic sweet and salty interplay that runs through so much Sicilian cooking.  I do like to keep the vegetables in season however, and at this time of year in Wisconsin that means root vegetables.  Presently, we have beautiful small tangy bitter turnips available at most grocery stores.  The smaller, the sweeter, and the prettier.  The bitter tang is not to be feared – it gives a third element for our tongue to delight in and pulls the dish harmoniously together.  

The recipe looks long but it really is quite simple and has lots of free time for enjoying the wine!

Wine pairing

The wine pairing is not without challenges, the dish being boldly flavored across many elements.  Wines that are sweet, sweeter than the apricots work quite well.  It doesn’t really matter what the grape is, as long as the wine is sweeter.  But most people won’t drink sweet wine with their dinner. 

Which leads nicely to Viognier.  Viognier is so low in acidity and so high in its aromatics that it often works very well with dishes that are mildly sweet or give the impression of being sweet. 

But Viognier is a white wine, and freezing winter nights need fleshy reds to keep the body temperature up.  The boldly flavored Nero d’Avola, from Sicily, is an exquisite pairing.  Nero d’Avola’s taste gravitates between raisins and orange zest, two flavors that marry perfectly into this dish.  And the bigger the wine, the better.  Lamura makes a tasty, table friendly restrained version; Gulfi’s wines are of power, and worth seeking out.   


5                                              small turnips, peeled, quartered (smaller will be sweeter)

10                                            small carrots, peeled, sliced in half

3 tbs.                                       very fresh olive oil

3 branches                               rosemary

2                                              shallots, finely diced

1 cup                                       white wine

6 (half a package)                    dried apricots, cut into julienne

1 tbs.                                       apricot preserves

2 cloves                                   garlic

To taste                                   salt

To taste                                   black pepper

To taste                                   thinly chopped chives


1.  Place the turnips and carrots in the middle of a substantial sheet of tin foil.  Toss with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place the rosemary on top.  Fold over the tin foil and seal together.  Roast the package in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

2.  While the vegetables are roasting heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small sauce pot.  Add the garlic and shallots a sweat for a minute.  Add the dried apricots and wine.  Turn the heat up and reduce the wine to a glaze.  Remove from heat a stir in the apricot preserves.   

3.  Remove the vegetables from the oven and turn out into a large bowl allowing any juices to flow with them.  Remove the rosemary and discard.  Fold the apricot mixture into the vegetables.  Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

4.  Carefully (the vegetables will be very soft) turn the vegetables out onto a large serving platter in a single layer.  Garnish with chives and serve!

Sicilian Hen with Orange, Raisins and Olives

In Chicken, Eating on January 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Ok, click the title is a misnomer. 

When I was a professional cook I used to cook many different game birds – quail, Cornish hen, Poussin; you name it, I cooked it.  But frankly, while all those birds make menus look fancier most don’t taste any better than your plain-old, locally raised, Wisconsin chicken.  And to go further, the smaller sized “restaurant” birds are just damn annoying to eat – too many bones for too little meat!

That being said, this recipe can take you to two different places – a very upscale, individually plated, gorgeous looking chicken dish.  Or it can be a more rustic, homey, family style plated chicken dish.  Your choice – same flavors, just for different occasions. 

I am not a big fan of mixing salty and sweet foods together and that is exactly what this recipe does.  However, I must say, this recipe converts me.  It is utterly delicious – the earthy saline of the oil-cured olives mixing with the roasted, chicken infused raisins; the cooked oranges adding a tart sweetness to the salty chicken, and all of it infused with the wine of Sicily – Nero d’Avola.  It is an experience not to be missed!

This is another one of those recipes that looks difficult because it has a bunch of components but it is actually very simple – really, all you are doing is roasting a chicken!

Wine pairing

Nero d’Avola has a raisin character with a high note of orange zest that perfectly melds into the flavors with the dish.  So much so that you won’t notice how much wine you are actually drinking until the bottle is gone!


1                                              Chicken, whole

3                                              Oranges, two cut in half, then quartered; one left whole

½ cup                                      raisins

½ cup                                      oil cured olives

1 branch                                  rosemary, leaves pulled from the stem

2 tbs.                                       olive oil

½ tbs.                                      sherry vinegar

To taste                                   salt

To taste                                   black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  

2.  Remove any innards remaining in the chicken.  Place the olives, cut oranges, raisins and rosemary in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper (this will allow the salt and pepper to season the inside of the bird).  Stuff the chicken with the mixture.  Truss if you wish.     

3.  On a trusty roasting pan place the chicken breast side down in the oven.  Roast until the skin on the legs is golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. 

4.  Begin making the vinaigrette.  Squeeze the remaining orange into a small bowl.  Add the olive oil and sherry vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper and mix.  Taste, an adjust seasoning as needing – sherry vinegar is quite potent so this recipe calls for a small amount.  Raise the amount until all the flavors of the dish are perky and bright. 

5.  Turn the oven down to 400 degrees and rotate chicken to breast side up.  Continue cooking until skin on breasts is golden brown, approximately 30 minutes more.    

6.  Remove chicken from the oven, but leave oven on.  Let rest on top of the stove for 10 minutes. 

7.  Your goal is juicy, moist, fully cooked chicken.  But because of bird-size and oven temperature variances it is difficult to totally nail down the cooking times.  So instead of guessing let’s check if that bird is fully cooked. 

The first way to check is to stick a thermometer into the meatiest part of the bird’s thigh.  If after resting for 10 minutes you are at 165 degrees, the birds done.  I personally will go quite a bit lower in temperature – 142 is fine for me – but that is not what the health department recommends. 

The second way to check, and my favorite way, is to slice down the side of a breast, near the diaphragm.  Look deep inside the bird.  If the meat is white, it’s done.  If it is pink, just stick the bird back in the oven for five more minutes (remember, we left the oven on).  Re-check as necessary.   

Remember two things: practice makes perfect and never apologize for anything that comes from your kitchen!  

Now, for the plating. 

8.  If plating individually, I highly recommend you also make the recipe for spaghetti squash and faro “salad” that accompanies this dish in its orginal email.  If you have made this recipe, add a small mound of the “salad” to the center of each plate.  Spoon some of the vinaigrette around the mound.  It will break, but that is part of its charm.  Carve off the breasts and legs from the chicken.  Using a large spoon dig out two quartered oranges, 10 raisins, and five olive cured olives from the chicken’s cavity.  These are now soaked with chicken fat.  Don’t resist – eat one, they are wonderful.  In your own carefree yet artsy way place the oranges, olives and raisins on each serving dish.  Slice the breast and leg meat and neatly stack on the “salad”.  Zest a little bit or orange across the top of the chicken and serve!

9.  For large, family style plating you don’t need to worry about the “salad”.  Carve up the chicken as you normally would, leaving the major body parts whole.  Place on a large pre-heated platter.  Garnish with all of the stuffing – the quartered oranges, olives and raisins.  Admire your beautiful work.  Lightly drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and zest an orange across all.  Serve!

“Salad” of Spaghetti Squash, Farro and Dandelion Greens

In Eating, Spaghetti Squash on January 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Farro, see is a delightfully full bodied grain from Southern Italy.  When cooked it has an almost malty sweetness as well as a bit of a crunch.  It makes wonderfully hearty and earthy dishes like this one!  But because of farro’s nature this dish can be prepare in two different ways.    

 First, drugs as a wonderful winter salad this dish is one of those soul-satisfying, cure homey, family delights that make your body feel content and resplendent – despite its mixture of unusual grains and greens. 

Second, as a separate dish it is a vegetarian’s dream – fresh in the winter, hearty, rich, and succulent with enough stomach coating ingredients to fill up even the most unrepentant carnivore. 

The choice is completely yours with this dish.  Bring on more greens; the dish becomes a grain salad. Lower the greens and the dish becomes a tasty replacement for carrots and potatoes!    

Wine pairing

I made this dish to specifically complement Nero d’Avola. But if you’re not feeling all the Sicilian and boldly flavored red bordering on sweet and spicy fruit tones, Shiraz or Zinfandel would do the trick, too.


This version will result in a hearty sized dish.  To make a “salad”, proceed through the recipe as directed until the end.  Then lower the mixture of farro and spaghetti squash while raising the quantity of dandelion greens.

1                                              Spaghetti squash

5                                              “Sicilian” olives, pits removed, juice reserved

¼ cup                                      raisins

5 leaves                                   sage

6 tbs.                                       olive oil

½ cup                                      farro

2 cups                                      stock

½                                             onion, finely chopped

2 cloves                                   garlic

1 bunch                                   dandelion greens, stems chopped, leaves reserved

1 tbs.                                       sherry vinegar

2 tbs.                                       Italian parsley

To taste                                   salt

To taste                                   black pepper 


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

2.  Slice the Spaghetti squash in half.  Remove the seeds and fibrous material surrounding them.  Place cut side up on a sheet pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Brush with olive oil.  Place the cut olives, raisins, sage, and reserved olive “juice” inside the cut squash.  Place in oven and roast until done, about 30 minutes.          

3.  In a sauce pan heat 2 tbs. of the olive oil.  Sweat the olive oil, garlic, and stems from the dandelion greens.  Add the farro and the stock bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until the farro is tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  If the faro isn’t done and the stock is all gone add more.  If the farro is done and there is still too much liquid strain off the liquid.  

4.  Wash and dry the dandelion greens.  Toss with the remaining olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt and pepper.   

Now, for combining all three elements.  This is when you determine if you want a salad or a vegetable / grain dish.

For the salad:

5.  Remove the Spaghetti squash from the oven.  Drain off any excess liquid but reserve all the “stuffing”.  Spaghetti squash is so named because when you take a fork to the flesh it shreds into “spaghetti”.  Shred the squash with a fork.  Toss with the components of the stuffing, taste and re-season if necessary.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  

6.  Allow the faro to cool to room temperature.

7.  Toss about a 1/3 of the farro mixture and a 1/3 of the spaghetti squash mixture into the entire bunch of the dandelion greens.  The greens should remain stiff and bright and make up the body of the dish.  Gently twist together on a serving dish, piling the salad as high as you can.  Sprinkle with whole Italian parsley leaves.  Serve!

For a vegetable / grain dish.

8.  Remove the Spaghetti squash from the oven.  Drain off any excess liquid but reserve all the “stuffing”.  Shred the squash with a fork.  Toss with the components of the stuffing, taste and re-season if necessary.  Do not allow to cool to room temperature.  

9.  Cut the dandelion greens in half.  Chop the Italian parsley fine.  

10.  Toss the hot farro dish with the hot spaghetti squash dish and all of the dandelion greens.  The greens will slightly wilt which is just fine.  Toss with the parsley and serve!

A Good Thanksgiving: Brandborg Pinot Noir

In Drinking, Pinot Noir, Special Offers, Turkey on November 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and your entire family is about to descend! 

You need a wine that can harmonize aunt Bessie’s “special” two-years-in-a-jar cranberry sauce with Grandma’s 7-up and apricot glazed Turkey; uncle Thaddeus’ cigarette ash laced bean casserole with sister in law Mizuko’s miso-glazed carrots.  We’ve got your wine.     

You need a wine that that is soft and smooth enough that even your most tee-totaling relatives will drink it; thus inhibiting creative antagonism about the Patriots versus the Lions, case whether animal rights applies to turkeys, prostate and the moral vicissitudes of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.  We’ve got your wine.   

You need something that’s good enough for you yet cheap enough for the relatives to guzzle.  We’ve got your wine. 

You need a wine to make the Forced Family Fun of Turkey Day more fun and less forced, rx something to spread the day-glow warm buzz of alcohol by 1 pm, something that make’s you less annoyed and uncle Thaddeus less annoying.  We here at Waterford have your wine – Brandborg’s Oregon Pinot Noir!

Some of you out there in Waterfordland have probably had this wine before – Terry and Sue Brandborg are good friends of ours and we have represented this wine since the store opened.  Offering us this outstanding price insures a good Thanksgiving for all!    

Brandborg’s Oregon Pinot offers rich strawberry fruit oriented with softer, silkier and smoother tannins than some of its California Pinot brethren.  It works as a cocktail but also fits right in alongside the turkey, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.  It ameliorates family conflict, spreads social justice, and makes you tipsy – all at the same time.    

It is the perfect match for all your T-day needs!

Brandborg Benchlands Pinot Noir

Suggested List Price:  $19.99

Special price via this email:  $12.99

A fun recipe:

And, nothing remedies dry turkey like scotch!  The GlenDroach scotch deal is still on!

GlenDronach 12 Year Scotch

Suggested List Price:  $56.99

Special price via this email:  $39.99

We will be tasting the Pinot (as well as the Scotch, along with many other things) this Wednesday.  Stop in and give it a try!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Brine Yer Turkey Here

In Eating, Turkey on November 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm

To Brine: to replace water inside a protein with a solution of flavored liquid outside the protein. 

Brining is probably the easiest way to insure your proteins are flavorful, buy no matter how hard you cook them.  This is especially important on Thanksgiving, stuff because most of us cook turkey only once a year, and once a year is not a lot of practice to hit the perfect serving temperature. 

So, to give myself an extra little bit of lee-way, I brine.  No, it doesn’t stop the turkey from being dry if you over cook it.  But it does stop it from being dry and flavorless.

This brine has a bit of a “jerk” flare – but not too much of a jerk flare.  It makes the turkey a touch tangy, a touch sweet, a touch sour, and just a touch bitter.  In other words, it heightens the taste experience via your tongue but leaves the aromatics of the dish intact.  Because of this it can be used in conjunction with almost any other Turkey recipe, no matter if its bacon crusted turkey, sage and parmesan turkey, ancho mojo mole turkey, teriyaki turkey, or plain ole’ turkey and cranberry sauce. 

Wine Pairing

This recipe doesn’t really complete the dish so any wine pairing might be miss-matched.  However, I always find that dry rose works best with Turkey!


 1                                  Turkey

10 cups                        water

1 cup                            rice wine vinegar

1 cup                            sugar

4 tbs.                            salt

10                                bay leaves

10                                juniper berries

10                                cloves

10                                thyme stems

2 tbs.                            mustard seed

2 tbs.                            black pepper corns

2 tbs.                            ginger

5 drops                         bitters


1.  Combine water, rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl.  Stir until dissolved.

2.  Add bay leaves, juniper berries, cloves, thyme stems, mustard seeds, black pepper corns, ginger and bitters to liquid mixture.

3.  Remove turkey from bag.  Place in brine.

4.  Ok, step 3 is not as easy as it sounds.  Here is how I make a 20 lbs. turkey fit in the brine and then in the fridge.  I get a large pot that will hold the turkey partially.  I put a fresh garbage bag (yes, a garbage bag), in the pot.  I put the turkey in the garbage bag.  I then pour the brine on top of the turkey. 

Now its decision time. 

Sometimes your turkey is big, and the brine won’t cover it up.  You can make more brine until the turkey is covered.  But 20 lbs turkey’s covered in brine are heavy.  And big.  And awkward.  And usually result in a turkey-brine catastrophe.

So here is what I do:

Instead of making more brine I rotate my turkey in the brine.  I usually start it breasts up, butt down and then 12 hours later turn it – butt down, breasts up.  Continue rotating until the desired brining time is reached.

5.  Brine turkey to your heart’s content.  I usually go for two days worth of brine time but even just 30 minutes will impart some flavor. 

 6.  Continue on your merry-way cooking the rest of the turkey!

Thanksgiving in Tuscany: Sesti Monteleccio Brunello di Montalcino Rosso

In Drinking, Eating, Potato, Sangiovese, Special Offers on November 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm

From the hamlet of Argiano, drugs near Siena in Tuscany, story there is a panoramic view of the raisin-gold sunlight drenching the hillsides.  It is the kind of place that gives rise to all the romantic visions of Tuscany and Tuscans – their overwhelming generosity, order their love of their land, and their perpetual state of appreciation for food, wine and the fellowship of visitors. 

Giuseppe Sesti is one such Tuscan, and if you knock on his door at Argiano you’ll be welcomed into the old piazza’s garden.  His daughter, Elisa, will invite you to taste their wine – Brunello.  And if you stay a while they will begin cooking – plates of pancetta and sage crusted turkey, chestnuts pureed with black truffles, savory spiced sweet potatoes and cannellini beans in fresh olive oil with orange and rosemary – and you too will fall in love with Tuscany. 

In 1975, when Sesti came to Argiano, Brunello was distinguished as one of the two elder janissaries of Italy.  But it was also dying out.  Only 25 producers remained in the area and many assumed Brunello would become a historical footnote tied to Giuseppe’s friend Biondi-Santi.  Sesti set out to spend the second half of his life (he is actually one of Italy’s most famous astronomers) restoring the ancient vineyards at Argiano. 

His years in Montalcino serve as an indication to the style of wines he and his daughter make.  These are not brash wines attempting to make a splash on the cover of American wine magazines.  They are Tuscan vino di tavola and should be loved with great food and fellowship at a common table.    

Monteleccio is Giuseppe’s bambino Brunello.  It is distinctively Sangiovese Grosso, the one and only grape of Brunello, with its classic aromas of dried cherries, cedar, truffles and tobacco.  The palate is concentrated but has the assertive sternness of all good Brunello, with its arenaceous, palate cleansing tannins.  The finish is lengthy; with notes of chocolate, mocha and reglisse emerging as the wine reveals itself.  It is the perfect wine for Thanksgiving – if you are willing to share in the Tuscan spirit with Giuseppe and Elisa. 

Giuseppe’s bella figlia is the Sesti Brunello (which is made by his daughter).  It is unyieldingly dense, needing the love of time in your cellar.  Here they follow in the path of their great friend Biondi-Santi.  You buy this wine now only to enjoy it with the next generation.        

These wines are why Giuseppe Sesti loves Argiano, and this Thanksgiving – with a little help from his wine, our recipes, and your friends – you too will fall in love with Argiano.  Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Tuscan style – by drinking Sesti’s Monteleccio Brunello di Montalcino Rosso.

2008 Sesti “Monteleccio”

Brunello di Montalcino Rosso

Suggested List Price:  $25.99

Special price via this email:  $19.99

2004 Sesti Brunello 

Suggested List Price:  $89.99

Special price via this email:  $74.99

The recipes for your Tuscan Thanksgiving:

Pancetta and sage crusted turkey

Tuscan mashed potatoes

Pureed chestnuts with black truffles

Roasted savory spiced sweet potatoes

Cannellini beans in fresh olive oil with orange and rosemary

Seared Brussels sprouts with garlic and parmesan

We will taste this wine on Friday afternoon and Saturday all day (unless we sell out of it!)  Stop in and give it a try!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Sitting in at the editing desk is the greatly appreciated Tim Hansen – where would we be without him?

Tuscan mashed potatoes

In Eating, Potato on November 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I used to call these potatoes “charred onion and parmesan mashed potatoes” and nobody would touch them.  Then, clinic one day I served them with one of my favorite meals – grilled 2” thick rib eye steak with Barolo.  I made these potatoes to go along side and changed the name.  Suddenly, with the name change, everyone loved ‘em!  While there is nothing inherently Tuscan about these potatoes I am not against a little marketing to make the meal a success!

Wine pairing

This really goes with just about anything.  It is, of course, very creamy in texture and that may be the most important thing to think about.  Wines with a lot of fat – say, rich, heavy Chardonnay – will make this dish even more unctuous.  Wines with a lot of muscle – Brunello – with cut right through the dish. 


This is another “small” recipe, so if you are serving this for, say, Thanksgiving, be prepared to scale it up via doubling the ingredients.

1 ½  lbs.                                   Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped

1                                              large yellow onion, cut into ¼” thick rounds

½ cup                                       buttermilk

½ cup                                       sour cream

2 tbs.                                        butter

3 oz.                                         Parmesan, grated

1/6 oz. (half a package)            chives

To taste                                    salt

To taste                                    black pepper


1.  Place the potatoes in 4 quarts of cold water.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer the potatoes until tender.  

2.  While the potatoes are cooking deal with the onions.  Salt and pepper the onions on both sides.  If you have a grill place the onions on a low heat side.  The goal is the blacken them on the outside while making them creamy on the inside.  Usually I do this by essentially “slow roasting” them on the grill.  If you do not have a grill going heat a sauté pan under high heat.  Place 1 tbs. of oil in the pan.  Sautee each onion round until seared on the outside (golden brown) and creamy on the inside.  If you don’t know at what point this occurs just eat a partially cooked onion to test yourself.  However you do the onion, once it is done chop it finely and reserve.        

3.  Drain the potatoes and allow them to “steam” a bit in the strainer.  Remove the butter milk, sour cream, butter and parmesan

4.  Place the butter, half the sour cream and half the parmesan into a food mill.  Usually I use the pot I boiled the potatoes in to hold the finished puree.  Cover with the potatoes.  Place the rest of the sour cream and parmesan on top of the potatoes.  Season liberally with salt and black pepper.  Pass the combination through the food mill.

5.  Add the finely chopped onion to the puree.  Check the puree’s consistency and savory.  Usually I have to add more salt at this point and certainly some of the buttermilk.  Begin adding the buttermilk in ¼ cup increments stirring only lightly (heavy stirring will make the potatoes gummy) until your desired consistency is reached.  Sprinkle with chives and serve! 

At this point, if you haven’t died of heart failure, you may notice that these potatoes have come to resemble something quite common – Doritos Cool Ranch Potato Chips.  I have an inexplicably deep appreciation for Doritos Cool Ranch Chips and while I can honestly say I have no idea how I arrived at this flavor with these potatoes, I don’t regret it at all.

Seared Brussels sprouts with garlic and parmesan

In Brussels Sprouts, Eating on November 9, 2010 at 1:55 am

If you can get away with it this makes a great lower calorie Thanksgiving side dish.  Most people complain but only until they taste it – and then the complaining stops and the second helpings begin! 

Wine pairing

Really, salve the perfect pairing here is Gruner Veltliner.  And if you can get away with serving a Veltliner at Thanksgiving god bless you – it goes incredibly well with every traditional dish at the table! 

But my inspiration for this dish was really Italy and while a red like Brunello or Dolcetto might pair nicely it was Italian white wine that I think would go best.  Try Bucci’s Verdicchio, try Valentini’s Trebbiano (if you can find it), Jerman’s Pinot Grigio or even, for a blast, Elena Walch’s Gewurztraminer.


16 oz (one package)                 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 tbs.                                        olive oil

8 cloves                                    garlic, roughly chopped

1 bottle                                     Kabinett Riesling

2 cups (approximately)             vegetable stock

1 oz (or to taste)                       Parmesan, grated

To taste                                    salt

To taste                                    black pepper


1.   Add the oil to an oven safe sauté pan.  Heat on high.  

2.  When hot place the Brussels sprouts cut side down in the pan.  The goal is to blacken them, “sear them” a little bit.  Usually this takes about 2 -3 minutes.  You can always turn one over to check if you want.  Brussels sprouts are not steak, they will forgive you indiscretions. 

3.  Add a cup of Riesling to the pan.  It will bubble up so be cautious.  Add the garlic to the pan after the Riesling.  Do not let the garlic burn as it will taste bitter.  Turn the heat to medium. 

4.  Turn on your oven’s broiler.

5.  Place the remaining Riesling (or all that will fit) in a glass.  Drink deeply. 

6.  Check the Brussels sprouts – if they are tender turn off the heat.  If they are not tender add stock to the pan, 1 cup at a time (leaving on the heat).  When that stock is absorbed check them again.  Repeat steps 5 & 6 until Brussels sprouts are tender.

7.  When tender turn off the heat.  Top the Brussels sprouts with the parmesan and broil until cheese begins to melt.  Remove from oven.  If your pan is fancy enough go ahead and serve them right out of the pan.  Otherwise, place them in a dish and serve!

Cannellini beans poached in olive oil with orange, rosemary and sausage

In Beans, Eating on November 9, 2010 at 1:50 am

It’s so easy, order yet so good.

Wine pairing

This dish can go with almost anything.  Top the beans with some roasted venison and it’s perfect with Syrah.  Add a roasted turkey (with pancetta and sage, click of course) and Brunello is the ultimate choice.  Add a seared piece of halibut and chardonnay does wonders.  Add more oranges, olives and dates and Viognier is the answer.  It’s handy and user friendly and takes about two minutes to make. 


The quantities here might be a bit low – my wife and I can usually go through one recipe in the course of a meal.  It scales easily though, just double all the quantities!

¼ lbs.                                       sweet Italian sausage, chopped

15 oz (1 can)                           cannellini beans, (yes I use canned beans – sorry!)  

3 tbs.                                        very fresh olive oil

1                                              orange, zested and juice squeezed out

2 branches                                rosemary, chopped

To taste                                    salt

To taste                                    black pepper 


1.  Cook the sausage in a pan.  Remove the sausage from the sauté pan and reserve.  Drain the fat out of the pan. 

2.  Over medium heat warm the olive oil.  I used to actually use twice this amount of olive oil (hence the title – poached) but nowadays I figure three tablespoons is enough.  Add the rosemary to the pan.

3.  Drain and rinse the beans under cold water.  I do use canned beans but feel free to use fresh or dried if you have the time – I would if I could!  Add the beans to the heated olive oil.  Warm the beans through.  Add back in the sausage 

4.  Just before serving squeeze the orange juice into the pan.  Heat all the way through.  Add the zest and serve (but don’t forget to salt and pepper!)

Pancetta and sage crusted turkey

In Eating, Turkey on November 9, 2010 at 1:46 am

Not for the faint of heart this recipe is decidedly high calorie.  But at Thanksgiving – the only time most of us eat turkey – is there any real chance of avoiding the calories?

I specifically created this dish for Sesti Monteleccio, cheap the gamey, sweet, sudoric notes of the pancetta; the earthy, loamy and slightly minty twinge of the sage combining with the high toned arenaceous cherry of the Montalcino.  The turkey (as long as it’s not over cooked) giving a sweet juiciness to the palate cleansing tannins of the Sesti. 

Wine pairing 

I think Brunello makes this dish come alive.  I could see Sangiovese making do, but Barolo or Barbaresco would probably be my second choice.  Traditionally styled Barbera’s would fit, and “claret” Zinfandels, like Ridge Geyserville or Nalle would brighten the fruit tones.   


1 – 20 lb.                                 Turkey, defrosted if from frozen

2 lbs.                                        Pancetta (yes two pounds), sliced

2 packages (2/3 oz)               sage, chopped

4 heads                                    garlic

3                                              lemons, quartered

4                                              onions, quartered

To taste                                    salt

To taste                                    black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Remove the turkey from the fridge.

2.  Using your hands work them under the turkey’s skin, beginning at the back of the breast.  Work slowly so as not to tear the skin.  If you do tear the skin don’t worry – this turkey is still going to taste good.  Work your hands as far up the turkey breast as possible, lifting the skin slightly as you go. Rotating the turkey and do the same procedure working from the neck down, gently lifting up the skin as you go. 

3.  Place the sage in a bowl.  Pick up one piece of pancetta and “dip” it into the sage.  Quite a bit of sage should stick the piece.  If it is heavily coated brush some off – you want enough sage on each piece to evenly season the bird.  Lifting up the turkey’s skin move the pancetta onto the middle of the bird’s breast, again, underneath the skin.  Continue with a second piece placing it slightly overlapping position on the breast.  Continue until both breasts are covered with pancetta.  Salt and pepper the breasts.

4.  Gently open up the turkey’s cavity (remove the innards if there are any) and salt and pepper the inside of the bird.  Stuff the bird with all the remaining pancetta, sage, lemons, garlic and onions.  Gently rotate the bird to a roasting pan, breasts facing down. 

5.  Roast the turkey until the legs are golden brown.  Estimate what golden brown is (probably two hours).  Go with your instincts – the turkey is a very forgiving bird. 

6.  Using a pair of oven mitts (we here at Waterford actually only ever use pink colored dish washing gloves to complete this step, but to each their own), pull the turkey out of the oven.  Rotate the turkey breast side up.  Place it back in the oven.

7.  Roast the turkey until the breasts are golden brown.  Probably another hour and a half.  Remove the turkey from the oven and check its temperature with a thermometer by inserting into the meat between the leg and thigh.  If it reads 145 you are done.  If lower stick the turkey back in.  If higher you are definitely done – plan on making a sauce (see note just below). 

8.  Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes at least.  Carve and serve!

The note:

You don’t want to serve a turkey straight out of the oven.  You need to let it rest, for a couple of reasons. 

Turkeys of this magnitude will climb at least 10 degrees after being removed from the oven.  Therefore, if you “oven” cook this turkey all the way to 165 degrees it will be 180 by the time it hits the table – overcooked and dry.  By removing the turkey from the oven “early” you essentially finish the cooking internally, allowing the turkey’s juices to flow back into the meat – yielding a more succulent turkey.         

The ultimate goal in turkey cookery is roughly 165 degrees and it really doesn’t matter how you achieve that – you don’t need to hit a bull’s eye.  If you pull the turkey out, let it sit 20 minutes and it hasn’t hit 165, just put it back in the oven.  If you pull the turkey out, it hits 165, and then starts to cool, put it back in the oven to warm when the guest are about to sit down at the table.  The latter is my preferred method of cooking and always makes the meal that much easier.  Enjoy!

Roasted savory-spiced sweet potatoes

In Eating, Sweet Potatoes on November 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Bringing an enormous change in vegetables fall in Wisconsin can be both a blessing and a curse.  Finally coming into season is a whole new set of food-stuffs, rx and that delectable variation is a blessing to us gourmands.  But out going are all the beauties of summer – the jovially over ripe-to-bursting tomatoes, patient the sappy sunshine sweetness of local corn, the tender, final leaves of bitter greens – not to be seen again for almost a whole year. 

The most prominent of Wisconsin’s coming comestibles is our plethora of root vegetables.  And with these root vegetables out comes my food mill.  Yes, that’s right, I love to puree.

My love of puree may come from being trained at a French cooking school or it may be a fleeting memory of my days as a toddler.  Whatever the case may be I often can’t stop myself – potatoes, butternut squash, chestnuts, eggplant, fava beans – you name it and I am ready to turn it into mush. 

The problem with French-styled-mush (a.k.a. puree) is the calories.  To obtain the silky, savory yet succulent consistency I so desire requires butter and cream, and usually massive amounts of it. 

Like some chefs I could resort to all sorts of chicanery to cut the butter and cream thereby reducing calories.  But that makes me feel like a fake and who wants to eat mock puree from a calorie charlatan?

The answer is to change the method – yes, give up my beloved puree – in favor of chiseling down my pulchritudinous, beauteous and slightly robust figure!  And roasting those potatoes is just the trick! 

Wine pairing

Although at first taste chili powder may not imply a French wine I just couldn’t help myself.  The peppery pungency of the spices, the funky herb not of the sage, the touch of fruit acrid-ness from the olive oil – I reached for (and imbibed) the Les Egreves Syrah from Christine Pochon.  The black pepper of the syrah, the loam notes from the hint of Merlot blended in, and the quick, bright French-styled acid finish brought out the best in both food and wine!


Serves two people as a side course (the recipe is easily scaled to larger portions) and is approximately 200 calories per person.

10 oz (approximately 2)            sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼” thick wheels

1 tbs.                                        chili powder

5 cloves                                    garlic, chopped fine

1 tbs.                                        olive oil

5 leaves                                    sage, julienned

to taste                                     salt

to taste                                     black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2.  Place cut sweet potatoes in a bowl, toss with chili powder, then garlic.  Toss continuously while pouring on olive oil to ensure an even distribution.  Then finish with the sage, salt and black pepper. 

3.  Place sweet potato mixture on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle.  Serve!

Flavor Building & Variations

1.  Render one slice of pancetta per sweet potato in the pre-heated 350 degree oven.  Drain off fat, chop fine.  Just before serving sprinkle pancetta onto sweet potatoes.  Adds about 200 calories per person but really brings out the meaty boldness of the Les Engreves Syrah. 

2.  To complete the meal roast a chicken and sauté some spinach with garlic in olive oil.  While the chicken is roasted complete the sweet potato recipe.  Plate all together and serve! 

3.  Remove the sage from the recipe and replace with the zest of one lime per sweet potato.  Continue with recipe as noted.  Just before serving squeeze the juice of a lime onto the sweet potatoes. 

With this zippy addition I would recommend switching to Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling.  Bright and racy in its youth (it is a totally dry wine) it brings out the limey and spice notes of the dish.  If you happen to have an older vintage the textural weight pulls up some of the creamy consistency of the sweet potatoes.  While any dry Australian Riesling will do the trick, Grosset’s will send you over the top!

4.  This works especially well with variation three, but can be used for any of them. 

Sautee a 6 oz piece of Halibut in olive oil with each portion of the sweet potatoes.  When finished plate on top and serve!

Pureed Chestnuts with Black Truffles

In Chestnuts, Eating on November 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

A splendid treat for Thanksgiving (or really any fall day), seek this magical dish, clinic despite its luxurious texture, ailment is actually not all that high in calories.  It’s not low, low cal but ain’t a gut buster either!  And it is delicious.  It fills you up easily without leaving you longing to eat more.    

I have a tendency to over salt this dish.  Chestnuts, especially in combination with butter, tend towards sweetness.  I enjoy savory and sour tastes more, so with this dish I tend to keep adding salt until it dominates the natural sweetness.  So, lesson learned – know your palate and be cautious with the salt on this one.

Wine pairing

I once made a grown man cry by paring this dish with Amarone.  Amarone gives you “rich on rich” sensation but here it really works.  The balsamic and fig notes of the Amarone seamlessly compliment the rich, truffly, sweet notes of the dish.  While my personal preference is to back off the scales a little bit and serve a Ripasso, most of my dinner companions are much more excited by the magnitude of the former.  I tend to pour Bussola (why not go HUGE if you are going to go big) but Mazzi is more to my personal taste.   

In the opposite direction, Brunello lights up this dish in a completely different way.  Brunello gives a contrasting spirit, a levity and liveliness to the combination.  In this case the more traditionally styled the Brunello the better – Constanti, Sesti and, if you have the means, Soldera Casse Basse are enlivening pairings.

Syrah works well too, but make it a domestic Syrah.  A little bit more fruit heft and weight is desirable.  Northern Rhones alongside this dish’s sweetness come across as tart and thin.


Serves four people as a side course at about 210 calories.  But much here depends upon the pre-packaged goods – chestnuts, stock and truffle puree.  For those of you hard core kitchen folk this recipe is far better by starting with whole chestnuts, homemade stock, and whole truffles but I just don’t have the patience, especially for Thanksgiving dinner!  But if you have got the time then go ahead!  Alter at will.

15 oz (1 large jar)                     whole roasted and peeled chestnuts

16 oz (half of a box)                 vegetable stock

2 oz                                          dry sherry

4 leaves                                    bay leaves

2 tbs.                                        butter

3.2 oz (1 jar)                            truffle puree

To taste                                    salt

To taste                                    black pepper


1.  Place chestnuts, stock, sherry and bay leaves in a stock pot.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes or until chestnuts are heated through and soft.

2.  Place the butter in a food mill.  Using a slotted spoon transfer the chestnuts (and chestnuts only – leave the bay leaves behind) to said food mill.  Reserve the liquid.  You can transfer them to a food processer and proceed with the rest of the directions but I prefer the texture a food mill provides.  Add the jar of truffle puree to the food mill.  Puree the chestnut / butter / truffle mixture through the food mill.      

3.  Once fully processed scrape the bottom of the food mill free of chestnuts.  Check the consistency of the puree.  Usually it is quite stiff.  Add salt and black pepper to taste. Begin adding the cooking liquid into the puree checking every ¼ cup of liquid.  I like a fairly thick puree, you may prefer yours looser.  There is no correct answer – just keep tasting and checking until you are satisfied.  Serve!