"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Herb-Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib Roast - A Holiday Feast!

My favorite holiday is Christmas.  Growing up in Haiti, Christmas to our family was about the "3 Fs" - Faith, Family, and Food.  Even being here - thousands of miles away, and now having children of my own, Christmas still means the same thing to me as it did when I was growing up.

This Christmas is no different.  On Christmas Eve, we all went to mass.  My daughter sang with her school choir (I was so proud of her).  On Christmas morning, I was so overjoyed watching the children's faces when they ran upstairs to the fireplace and saw that Santa had eaten the cookies, drank the milk, and the reindeer had eaten the carrots and drank the water the kids had left for them on Christmas Eve night.  Then, they reached into their stockings to see what Santa had left for them. The purity of their innocence brought tears of joy to my eyes.

For Christmas dinner, I wanted to make something special for my family.  I made this amazing and delicious herb-and-horseradish-crusted Beef Prime Rib Roast, roasted with red onions and root vegetables (a recipe that is inspired by a dish made by Tyler Florence from the Food Network). I served the Roast with pecan-crusted mashed sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and a green salad with my own homemade balsamic vinegar dressing.

You may think that a prime rib roast may be overwhelming or expensive.  Actually, it is fairly simple to make.  And, if you buy it at Costco, the USDA Choice cut (the second best cut of beef, with Prime being the first) is about $6 per pound.

For dessert, I made this delicious apple and maple syrup bread pudding (courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine, January 2010) [http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Apple-and-Maple-Bread-Pudding-356873].  I modified this slightly.  Bon Appetit recommends using 2 Tablespoons of apple brandy.  Well, a bottle of Apple Brandy was about $25.  I couldn't justify buying a whole bottle.  So, I just used regular brandy that I had in my pantry.  Doesn't the picture alone make you want to try it?

As for the wine, we tried two special bottles of wine.  One was a bottle of Portalupi Pinot Noir (Russian River, Sonoma, CA).  One of my dearest and closest friends, Tara -- whom I met in College at UC Berkeley years ago -- was visiting from New York for the holidays, and gave us this bottle of wine as a Christmas present.

This Pinot is pure sophistication!   The winemakers describe it perfectly when they say: "Aromas of strawberry/rhubarb mingle with allspice and tea. Flavors of milk chocolate covered cherries along with strawberry/vanilla cream intertwine with intriguing truffle-like nuances. The body is medium weight yet expansively full across the palate. The finish, clean, with lingering call for ..... MORE!!!"  I have never tasted a Pinot this well-structured and elegant. 

Tara, Patrick, and I have made so many wonderful memories when we lived in Berkeley, especially those that revolve around cooking dinners together and experimenting with different types of wine until we found some that we really liked. It was so wonderful to share Christmas dinner with you, Tara.  We can't wait until you move back to the Bay Area so we can continue our dinner parties and sharing more wines together. We've missed you!

The other bottle was Joel Gott "815" Cabernet Souvignon (Oakville, CA 2006) that I bought at Safeway for $13.  This Cabernet was really good with the roast. It is very elegant, well-balanced and simply enjoyable.  It has a nice, deep ruby red color, and evokes aromas of ripened fresh berries, with a hint of mocha.  Its flavors are structured, reflecting tastes of blackberries, mocha, a hint of vanilla and mild peppercorns.  On the palate, it is very silky, smooth, with soft tannins and a nice finish.  What does the "815" stand for?  The winemakers' homepage says that it commemorates the birth of their first child, who was born on August 15, 2003 [http://www.gottwines.com/wines/CA_CS/2006/06CACS.htm].  This statement from the winemakers so perfectly captures the essence of my blog: "Why 815? During the 2003 harvest our first child was born. The 815 moniker is our way of commemorating Lucy's birth on August 15th. At four years old, each continue to thrive and evolve reminding us of the importance of celebrating family and enjoying life."

For the "decor", my very artistic and stylish daughter helped me set the table.  She did a fabulous job writing the place cards, putting the napkins in the napkin rings and setting the knives and forks.  [She loves to help set the table.]

I hope next time you and your family are celebrating something special (or maybe next time you want to make something special for your family to enjoy), you will try these recipes and these wines.  And, if you do, please do write a comment and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Happy Holidays!


1 bone-in prime rib beef roast (3 ribs, about 6 pounds)
1/2 cup of combined fresh Italian Parsley, Thyme, and Rosemary (finely chopped)
5 cloves of garlic (crushed or finely minced)
1/2 cup of Prepared Horseradish
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tablespoons
About 2 Tablespoons of Kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon of butter
3 Carrots
2 Parsnips (or any other root vegetables you like similar to Parsnips) (peeled and sliced length-wise in 1/4
2 Red onions (peeled and cut cross-wise in 1/2)
4 Purple potatoes (you can use red, or Yukon gold potatoes)
1 whole head of garlic (cut crosswise in 1/2)

1 cup of Beef stock (or broth)
1/2 cup of good red wine (use from the bottle you about to drink with the roast)
1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Take the Roast out of the refrigerator and let it stand for about 1 hour before cooking.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Mix together the herbs, garlic, horseradish, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Butter the roast to keep in the moisture.  Season the roast generously with about 1 Tablespoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Rub the herb mixture all over the roast.  Place the roast (bone side down) on a roasting pan.

Season the vegetables with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix them all together to coat the seasoning.  Arrange the vegetables, except for the potatoes around the roast in the pan (you will add the potatoes during the last 30 minutes of cooking).

Place the roasting pan in the oven.  Cook at the 450-degree for 15 minutes. (Rule of thumb: No matter what size of roast you have, it's important to cook it at 450 degrees for the first 15 minutes.)  Then, reduce the heat to 325 degrees and roast to your desired temperature/doneness, which is between 1 1/2 hour to 2 hours, depending on how you like your meat done (make sure you baste the roast every 1/2 hour).  Here is a great website that has suggestions for cooking prime rib roast and how to tell when it is done:  http://www.primesteakhouses.com/how-to-cook-prime-rib.html. 
According to this website, rare meats measure in at 120° to 125° with a bright red center that grows slightly pinkish towards the exterior. Medium rare meats measure between 130° to 135° and are characterized by their extremely pink center portion that grows brown towards the exterior. Medium meats have a light pink center, brown outer portions and readings of about 140° to 145°. Medium well is not pink at all and is achieved at 150° to 155°. Well done is reached at 160° and above and is characterized by a uniform brown color.  Remember: when the meat is done, pull it out of the oven, cover it with a foil, and let it sit for about 20 minutes.  It will continue to cook up to about 10 degrees.

When you are ready to make the gravy, move the roast and vegetables from the pan onto a platter, and cover the roast with the foil.  Remove some of the top grease from the pan, but leave the browning bits on the bottom of the pan.  Turn on the stove to medium-low heat.  Add the wine to de-glaze the pan.  Stir in about 1 teaspoon of the broth in the flour to liquify the flour.  Pour it into the pan.  Then, pour the rest of the stock into the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let it simmer until the sauce is slightly thicker (not too thick).  Pour the gravy into a gravy bowl, and serve with the roast after you carve the slices.  Enjoy!

4 Large sweet potatoes (or yams)
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese (about 1 small container)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 cup of chopped candied pecans (Trader Joe's has some that are delicious)
1/2 Tablespoon of unsalted butter

Cooking Instructions
Grease a baking dish with the butter on all sides.  Bake the sweet potatoes, with skin and wrapped in foil, while the roast is cooking for about 45 minutes (or until soft).  Remove the potatoes from the oven, and let them stand for 30 minutes (or until cooled).  Peel the potatoes, and mash them.  Stir in the mascarpone cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Pour mashed potatoes in the greased baking dish.  Top it with the pecans.  Bake for about 1/2 hour, and remove from the oven.  When the roast is out of the oven, turn on the broiler to medium.  Broil the top of the sweet potatoes until the pecans have a nice golden brown color (about 3 minutes; watch out so you don't burn the pecans).  Serve the potatoes with the roast.

About 1 pound of brussels sprouts (washed) 
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil 
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Steam the brussels sprouts for about 5 minutes (just until they are softened up a bit, but still firm).  Place the steamed brussels sprouts in a shallow baking dish.  Season them with salt and pepper, and the olive oil.  Mix them so they can coat with the seasoning.  Bake them in the oven (with the roast in) for about 30 minutes or until they have some nice grill/golden color, and are soft when you insert a fork in them.

APPLE AND MAPLE BREAD PUDDING (Bon Appetit, Jan. 2010, as modified)
6 large eggs
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons apple brandy [NOTE: I used plain Brandy to save $$, and it was still delicious]
1 1-pound loaf pain rustique, all crust trimmed, bread cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (6 1/2 to 7 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 5), peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices (about 7 cups)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup plus additional for brushing (preferably Grade B)
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
Cooking Instructions

For custard:
Whisk eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt in large bowl. Add milk, cream, and brandy and whisk until well blended. Add bread cubes and press to submerge into custard. Let soak at least 30 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread cubes to submerge.
For apples:
Meanwhile, position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 9x5-inch glass or ceramic loaf pan with at least 3-inch-high sides. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple slices and sauté until deep golden and beginning to soften, stirring and turning apple slices frequently, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup maple syrup, then brown sugar. Simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens to syrup, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Mix half of apple slices into bread custard mixture. Transfer bread pudding mixture to prepared pan. Arrange remaining apple slices atop bread pudding in 2 lengthwise rows. Spoon any remaining syrup from skillet over apple slices. Place loaf pan on rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills during baking).

Bake bread pudding until puffed and cracked on top, apples are deep brown, and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pudding registers 170°F to 180°F, about 1 hour 30 minutes (pudding will rise high above top of pan). Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature 45 minutes to 1 hour (pudding will fall). Brush apples on top of pudding with additional maple syrup. Spoon pudding into bowls and serve warm or at room temperature.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Pesto Chicken w/Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Corn and Petite Sirah

Okay, I know it's been a while since I have written up something. You know, the holidays are a little crazy.  So, tonight I made one of the easiest, simplest, and most delicious dinners ever: Trader Joe's Pesto Genovese (basil-based) Chicken Breast (from the fresh meat section); roasted Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Red Potatoes; and Roasted Fresh Sweet Corns with Onions and Bell Peppers.  And, as a wine pairing suggestion, we tried a glass of the 2006 Concannon Petite Sirah Limited Release.  As a special treat: I made these yummy chocolate chip cookies, recipes are courtesy of one of my clients ("Mary").  Check out the Recipes below.

Pesto Chicken
A package of Trader Joe's pre-marinated Pesto Genovese Chicken Breasts [you can find it in the fresh chicken section]. 
2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Cooking Instructions
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick, oven-proof sautee pan. Sautee the chicken breasts for about 3 minutes per side (or until they have a nice golden brown color).  Then, place the whole pan in a 350-degree oven, and cook a little longer for about 5 minutes (until the chicken has no pink when cut through; make sure you don't overcook it). That's it!

Roasted "Teeny Tiny" Red Potatoes
1 package of Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Red Potatoes (which can be found in the produce section).
1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Cooking Instructions
Rinse the potatoes under cold water, dry them out with a paper towel, place them in a cookie sheet, season them with salt and pepper, and the Italian seasoning.  Then, I drizzled the extra virgin olive oil on them, and mix them well.  Place them in a 375-degree oven and cook them for about 20 minutes or until they are all tender, but still whole.

Roasted Sweet Corns and Bell Peppers
4 corns on the cob (Trader Joe's has a package of 4 in the salad section)
1/2 each of a red, orange, and yellow bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Cooking Instructions
Remove the kernels from the cob, using a knife while the cob is standing upright in a bowl.  Slice and dice the bell peppers about the same size as the corn kernels.  Dice the red onion about the same size of the kernels.  Place the corn kernels, bell peppers and onions in a baking dish or sheet.  Season the corn mixture with salt and pepper, and the Italian seasoning.  Then, drizzle the corn mixture with the extra virgin olive oil.  Mix everything well.  Then, place the corn in a 375-degree oven, and bake for about 20 minutes.

[NOTE: This is one of my favorite side dishes.  It's easy, delicious, and good for you.]

2006 Concannon Petite Sirah-Limited Release (Livermore, CA)

This wine is a surprisingly enjoyable and versatile wines for a very reasonable price (on sale at Safeway for $6, $14 regular price).  Petite Sirah is not a wine that I typically buy and drink by itself. Usually, it's part of a blend.  But, tonight I wanted to try something different -- branch out a bit.  Well, I am glad I did. 

This Petite Sirah is a full-bodied, intensely flavorful wine.  It has deep ruby red color and inviting aromas of ripe and scrumptious berries, smooth and toasty oak and a hint of spice.  Even at the first sip, it leaves on your palate flavors of delicious berries, oak, and vanilla.  For this price, the wine is surprisingly well-balanced, leaving a long-lasting and finish on the palate.

One of the reasons I bought this wine was the description on the label.  It reads (partly): "Concannon is the world's first winery to bottle Petite Sirah, and has been doing so for over 40 years.  This Limited Release Petite Sirah is the essence of Concannon, displaying fantastic depth and character.  It is full-bodied, rich with cherry flavors and has a hint of toasty oak for a smooth, silky finish.  Enjoy your Limited Release Petite Sirah with dishes like filet mignon or your favorite lamb dishes."

Give it a try and write a comment to let me know what you think.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
Finally, for dessert.  My daughter and I made these chocolate chip and walnut cookies.  I got the recipe from one of my clients ("Mary"), which she got from her friend "Elicia."  Here is the recipe, as given to me by Mary and modified slightly by me.  Give them a try. . . they are to die for! 

Cream Together [use an electric mixer if you have one)]
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 Cup of brown sugar
3/4 Cup of granulated sugar

2 eggs
2 teaspoon of vanilla

Sift together and then add to the wet ingredients:
3/4 Cup of cocoa powder (Mary uses dutch processed cocoa, but I just used Hershey's from my pantry)
1 3/4 Cup of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Then mix in:
1 Cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Cup of white chocolate chips
1 Cup of milk chocolate chips and
1 1/2 Cup of chopped nuts [I used walnuts]

Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet [make sure they won't touch when they bake].  Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes.  When done, remove the cookie sheet from the oven, let the cookies stand for about 1 minute.  Then, remove them from the cookie sheet, and place them on a rack for cooling.  Enjoy!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baked Turkey Cutlet w/Spinach Fettucine: A Healthy and Delicious Meal in Under 45 Minutes

Do you normally only think of Turkey on Thanksgiving day?  Well, here's a recipe for an amazingly easy, delicious, and healthy turkey meal that you can make for your family (or your special someone) throughout the year.  The ingredients are relatively simple (most are things you have already in your refrigerator and/or pantry, the rest you will find at your local grocery store).

Baked Turkey Cutlets
1 package of Turkey cutlets (about 6 pieces) [I bought mine at Trader Joe's in the fresh meat isle]
1 cup of Italian-style bread crumbs
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of paprika for flavor (if you have it; if not don't worry)
1/2 cup of parmasan cheese
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 package of spinach fettucine (I used a dried package I got from Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Cooking Instructions
As you prepare the ingredients, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and boil a pot of water for the pasta.

Season the turkey cutlets with some salt and pepper.  Pour the buttermilk in a shallow bowl.  Season the buttermilk also with some salt and pepper, and the paprika, if using.  Mix the bread crumbs with the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese in another shallow bowl or dish.

Dip the cutlets in the buttermilk to get them slightly wet on all sides (shaking off any excess milk).  Then, coat the cutlets with the bread crumb mixture, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick sautee pan over medium heat.  Sautee the cutlets until they are slightly brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side).  Place the browned cutlets in a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake in the oven (uncovered) for about 10 minutes (or until cooked through - turkey should be white, not pink).  Remove from heat when cooked, and place in a platter.  Cover it with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In the meantime, boil the pasta according to the package instructions.  Drain the pasta, toss with the olive oil,
parsley, and the Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta.  Serve the pasta alongside the Turkey cutlets.  For some vegetables, serve it with a side green or ceasar salad.

Wine Suggestion
An absolutely delicious wine that I would recommend with this dish is Toasted Head "Untamed Red" 2007 (Woodbridge, CA).  This wine is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petit Sirah.  I bought this wine on sale at Safeway for $10 (it's usually $15).  It was one of those wines that I bought just to try it out because the blend of grapes and the description sounded very inviting.  The description on the label states: "Uninhibited, even slightly unruly, this signature blend combines rich juicy berry notes, a touch of spice and a commending backbone.  Ignite your free spirit!"  The label features a bear breathing fire through its mouth.  Well, the wine bottle looked fun.

When Patrick and I tried this wine, we instantly loved it.  It is a medium-bodied but powerful wine, with a beautiful deep red color.  On a first sip, it hits you with a wonderful taste of fresh ripened blackberries and raspberries, and touch of spice.  It has a nice, but not overwhelming, finish.  So, it is perfect with this turkey dish.  Another cool thing about this wine is that it has a removable back label, so you can tear it out and save it so you can remember it next time you go shopping for wines.  Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Until next time . . . Cheers!