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

-Dario Zucconi

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Celebration: Horseradish-Crusted Steak Roulade, Cheesy Potato with Pear and Celery Root, and Roasted Carrots

Growing up in my home country of Haiti, Christmas means family, food, celebration, and lots of memories. Some of my fondest memories are about enjoying a big Christmas feast with my family (immediate and extended) after mass, sharing stories, and singing Christmas songs. This year, we weren't able to spend Christmas Day with our extended families. But, that doesn't mean we can't have a "smaller" version of a Christmas feast. My husband and children - surprisingly - love getting a special meal on holidays. I love to surprise them!

Today, I put together a meal that was simple - meaning that it didn't require hours and hours in the kitchen. But, it was delicious and extremely well-enjoyed by my family.

The main dish was a Horseradish-Crusted Steak Roulade (courtesy of the Food Newtork): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/horseradish-crusted-steak-roulade-recipe/index.html. I loved the different components of the dish - from the sauteed leeks and garlic (very fragrant), to the roasted red bell peppers (beautifully charred), to the rolling of the roulade (colorful and fun), and to the crust (packed with flavors!).


The making of the Steak Roulade

The side dishes consisted of my (most requested side dish) Cheesy Potato Au Gratin, with Roasted Pear. Celery Root, and Bacon. 

In addition to the potatoes, I also added my Roasted Sweet Multi-Colored Carrots, which brighten up the color and gives the meal an extra burst of freshness.

For the "grown-ups", my husband and I had a glass of Robert Mondavi's 2011 Cabernet Souvignon (Napa Valley, CA) from our Expression of the Vines Wine Club: http://www.robertmondaviwinery.com/Our-Wines/Napa-Valley-Wines/Cabernet-Sauvignon

We miss our extended families terribly! But, today was still a great day in the Warner household!

Here's wishing you and your family (near and far) a very Merry Christmas and an amazing and blessed 2014 year!

Until next time . . . Merry Christmas!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

How Do You Like Your Eggs? Scotch Eggs With Mustard Lemon Zest Dipping Sauce

A few weeks ago, I had a networking dinner at Wexler's, San Francisco (http://www.wexlerssf.com/). A dear friend had arranged the dinner to introduce me to a couple of people working in the gaming industry. They suggested Wexler's. I had never been to that restaurant before, and did not know what to expect. My thought was "A BBQ place in the San Francisco Financial District? Okay!!"  One of the people dining with us told us a story about the last time he dined at Wexler's - Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg was sitting at the table next to him. Well, to my pleasant surprise, it was a great evening. The atmosphere was casually elegant. The food was delicious. The service was attentive. My dining companions were great. I owe a huge thanks to my friend Mike S. for setting up the dinner and expanding my network. 

I am writing this post to reflect on something I ate at Wexler's that really caught my attention: "Scotch Eggs". Before that evening, I had never even heard of Scotch Eggs, let alone eaten them. One of the guys dining with us ordered the Scotch Eggs. I tried them, and I liked them. Wikipedia describes Scotch Eggs as "a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch_egg

Today, I was flipping through my Food Network Magazine (October 2013), and saw a recipe for Scotch Eggs by Chef Robert Irvine. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/scotch-eggs-with-mustard-sauce-recipe2/index.html. I decided to experiment and make the Scotch Eggs. The process was fun - almost therapeutic for me as I love constructing food. It's an awesome feeling to see the progression of a dish from scratch (here, starting with the eggs and raw sausage) to the finished product. 

The experiment was a huge success!! We loved it. I actually liked it better than the one I tried at Wexler's. The flavors had more of an impact on me. I really liked the texture of the dish. The outside of the Scotch Eggs was crispy not oily (we used the Grapeseed Oil, which I think made a difference). The inside of the sausage was tender and juicy. The eggs inside the sausage were soft and succulent - the eggs came out like perfectly soft boil eggs. The mayonnaise sauce was a perfect accompaniment. (I modified it a bit by adding some lemon zest for an extra zing!) I will definitely make this recipe again.

A dish like this doesn't require much. So, I served it with a side of a green salad with a warm lemon tomato dressing, topped with blue cheese. This is a recipe also from the Food Network Magazine. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/green-salad-with-warm-tomato-dressing-recipe/index.html

In the spirit of experimenting, I decided to try a glass of a red wine blend that I had not had before: 2008 Sawyer Cellars Bradford Meritage, Red Wine, Rutherford, Napa Valley, CA. This is a full-bodied red wine consisting of a blend of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  In the glass, it has a beautiful dark burgundy color. On the nose, you get wonderful aromas of dark cherry, tobacco and wild berries. Once you sip the wine, your palate is greeted with the tastes of ripened dark berry, black cherry, and a hint of smoke. The soft tannins give the wine a well balanced finish. It paired well with the Scotch Eggs.

Here is hoping you had a wonderful weekend, and a great week ahead.

Until next time. . . . Cheers!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Her Mother's Daughter: Lemon Butter Prawns, Cheesy Pasta, And Heirloom Tomato Salad

As the saying goes: "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree!" Tonight, I have come to the realization that this saying is so true in my household. My 11-year-old daughter asked that she "design" and help make dinner tonight. She said that I deserved a "night off" and should relax! I am truly blessed to have the most thoughtful little chef as my daughter.  Her meal of choice: (1) Cheese Elbow Macaroni Pasta, (2) Sautee Prawns, and (2) Heirloom Tomato and Mixed Greens Salad. The meal was absolutely delicious. The boys said "great job, you should open up a restaurant and serve this every night!" My picky 5-year-old even asked if he could eat all the shrimp. I was speechless!

In case you and your little ones are interested in replicating this delicious meal, here is a rough recipe -- as designed by my baby girl!

Cheesy Macaroni Pasta:

Elbow Macaroni (I had a bag of Quinoa and Rice Elbow Pasta, which is healthier and simply yummy, according to the kids).

Cook pasta in boiling water, according to package (or for about 7-10 minutes until al dente).  Drain the pasta, and put it back in the pot. Season the pasta with salt, fresh ground pepper, a little bit of butter and olive oil, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Lemon Butter Sauteed Prawns (you may need to help with this one a bit):

Fresh jumbo prawns (deveined and cleaned). Chopped Shallots (about one small shallot).  Unsalted Butter.  Extra virgin olive oil. Lemon zest (about 1 teaspoon) and lemon juice (about 1 table spoon). Dry white wine (about 1/2 cup).

Season the Prawns with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Heat some butter and extra virgin olive oil. Add the shallots and sautee. Add the prawns and sautee until pink (turning half way through to cook both sides). Then, add the wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir and remove from heat. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper (if needed). Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Heirloom Tomato/Mixed Green Salad

(your little one can make it all by himself/herself - help with the slicing):

Fresh mixed greens (cleaned). Heirloom tomatoes (sliced). Feta cheese. 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon). 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the mixed greens on a plate.  Add the tomatoes. Then, season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice on top. Drizzle the olive oil. Add the feta cheese. No heavy dressing, just natural and clean flavors, and easy enough for your youngest little chef. Voila!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, October 7, 2013

Honey Baked Chicken with Apricots and Olives

Today's post is about those weeknight, make-ahead dinners! As you know, I love food. I love delicious food. I love to create savory and memorable food. And, when I am able to create delicious dishes during the week while spending time with my family or taking care of the things that need to get done on those school/work nights, I am beyond grateful.

As a working mom, it's a constant challenge balancing work demands and making sure my family eats healthy everyday. So, I am constantly trying to think of ways to prepare make-ahead meals that don't require me spending hours in the kitchen (although, the kitchen is one of my favorite places in the house), but that my whole family can enjoy. Sundays are usually my "planning" day when I think of what dishes I can make during the week (or prepare ahead of time and finish up when I get home from work).

Tonight, I made a chicken dish that is beyond delicious! And, the best part is: It was very low maintenance. I call it "Honey Baked Chicken with Apricots and Olives"

Here is a rough recipe that I came up with yesterday:

Chicken thighs (8-10 pieces, bone-in, skin-on)
Fresh cilantro (chopped, about 2 Tablespoons)
Fresh  Italian Parsley (chopped, about 2 Tablespoons)
Fresh green onions (chopped, about 1 Tablespoon)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 lemon (juice of 1/2 of the lemon squeezed into a large bowl, remainder sliced)
1 Tablespoon of honey
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
Pinch of sweet paprika
1/2 cup of dried apricots
1/2 cup of dried raisins
1/2 cup of green olives 
1/2 cup of white wine
2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Rinse the chicken under lukewarm water and lay flat on a baking sheet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. 

In the large bowl with the lemon juice, add the honey, fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, green onions),  garlic, honey, onion powder, garlic powder, ground ginger, cumin, and paprika, and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. 

Add the chicken pieces, and coat the chicken well with the herb mixture. Put the chicken and the mixture in a large ziploc bag, and store in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (up to 24 hours). This allows the marinade to penetrate the chicken pieces and enhance the flavor. 

When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the chicken pieces (skin sides up) in a large baking dish (Pyrex or ceramic works well). Add the juices and herbs from the ziploc bag (discard the lemon pieces). Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes (or until you have a nice even brown color on the skins of the chicken pieces).  Take the baking dish out if the oven. 

Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the apricots, raisins, and olives around the chicken pieces. Add the wine over the chicken. Continue baking for about 45 minutes (enough time to check the kids' homework,  help them with their baths, or soak in a bubble bath yourself). 

Remove the chicken from the oven. You should have a dish of beautifully browned chicken with flavors that are about to explode in your mouth.  Serve the chicken with steamed rice (if you like) and your favorite vegetables. Depending on how many chicken thighs you made, you should have some leftovers for at least another dinner during the week. 

I hope you have wonderful (reduced stress) week.  Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Panko and Herb Crusted Salmon with Lemon Butter Sauce

We have a Meyer Lemon tree in our backyard that produces juicy lemons year round. I love finding new ways to use the lemons. Today, I made a dish using some of the lemons that is surely going to be one of my favorite dishes. The meal was inspired by two recipes from two of my favorite Food Network chefs: Ina Garten (“Barefoot Contessa”) [http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/panko-crusted-salmon-recipe/index.html] and Emeril Lagasse [http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/lemon-butter-sauce-recipe/index.html]
The main dish consists of perfectly cut Salmon fillets (from Berkeley Bowl), that I crusted with Dijon Mustard, Panko breadcrumbs (Japanese style breadcrumbs), fresh lemon zest, and fresh Italian parsley and oregano. I modified the recipe slightly. First, I seasoned the salmon with salt and pepper before I spread the mustard on the fillets. Second, I added a ¼ teaspoon of honey to the mustard. I think the touch of sweetness from the honey combined with the tanginess of the mustard and lemon gives the dish a nice contrast.  Finally, I added some freshly chopped oregano (about ¼ teaspoon) to the parsley. I think you can add tarragon too, if you have some fresh ones. You don't have to add this, but I like the earthiness of the oregano. The result is a piece of salmon fillet that has a beautiful crust on the flesh side, is soft and buttery on the inside, with a perfectly brown and crispy skin on the outside. [NOTE: If you don't have a cast iron skillet, use a non-stick pan.]

I drizzled the fillets with a decadent and silky Lemon Butter Sauce, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse. This sauce is so delicious that it’s sinful. The sauce is smooth from the heavy whipping cream and butter.  It’s tangy and mildly acidic from the lemon. The garlic and shallots give it a nice fragrant aroma.  The hardest part is to resist the urge to just sip it by the spoonful before it hits the dinner table. I only made half of the sauce that the recipe calls for. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would store well (it wouldn’t go bad if you have leftovers, it just wouldn’t be the same texture).

For side dishes, I served some simply made Orzo (rice) pasta (seasoned with salt and pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese).  I also served some butternut squash (roasted in a 400-degree oven with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper). The squash is a great pairing with the salmon because, first of all, I love the color contrast. But, I also find the mildly sweet flavor of the squash is a great compliment to the acidity of the crust and lemon sauce.  The creamy texture of the squash (when roasted) goes really well with the salmon.

Every delicious dish (at least in my book) calls for a perfectly enjoyable wine. Red or white? It doesn’t matter. It’s whatever your palate desires.  My husband had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. For me, I had a glass of Chardonnay by Markham. I chose the Chardonnay because I think it pairs really well with the combined flavors of the dish (the lemon, the butter, the cream, and fresh herbs).  The Markham Chardonnay is a great white wine that is enjoyable with or without food. But, I particularly enjoy it with salmon (whether grilled or roasted) and creamy dishes. It has amazing aromas of toasted pecans and sweet caramel apples. On the palate, you can taste a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon, which gives it a soft and nutty flavor. But, you also taste some freshness that is reminiscent of sweet tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. It’s a perfectly balanced Chardonnay that has the perfect amount of acidity and sweetness, which makes it a very versatile white wine. My friend Rene introduced me to this wine, and it's become one of my go-to Chardonnays. http://shop.markhamvineyards.com/SHOP.AMS?LEVEL=BOT&PART=MVCH1175#.Uj_WrsV62So 
This weekend came and went in a flash. But, I am grateful to have been able to enjoy it with my family.  I hope you all enjoyed your weekend with your families.

Until next time,



Sunday, August 25, 2013

Succulent and Delicious Italian Meatballs; Basil Marinara Sauce

It has been a while since I have posted on A Drinkable Feast. This summer has been a little busy. But, it's gone by so fast. It felt like last week the kids were getting out of school for the summer. Now, they have already had their first week back to school, and we already had to do school projects. It's hard to believe that my oldest is in Middle School and my youngest is in Kindergarten. Time flies! Life is about to get even busier for our family, but my husband and I are blessed - truly blessed - to have 3 amazing kids who help keep us grounded.

This weekend, as I was sitting on the couch reflecting on the summer, I thought it would be a good way to say goodbye to the summer, and celebrate surviving the first week of school, by making a nice and comforting meal for my family. As I was flipping through my cookbooks and cooking magazines (which had been piling up), I was inspired by a recipe in one of my cookbooks that my friend Kelly gave me
("Food and Wine Magazine's Best of the Best").
I love this book!

The recipe is "Sicilian Meatballs with a Basil Marinara Sauce". These meatballs are the size of a small planet! They are by far the best meatballs I have ever eaten. They remind me of being in Italy. Our friends Nadine and Gail, and their family, were visiting. Everyone, including my children loved the meatballs. They were loaded with flavor from the garlic, onions, fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, and thyme (some of my favorite herb combinations). They were very moist from the bread crumb paste made of fresh bread crumbs soaked in milk for a few minutes. Cooking them in the oven on parchment paper helped them come out perfectly browned on the outside but juicy and moist in the inside. And, the Parmesan cheese gives them an earthy and homey flavor. http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/sicilian/meatballs/with/fresh/basil/marinara.aspx

Of course, as you know, I rarely make a recipe without modifying it slightly. For this recipe, I doubled the amount of everything. For the meat, I used a combination of lean ground beef and ground veal 2:1 ratio (2 pounds of beef and 1 pound of veal). Veal has a little more flavor and makes the meatballs a little more moist. My husband - who makes an amazing marinara sauce added some red wine to the sauce to give it some extra flavor.  I also love the beautiful, mouth-watering red color he achieved in making the sauce. We used red onions instead of regular onions. We served the meatballs with some bow tie pasta and sautéed garlic sugar snap peas from the Farmers' Market (my children love peas).

The kids had some fresh lemonade I made with lemons from our Meyer Lemon tree. The grown-ups enjoyed some wines from some of our favorite wineries (VJB Vineyards and Cellars and Arrowood Winery, both in Sonoma County, CA). The VJB wine was a 2009 Sangiovese - keeping with the Italian theme. Sangiovese is an Italian red grape varietal. This particular Sangiovese is a great, well balanced wine. In the glass, your eyes are greeted with a nice ruby red color. On the nose (always take a whiff before drinking the wine), you get a hint if dark cherry and ripe berries (like raspberry). On the palate, the wine is very smooth, not too much tannins. Wen you swirl it around in your mouth, you can taste the beautiful berry aromas that hit your nose and also a slight taste of chocolate and a hint of vanilla. It has a nice finish on the palate. VJB is also a great winery to visit. They have a beautiful and relaxing outdoor cafe where you can enjoy delicious wood-fired pizzas and gelato.  We are members of their wine club, along with our friends, Evelyn and Rene.  We all enjoy going up there for visits. So do the kids because they get to eat pizza and have gelato outside! http://www.vjbcellars.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65&Itemid=92

I hope you all had a great summer. Here's to the new school year!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Fresh Kale Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

This past Saturday, I stopped by the Farmers' Market after I finished a two-hour workout at Hipline Dance Studio. After having a very busy, and stressful week at work, I needed to have some "me" time to release some of the stressful energy, and get ready (mentally and physically) to celebrate Father's Day with my husband and the kids.

I love the Farmers' Market this time of year. I particularly love the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables. I love the different types of produce this season brings. I love discovering new items at the market. My latest discovery is the versatility of Kale. I used to only know how to sautee Kale, and did not think you could do a whole lot with it other than perhaps Kale chips, which I also recently tried thanks to my friends Evelyn and Rene. Well, last week, I had a Kale salad at work. And, I loved it! So, this weekend, I decided to get a couple of bunches of Kales (green and purple colors). I also decided to make a Kale salad -- my first experiment with Kale. The result? A delicious summer salad!

We took the salad to an outdoor evening summer concert at our Church/School. It was a perfect side dish. I have written down the rough recipe below. I don't like store-bought salad dressing (you should all know this by now!). So, I made my own lemon basil vinaigrette!

I hope you try it and enjoy!

  • Fresh green and purple kale (wash well, then chop finely, and dry well in a salad spinner) - amount depends on how much salad you want (about 2 cups for 2 people). 
  • 1 medium lemon cucumber (in abundance at the Farmers' Market during the summer, but you can use other cucumbers or roasted summer squash and zucchinis).
  • 1 cup of cherry or small heirloom tomatoes (washed and sliced in half).
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced fresh fennel (get a small fennel bulb, rinse it, and slice about a 1/3 to a 1/2 of it).
  • About 1 cup of roasted beets (see below). 
  • 1/4 cup of freshly shredded Parmesan Cheese (or Pre-shredded).
  • 1/2 cup of sliced raw almonds (lightly toasted).
  • Salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Lemon basil vinaigrette (see below). 

Roasted Beets
1 fresh red beet, peeled, largely diced, seasoned with salt and pepper, and olive oil, and roast in a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Lemon Basil Vinaigrette Recipe
  • 1 large lemon (juice only) - Meyer lemon works best.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey (use more or less depending on how sour or sweet your lemon is).
  • 1 Teaspoon of chopped fresh basil (or 1/4 teaspoon of dried Italian Seasoning).
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste. 
Combine all ingredients well in an empty small jar (like an old jelly jar) and shake well until emulsified (consistency of a dressing). Taste. Add a small amount of some or all of the ingredients, to adjust the taste to your desire. (Feel free to use your favorite store-bought dressing. I like to make my own dressing.) 

Directions for Tossing the Salad
Combine kale, cucumber, tomatoes, fennel, and roasted beets. Mix in the vinaigrette dressing. Add the Parmesan Cheese and toasted almonds, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For some extra flavor and freshness, add some diced avocados. This also stores well in the Fridge.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stuffed Pork Loin Chops with Twice-Baked Cheesy Potatoes and Arugula Salad

I love Sundays! Sundays come with a level of anxiety about the fact that the weekend is almost over, and wishing that we had an extra day to the weekend.  But, it is still my favorite day of the week. For as long as I can remember, Sunday has always been a "family" day for me. It has also become a day when my creative culinary mind goes on overdrive. Having a family of my own -- and having a career outside of the home - Sunday has become a day when I look forward to creating some delicious dishes for my family to enjoy together on Sunday in a relaxing way, and to share our gratitude for the many blessings we have in our lives.

This week was a rough week on so many levels. But, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonades . . . literally!

We have this amazingly huge Meyer Lemon tree in our backyard. It is now overflowing with delicious and juicy lemons. Today was an unusually warm day in the Bay Area (with temperatures in the 70s). The kids wanted to make lemonade. After my daughter's basketball game, we picked some lemons from the tree.  My daughter and I made lemonade with fresh mint and a hint of pure vanilla extract (my secret weapon for extra flavor!). Her words: "This lemonade is refreshing and delicious!" My 7-year-old son's words: "It's also very cool and yummy! Can I have some more, please?"

Lemonade is refreshing, but it's not a meal. For dinner, I made yummy pork loin chops, stuffed with a delectable mixture of chopped dried Crimson raisins, Blue Stilton Cheese, chopped fresh parsley and fresh thyme. It's a fairly simple, but elegantly delicious, way to cook the pork chops. Rough Recipe:
  • Soak the raisins in some dry white wine for about 20-30 minutes until they are soft and plump.
  • When soft, drain the raisins (discard the wine), and finely chop.
  • Stir in some Stilton Cheese (goat cheese also works well here).
  • Stir in chopped fresh parsley and thyme.
  • Season the chops with salt and pepper.
  • Slit a deep pocket in the chops (or ask your Butcher to make pockets for you).
  • Stuff the cheese/raisin mixture inside the pockets of the pork chops (sealing them so the stuffing doesn't fall out).
  • Pan sear the pork chops on the stove over medium-high heat (about 5 minutes per side) - Cast Iron skillets work great, if you have one. 
  • Finish cooking the chops in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (depending on how thick your chops are).
  • When cooked, take the chops out and let them stand (loosely covered) for about 5 minutes before slicing/serving.
We served the pork chops over a bed of fresh Arugula salad (dressed in a simple home-made lemon vinaigrette dressing) and a twice-baked cheesy potato (this is my husband's specialty, and the kids' favorite!).

Basically, we bake regular Russet Potatoes, like you are making baked potatoes.  When soft, slice the potatoes in half (lengthwise), and scoop out the flesh of the potatoes (saving the skins). Mix in some butter, half and half, shredded cheese (Mexican 5-Cheese or Cheddar), and salt and pepper.  Then, stuff the potato back in the skins, and bake them again for about 30 minutes. Yummy!

For the wine. . . We decided to try this Cabernet Sauvignon blend that I picked up from Costco for about $20 a couple of weeks ago.  It's regularly more than $40, but Costco was having a nice discount on this wine. It's St. Clement's "Oroppas" 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (http://www.stclement.com/OROPPAS). It's a Bordeaux-style blend that is incredibly delicious.  It has a deep purple color.  It has concentrated depths of flavors of dark black cherries, espresso, and black currants and just a hint of licorice, but with soft tannins and a lingering and velvety finish on the palate. The majority of the grape varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with some Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.

I was surprised that when we opened the bottle, we didn't have to let it breathe for that long before we could enjoy the wonderful flavors of the wine. I would definitely pick up another bottle next time I am at Costco. And, even better, next time I am in the Napa Valley, I may have to stop by for a visit at the Winery. 

Here is hoping that you were able to cherish this weekend with your family. Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Roasted Chicken with Lemons, Garlic, Onions, and Fresh Herbs

We have a Meyer Lemon tree in our back yard. Right now, the tree is overflowing with lemons. Yesterday, my boys and I went to the back yard to pick some lemons so we can lighten up the tree a bit. With so many lemons around, I was trying to think of something to make for dinner with the lemons.

While shopping at Berkeley Bowl, I decided to pick up a couple of whole chickens and thought about roasting them with lemons. I love lemon chicken! I like the fresh citrus flavors that lemons bring to chicken dishes. I asked the Butcher to butterfly them for me. To butterfly the chickens, the Butcher cut out the backbones, and opened up the chicken a little bit, without splitting it completely in half. I told him that I would never be able to do that, he said, I'll show you one day. . . it's easy. Right! Maybe one day I'll try it, but for now, I said thank you to my Butcher.

I roasted the chickens with a mixture of lemon, onion, garlic cloves (unpeeled), fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, and white wine. The recipe below is fairly simple. But, the result is a mouthwatering, falling off the bone, savory, and delicious chicken dish that will please your culinary senses.

2 whole Chickens (about 4 pounds - butterflied)
2 lemons (cut into 6 pieces each)
2 medium onions (sliced)
1 whole head of garlic (take all the cloves out but do not peel)
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
About 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of white wine
2 Tablespoons of butter (diced)
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the chickens under cool water, and pat dry. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Place the chickens in a large roaster (skin sides up). Arrange the onions, garlic and lemon slices around (not on top of) the chickens. Remove the leaves from the thyme and rosemary, and sprinkle them on top of the chickens and the onions/garlic/lemons. Put the stems in the roaster. Pour the wine in the roaster (around the chickens). Add the butter on the vegetables.

Cover the chickens first with some parchment paper. Then, cover the roaster tightly with aluminum foil to seal the moisture in. Place the roaster in the oven, and cook for about 2 hours. Uncover and crank up the heat to 400 degrees.  Roast for about 40 minutes (until the skin is nice and crispy, and has a beautiful golden brown color). Once done, remove from the oven and let the chickens sit for about 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite side dishes. Enjoy!
Tonight, we served the chicken with mashed sweet potatoes (my 5-year-old son's favorites) and roasted brussels sprouts. The chickens came out very moist and juicy, and loaded with lots of concentrated flavors. My friend Keith stopped by to bring me some home-made chicken stock, and tried some of the chicken. He is the king of roasts. He said he was speechless about how moist and flavorful the chicken was.

If you try this dish, make two chickens because you will absolutely love the fact that you will have leftovers for the week. Right now, I am a happy camper because we have dinner for at least two nights during the week.

I hope you have a great week ahead. Until next time . . . Cheers!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Slow-Braised Veal Shank Osso Buco with Spinach Pasta

Osso Buco is one of my favorite dishes to make. Although, now every time I make it, I am a little anxious because a few years ago, I got burned really badly on my forehead and under my eye. While I was browning the meat, the hot oil splattered on my face and, well the rest . . . you can imagine! After multiple visits to a Dermatologist, and a few weeks of looking like Frankenstein, my face healed eventually. But, I don't let fear overcome me!

I particularly like to make Osso Buco in the winter when the weather is cold and everyone is either sick or trying not to get sick. It's a real comfort food. Plus, I love that you can let it simmer in a Dutch Oven for 3 to 4 hours while you relax, read a book, watch a movie with the kids, go the gym, whatever you want. After simmering for hours, your house smells heavenly, and you end up with a deliciously tender meat sauce. The best compliment I received tonight from my kids (other than the fact that they ate everything) was my 5-year-old son who said "Mom: The meat was soft and really yummy. Can I have it again with my special birthday pasta?" (He is referring to these fun pastas I get from Cost Plus that come in different themes - birthday, sea life, and seasonal like valentine or holiday.)

Osso Buco is fairly easy to make (although it requires some time). Here is my version of the recipe:

4 Veal Shanks (or beef shanks or lamb shanks)
1 large onion (diced)
2 carrots (diced)
2 celery stalks (diced)
3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
One 28-ounce can of Crushed Tomatoes (Italian flavored or with basil)
1/2 cup of red wine
Beef broth (about 1 cup)
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs of fresh parley
1 dried bay leaf (or 2 fresh ones)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper 
2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 package of pasta (whatever pasta you like)
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Chopped parsley for garnish 

(Close-up of the marrows, which are my favorite parts.)
Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch Oven (or large heavy pot) over medium high heat. Add the vegetable oil. Sear the meat on all sides until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside. Drain the oil in a bowl or old can. 

Turn down the heat to medium. Add the olive oil. Add the carrots, onion, and celery. Cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the wine, stir, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the whole can of tomatoes, and stir. 

Tie the fresh herbs together (use some kitchen string). Add the meat back to the pot. Add enough beef stock to almost cover the meat. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce the heat to really low. Simmer for about 3-4 hours (stirring a couple of time) until the meat is really tender - fallen off the bone marrows. Remove the herb packet and discard. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and stir in some Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley. Place the pasta on a large serving bowl. Add the meat sauce on top.  Garnish with some Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Tonight, I decided to try this spinach pasta that I found at Cost Plus. It was delicious! But, I like that it was light and does not stick together when you cook it.

The Wine?
Osso Buco calls for a delicious, medium to full-bodied wine. I think it goes best with a red wine like a Sangiovese, a Cabernet Sauvignon, or blend. But, feel free to experiment and enjoy it with whatever wine you prefer. Today, I picked up some new wines at Cost Plus - they are having a wine sale (extra 25% off) so I stocked up a little. When Cost Plus has big wine sales, I usually like to pick up a few bottles of new wines that I haven't had before to experiment. One of the bottles I picked up was a bottle of the 2009 Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, CA). [http://www.ninenorthwines.com/wine/2009-twenty-bench-cabernet-sauvignon-napa-valley.htm]
I opened it up about 1 hour before we were ready to drink it. We poured into a Decanter. It was delicious! It's actually a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. It's medium bodied. On the nose, you are welcomed with enticing aromas of vanilla and black cherry, with a hint of espresso. It has a beautiful red color in the glass. On the palate, your mouth is greeted with flavors of dark berries, raspberry, with a little bit of oak flavor. I recommend decanting it because it opens up very nicely after it has a chance to breathe. The tannins are softer, with a longer finish. I think I would definitely pick up another bottle of this wine . . . or two!

I hope you are having a healthy and enjoyable weekend with your family! For us, we're trying to fight off this terrible bug that's going around. . . . knock on wood!

Until next time . . . Salute!