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

-Dario Zucconi

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Day (and Meal) to Remember: Ham and Cheese Stuffed Veal Chops with Cheesy Bacon Potatoes

Inauguration-Worthy Dinner
(Truffle Pecorino Cheese and Ham Stuffed Veal Chops, Cheesy Bacon Potatoes, and Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas)
Today represents a confluence of meaningful and memorable events -- events that my children will remember for the rest of their lives and events that I hope they will share with their children. Today (January 21, 2013), we celebrate the life and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  On this same day, we celebrate another momentous occasion - the inauguration of Barack Obama as the President of the United States for a second term. Both of these men represent Hope, Humanity, and Love.

This past couple of weeks, my kids have been learning a lot in school about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Obama. One of the wonderful things I love about my children is their curiosity and their ability to ask unfiltered, but yet thought-provoking, questions. Since Patrick and I are an interracial couple (he was born and raised in Arizona to parents of Irish, Native American, and Mexican descents, and I was born and raised in Haiti to parents of African, French, and Native American descents), the kids have been asking us some very good questions about how we met, our relationship, and our ancestral histories - questions that sometimes as adults we seem to brush to the side because, well you know, it doesn't matter, right?

Our 10-year-old daughter recently asked whether we ever thought about what would have happened if people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks never stood up and fought for the freedom of African-Americans. She said: "I don't think you would have met Daddy at UC Berkeley, gotten married, and have us. She said, if slaves were never freed, Daddy would probably be your master, and I would probably have to work as a servant." She said she is happy that things turned out the way they are. She also said that President Obama being elected means that even people who look like her and me can be President. My 6-year-old son said: "I don't think it's fair that kids weren't allowed to go to the same school as their friends. I would be sad if I didn't get a chance to go to school with my friend Luke." My 5-year-old son said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died because he wanted everyone to love each other no matter what their color was.

In celebration of this monumental day, I wanted to seize the opportunity of a "day off" to spend some quality time with my family, especially my children. Family time usually means cooking up something yummy for dinner. For dinner tonight, I wanted to make something extra special to celebrate this historic day and also that my whole family loves. The meal consisted of Ham and Cheese Stuffed Veal Chops (courtesy of Food and Wine Magazine), Cheesy Bacon Potatoes with Sweet Pears (the kids' favorite!), and Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas (courtesy of moi!). This meal is a reminder that no matter where we came from, Patrick and I are stronger because of the journey we have taken together, we are grateful for where we have arrived, and we look forward to the adventures we have ahead of us and the journey we will continue to take together. This special meal is dedicated to our children who every day teach us about Love and Hope.

Truffle Pecorino Cheese and Ham Stuffed Veal Chops
You can download the recipe on the Food and Wine Magazine's Website (http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/ham-and-cheese-stuffed-veal-chops/print). I followed the recipe almost completely, except that I made only half the portions. I also used a Cast Iron Skillet to sear the veal because it gives the meat a beautiful and even sear.

NOTE: I got my meat at Berkeley Bowl. I Love Berkeley Bowl! I cut the pockets in the meat myself - usually I would ask the Butcher to do it, but I wanted to make sure I cut the right size for my fillings. You don't need a lot of the truffle pecorino cheese, but wow! That's some delicious cheese! The Madeira sauce is superb! It tastes like a wonderful Marsala sauce, and it pairs perfectly with the veal.

Cheesy Bacon Potatoes with Sweet Pears

About 2-3 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and thinly sliced)
2 Bartlett Pears (soft, but not too ripe) (peeled, cored, and thinly sliced)
1 Cup of shredded Swiss Gruyere Cheese
1/2 Cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
1/4 Cup of finely chopped yellow onions
1/4 Cup of crispy chopped bacon
2 Cups of Heavy Whipping Cream
1 whole sprig of fresh thyme
2 cloves of garlic (smashed, but not crushed)
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter - for greasing the baking dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease some cookie sheets (about 3) with cooking spray. Arrange the sliced potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheets (don't overlap). Sprinkle the potatoes with a little bit of olive oil - so they don't get too dry. Arrange the pears in another greased baking sheet. Bake the potatoes in the oven for about 15 minutes until soft - but not mushy or burned (watch them so they don't burn). Bake the pears for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, simmer the Whipping Cream, with the smashed garlic and the whole thyme spring in a medium saucepan over low heat - do not boil the cream. Once it is about to boil, turn off the heat and set aside.

Butter a large (ceramic or Pyrex glass) baking dish. Arrange 1/2 of the baked sliced potatoes in a single layer in the baking dish. Then, add 1/2 of the sliced pears. Season the potatoes/pears with salt and pepper. Add about 1/2 of the onions, 1/2 of the bacon, and 1/2 the cheese. Repeat the layering of potatoes and pears, salt and pepper, onions, bacon, and cheese.

Remove the thyme and garlic from the Whipping Cream. Pour the cream over the potatoes. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Uncover and then continue baking for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Check the potatoes with a fork - they should be nice and soft.

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas
Use about 1-2 pounds of sugar snap peas. Remove the ends if you'd like (some people don't care about the little ends, but I do.) Rinse the snap peas under cool water. Steam to your desired crispiness (I like crispy snap peas, so I steam them for about 5-7 minutes). Drain the snap peas. Put them back in the pot.

Add about 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook for about 2 minutes over moderate heat. For some extra flavor, add 1 garlic clove (crushed) and cook for another minute.

The Vino?

Tonight, we went with something simple, but delicious. We had a glass of the Benziger 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma, CA). This is a full-bodied Cab that is loaded with delicious flavors of plum, black cherries, and ripe dark berries. You also get some wonderful notes of cocoa with a hint of cassis, and has a long and soft finish on the palate. You can pick up a bottle at your local grocery store (Safeway has it on sale).

Here's to hope and never stop believing!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


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