Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January 26, 2015 Dinner Party with Mike and Kathryn Grilled Aged Rib Steak with sautéed mushrooms, steamed sugar snap peas, and Potatoes au Gratin and Salad and cheeses

January 26, 2015  Dinner Party with Mike and Kathryn  Grilled Aged Rib Steak with sautéed mushrooms, steamed sugar snap peas, and Potatoes au Gratin and Salad and cheeses

Mike and Kathryn live in Paris and so I wanted the menu to have a French feel to it and yet wanted to make it the simple type of food we like.  On Friday Suzette brought home the two ten lb. pieces of rib steaks that her kitchen staff had aged in an ice box lined with sheets of Himalayan rock salt for 18 days.  At noon I pulled one of the pieces out and hand cut it into seven steaks.  The most difficult part of the steak to cut around was a piece of bone that connected to each vertebrae, but with a bit of help from my large 13 inch Sabatier knife, I was able to remove the knuckle and cut steaks that were about six 1 1/4 inch thick steaks.  I put two of the steaks that matched in thickness and each had a bone into the fridge meat compartment and put the others in the freezer in the garage.

At 5:00 when Suzette arrived home we started preparing the meal.  I took the package of French Lincet cheese and the béarnaise sauce out of the fridge to let them warm to room temperature.

Potatoes au Gratin 

Since the potatoes had to bake in the oven we started on them first.

We took all of our cheeses out of the fridge and decided to use some older pieces of Irish Cheddar and Manchego for the potatoes and Suzette and I hand grated about 2 cups of cheese.

I then thinly sliced the six or seven white potatoes I had bought at Sprouts last Friday ($.99/lb.) while Suzette rubbed the bottom of a ceramic baking dish with garlic and butter.  Then Suzette arranged the potatoes in a pleasing manner in the ceramic dish. 

She then added the 2 cups of grated cheeses, 4 Tbsps. of butter and a mixture of 1 cup of 2% milk and ½ cup of heavy creams heated to almost a boil in the microwave.

She then baked the potatoes at 375˚ for 45 minutes and then turned the heat down to 275˚ to await the arrival of Mike and Kathryn.

Sautéed Mushrooms

Meanwhile I halved and thinly sliced about 10 or 12 white and brown mushrooms. 

Then I went to the garden and fetched 3 or 4 sprigs each of thyme and garlic leaves. and pulled the thyme leaves off their stems and chopped the garlic leaves finely and added them to the mushrooms. 

I then minced on shallot and put that in a separate bowl.

I then fetched the stoppered carafe of Amontillado Sherry and put these ingredients beside the stove.


I had talked to Mike at around 3:00 to see if they were on the road and he said they would be arriving around 7:00.  I discussed whether they wanted a salad and he said they would like a salad. 

So after Suzette put the potatoes into the oven to bake, I fetched the bib lettuce we bought at Costco on Saturday and Suzette tore about three cups of it and spun it in the spinner while I made a

Basic vinaigrette dressing using

1 ½ Tbsp Italian White Wine vinegar
A dash of salt and pepper
½ tsp. of Herb Provence given to us by Kathryn and Mike
A clove of garlic in olive oil that Suzette had roasted last spring
1 tsp. of Dijon mustard

I slowly added about 1/3 cup of olive oil in small amounts at a time and stirred the dressing to cream it and bring the vinegar and oil into balance. 

The way to tell if the olive oil and vinegar are in balance is to taste the dressing and if you get a harsh taste of vinegar on the back of your tongue, you need to add more olive oil.  

I then chopped up two Roma tomatoes, four stalks of celery from our garden and 1/3 of a peeled cucumber and put them into a colander to await the salad course.

Mike and Kathryn arrived a bit before 7:30 and said they would have arrived by 7:00 but stopped to pick up a bottle of 2013 Meiomi Pinot Noir.  I thanked them for stopping to get wine.  Meiomi is a blend of pinot noir grapes (37% from Monterrey County, 34% from Sonoma County and 29% from Santa Barbara County).  I think Meiomi has a big jammy almost licorice taste and I wanted a more elegant French tasting wine for dinner so I fetched a bottle of 2010 Domaine Drouhin we bought when we visited Drouhin’s winery on the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley of Oregon on May 23, 2012 ($40.00) from the basement and opened it.  Pinot Noirs raised in the northern portion of their range, especially where there is a lot of rain seem to have a thinner, less fruit forward flavor that seems to me to be a more characteristically Pinot Noir flavor.  The three main pinot noir growing areas that most clearly meet these conditions in my mind are Anderson Valley, CA, the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Cote d’ Or in Burgundy, France.  The reason Meiomi has a big jammy licorice taste is because the grapes are raised in a warmer drier climate, in my opinion.  

Suzette then put a couple of cups of sugar snap peas into the steamer and started them at a high heat to create a boil and took the steaks outside to the grill.  

I then started mushrooms by melting 2 Tbsp. of butter in a large skillet Suzette had washed and put on the stove with about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and added the minced shallot and sautéed for a couple of minutes and then added the sliced mushrooms. In a minute I saw that there was not enough butter to softened all the mushrooms so I added another Tbsp. of butter and they all began to soften.  Then in another couple of minutes I added about 1 ½ Tbsps. of sherry and separated any mushroom slices that were stuck together, so they could absorb the butter and sherry.  I then turned down the heat and checked the sugar snap peas.

Soon Suzette brought in the steaks, saying, “I like mine cooked to rare.“ Everyone agreed that they liked their steak cooked to rare, so we were ready to eat.  The beauty of grilling 1 ¼ inch thick aged beef is that much of the excess moisture has been removed by the aging process and they cook faster and more evenly, in my opinion; at least these two steaks did.

We set the table with napkins, silverware and wine glasses.

I sliced the steaks and then turned off the heat on the sugar snap peas and the mushrooms and Suzette got the potatoes out of the oven and we put serving spoons on each of the items and we served dinner buffet style from the kitchen.

I poured glasses of the 2010 Domaine Drouhin Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and we had a lovely dinner.  Everyone ate small portions and when I poured the second pouring of wine, I realized that we needed glasses of water to drink.  Suzette filled glasses with ice and water and we continued unabated with dinner.

I dabbed a bit of béarnaise sauce on my peas to give them a bit more flavor because they were a little over cooked, and dipped some forkfuls of steak and mushrooms into the béarnaise sauce.

The steak was delicious by itself.  It was also delicious combined with slices sautéed mushrooms.  It was also delicious with mushrooms and béarnaise.  It was uniquely delicious; firm charred a bit, uniformly tender.  I loved it.

After dinner I put the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and tossed them with the dressing.  
When I tasted the salad dressing after I had poured it into the salad bowl and it tasted of vinegar, so I added another 1 ½ Tbsp. of olive oil.

We ate salad and then took a rest.  I do not drink wine with salad made with vinegar because I think the vinegar destroys the flavor of the wine.  I do drink wine with salad dressings made with lemon juice.

After a few minutes I opened the Meiomi and poured it and toasted pieces of Fano French baguette. And put out the Lincet and then butter and the small pieces of PPI Stilton, Goat cheese and Iberico (a Spanish cow, sheep and goat milk cheese).  All the cheeses were bought at Costco, which is now my go to place for cheese.  

The potatoes au Gratin

the salad

The potato recipe (1 cup of boiling milk is last entry)

The Potato recipe

the French label

the American label

The box with the name of the maker and AOP designation

the type of cheese
The Chaource Lincet was the star of the cheese course.  It has a runny inside when the outer wall is opened and spreads easily on bread.  I seems perfect, except for the fact that it is a bit gummy and leaves trails of cheese across the table as one moves a knife from the cheese plate to a piece of bread. 

The Lincet is the best cheese for the money in Albuquerque. As I recall it is $2.99 or $3.99 at Costco for a 250 gram box (454 grams to the lb.).  It is the first Appellation d’ Origine Protégé cheese I have found in Albuquerque that seems to be properly ripened and I recommend it.  Everyone liked the cheeses so well that we all forgot about dessert and kept eating cheese and drinking wine until about 10:00.

Mike and Kathryn are staying at her mother’s house in Rio Rancho, so Kathryn helped Suzette load the dishwasher and I poured glasses of Trimbach Poire William Grande Reserve brandy for a final degustation and we said goodnight.

Bon Appétit

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 25, 2015 Breakfast Bacon, shrimp and squash Burrito Dinner-Ratatouille Pepperoni Crostini and salad

January 25, 2015 Breakfast Bacon, shrimp and squash Burrito   Dinner-Ratatouille Pepperoni Crostini and salad

Breakfast was our best meal of the day.  Suzette braised two pieces of thick bacon in a large skillet and then emptied the grease and scrambled eggs with PPI shrimp and squash and made burritos by heating flour tortillas over an open flame and slicing ½ of an avocado for garnish.  We filled tortillas with the mixture and garnished with the avocado slices and I heated some PPI Shed Red Sauce and spooned about 2 Tbsp. of it over my burrito.  I drank a cup of lapsang souchong tea and Suzette drank a cup of her new herbal concoction of honeysuckle leaves and eucalyptus.

After breakfast I called Albertsons and was told they would cut the aged beef, but when I arrived the meat cutter said they did not cut any meat after it had left the store, so I bought another side of Rib Steaks at $5.97/lb. and had it cut into 1 1/4 inch thick steaks, so we will not face this issue again.  I then bought 2 5 oz. tuna steaks for $2.99 each and a lb. of slab bacon for $3.99/lb. in the butcher area and ½ gallon each of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla and Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream on my way to the cashier..  

I went home and wrapped the 14 steaks.  Their total weight was 20 lbs. ($140.00), so $10.00 per steak.  Suzette later told me she could age each individual steak, so we might have found the way around the difficulty of cutting the steaks.  I will see tomorrow when I try to cut the side of steaks and see if they are thawed and how easy it is to cut them off the side of beef.  We could do as Suzette suggests and make a standing rib roast for a dinner party.

Suzette was not available for dinner because she was hosting a company party at a bowling alley, so I made a simple dinner by covering a piece of PPI meat lover’s pizza from Costco with ratatouille and heating it in the microwave and making a simple salad of organic greens, cucumber, tomato, Mexican Green onion, and croutons and slices of Romano Pecorino cheese and dressing it with the citrus dressing I made for Christmas.

I opened a magnum of 2013 Concho y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend from Chile ($7.99? Costco) and had a simple but lovely dinner; sort of a ratatouille and pepperoni crostini with a fresh salad.

I then sipped a small glass of oak aged Grappa and watched the first episode of this season’s Downtown Abbey and a new Masterpiece Mystery named GrandChester.  When Suzette arrived she immediately went to soak in the hot tub but after her soak we enjoyed bowls of Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream and she toasted a small pan of shelled pecans and salt with which we garnished the ice cream.  I added a splash of cognac to my ice cream and she drank a small glass of cognac.

Before dinner I finally opened the book Susie and Dana sent to me titled Monet's Table.  It was a revelation because it showed me a possible path to publication of this journal describing our meals.

It is a compilation of Claude Monet's journal entries of the meals he ate with pictures of his home and garden in Giverny in Normandy and a bit of history of his art and the house and his love of food with over 140 recipes for the dishes he ate edited and tested by Joel Rebuchon.

Bon Appétit

January 23, 2015 Lunch Azuma Dinner Roasted Chicken with tomato couscous and steamed string beans

January 23, 2015  Lunch Azuma  Dinner Roasted Chicken with tomato couscous and steamed string beans

Aaron called this morning to catch up on recent developments in our ongoing adventures in business.  I have been Aaron’s corporate attorney for several years.  I had a hankering for Sushi so I invited him to join me for lunch at Azuma.  I ordered my favorite, Chirachi Donburi ($14.95) with 2 pieces each of salmon, octopus, tuna (maguro), ultra white and 4 pieces of yellowtail (hamachi).  Aaron ordered a volcano roll.  Both of the dishes were beautifully prepared and I told Aaron that Friday is the best day for sushi because fresh fish is delivered on Thursday.  Aaron loved his sushi and I got the impression that it was his first or second time at Azuma.

After lunch I went to Fano’s Bakery and bought a fresh French baguette.

When I arrived home after lunch, I called Suzette to remind her to bring home the aged beef and a roasted chicken from the Bistro.

When I arrived home from a ride to Rio Bravo at around 5:30 Suzette and the roasted chicken and beef had arrived home.

I asked her what she wanted to eat with the chicken and she agreed to my suggestion of tomato couscous, so I diced 1/3 onion and a clove of garlic and sautéed them in a sauce pan until it took on color and softened and then added 1 Roma tomato chopped and then 1 ½ cup of boiling water from the little and then brought that to a boil and added 1 cup of couscous and lowered the heat to a low simmer.  I cooked that at low heat for about 3 or 4 minutes and then turned off the heat.

I then de-stemmed the 1/4 pound of string beans I had bought at Sprouts Farm Market on Friday and steamed them and I fetched a bottle of 2010 La Contessa Spanish Viura from the basement fridge and chilled it for a few minutes and we were ready to eat.  Its color was a little on the dark gold side and I worried that it may have oxidized but the cork was tight and the flavor good.  God bless Trader Joe’s for their inexpensive good wines.

I heated the two leg quarters in the microwave on 2 plates and in a matter of minutes I had prepared a reasonably good dinner on a night when neither of us really wished to cook.

After dinner we ate a few dark chocolate covered cherries I had bought yesterday at Sprouts Farm Market ($5.99/lb.).

Bon Appétit

January 24, 2015 Chicken Noodle Soup

January 24, 2015 Chicken Noodle Soup

Today we went to Altos Ranch Market before lunch and bought avocados, limes, and yogurt, corn and flour tortillas in the tortilleria, Mexican green onions and brown onions ($.33/lb.)   It is getting increasingly more difficult to find value and quality at Altos.  Their produce is less fresh, their prices are more expensive and their selection is less Mexican specific than its predecessor, Pro's Ranch Market.  I no longer eat in the restaurant, due to the increased prices, to mention one major change.

After Altos we drove to Costco at noon and bought fresh salad mix and bibb lettuce, mushrooms, blueberries, and a few other items.

Then we went home and Suzette fixed a chicken breast sandwich with sliced avocado, fresh bibb lettuce sliced tomato on toasted pieces of the fresh Fano Baguette I had bought on Friday.  We drank the last of the 2010 Leese-Fitch sauvignon blanc from Sonoma Valley with the sandwiches and complimented ourselves on not succumbing.to the appeal of a hot dog at Costco.

After lunch I cubed the PPI bread in the fridge from Christmas and tossed it with Italian Seasoning and olive oil and Suzette toasted the croutons in the oven for 10 minutes.

Then later in the afternoon, Suzette made a Chicken noodle soup.  First she chopped carrots, onion and celery and cooked them into a stock.  Then she strained the vegetables out of the stock and heated the strained stock and added the rest of the PPI chicken breast from Thursday night’s dinner cubed, three carrots cubed and one onion, cubed celery picked from the garden and cooked that for a while and finally when we were ready to eat, she added and heated the soup with the PPI noodles from Thursday night’s dinner and some chopped parsley.

Suzette then toasted pieces of fresh baguette and heated them with slices of manchego cheese in the microwave oven to make cheese toast.

We drank glasses of a bottle of La Contessa Spanish viura (Trader Joe’s $4.49) produced in Calatayud with this this light and lovely dinner.

Here is a bit of information about the wine district from Wikipedia:
Calatayud is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines located in the southwestern corner of the province of Zaragoza (Aragón, Spain) about 90 km from Zaragoza and covers over 5,600 ha, extending over 46 different municipalities, including Calatayud itself. It borders with the Cariñena (DO) in the east and with the province of Soria in the west. It is in the valley of the River Ebro and is crisscrossed by many other rivers including the Jalón, Jiloca, Manubles, Mesa, Piedra and Ribota. The vineyards are to be found on the south facing slopes of the Sierra de la Virgen range at heights of between 550 m and 800 m above sea level. Calatayud achieved DO status in 1990 and it became Aragon’s second largest quality wine-producing region after Cariñena.

Bon Appétit

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 22, 2015  Lunch, La Salita   Dinner, New Recipe   Salmon Two ways with Mixed Pasta in a Spinach, cranberry and onion cream sauce

Mike called a bit before noon and invited me to meet him and Kathryn at La Salita for lunch.  I enjoyed seeing them and we made some tentative plans to visit them in Paris in May and have a dinner of aged beef next Monday evening.

I enjoyed my Lite Bite (1) Swiss cheese stuffed chile relleno with beans on a bed of stewed turkey.

After lunch I drove to Sprouts Farm Market to pick up some items.  There was a sale on Fresh farm raised salmon, so I bought a 1.1 lb. piece and then some mushrooms for a mushroom sauce for Monday evening and then some white potatoes to mash with garlic.  String beans were on sale for $.99/lb. so I bought some of them and spinach ($.99/bunch) looked great so I bought spinach and an eggplant ($1.25) land Roma Tomatoes ($.50/lb.)in case we wanted to make tomatoes Provencal.  Finally I saw that dark chocolate coated cherries were on sale for $5.99/lb. so I bought some of them also.

Suzette came home hungry, so I opened a package of Shallot and onion Boursin and crackers and heated Vya for a warm drink of vermouth with it as an appetizer and we discussed dinner.

Suzette suggested pasta with a cream sauce with spinach and cranberries to accompany the salmon.  When she opened the salmon she noticed that there was a pronounced thick side and a long thin side, as I had been careful to buy a front belly-sided filet.  Suzette suggested that we fry the thin skinny part and poach the thick sided part separately.  I did not understand exactly what she meant but I agreed and she began to cook and I went to the basement for a bottle of wine.  I decided to chill a bottle of 2010 Leese- Fitch Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc.  

Suzette started a large pot filled with water to a boil and when it boiled added both egg noodles and Italian gemelli macaroni and cooked the pasta while she fixed the fish entrée course.

New Recipe - Salmon two ways:

Suzette melted butter in a large skillet and I chopped ½ onion and the crushed four cloves of garlic into the butter in the skillet and added the onion.  After that sautéed for a couple of minutes she added about 1/3 cup of Sauvignon Blanc and 1/3 cup of water to make a poaching medium and added the thick portions of the filet and ¼ cup of dried cranberries and then covered the skillet to poach the salmon. 

Then Suzette sliced the thin side into thin slices and placed them skin side down in about ¼ inch of heated oil to fry them crisp and then removed them to a paper towel to de-grease..
When the thick fish fillets had poached for about ten minutes Suzette added about 1 cup of cleaned and de-stemmed spinach leaves to the skillet and covered it again to steam the spinach in the poaching medium.  Then she finished the dish by adding about ¼ cup of cream to make a thin cream sauce.

I fetched wine glasses and poured the Sauvignon Blanc and moved the table in front of the fire place so we could be warmed by a fire as we ate dinner.  The salmon two way dish was a success because the two different textures of fresh salmon were delicious and especially nice with the fresh spinach in a cream sauce.  This is not my favorite form of cream sauce.  My favorite cream sauce is béchamel, but I find that Suzette prefers making a cream reduction because it is quicker and does not require another pot and two other steps, which has its advantages, especially after a long day of work.  Also, since Suzette likes cranberries with salmon, the thinner reduction cream sauce lets the cranberries express their flavor a bit more.

Leese-Fitch is a good clean Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc with lots of dry fruit flavor, like a tart apple, and not much of the citrus flavor found in a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc so the wine helps cut through the fat in cream sauces and fish with lots of oil like salmon.  

For dessert we ate a few dark chocolate covered cherries.

Bon Appétit 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

January 20, 2015 Le Thai in Las Vegas

January 20, 2015 Le Thai in Las Vegas

We started by taking the shuttle from downtown to the Home Show at the World Trade Center.  I got a cup of Earl Grey tea with a lemon bar and a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast at Encore and then we went to each of the booths where Suzette wanted to buy stuff.  At a French company named Masionette where Suzette bought aprons made in France, I bought a set of six butter knives that will make good spreaders for $33.00.  Around noon, as Suzette was buying sarongs from an Indonesian company on the eleventh floor, I ordered a teriyaki bowl with chicken and beef that we split for $10.00 that was quite good.  After Suzette bought all the stuff she wanted, we walked to Building B and I bought an office chair at Eurøstyle Furniture for $300.00 in grey leather.

Then around 3:30 we transited to the Kitchen and Bath show and Builders’ Shows at the Convention Center and discovered that the Home Show at the World Trade Center was the prince and the Kitchen and Bath show was the pauper; no food, no free drinks, only acres of industrial goods relating to construction.  At 5:00 we had another rude surprise, there was no shuttle from the Convention Center to downtown, so we had to wait an hour to catch a taxi.  We took it to 6th and Fremont to the Le Thai restaurant.  The restaurant was full when we arrived around 6:30 so we waited and drank a beer.  We both chose lagers.  I had a Singha and Suzette drank a Chang, which was hoppier and a little more flavorful.
the kitchen at Le Thai

the bar at Le Thai and Suzette
view into the back dining room
When we were finally seated we were really hungry, so we went a little crazy ordering.  I ordered papaya salad (Sum Tum, Shredded green papaya tossed with Thai chili, lime juice, peanuts garlic carrot, green beans and tomatoes) and Pad Kee Mow with pork (a bowl of flat noodles stir fried with ground pork, bell peppers, Thai basil and carrots and tossed in a brown slightly sweet sauce and chili, except I ordered my dish without any chili) that a gentleman who was waiting for his order beside us and who was a regular recommended.  As we finished our food our waitress told me that Pad Kee Mow was her favorite also. Probably because the slightly sweet sauce pungent with oyster sauce is balanced against the chili. Next time I would probably order Awesome flat noodles to get the bean sprouts, garlic and green onion instead.

Suzette ordered a daily special of Pad Thai rice noodles in red curry with bean sprouts and green beans and garlic with chicken which she ordered with zero chili, but which was well beyond the hotness of my dish, perhaps due to the inherent hotness of the red curry paste. The hotness scale goes up from 0, the hotness we ordered, to 5, which is Thai spiciness that I cannot even imagine how hot that is.

Suzette also ordered us an appetizer of Crispy Spring Rolls which were like Vietnamese fried spring rolls filled with rice vermicelli and vegetables inside and wrapped in a rice wrapper and deep fried and served with a small bowl of sweet chili sauce for dipping,.  Not much different than what we get at the Vietnamese restaurants in Albuquerque.

Here are the dishes and he menu:

the Fried Spring Rolls

the Papaya salad
the noodles in red curry

the Pad Kee Mow

the light show in the dome of Fremont Experience walkway

We loved our meal. The total check was $53.00 with one extra beer.  The first two beers cost $6.00 each.

Suzette loved the way the fresh papaya salad cooled off the hotness of her red curry noodle dish.

We walked the six blocks back to the hotel after dinner and watched the light show on the dome of the Fremont Experience walkway.  When we returned to our room we got into bad and watched MSNBC's commentary on the President’s  State of the Union speech and Larry Wilmore’s new show that is decidedly more black oriented than anything else on TV we watch regularly and went to bed.

Bon Appétit