Monday, October 27, 2014

October 26, 2014  Veal Stew with Corn spoon bread casserole, salad and Tres Leches Cake

Cynthia and Ricardo came over for dinner.  Cynthia made a salad and a wonderful corn spoon bread casserole.  We made a veal stew.

Around 10:00 I cleaned the sliver skin and tendons out of the 1 ¼ lb. of veal stew meat we bought yesterday at Alpine Sausage Kitchen, while Suzette went to the garden and picked a basket full of turnips and a couple of small sweet potatoes.  I then sliced five pieces of bacon into 1 inch wide pieces and cleaned and diced the lb. of red onions we had bought at the Farmer’s Market yesterday.   

When Suzette had cleaned the turnips and sweet potatos, I diced them into large pieces to match the size of the veal chunks and we put them into the crock pot.

Then I peeled and diced a large sweet potato we had bought yesterday at the Farmer’s Market.   I then diced a red bell pepper, all the carrots we had picked from our garden, and an old stalk of leek. Suzette braised the bacon and then the veal and red onions in the large Le Creuset casserole and put those into the crock pot.

We then turned the crock pot to high and cooked the veal stew from 11:00 to 6:30 p.m.

When Cynthia and Ricardo arrived at 6:00 Cynthia brought in a deep baking dish filled with piping hot Mexican corn spoon bread, a Mexican flavored polenta with lots of Longhorn cheese melted into it and on the top of it.  Cynthia made a salad dressing with Balsamic Vinegar and a Portuguese olive oil we bought at a specialty food shop in Oporto.  Ricardo was carrying a PPI ½  bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Oaks Winery reserve, which we poured for our first glass of wine.  We then poured out our PPI 1/2 bottle of Wellington Alexander Valley  Petite Sirah (Gold medal Sonoma County Fair) after we took Cynthia’s salad (mostly arugula and mizuna with beautiful small cherry tomatoes she had raised in her garden and herbed cracked olive pieces) to the garden gazebo accompanied by a half baguette of warm Bosque Bakery baguette.  After a lovely first course of salad and lots of talk of Cynthia’s recent three week sojourn at her house in Maine, we served the veal stew and corn spoon bread.  When we finished the Petite Sirah Ricardo and I went to the basement to find another wine to drink.  Suzette had recommended a light red and soon my eyes fell upon the open case of 2010 Marchesi Castello de Monastero Chianti Superiore, which was wonderfully light and complemented the food.  The Petite Sirah was my favorite because it had a delightful fruitiness. 

Finally, Suzette served cognac and pieces of her tres leches cake and we all felt like we had had a lovely meal.  At 8:30 Ricardo’s alarm on his phone went off and after clearing the table we said goodnight.

Bon Appétit

October 24, 2014 Dinner party at Tom and Janis LaFountain’s The Shed’s recipe for baked enchiladas with red sauce and toasted garlic bread

Friday night was a special deja vu experience that had the chance of being replicated.  It was a close to going to The Shed as one can get and not go to the Shed.
Somehow Janis obtained the Shed’s recipe for its red sauce and made baked enchiladas identical to those at The Shed and even replicated the dish identically by making the same type of toasted French garlic bread.  I was blown away.

There are two other observations that I need to make about the meal.  First is that beer is a far better emulsifier of the hot and heavy flavors and ingredients in the enchiladas.  We usually drink beer when we eat at The Shed, but tonight because Doug and Crystal favor red wine, we drank red wine.  Unfortunately for me, I stayed up half the night with digestive discomfort, unpleasant enough to not sleep, but not unpleasant enough to cause any pain or lack of function.  I watched movies on TV and marveled at the excellence of the meal and that soon I would have the ability to prepare a credible Shed enchilada, because Janis had promised to send me and you the recipe.
Here is the recipe:

The other noteworthy thing, lies in the wine selection.  Janis and Tom had bought several bottles of Spanish red wine.  One was an Eguia 2009 Reserva Tempranillo and the other was Marques de Riscal Reserva.  Both wines are produced in Elciego, Spain, which is in the middle Rioja.  I tasted the two reds side by side and noticed that the Riscal was noticeably smoother and cleaner tasting.
After dinner the reason why the Eguia was more earthy and the Riscal cleaner tasting occurred to me.  When we were in Spain several years ago I took a tour of Riscal during which we visited its fermentation and aging areas.  I recall that they showed us the area where they rack the wine and, as I recall the guide said that Riscal racks the wine four or six times in the first 1 ½ years.  Here is Wikipedia’s description of racking.

Racking, often referred to as Soutirage or Soutirage traditionnel (meaning racking in French[1]), also filtering or fining, is a method in wine production of moving wine from one barrel to another using gravity rather than a pump, which can be disruptive to a wine.[2] The process is also known as Abstich in German and travaso in Italian.[3]
Alexis Lichine's Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits defines racking as "siphoning wine or beer off the lees (in the case of wine) or trub (in the case of beer), into a new, clean barrel or other vessel."[4] Racking allows clarification and aids in stabilization. Wine that is allowed to age on the lees often develops "off-tastes." A racking hose or tube is used and can be attached to a racking cane to make the task easier. The racking process is repeated several times during the aging of wine.[4]
So we had in front of us the perfect example to the benefits of more racking versus less racking.
Both the Eguia and the Riscal were carried the same classification as reservas, so they had been produced from grapes grown near the same small village in Spain and aged in the same manner, yet one had a noticeably cleaner taste.  I concluded that the difference must be due to the number of times the wine was racked.

Here is the classification system for Rioja per Wikepedia:
Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, simply labeled Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel. A crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year. Also produced are wines in a semi-crianza style, those that have had a couple of months oak influence but not enough to be called a full crianza. The designation of crianza, Reserva etc. might not always appear on the front label but may appear on a neck or After back label in the form of a stamp designation known as Consejo.[8]

For those of you who, like me, like to delve deeper into the legal regulations of things, here is what the consejo designation on the label of a food product means:
The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA – Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación) regulates the quality of Spanish foodstuffs via a labelling system which establishes, among other things, a Denominación de Origen for the country's highest quality produce. A semi-autonomous governing body (Consejo Regulador) exists for each region and for each food type, comprising skilled, impartial members who investigate the quality, ingredients and production process of each product, ensuring they attain specific quality levels. They report to a central council at national government level but are normally based in the largest population centre of a given region and are responsible for enforcing its geographical limits. Products labelled Denominación de Origen, apart from being of superior quality, are expected to carry specific characteristics of geographical region or individual producer and be derived from raw materials originating within the region. Like most of these designations, a fundamental tenet of a DO label is that no product outside of that region is permitted to bear the name.

So the answer to why the Eguia tasted more earthy is the lack of as much racking as the Riscal, even though they are the same type of grape grown in the same area and produced to a reserva level of quality.  If you don't rack as much, you get a less clean tasting, more earthy tasting wine in a tempranillo reserva.
After dinner we ate pieces of Suzette delicious Tres Leches cake.

We said goodnight at 10:00

Bon Appétit     

October 25, 2014 Dinner Sandwiches at Marble Brewery

This morning we talked to Billy and Elaine in Dallas and they confirmed that the Thanksgiving meal would be on November 22nd

So we booked a trip to Dallas and Sayulita.  We found a place on the beach at Casa Miel for about $150.00 per night with a bedroom and a sitting room and a kitchen.  We decided on Casa Miel because it is on the beach but not in the middle of town like Aurinko, which has become very noisy at night due to the nightclubs on the square next to it.

We then went to the Farmers’ Market where we bought a French Baguette, an almond croissant from the Le Quiche French Bakery, Goat milk feta from Old Windmill Farms, some red onions from Mascia’s farm and a pumpkin for Halloween and then drove to Alpine Sausage Kitchen and bought gelbwurst (veal bologna), and veal stew meat and leverwurst.  We then showed the Candy Store to a group interested in opening a restaurant.

I then watched one of the greatest football games in a long time.  TCU scored 82 points on Texas Tech.  It was the highest scoring game in TCU history and the highest number of offensive yards gained in any game in TCU’s school history at over 850 yards of offense.  I could not believe it.

We had decided to go to Marble Brewery’s Harvest fest, so at 6:30 we made sandwiches on the French baguette with salami, leverwurst, and gelbwurst and packed a bag of the pickles Suzette had made with cucumbers from our garden and slices of manchego cheese.  When we arrived at Marble Brewery it was full but we found a place pretty easily at one of the long tables and bought glasses of beer and began eating our dinner. Suzette drank Amber Ale and I drank a wildflower wheat beer. The something Stout band played a mix of folk rock that we enjoyed.

Finally, at around 9:00 we went home and soaked in the hot tube for a while and then went to bed.

I slept 8 1/2 hours for the first time. 

Bon Appétit   

Thursday, October 23, 2014

October 22, 2014 New Recipe Tres Leches Cake and Duck Breast Salad

New Recipes are of two distinctly different types.  One type is a newly created recipe such as last night's Shrimp Scampi on a bed of Baked Spaghetti Squash from our garden.  The other type is a new recipe to us in the sense that it is a standard recipe being prepared for the first time by us. Tonight's recipe of Tres Leches Cake is an example of the latter. 

I had a busy day.  I dealt with the building and was interviewed for TV and went to court and rode to Rio Bravo and back and went to meditate from 7:00 to 8:00.
After meditation I went to Lowe’s to buy Suzette some Baking Powder for the Tres Leches Cake she was making for Janis and Tom’s Friday night dinner party.  I saw that the steak special of $5.99 for a whole slab of boneless rib eye steaks was on and saw a nice 17 ½ lb. slab of steaks for $106.00, so I bought it on a whim.  When I arrived home I told Suzette that I had bought a 17 1/2 lb. slab of steaks and instead of Suzette being incredulous about my extravagant purchase, she said that Devven, the Greehouse Bistro’s new chef, and she had been discussing serving a rack of steaks aged in Pink Salt.  I told her I thought the sale priced slab of steaks might work for them.  I will offer to let them experiment with the slab.  What fun that what appeared to have been a whim may have turned out to have been prescient and totally in line with their thinking. 

When I arrived home Suzette had already baked the cake and was just starting to make the tres leches sauce that soaks into both sides of the cake.  She mixed the tres leches sauce while I began preparing a duck breast salad.  Then we worked together to pour ½ of the sauce on each side of the 13”X20” cake by placing parchment paper on large trays and flipping the cake two times, once to remove the cake from its pyrex baking dish and a second time to turn the cake after Suzette soaked the first side with ½ of the sauce.  After the second flip the cake sat on a serving tray that had been one of my mother’s on a piece of parchment paper cut to size by Suzette, fully soaked with sauce.  Suzette covered and took the cake to the garage fridge to rest and absorb the sauce for several days, as the recipe directed.   Here is the recipe:

 I finished cutting up two vine ripe tomatoes from Sprouts and one of the last cucumbers from our garden and heating the two PPI duck breasts from Sunday’s Roasted Duck dinner and refreshing the vinaigrette dressing by the addition of Prager’s Port Wine ( vinegar, 1 tsp. of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard and olive oil.

I then heated the PPI duck breasts in the microwave and sliced them and placed them on the top of the lettuce in a pasta bowl as the middle row between a row of diced cucumber and a row of tomatoes on either side and drizzled the dressing onto the salad by 9:00, when the new Colbert Report and John Stewart shows aired.  I ran to the basement and fetched a bottle of Wellington Gold medal winning 2010 Petite Sirah and opened it and toasted several slices of French sourdough bread as Suzette took the finished tres leches cake to the garage fridge.

Composed Duck Breast Salad

We enjoyed our simple but lovely and tasty salad and watched the TV.

After 10:00 when the shows ended we took a soak in our new hot tub and by 10:30 we were in bed.

Bon Appétit      

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 21, 2014 Lunch Noodle soup with Mussels, Dinner New Recipe Shrimp Scampi with Spaghetti Squash and sugar snap peas

Lunch -   around 11:30 I went to the garden and picked several kale leaves, some cilantro, oriental basil, and garlic greens.  I set a pot with about 2 quarts of water to the boil and added instant dashi, and 1 large tbsp. of brown miso and the last Tbsp. of pork tapa diced.  I then added Rice sticks, Soba noodles and mung bean noodles with seche seaweed, 2 white mushrooms sliced, 8 oz. tofu, about 8 frozen mussels and 3 green onions.  This is the combination Vietnamese noodle/miso soup I often make.  When the noodles had softened after about fifteen to twenty minutes of simmering, I ladle a bowl of the soup into a large bowl and squeezed into it juice of ½ lime and hoisin sauce to taste.  I could only eat ½ of it so the other half will be lunch on another day.

Dinner  We had decided to make shrimp scampi last night with the PPI baked spaghetti squash and sugar snap peas.  So tonight after I rode ten miles and showered I went to the kitchen where Suzette had started melting about 4 oz. of butter and 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet and added about ½ lb. of sugar snap peas I had de-stemmed and halved  because the peas needed the longest cooking time.  We then squeezed into the simmering butter 2 large cloves of garlic.  We then discussed herb selection and Suzette said she wanted lemon thyme and tarragon, so I went to the gardens and picked both, plus some regular thyme and parsley, which I chopped and added to the skillet.

After adding the garlic and before I went to the garden for herbs, Suzette wanted to add about ½ cup of white wine.  We decided to open the bottle of 2013 Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc we had bought at Trader Joe’s on Saturday ($6.99).  The wine had a clean finish; not any grassy citrus flavor, more of a tannic metallic flavor.  I loved its slightly astringent metallic flavor.  We decided to drink it chilled with ice with the meal. This a good Sauvignon Blanc wine for the money.  Vivino reviews give it a 3.6 rating, which is impressive.  Definitely a winner and worth keeping in the cellar. 

Suzette then scraped about ½ lb. of roasted spaghetti squash into tendrils and added it to the sauce in the skillet and added the 1 lb. of shrimp she had peeled.  We cooked the mixture until the shrimp had cooked to pink and the spaghetti squash had heated through. 

We ladled spoonfuls of our one dish meal into pasta bowls and enjoyed it with a slice of toasted French sour dough bread (Costco, $4.99 for two 16 oz. loaves) and a glass of the Les Portes de Bordeaux.

During and after dinner, we watched Colbert Report, Jon Stewart and the first game of the World Series until it became evident that San Francisco was overpowering KC.  I took a glass of cognac with a bit of Cointreau and some chocolate covered almonds and raisins and went to read in bed around 8:30.

Bon Appétit

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 20, 2014 Lunch Monte Carlo Steakhouse Dinner Salad, French Onion Soup au gratin and Bananas Foster

Aaron took me to lunch today and we first wanted to go to Monica’s El Portal but it was closed, so Aaron suggested that we go to Monte Carlo Steakhouse.  I said, “I have not been there for years, Why not.”

 The large dining room at Monte Carlo is dominated by a long bar and large vinyl covered seats on rollers and booths.  This is definitely something out of the 50’s or 60’s.  I could not read the menu in the half-light so I ordered the daily special of BBQ beef short ribs with a baked potato and a Greek salad. 
Monte Carlos looking at bar and kitchen
The salad was mostly chopped iceberg lettuce with a great Greek dressing on it.  The BBQ beef short ribs were covered with a thick BBQ sweet sauce, huge but not very meaty.  I felt like a complete carnivore tearing into them with my fork, knife and teeth.   The baked potato came with two small paper cups, one with butter and the other with sour cream.  Aaron ordered a green chili hamburger, which he said was just okay.

Beef short ribs with baked potato
Green chili cheese burger with fries

I enjoyed my meal but I no longer consider a steakhouse fine dining because Suzette and I can prepare a great steak with lovely fresh vegetables any day of the week.

Suzette had suggested PPI Texas chili over spaghetti squash yesterday for dinner, but around 5:30 when we started thinking about dinner, I asked her to consider eating PPI French Onion Soup au Gratin and salad instead for dinner.  Since she had eaten meatloaf for lunch, she agreed to heat the PPI French Onion Soup.  I suggested that we make a short cut and simply melt Swiss Gruyere cheese on a piece of toast and lay it on the soup, but Suzette wanted to make the au gratin traditional method by placing slices of Swiss Gruyere cheese on a piece of toast and baking the cheese covered toasted bread in the oven in a French Onion Soup bowl to melt the cheese.   So I fetched the French Soup bowls and freshened up the salad dressing with lemon and olive oil and fetched the cucumbers and tomatoes.

While Suzette cubed pieces of tomato and cucumber and composed the salads and garnished them with some baked spaghetti squash, I went to the cellar to fetch a bottle of light red wine to drink with the soup.   I wanted a light red like a 100% Grenache, but did not see one, so I finally picked a bottle of Slow Paseo Spanish red wine ($3.99 at Trader Joe’s), which I do not remember having drunk before.  When we opened it I discovered two things.  First, the wine was not lighter, but heavier, like a Tempranillo grown in Southern Spain.  Second, the absence of a regional and grape designation on the bottle should have been a tip off that this was an unreliable wine to buy in the sense that there was too little information and thus you were at the mercy of the producer or bottler’s whim to put in a bottle whatever they could find that was cheap and mix the dosage anyway they wanted.  As dinner progressed I also struck upon a simple indication of the poor quality of a wine; Suzette will not drink a second glass of a bad wine.  Pretty label, bad wine.

composed salads

note use of spaghetti squash

We loved the French Onion Soup and both agreed that it was better reheated a third time, very much like the Texas chili that finally made it into a saucy stew-like texture instead of a watery texture with lots of separated pieces of tomato, beef and beans on the third day of cooking it.  Sometimes, PPIs are beneficial.  We loved the soup and the fresh salad.

After dinner Suzette said, “We need to eat the bananas.  I think it is Bananas Foster time.”

So I peeled two bananas and sliced them in halves lengthwise, so they would lie flat in a skillet.  I fetched the dark brown sugar and about 4-6 oz. of butter and the bottle of rum.

Bananas Foster Recipe:

I melted ½ of the butter in a large skillet and sautéed the bananas in the butter and flipped them to coat them with butter for a couple of minutes.  Then I added about ¼ cup of dark brown sugar and stirred the sugar into solution by adding more butter.  After another minute of cooking to let the sugar and butter sauce cook into the bananas, I added about ¼ cup of rum and stirred it into the sauce and cooked it for about a minute to heat it. Then I lit the sauce on fire while Suzette laughed and took a video of the process.  We have a lot of fun cooking.

flaming the bananas foster
As soon as Suzette stopped filming the flames, I blew out the fire so the sauce would retain some of the rum’s alcohol flavor.   We served the bananas foster over vanilla bean ice cream ($2.50 at Albertson’s for 1.5 quarts).  We enjoyed our whole meal; especially the wonderful use of soft bananas that would otherwise be inedible to make a delicious dessert.

Bon Appétit

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 19, 2014 Breakfast Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches Lunch Texas Chili Dinner Roasted Duck with Sauce L’Orange, Sugar Snap Peas and Baked Spaghetti Squash

We had a rather bitter sweet moment this morning when we made bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with what will probably be the last tomato ripened in our garden this summer.  Then we spent three hours cleaning the garden beds, putting the top over the pond to protect it from falling leaves and laying the uprooted cosmoses in the new bed on the 15th Street side of the yard to try to propagate cosmos in the new flower bed by the new fence.

By 1:30 we were hungry so we heated the Texas chili, which finally is getting thickened enough to consider it a stew of the type I am familiar with, in which the meat, beans, onions and tomatoes are cooked enough to start to go into solution .  It took three days of cooking to reduce the chili to a stew like consistency because I did not add any thickener such as masa, which I think changes the texture and flavor of the chili, by obscuring the dominant flavor of the meat and beans.

At 6:00 we started cooking dinner.  Suzette had thawed out our last package of two duck halves.  I wanted to make a Sauce L’Orange, so I found the recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1.

Suzette started by baking two of the spaghetti squash we had grown in our garden.  I split them and she put butter in the cavity and baked them for 1 hour.  Then she took a fork and pulled the softened flesh into threads.

I then zested the orange portion of 3 oranges and then blanched the zested strips of orange peel in water for ten minutes.  While the peel was blanching I peeled the oranges and removed the orange sections from them and put the sections and the prepared sauce from the duck package into a sauce pan and added 2 Tbsp. of port vinegar and ½ cup of Madeira.   The sauce was thin and so I added about 1 Tbsp. of arrowroot dissolved in madeira, but that did not thicken the sauce, so I turned up the heat and cooked the sauce for about fifteen minutes because that was how long it took to roast the pre-cooked duck halves.   The sauce was still not very thick but it had a toothsome flavor of fresh oranges with a slight vinegar edge to it that can not be achieved with a commercial sauce.   
Suzette went to the basement to fetch a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Valréas “Cuvée prestige” ($5.99 at Trader Joe’s), a blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah.  We plated up our plates with the leg quarter of duck, sugar snap peas, spaghetti squash and the orange sauce and had a lovely meal and watched Peyton Manning break Bret Faure’s record for the most TD passes at 509.  Then we watched Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece Theatre from 8:00 until 9:30 and then turned the TV back to the Sunday Night Football game and saw Peyton Manning had pushed the TD pass record to 510 as Denver blew out San Francisco.

We then soaked in the new hot tub for fifteen to twenty minutes and fell into bed very relaxed at around 10:00.

Bon Appétit