Friday, February 28, 2014

February 27, 2014 Sautéed rib eye steak with twice baked potato and steamed Brussels sprouts

February 27, 2014  Sautéed rib eye steak with twice baked potato and steamed Brussels sprouts

Another unusual food day. 

I had a busy day of work and trying to close a transaction and making sure that the Candy lady was moving, but had time to go to Albertson’s and buy eggs, milk and six more rib eye steaks.   We had discussed, last night, the fact that because of Book Club at 7:00 p.m. we would need to make a quick and early dinner and since we had two PPI twice baked potatoes, I suggested that I buy more rib eye steaks since they were on sale at Albertson’s for $7.99/lb.; not as good a price as last week’s $6.77/lb. but still compelling for USDA Choice rib eye steak and make a simple dinner of steak potato and steamed asparagus, which met with instant approval.  Unfortunately, when I arrived at Albertson's the boneless rib eye steaks were $8.99/lb. and the bone in rib steaks were $7.99.  I still chose the boneless rib eye steaks but when I complained to the cashier and  showed him the add that said rib eye steaks were $7.99, he could not or would not accept the subtle difference in nomenclature between rib steak, which to me means a bone in rib steak and a rib eye steak which is always boneless.  Rather than argue or wait for him to call the butcher, as he suggested, I paid the $8.99/lb. price and went on with my errands thinking that such a grave mistake in nomenclature would never have occurred in the Fort Worth of my youth.   

At 6:00, when I reminded Suzette that Charlie was going to arrive at 6:40 p.m., we flew into action. We discussed grilling but Suzette decided that it was too windy to grill outside and we should simply saute the steak in a skillet and make a one pan dish.
We took one of the rib eye steaks out of the package and Suzette went to the fridge and fetched the two PPI twice baked potato halves and the bag of PPI Brussels sprouts and put them into the microwave and started heating them.  I sliced up a shallot while Suzette washed about a dozen baby portabella mushrooms.

When the shallot was slice and diced I put into a large skillet in which Suzette had added butter and the steak.  I then slice about five or six mushrooms and bagged the rest and put the mushroom slices into the skillet with the steak and shallot.  Then I went to the basement for a bottle of Cutler Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and opened it.

Suzette then said, “We need some liquid.”, so I fetched a bottle of red vermouth and poured about three Tbsps. into the skillet.  After another minute Suzette said, “We need a little more sauce, so I poured another two Tbsps. of red vermouth into the skillet and mentioned that we could add a bit more butter.  Suzette fetched another stick of butter and added about 1 Tbsp. more to the skillet.  Suzette checked the potato and Brussels sprouts and heated them some more and after another minute we were ready to eat.     

I poured the wine and got out steak knives and a fork and sliced the steak, while Suzette plated the potato and Brussels Sprouts and then we put slices of steak on our plates and Suzette garnished the steak with the mushrooms and sauce left in the skillet.

By 6:20 were ready to eat and I had finished most of my dinner by 6:40 when Charlie arrived.

I took a bottle of Whispering Angel Cotes d' Provence Rose (Costco $15.99) to the book club and those who drank it enjoyed it.  Ron served dessert at the end of the meeting of vanilla ice cream and Sara Lee triple layer chocolate cake with coffee.

We really enjoyed the steak sautéed with mushrooms, shallots, a bit of butter and some red sweet vermouth.  The addition of sweet red vermouth is an exceedingly easy way to make a flavorful sauce.  Try it, I think you will like it.

Bon Appétit  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

February 26, 2014 New Recipes, Duck and Eggplant Enchiladas and Pickled Cucumbers

February 26, 2014 New Recipes:   Duck and Eggplant Enchiladas and Pickled Cucumbers

Tonight we turned the tough duck meat from the Duck L'Orange of a few nights ago into duck enchiladas.

Yesterday we went to Pro’s Ranch Market and bought a lb. of Queso Fresco ($3.99/lb.), fresh crema ($1.89/lb.), onions ($.50/lb.) and 40 fresh corn tortillas ($1.79), among other items.  We also put all the duck carcass into a stock pot with chopped carrots, onion and celery and simmered it for several hours. 

Tonight we started by chopping up one medium onion  and an eggplant ($.48 at Sprouts) and about six or seven small cloves of garlic from our garden and sauteing them in olive oil in a large skillet.  I picked the duck meat off the carcass and then heated the duck stock.

Suzette then heated about ½ cup of Cervantes Red Chile Sauce (Costco $3.33/bottle) in a sauce pan with about 1 cup of duck stock.  She then ladled scoops of the red chile/duck stock mixture into a small pan and heated it and laid a fresh tortilla in the small pan to soften it and soaked each tortilla in the sauce.

Sauteed duck meat,  eggplant mixture and chili/duck stock sauce and duck stock
Suzette then put the soaked tortillas into a ceramic baking pan until she had covered the bottom of the baking dish with tortillas.  Then she covered the tortillas with a layer of the eggplant mixture and then some crumbled queso fresco, some of the duck meat on each eggplant layer.  We repeated the process again with another layer of sauce soaked tortillas, eggplant mixture, duck meat and cheese. 
duck meat, queso fresco and crema
Finally she covered the second layer with another layer of sauce soaked tortillas and poured the balance of the red chile/duck broth sauce over the tortilla filled baking dish until it came to within about ½ inch of the top of the baking dish and put the baking dish into a 350˚oven to bake until the sauce evaporated and the enchiladas were heated throughout, about 45 minutes. 

the baked enchiladas

While the enchiladas were cooking I peeled and sliced about 2/3 of a cucumber and added Aji Mirin and Rice Vinegar and a Tbsp. of Sweet chili sauce to the cucumbers in a bowl to pickle them.
cucumber pickles
I drank sweetened passion fruit green tea (Talin) and Suzette had water with dinner.   Remember, we are trying to not drink alcohol during the week.   

We loved the texture and flavor of the enchiladas.  They were a little picante, which we overcame with a liberal slathering of fresh crema.  We tried to slice several avocados but they were so old and discolored they were salvageable.  Also, luckily, the duck meat had lost its slightly tough texture that it had had several nights ago.  Boiling the duck for a few hours helped overcome that toughness.
Enchiladas with crema
enchiladas without crema
This is a good example of how manipulating and adapting PPI ingredients into a new format and Cuisine can reinvigorate a relatively unpleasant ingredient into a very pleasing and unusual dish.

Bon Appétit     

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25, 2014 PPI BBQ’s Cajun Shrimp with dirty rice and cucumber pickle.

February 25, 2014 PPI BBQ’s Cajun Shrimp with dirty rice and cucumber pickle.

We had a goodly portion of PPI BBQ’d Shrimp, so we decided to cook it.  At 4:30 when Suzette came home I asked her to go to Pro’s Ranch Market with me to fetch some apples ($.69/lb.).  Before we left she checked the ice box and saw that we had the PPI roasted duck from Sunday evening, so she suggested that we make duck enchiladas.  I agreed and when we got to Pro’s we also bought queso fresco, corn tortillas, mango yogurt, and another ½ lb. of shrimp.

When we got home Suzette started fixing the shrimp by sautéing the new shrimp in butter and then adding the PPI shrimp and sauce and dirty rice to it.  I quartered and sliced and marinated 2/3 cucumber in a bowl filled with a couple of Tbsps. each of Aji Mirin and rice vinegar.  Suzette fetched two beers from the garage fridge and soon we had a great meal of BBQ’d shrimp and dirty rice.  The BBQ's Shrimp recipe is in the February 23rd blog.

We also made stock from the PPI duck for enchiladas for tomorrow evening.  We have an eggplant and crema to use as filling for the enchiladas also.

Bon Appétit    

February 24, 2014 Sautéed Smoke Pork Chops, Twice Baked Potatoes, and Steamed Brussels Sprouts

February 24, 2014 Sautéed Smoke Pork Chops, Twice Baked Potatoes, and Steamed Brussels Sprouts 

We have definitely adopted “Less is better menu planning”, as Suzette says.

We bought Smoked pork Chops at pro’s Ranch Market yesterday and tonight we sautéed them with four cloves of garlic chopped finely and a bit of olive oil.  I de-stemmed the Brussels Sprouts and cut them in half and we steamed them while we cooked the chops.

The only serious prep was done by Suzette who scooped the insides out of the PPI baked potatoes and mixed them in a blender with half and half and butter to cream them, then replaced them onto the potato shells and sprinkled them with Dubliner Irish Cheddar cheese and baked them in the oven to heat them and melt the cheese.  I chopped chives finely and we sprinkled the tops of the potatoes with chives when we plated them with the chops and steamed Brussels sprouts.  I drank the last of the PPI Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc and its citrus, grapefruit flavor went really well with the greasy pork chop.

After dinner I had a bite of the cold PPI chocolate soufflé and it was delicious.

Bon Appétit      

February 23, 2014 Cajun BBQ Shrimp, Dirty Rice and Kale

February 23, 2014 Cajun BBQ Shrimp, Dirty Rice and Kale

We went to Pro’s Ranch market today and bought  1 ¼ lbs. of  51-70 count heads on Shrimp for $6.99/lb. that looked fresh and a papaya, some limes and onions.

When we got home we decided to make BBQ shrimp for dinner.  After I rode to Rio Bravo and took a shower, we started to cook at around 6:00 p.m.  Suzette suggested that we use some of our kale since it is starting to grow again, so I went to the garden and picked about a dozen leaves of kale and de-stemmed them and chopped up about 1 Tbsp. of fresh garlic greens I had also picked.

Suzette used her Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen recipe for BBQ shrimp and we heated the thawed dirty rice, I heated several slices of French baguette and we had a wonderful dinner with beers.

Here is the recipe for the BBQ’d Shrimp:
Suzette made “Barbecued Shrimp” from Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (page 88):
2 dozen large shrimp with heads and shells on
Seasoning Mix:
1 tsp. ground red pepper (preferably cayenne: we used cayenne)
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
½ tsp. dried rosemary leaves crushed (we did 1 ½ tsp. of fresh rosemary chopped finely)
1/8 tsp. dried Oregano leaves
¼ lb. (1 stick) plus 5 Tbsp. in all butter
1 1/2 tsp. garlic minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ cup Basic Shrimp stock
½ cup beer at room temperature
Combine the seasoning mix in a small bowl.
Combine 1 stick of butter the garlic, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning mix in a large skillet over high heat.  When the butter is melted add the shrimp.  Cook for 2 minutes shaking pan in back and forth motion. Add the remaining 5 Tbsp. of butter and the stock (we used PPI chicken stock) and cook for 2 more minutes shaking pan in back and forth motion.  Add the beer and cook and shake pan 1 more minute.  At the end of cooking, Suzette added the kale leaves.

Bon Appétit

Monday, February 24, 2014

February 22, 2014 Roasted Duck, Tomato Couscous, and steamed asparagus and Chocolate Soufflé

February 22, 2014 Roasted Duck, Tomato Couscous, and steamed asparagus and Chocolate Soufflé

This meal shows the importance of ingredients and preparation.  I had bought a whole duck at Talin last week and allowed it to thaw in the fridge and then on Friday took it out of the cryovac bag and let it sit in the fridge to air out and tighten its skin until Saturday.   On Saturday at 5:00 we began roasting the duck ion the Spandex steal frame in a roasting pan with about ¼ inch of water in it and roasted it for 1 ½ hours until it achieved and internal temp of 180˚, which was recommended.  While it was cooking we heated up the PPI tomato couscous and steamed asparagus and I refreshed the PPI l'orange sauce from the fridge by adding sections of an orange, about three Tbsps. of butter and about 1/4 cup of madeira adn 2 tsps. of sugar.   And I opened a bottle of newly bought 2012 Valréas “Cuvée Prestige” Cótes du Rhône Village (Trader Joe’s $5.99) which is 25% Syrah and 75% Grenache. 

Suzette did not like the taste of the duck and said it tasted like an old tough hen chicken.  I liked but it seemed to be a little over cooked.  I am not sure whether it was the duck or overcooking that made the duck seem tough.  The inside of my duck thigh was okay, but the skin portion seemed tough, like it had been overcooked.  When we took the bird out of the oven we discovered that the electric meat thermometer had been set to centigrade, so we were misreading the temp.  I guess Suzette changed it to Fahrenheit at the end and obtained the 180˚ reading.

While the duck was cooking we prepared a chocolate soufflé using Julia Child’s recipe with cornstarch, which made a gather gluttonous soufflé body that you could smell and taste contained cornstarch.

The milk and cornstarch and chocolate and coffee mixture with the bits of butter added
When the duck came out of the oven we placed the soufflé into the oven.
colored with parchment paper and put into the oven
the finished souffle
After 40 minutes it had risen a bit and we took it out of the oven and ate it for dessert.  We did not like it particularly well and opened the Classic Desserts Cookbook and found an easier and seemingly better tasting recipe we will try next time.

Also, the wine was a little thin tasting after the incredibly rich, heavy 2002 Meridian Syrah we drank last night with the steak.

I don’t know if the failure of this meal was due to bad ingredients, bad recipes or bad preparation or just failed in comparison to the greatest of all of those aspects in the steak dinner of Friday evening.

I ate a bite of soufflé Sunday evening and it still held together rather well and tasted great cold, so therein may be some justice for Julia’s recipe.

Bon Appétit    

Saturday, February 22, 2014

February 21, 2014 Grilled Steak, sautéed mushrooms, steamed asparagus, and baked potato

This is the classic Texas steak dinner of my youth.

As I mentioned before, on the 13th I bought six boneless rib eye steaks at Albertson’s graded USDA Choice ($6.77/lb. a great price for this quality of beef).

When I was growing up in Fort Worth, Texas we had wonderful beef.  Several times I remember going to the butcher houses with my dad where they would sell you a side of beef for a price and then age it in their cold storage rooms and cut it to your specifications.   The traditional method was to hang the beef in the cold storage room for 21 days to age the beef and then to cut it and freeze it, or better yet cook it fresh.

I spoke to Ron Wilder last week and he suggested punching holes in the saran wrap covering the steaks and allowing them to age.  Today I brought the steaks in and they still looked fine.

At 6:00 I punched holes in five Russet potatoes (Pro’s Ranch Market $1.50/10 lbs.) and put them on a cookie sheet and into the oven at 400˚ for an hour.  I fetched the baby portabella mushrooms and new bag of asparagus I bought yesterday at Sprouts ($.98/lb.) and a large shallot.

At about 7:00 I started by slicing about eight or nine mushroom caps and the shallot and about four or five small cloves of garlic.

When Suzette got off the phone we talked and she said she wanted to grill two steaks so we would have one cooked to use to make burritos with the extra potatoes.  So Suzette fired up the grill to heat it.

I put the shallots into the large skillet with about 1 ½ Tbsp. of butter and about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and  went to basement to fetch a wine. Following our new strategy of drinking our older wines, I selected 2002 Meridian Vineyards Reserve Syrah from Santa Barbara County.  Having just attended the Reidel and Chateauneuf du Pape wine tastings at the Winter Wine Festival in Taos, I am newly informed about the wonderfulness of Syrah.  Syrah is grown extensively in the Rhone Valley.  Master sommelier Joe Spellman, who is affiliated with Tablas Creek Winery, said that the Northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage grow almost exclusively Syrah and the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation in the Southern Rhone Valley usually mix about 30% syrah with the twelve other grapes to make their wines.  That is the grape that gives the wines of those regions their strong backbone and luscious earthy taste.   I am not usually a fan of Syrah, but given the new information, the fact that the Central Coast of California has become famous for its Rhone style wines and the fact that this bottle was 12 years old, led me to try it.  I must say we were not disappointed.  It had thrown a bit of sediment but most wines would in 12 years in the bottle.  Joe had recommended decanting the wine to avoid the sediment, which we did not do, so the last few sips were a bit gritty. 

The wine was full bodied and yet softly delicious.  We should have decanted it and let it sit for about thirty minutes to allow its tannins soften a bit, but we enjoyed it more the longer it sat in our glasses and we kept sipping it through dinner and beyond.  I had it with several chocolate truffles after dinner and it was lovely with them also. I have gained a new appreciation for the Rhone varietals.  In fact, one of the reasons I love being a member of Wellington Vineyard’s wine club is the fact that they produce wonderful Rhone style whites, like their Roussanne and Marsanne wines.
So after I started the shallots cooking Suzette put the steaks on the grill.  Then she came in and added the pile of mushrooms slices to the skilled, snapped the stems from a handful of asparagus and put them into the steamer and watched the mushrooms and shallots and garlic while I went to the basement cellar to select the wine.

When I returned she said the mushrooms needed some liquid, so I added about ¼ cup of sherry to turn the mushrooms into a sauce. 

In couple more minutes she brought in the grilled steaks cooked to medium rare.

These slightly aged rib eye steaks are the best beef I have tasted in years.   I just love them.  Suzette cut open and placed a potato on each plate and then laid asparagus on them and I sliced the steak and we laid strips of steak on our plates and then ladled the warm mushroom/shallot/garlic compote with its flavored liquid on the steak strips and I put some of the mushroom liquid on my potato, since we did not have any sour cream.

We enjoyed one of the best dinners we have had in the last week or two.  I don’t know if it was because of memories of this menu from my childhood or the new appreciation of Rhone style Syrah wine but that combination mad for a great dinner tonight.   We ate dinner and watched Zero Dark Thirty, which we had not seen before.  So it was a great dinner and a great movie.

Zero Dark Thirty
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Kathryn Bigelow
Mark Boal
Megan Ellison
Written by
Mark Boal
Music by
Greig Fraser
Editing by
Distributed by
Columbia Pictures (USA)
Universal Pictures (non-USA)
Icon Productions (Australia)
GAGA (Japan)
Release dates
·         December 19, 2012 (2012-12-19)
Running time
157 minutes[1]
United States
$40 million[2]
Box office
Zero Dark Thirty is a 2012 American action thriller war film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. Billed as "the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man", the film dramatizes the decade-long manhunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. This search eventually leads to the discovery of his compound in Pakistan, and the military raid on it that resulted in his death in May 2011.
The film stars Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Édgar Ramírez and James Gandolfini.[4][5] It was produced by Boal, Bigelow, and Megan Ellison, and was independently financed by Ellison's Annapurna Pictures. The film had its premiere in Los Angeles, California on December 19, 2012 and had its wide release on January 11, 2013.[6]
Zero Dark Thirty received wide critical acclaim, and was nominated for five Academy Awards at the 85th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Chastain), and Best Original Screenplay, winning for Best Sound Editing. Zero Dark Thirty earned four Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director, winning for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for Jessica Chastain.

As I told Suzette, "I would be tempted to go out to eat if I thought we could get anything better than this dinner for less than $100.00."  That is the key to the way we cook.  We eat the best quality foods for the least amount of money.   For example, I am not aware of any restaurant that serves USDA Choice or Prime beef that is aged 10 days, as we did.  I don’t know any restaurant that has 2002 Meridian Syrah on its wine list and, if we did find it or an equally good aged Syrah, we would not choose it, because it would quickly escalate the price of dinner past $100.00.  Two great ingredients and no bad ingredients make a great dinner in my book.

Bon Appetit

Friday, February 21, 2014

February 20, 2014 Dinner – New Recipe - Filet of Halibut Meunière with steamed broccoli and tomato couscous

February 20, 2014 Dinner – New Recipe - Filet of Halibut Meunière with steamed broccoli and tomato couscous

I did not work very hard today because I wanted to see the Olympic women’s final of ice hockey, although I finalized a divorce and prepared and assisted in the signing of an LOI for a client.

Yesterday I had bought a fresh halibut filet (Sprouts $12.99/lb.) that was from Mexico and was very flat, almost like a thick dover sole filet, so I decided to make Halibut Meunière.  I decided to steam the broccoli I had bought at Pro’s Ranch Market last week ($.69/lb.).  I was not sure what kind of starch to make so I waited until Suzette arrived home at around 7:45 p.m. because she is lacking a Spa receptionist/attendant and had to stay to close the Spa today at 7:00.

So I rested and watched the news.  When Suzette arrived she did not wish to cook and was happy to let me cook dinner.  I was rested and had a game plan except for the starch.   We discussed the various choices and when I said, “What about tomato couscous,” Suzette readily agreed.  

I love meunière sauce on a flat fish.  I make it with lemon, capers, parsley and the browned butter that the fish is cooked in.  Tonight I made the dish by first slicing about ¼ of a medium onion into thin slices and sautéing it in butter while I steamed the broccoli flowerets.  I started 1 ½ cup of water and 1 tbsp. of butter boiling in a pot and add one chopped medium tomato to the water.  When the water came to a boil I added 1 cup of couscous and reduced the heat and covered the pot, so it would steam and not burn.
I told Suzette, “I wish we had some parsley.”  She answered, “We do, in the garden” and she went to pluck about four sprigs from the garden, which I chopped finely.

I then got two pasta bowls and put one egg with some white pepper and salt into one bowl and stirred it to break up the egg and put panko into the other pasta bowl.  I then floured the filet on both sides and then dipped it into the egg and then coated it with panko and placed it into the skillet with the butter and onions.
After a couple of minutes, I added the juice of ¾ lemon and 2 tsps. drained capers.  I then turned the filet and placed the parsley on top of the filet, so it would serve as a both a flavoring and a garnish.

I then ran to the basement and fetched a bottle of 2012 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand and put it on the table.  I set the table with our French tablecloth and silverware and wine glasses and Suzette fetched napkins and we were ready to plate up.  In another couple of minutes the fish was done and the butter had turned a dark brown and the capers heated thoroughly. 

I cut the filet from stomach to tail along its natural division and put one side of the filet on each plate.  We each served ourselves broccoli and couscous and I poured the wine and cut another lemon in half and we each squeezed lemon juice onto our filets.  Although the wine had a very strong grapefruit citrus taste it was delicious with the fish and food.  Unfortunately, when we sipped it after finishing the food it became apparent that it had a high amount of residual tannin that produced a bitter aftertaste.  I will not buy it again.  I almost chose a Sancerre and that would have been a better choice at twice the price.

Here is the basic recipe for the dish from Wilipedia.  sole meunière is a classic French dish consisting of sole, whole or fillet, that is dredged in milk and flour, fried in butter and served with the resulting brown butter sauce and lemon. Sole has a light but moist texture when cooked and has a mild flavour. Since sole is a flatfish, a single fish will yield four fillets rather than the two fillets that a roundfish will produce. When preparing sole meunière, a true Dover sole is preferred. In classic service, the whole sole is sautéed tableside and boned by the server.

As you can see I opted for a standard schnitzel coating of flour, egg and bread crumbs to give the fish a thicker crunchier coating.  I also made the sauce more like a traditional piccata sauce by adding parsley and capers.  I considered adding garlic but thought that would move it too far toward the Italian piccata sauce and lose some of its more restrained elegantly French saveur.

Bon Appétit

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 19, 2014 Lunch – Budai Chinese Restaurant

February 19, 2014 Lunch – Budai Chinese Restaurant

I went to Kaspia’s new office at 10:30 to work on several of their projects.  Shortly after 11:30 we finished one and Aaron and I left for lunch and our 1:00 meeting on another matter.

He said he did not know what or where he wanted to eat and that I could choose.  I said that I had not tried Budai, which was on our route to the meeting.  Aaron, said, “I think it is the best Chinese and my kids love it.”  I said, “I have never been there and would love to try it.” So it was decided and Aaron drove us to Budai.  The restaurant was half full when we arrived a little before noon.  We took a booth by the window behind the checkout stand with a view of the entire restaurant from my side and out the window from Aaron’s side.  

 After being seated we were handed a luncheon menu.  Here is Budai’s luncheon menu:

 Lunch Specials
All Entrees come with a Veg. Egg Roll, Egg Drop Soup and Steamed Rice (Hot and Sour Soup and Fried Rice are available on request)

* Jalapeno Chicken

* Kung Pao Chicken

Mushroom Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken

* Twice Cooked Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

* General Tao Tofu

Tofu and Vegetables

* Curry Tofu

Mixed Vegetables
Pepper Steak

Beef with Broccoli

* Mongolian Beef

* General Tao Chicken

Sesame Chicken

Chicken Lo Mein

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

Shrimp in Lobster Sauce

* Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

* Crispy Flounder in Black Vinegar

After looking at the choices, I decided to try the Crispy Flounder in Black Vinegar, because I have never had that dish before.  When the waitress/owner came to take our order she asked, “Do you like it spicy?” and I said, “No”.  She said, “It is not too spicy.”  I asked if any black pepper is used to flavor the dish and she said, ”No, only white pepper.”  So I decided to try the dish.  Aaron chose the same dish.

Then there was even a longer discussion about the choice between hot and sour soup, which is spicy, and egg drop soup.  After Aaron said he thought Budai’s hot and sour soup was the best he had ever tasted, I decided to order the hot and sour soup.

Soon a server brought two small bowls of hot and sour soup with another small bowl filled with fried wonton strips.  It has been so long since I ordered hot and sour soup and I had forgotten that fried wonton strips are often served with it.  The soup was thick with lots of egg threads and strips of tofu.  It was spicy but the chili spice was balanced with the Chinese vinegar flavor.  Luckily, I did not taste any black pepper, so I guess white pepper was used instead.  The main flavor was of vinegar, which is okay, even if not perfectly balanced from my taste profile perspective.  I will need to try it again before making up my mind about it.  The one interesting flavor observation I can make is that the hot and sour soup had a pleasant complexity of ingredients but there seemed to have a blandness of flavor, save the vinegar, which gave it a blandness to my taste.

After a few more minutes the server returned with two platters filled with our flounder lunches. Each plate held about a 4 ounce piece of fish battered and fried, which I was not expecting, covered with that dark brown Szechuan sauce made with chili, garlic, and other small chunks of vegetables and spices.  I could not tell if Budai buys the sauce in bulk as some other restaurants do or makes it themselves.  The fish still had its skin on and the crispy skin coated with the sauce was delicious, sort of like tender fried chicken skin.  I mixed some of the mound of rice with the sauce and fish and enjoyed the dish.  Each plate also contained three small flowerets of steamed broccoli, a small vegetarian egg roll and a small steel ramekin filled with a vegetable pickle that was too vinegary/spicy for me.  But I enjoyed the fish a lot and even ate Aaron’s uneaten broccoli and sauce and last bit of fish with the rest of my rice.  

I loved lunch at Budai and will go back to try it again.  I noticed that it has my favorite dish, "Shrimp with lobster sauce" on its lunch menu.

I also notice on  Budai's website that it was selected as the best Chinese restaurant by the Albuquerque, the Magazine, readers in 2013.  So, Budai merits further consideration and lots more tasting.

I was going to meditate tonight, so when Suzette arrived home and she told me that she had eaten a late lunch and was not hungry, I fetched my PPI Vietnamese noodles and ate them.  They were, surprisingly, still soft and tender, not soggy from being over cooked or over sauced.

When I returned from meditation a little after 8:00 p.m., I ate three chocolate truffles with a bit of cognac flavored with Suzette’s juniper berry liquor as we watched Colbert Report.

Bon Appétit    

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February 18, 2014 Dinner – Grilled Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts casserole and Sautéed Apples and Dark Cherries

February 18, 2014 Dinner – Grilled Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts casserole and Sautéed Apples and Dark Cherries

I spent the day at home reading cases for my water adjudication.  I made a salad for lunch using the PPI steak from Sunday evening’s meal.  It was just as tender today as on Sunday.
I had thawed a boneless pork sirloin chop yesterday so I thawed another pork chop at 3:00 when I went for a bike ride 9.2 miles to Rio Bravo and back.

After Suzette arrived around 5:30 we discussed dinner and quickly decided to grill the pork chops and make a Brussels sprouts casserole.  I put the bottle of Josefina Rosé of Syrah into the freezer and went to take a shower and then met with Shahin, my accountant, for a few minutes.  Then I went to read and close my eyes for a few minutes.  About thirty minutes later, Suzette arrived to get me tell me help get dinner ready.   I went to the kitchen and found that the casserole was already in the oven and Suzette was ready to put the pork chops on the grill.  We discussed another vegetable and decided to sauté apple slices and cherries instead and Suzette suggested dousing the apple slices with cognac.

So I sliced one gala apple into slices and laid them in a medium skillet with about two Tbsps. of butter and Suzette put the pork chops on the grill.

Suzette asked if I wanted to grate any cheese onto the casserole and I said yes and found an old piece of what appeared to be Pecorino Romano cheese in the fridge and sliced slices off it as best I could because it was quite dried out and laid them on the casserole and returned it to the oven to melt the cheese.  
I sautéed the apple slices until they softened and turned golden brown, at which time we added a handful of dried cherries from Costco and another Tbsp. of butter.  When the cherries softened, we added about 2 tbsps. of cognac and turned down the heat.
When the pork chops were cooked, which took longer than usual because the larger chop that I had thawed at 3:00 had not fully thawed and needed about twenty minutes longer on the grill to cook to pinky clear in the center, Suzette brought them to the kitchen and sliced them.  She then ladled spoonsful of the casserole onto the plate and placed apple slices and cherries on her chop.  I placed the sautéed apple slices and cherry sauce beside my chop and poured the Josefina Rosé of Syrah.

We enjoyed another simple, delicious meal.  I loved the combination of cognac laced apple slices and cherries with the grilled pork and casserole containing chopped onion, cloves of garlic and halved Brussels sprouts brushed with olive oil and roasted in the oven.

The 2012 Josefina Rosé of Syrah (Trader Joe’s $5.99) was also delicious.  Fruity with good acidity and just a hint of the darker syrah grape essence and a perfect complement for the cherries and grilled pork and slightly bitter Brussels sprouts.   The cheese did not melt and added another dimension to the casserole, sort of dried cheese wafers.  I will grate good fresh cheese that will melt next time.

Bon Appétit

February 17, 2014 Dinner- Sweetbread, eggplant and mushroom ragout over pasta

February 17, 2014 Dinner- Sweetbread, eggplant and mushroom ragout over pasta

When we have a lot of PPI’s and we are lazy we often throw them all together in a one dish meal.  My Dad used to call this a Slum Gullion.  I never asked from whence he derived the name, but he always meant a lot of different things thrown together.   That was what we did tonight.  We combined a bag of PPI sautéed sweetbreads, the PPI bag of cassarecca pasta and steamed cauliflower, an eggplant and the last of the lobster mushroom, several white mushrooms, an onion, several cloves of garlic and several portabella mushrooms.  Then I went to the fridge in the garage and fetched a bundle of asparagus (Albertson’s $.99/lb.) and chopped five stalks, shoes ends I snapped off first, into 2/3 inch pieces.  My idea was to make a sweetbread and mushroom ragout utilizing the over-floured sweetbreads’ breading as a vehicle for thickening the cream sauce with the addition of white vermouth and half and half to reduce the labor of making a cream sauce and further cook the doughy flavor out of the sweetbreads.

I chopped the onion and put it into one bowl, sliced the mushrooms and garlic and put them into another bowl and sliced the eggplant and put it into another bowl so they could be added to the skillet at different times because they each have different cooking times.  This is a secret I learned from Chinese stir frying and makes it possible to compose a one dish meal in which different textured ingredients, all perfectly cooked, although it is a technique common to all cuisines. 
Suzette took out our largest skillet and added about 4 Tbsp. of butter and 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and sautéed the onions first, then she added the eggplant and cook them until they wilted.  Then she added salt and pepper and the mushrooms and I sprinkled them with Herbs Provence.  After a minute or two I saw that the mushrooms would cook more quickly with the addition of vermouth and so I added about 3 Tbsp. of white vermouth.  In a minute or two later we added the asparagus.

While the mixture was cooking we microwaved the bag of pasta mixed with steamed cauliflower flowerets and the bag of sweetbreads.  When they were hot and the mushrooms had collapsed a bit, we added the sweetbreads to the skillet and stirred in about ¼ cup of half and half.   The excess flour on the sweetbreads quickly thickened the sauce, so I added some more vermouth and we were ready to eat.  Suzette made a mound of the heated pasta and cauliflower flowerets and we ladled spoonsful of ragout over the pasta.

I wanted a white wine, so I ran to the basement fridge for a chilled bottle of 2012 Vouvray produced by the Famille Bougrier (a total Wine Alfio Mariconi selection, $7.99).  When we drank the wine, it was a little sweet for our taste, but cut through the dense cream sauce of the dish.  The tipoff that the wine was sweeter than other Vouvrays was on the label, which showed an alcohol content of 11.5%, which is low for fully fermented wines and the indication “Douce France”, which means “Sweet France”. 

Here is more information on Vouvray wines that shows the bottle we drank and describes the Bougrier label indication of “Douce France”:
Wines and styles[edit]
Chenin blanc is the dominant grape of Vouvray.
The Chenin blanc wines of Vouvray are characterized by the grape's natural high acidity. The perception of that acidity and style of wine will be determined based on the balance of sugar in the wine. Dry or sec styles will have more noticeable acidity than the sweeter demi-sec andmoelleux. The acidity is also a key component to the wine's aging ability.[2] Depending on the style, Vouvrays can exhibit notes of honeynuts,gingerfigapples and white flowers. Vouvrays are often paired with rich, hearty dishes and flavorful sauces.[3]
Sweetness levels[edit]
A Vouvray that states the grape (Chenin blanc) but does not indicate the exact sweetness level though the phrase "Douce France" (sweet France) may give a clue about the wine style.
As Vouvray can be made in a wide range of sweetness styles, the wine labels may indicate the sweetness level by the terms SecDemi-SecMoelleux and Doux. While these terms are not strictly defined, they tend to roughly fall into the guidelines below. Note that the residual sugar level may not equate to the level of sweetness that a taster will perceive in the wine due to balance of acidity in the wine. In some cases a producer's Demi-Sec wine may taste drier than their Sec. Sparkling Vouvray may also have the sweetness level indicated on the label.[3]
·         Sec The driest level with 0-0.4% (less than 4 grams per liter) residual sugar. Sometimes producers will specify their bone dry wines as Sec-Sec or "dry dry" and their slightly less dry wines as Sec-tendresor "gently dry".[3]
·         Demi-Sec An "off dry" style with between 0.4-1.2% (4 to 12 grams per liter) of residual sugar.[3]
·         Moelleux A sweet, often botrytized style with 1.2-4.5% (12 to 45 grams per liter) of residual sugar. The term Moelleux is French for "mellow".[3]
·         Doux The sweetest style with more 4.5% (45 grams per liter) of residual sugar. The term liquoreux or "liquor-like" may appear on the label to describe the almost syrupy sweet nature.[3]
In favorable vintages when the climate conditions encourages the development of noble rot (example pictured), the sweet wine styles of Vouvray will often have immense aging potential and longevity.
Vouvrays are known for their longevity and aging potential, particularly if the vintage was favorable. Some wines, most notably the sweeter Moelleux styles, have the potential to age and develop in the bottle for several decades to a century. While modern producers are contributing to making examples more approachable to drink while young, some premium examples still made in the traditionally high acid style will often need 3 to 7 years of bottle age before the acidity tones down.[3] Dry or Secexamples from favorable vintages can have the potential to age for 15–20 years or more but many are ready to drink within 4 or 5 years after vintage. Sparkling Vouvrays tend not to have the same aging potential as their still wine counterparts or vintage dated Champagne and are usually meant to be consumed within 3 years of vintage or, for non-vintage bottling, soon after purchase.[4]
In 2005 Decanter Magazine conducted a compilation of the "100 Greatest Wines" ever made. A 1947 Vouvray (considered a favorable year by many critics[6]) from the producer S.A. Huet was ranked #6 on this listing-the second highest ranking for any white wine behind only the 1921 vintage of Chateau d'Yquem.[7]

As you can see sweetness is not an indicator of quality in Chenin Blanc.  Since Chenin Blanc vintners usually do little to adjust the sweetness of their wines, you get pretty much what Mother Nature gave you that year.  That is why there are so many different styles of Chenin Blanc.  Unfortunately, I see mostly the medium sweet Vouvrays for sale in my favored under $10.00 category of wines because they probably are cheaper or more prolific and thus are imported more often by the large wine sellers, such as Trader Joe’s and Total Wine.  The sparkling Fouquet Chenin Blanc we bought in Vouvray and drank last Friday night (February 14, 2014) is a good example of what Vourary is capable of.

After a lunch of warm rice noodles with fried pork and eggrolls, an iced coffeee and an appetizer of Spring Rolls with Mike at Café Trang, I went to Williams Sonoma to see if I could replace my 7 inch Sabatier chef’s knife. 
Although Williams Sonoma had lots of knives, it sells Sabatier only on line and it appears from the Sabatier website that Sabatier no longer makes the high carbon low profile 7 inch chef’s knife like the one Mother gave me 45 years ago.  I did not see any knife that met my weight and profile requirement at Williams Sonoma, so I am using the broad blade chef’s knife Billy gave me last year for Christmas that is relatively light and will probably last me the rest of my life. 

After Williams Sonoma I went to Trader Joe’s and bought a baguette, an 8 oz.  box of French truffles, a bottle of cognac, and bottles of chianti, La Granja Spanish wine, a Valreas Cotes du Rhone, and a new New Zealand Pinot Noir.  I looked for Clos du Val, but there were none.

It looks like I shall be making a trip to Costco on Wednesday.

Bon Appétit