Sunday, April 26, 2009

Herbin' It Up

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Maymont's Herbs Galore and More and I was lucky enough to attend. This was a first for me as I have never had to pay a cover charge ($3) to shop. It was well worth it though, as I found several herbs to fill in the gaps of my garden not to mention the entry fee went to support the Maymont Foundation. I also learned that there are more kinds of basil and thyme than I could have ever imagined!

The vendors weren't just selling herbs. There was also hand made pottery, food, original art and my fav find of the day-- local honey.

I also wanted to share that the most exciting herb I found yest. wasn't at the herbfest. Popped in to Tom Leonard's to pick up a few things for dinner and tripped over some Thai Basil!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I categorically, undeniably love snacks. Ask my husband, he'll tell you. (And after Thursday's 30 Rock where Liz is singing to her snack cheese on the couch while wrapped in a 'slanket,' he's also taken to calling me Liz Lemon............but I digress......). So, it's no surprise that I've had a strong love affair with tapas for many years now. How could you not love getting to taste and share everything on the table? A little nibble here, a big spoonful there means you don't miss out on anything.

Because of this affinity, I have had Si on my list of places to try. I've attempted to pop in, only to hit a busy time with an hour wait. The space is limited, so waiting is awkward. Thus, I usually roll on to a new destination. I do recommend having a reservation so there are no issues getting a table right away. Which the hubs kindly made for us last nite.

Tip-- if you would like to sit on the patio, make sure to specify when making your reservation. Hubs was told there were only 2 reservations at our 7:30 time slot when he called to reserve(at noon same day). Therefore, he could pick where we wanted to sit when we arrived. Not so. Once we got to the restaurant, the hostess told us there were "other reservations already for the patio" and seated us inside. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed as I was really looking forward to sitting outside and taking in the beautiful evening.

Other than that little 'misunderstanding,' our experience was enjoyable. The inside of the restaurant is definitely what I would deem cozy. A small space that houses banquettes and small niches of 2 tops against and seemingly set into the wall. There's a tall 8 top table in the middle of the lower part of the restaurant attached to some type of custom wine rack. A bar and more seating may be found upstairs which includes a few couches to lounge on in addition to the small patio seating along Lombardy St.

We ordered:

Spinach salad w/avocado, roast corn and citrus dressing
Hummus 2 ways
Chicken and serrano ham croquettas
Fried triangles of manchego cheese, drizzled with honey
Pork Empanadas
Steak & grits
Chocolate torte w/mint ice cream for dessert

I also had 2 of the house cava by the glass, which was crisp, dry and refreshing. The winners in our line up were the spinach salad and croquettas. The salad was perfectly dressed, the corn sweet and toothsome, avocado ripe. It was the perfect mouthful of spring. The chicken and ham croquettas appeared with an unexpected dipping sauce that had the hubs and I fighting over the last dip. Not sure what was in it, just that it was the perfect accompaniment.

The manchego cheese came to the table in small, crispy triangles, drizzled with honey and laid on a bed of arugula. While tasty, it was too heavy for me and really didn't stand up to the other items we ordered in terms of personality and variation. The pork empanda stuffing was delicate with a hint of cumin and other spices. The outer pastry seemed to overwhelm the pork. While flavorful, it ended up being a bit too dry b/c I felt there was too much crust going on.

I just flat out didn't like the hummus at all. This is the first time in Richmond I've received a hummus I haven't enjoyed. I got it '2 ways'- but the menu didn't tell me what that meant?(I should've asked). I only know that the garlicky "way" tasted astringent. Please understand I say this as someone who eats, makes and enjoys hummus on a regular basis. Not to mention garlic, there can never be enough of it in anything I eat! The second 'way' I believe had harissa in it. There was definitely a peppery flavor, but it was all overpowered by too much salt. The rest of the plate was filled with tiny green olives, arugula and roasted red peppers.

The steak was fabulous, you'll have to ask the hubs about the grits. A true southern boy, he expects his grits to be silky smooth and creamy. What came out on the steak plate was stone ground, toothsome and had been shoved into a ring with the shredded steak on top for an eye pleasing presentation. Not so pleasing for the mouth, according to the hubs. I kept trying to convince him that, like pasta, the grits were 'al dente.' He just wasn't buying it. I enjoyed them, but want to give you fair warning of what to expect so that you are not disappointed like the hubs was. The steak was tender and melted on the tongue.

Dessert was decadent! The torte had such solid consistancy, it was almost like a lovely, rich, expensive european chocolate bar. The mint ice cream, ironically took the edge off of the richness and made this heavy dessert seem refreshing. A great end to our meal. I should also mention that service was on the mark and unobtrusive.

I'm definitely going back to try more on their diverse menu and making sure I reserve a patio seat next time!

214 N Lombardy St
Richmond - (804) 257-7940

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Biscuit wins!

In the spring war of biscuits vs. sun dresses, the biscuit won today. Biscuits full of hand-smashed Tellicherry peppercorns, fresh grated parm-reg cheese, topped w/bacon grease.
You know you want one. ;)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Zed Cafe

Saturday found the hubs and I out and about, running errands. Starting at Short Pump (to turn in my busted iPod), working our way into the city, it dawned on me that Zed was on our way. This has been on my list for a long time and it seemed a good a time as any to dive right in.

From the Zed website:
ZED brings a unique flavor to the Richmond culinary environment serving fresh,responsibly sourced meats and local products. Come by and check us out for delicious modern cuisine, our extraordinary and ever-changing wine menu, and our highly acclaimed guest service and personal attention.

BEGINNING TUESDAY, MARCH 24TH we will open our doors at 9:00 a.m. and invite you to experience Zed morning, noon and night.

Coffee & Tea Bar Tuesday - Friday 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Lunch - Tuesday - Friday 11:00 a.m.m - 2:30 p.m .
Wine Bar & Light Lunch Tuesday - Friday 2:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Brunch - Saturday 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Dinner - Wednesday - Saturday 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Open for Mother's Day Brunch, Sunday May 10th 11 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Lunch/Brunch was wonderful. I ordered the "French Press" - baguette with black forest ham, dijon mustard, brie and cornichons (I pulled these off, a little too much salt) and a side of sweet potato fries. It's truly lovely to be offered either the sweet potato fries or green salad in place of the requisite french fry. Overall, my plate was a great balance of sweet and salty. The bread/baguette was fantastically crunchy & chewy at the same time.

Hubs got choc. chip pancakes, applewood smoked bacon and the scallion cheese grits. Now, he's pretty picky about his pankcakes, I wasn't expecting this to end well. But, my head snapped up in surprise when he said, "Mmm, these are good." Hubs is a man of few words, so that means they were pretty darn delicious. I tried a bit of his grits and they were phenomenal. Creamy, hot and cheesy, I could've eaten a huge bowl of just the cheese grits and been satisfied.

The interior of the place is very mod "Zen Garden" and the new age instrumental music reminded me of being in a spa. No surprise, since there's a spa attached. They are definitely health conscious, as even the "sugar" on the table is Xylitol. Lots of local art scattered on the walls and a helpful and kind staff. Hubs and I both agreed this is one to come back to as the sum of all Zed's parts made for a pleasant experience. I could actually see going here on a weeknite w/friends to get a foot massage (reflexology)/pedi in the spa and then popping into Zed for dinner.

Richmond Food Collective has a great backstory on the previous chef and his philosophies here. (I've kept this in here to pay homage to Zed's origins).

Zed Cafe

5109 Lakeside Ave
Richmond, VA 23228
(804) 261-5656

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Menu Suggestion--

In anticipation of a lovely weekend, I wanted to share a Spring menu suggestion with you that worked for me recently:

* Lemon-Oregano Chicken
* Panzanella (thus my freezer stash of whole grain croutons comes into play)
* Asparagus

If you want a little heavier side, it would also be great with a little parmesan orzo!

Lemon-Oregano Chicken
Gourmet April 2009
Yield: Makes 4 servings (I made 8 large chicken thighs from Ellwood's that ended up serving 6)

2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
8 chicken thighs with skin (about 1 3/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used my own stock)
1 teaspoon dried oregano(I used a tbsp + of fresh oregano, MUCH better!)
Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. (these could be done on the grill too)

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt, then whisk together with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pat chicken dry and coat with lemon-garlic mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and remaining tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Brown chicken in 2 batches, skin side down, until golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes (chicken will not be cooked through). Transfer, skin side up, to a 4-sided sheet pan.

Pour off fat (and any small burnt pieces) from skillet. Add broth and remaining tablespoon lemon juice and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Whisk in remaining tablespoon butter and oregano, then pour over chicken.

Roast chicken in oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Bella's Panzanella

I certainly can't claim to corner the market on bread salad, but I've never made it from a recipe. This is just usually what I throw in.

5-6 c. cubed whole grain baguette/country bread
1-2 lbs super ripe tomatos (various heirlooms are fun and make it colorful)
1 c. torn basil leaves
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Toast the bread cubes up with a little olive oil until golden brown and crispy (I know purists will groan, but I like the texture, so deal with it! ;) )

Meanwhile, mix olive oil, shallots, 1/2 the torn basil and red wine vinegar. Set aside/chill. I like to do this well ahead of time, so the flavors have time to meld.

Seed tomatos and cut into bite sized chunks. Along with liking to make the vinaigrette ahead of time, I also like to slice and store the tomatos in advance. This is b/c I will salt them to bring forth their natural juices, which combines beautifully with everything else going on.

You can make well in advance, combine all ingredients right before serving!


These are great on the grill and then served drizzled w/a balsamic reduction (our friend's speciality)

Or, most of the time, I throw them on a long plate w/a few tbsp of water, cover w/a matching long plate and let them rip in the microwave for 3 minutes. Drain. Perfectly steamed, not mushy, every time. Toss w/salt, pepper, butter and serve!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Hi. Lazy Baker here. I was craving lemon poppy seed muffins today and came across this Gourmet recipe on It's definitely not light on butter, but that makes it heavy on flavor! It's simple to make, one pan and you're done in under an hour. I would vote this to be a great addition to a home brunch.

Hope you like it as much as I did!

Gourmet May 2007

A quick confection, this cake bakes in just 30 minutes.
Translation: You'll be enjoying a homemade dessert with a light crumb and smooth glaze in no time.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter and granulated sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs until combined. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and poppy seeds and mix until just combined.

Transfer batter to cake pan, smoothing top, and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then invert onto rack.

Whisk together confectioners sugar and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Pour glaze over warm cake, spreading it with a spatula to drizzle over edge. Let stand until glaze is set, about 15 minutes.

Vegas Restaurant Roundup

The hubs and I went to Vegas the 3rd week in March and I wanted to make sure I filled you in on 3 noteworthy restaurants we tried. Firstly, we had:

T & T

We checked in to Mandalay Bay late on a Saturday afternoon. Tired, bedraggled, wanting nothing better than a tasty low maintenance dinner, we headed over to the new T & T (Taco's & Tequila, although that's not what we called it, use your own imagination) in the Luxor.

I had read good things about this new joint and had even seen it on the Travel Channel of all places! And sometimes, especially in the Luxor, you're never sure what you're going to get. Well, I'm here to tell you-- it's worth popping in for a visit.

As you come off the Mandalay/Luxor walk way, it will be right in front of you. It's basically an open air restaurant above the casino level. It's canopied by a jagged, tin cut out roof that creates some fun visual interest. There's a bar in the middle of the place that takes up about half of the restaurant and of course it's where they showcase their myriad bottles of prized and rare tequilas.
For a starter, we had amazing hand made chicken tamales made with real corn masa, shredded chicken, crema fresca, sweet chipotle sauce and avocado. My only complaint was that there weren't more. We also had chips, that you could tell were made fresh, with a sweet tomatillo and spicy chipotle salsas served alongside.

Seeing as it was a Tequila joint, of course I had to order a margarita! And if we hadn't been so wiped from our travels, I'm sure a few rounds of shots would have ensued ;) The drink I ordered was a Pomegranate, Acai margarita. Trendy fruits, I know, I know, but tasty all the same. I would highly recommend trying any of their speciality margarita's.

For dinner, I had the Baja fish taco's, the hubs had cheese enchiladas. Ok, I have to tell you at this point that as I'm sitting here typing, I'm drooling in remembrance. My taco's fit in the palm of my small-ish hand, you could tell they were fresh made. The fish had a light crunchy coating and didn't taste "fishy" (as is often wont to happen w/fish tacos for some reason). The crisp cabbage on top, pico de gallo and house made crema on top made a dynamite combo.

As for hubs, I was thinking "Cheese enchiladas are enchiladas are enchiladas........." Not so. These melted in your mouth from the home made tortilla to the cheese mixture inside. The mole sauce on top is what set it apart. The layers of flavor, the earthiness.....really just the authenticity, was surprising to me.

Even the house beans and rice on the plate weren't "throw aways" (as I like to call them) like a normal Mexican taqueria. I could've eaten a large bowl of the spicy, flavorful black beans. And I'm not even normally a black bean fan. And no peas in the rice! Yay! (I know they shouldn't be in there any way, but when does that stop Mexican joints around here? ;) )

And next was:


Bouchon was my highly anticipated Sunday brunch. I was worried that as a Thomas Keller offshoot that it would be more hype and less substance. But, my fears were unsubstantiated.

The physical interior as well as the clatter, hustle and bustle is about as traditional french bistro as you get. The wait staff in black and white with black bow-ties and long white aprons (even the females). There is a lovely garden terrace you trail into from French doors off of the side of the restaurant which is technically located on top of the the Venezia Tower in the Venetian. Unfortunately, on the Sunday we showed up, the weather was cold and rainy, so no patio for us! (Next time!)

Hubs got an omelet, I went all out w/the Croque Madame. All lived up to and exceeded expectation if you're looking for truly delicious bistro fare. It's definitely my current fav Vegas brunch spot. I also highly recommend the deliciously potent mimosas!

And lastly we had:


Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak was our last hurrah on a whirlwind trip before heading home. This was the only place I made a reservation using Open Table. We selected this particular restaurant b/c as Top Chef fans, we thought it would be kind of fun. :)

We were seated right away, even though we showed up early, in a low slung banquette area by the bar. There's a larger (noisier) dining room towards the back of the restaurant. I was quite happy to be ensconced in my little sofa on our 2-top table. That is, until we had neighbors join us. Isn't that always the way? Now, I don't want to turn this into a "Vegas is losing it's charm" rant, but I do want to clearly state my observations.

What was supposed to be a quiet, tasty, romantic, low-key evening where we dropped 2 bills, ended up with us being audience to a couple that I think really had no idea where they were. I think they just tripped over the restaurant off of MGM's casino and thought, "This is open, I think we'll annoy people and eat here."

Off the bat, the woman (youngish 20's in casual, tourist gear) was yelling into her zebra striped cell phone that she "couldn't hear!" her kids. At least 7 times. I know. Because I was counting. Meanwhile, her husband in sports jersey regalia is asking, "How much does a beer cost here?"

Le sigh. I know I'm going to come off as a snob here. But, I'm not, really, I promise! I just wanted a nice dinner out, dressed up hot for my man, enjoying some relaxed atmosphere. If I wanted this sitting next to me, I could pay $35 and go to Applebee's! Ok, I'll spare you the rest b/c it's really not Tom's fault. It's a comment on American society that I'm not willing to make in this humble little blog.

Carrying on-- they bring fresh rolls to your table in a little screaming hot cast iron pan. If you go, be careful not to fill up before your meal on these nuggets of goodness! For starters, hubs got the lobster bisque and I got the truffled spinach salad. Hubs said the soup was more creamy, less "seafoody" (I have to take his word b/c I'm allergic) and that he'd had better. My salad, was organic spinach w/a truffled dressing and a few thinly sliced daikon radish on top. Not much to write home about other than it was seasoned well?

For dinner, hubs got the NY strip, I got the hanger steak. Both were cooked to medium rare perfection and were really the highlight of the experience. Well, other than the wild mushroom risotto and the blue cheese polenta. Both were so ridiculously good that I wanted to take a bath in them. I seriously could've just ordered the risotto and been completely satisfied. The wild mushrooms were not mixed into the risotto, instead they were left steaming atop the dish. They had been sauteed and then caramelized so that the edges were crunchy and full of earthy mushroom flavor. The texture contrast with the risotto was fantastic.

Obviously, we skipped dessert b/c we were both about to blow up. Plus, it "saved" more money for gambling! :)

There's my roundup. I hope this helps someone narrow down the diverse and wonderful restaurantscape that is Vegas before their next trip!


Amici Ristorante

Last Friday found the hubs and I with our favorite couple friends wandering around Carytown looking to celebrate a birthday dinner.Technically we were supposed to go to Mezzanine, but without a reservation it was an hour wait. The hostess that night at Mezzanine, Charmaine, sent us down the street to Amici. We were all hungry, it was close by, we’d all heard good things about it, so we felt it was a no brainer and headed out.

Amici’s recently been doing some construction to beef up the patio area. They’ve bricked it in and it’s set back a little from the sidewalk so that you don’t feel like you’re out in the middle of Cary Street (like Can Can). As our party was navigating the crushed pavement to get up the steps into the establishment, a smiling face opened the door and welcomed us in. I don’t care who you are or where you're at, you can’t beat that. We were seated right away in the upstairs dining room. The entire restaurant seating area, both upstairs and down can’t be more than 500 square feet. So, it lends itself to feeling instantly cozy and intimate.

Our server came up and kindly solicited drink orders right away. And I will say right here, that service is what Amici does best. We wanted for nothing this evening and the response was helpful, never overbearing. We all felt comfortable from the moment we walked in until we trotted down the stairs out to our car. Well, until we had to get up and use "the facilities." Remember how I said Amici's was cozy and intimate? This also includes the restroom placement. Tucked into the back left corner of the upstairs dining room, it was uncomfortably close to the dining area. And the ladies toilet makes sounds. Rude sounds, that I was concerned other diners RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR, might mistake for emanating from me! I only mention this, b/c I figure someone would like the fair warning that I never received! But, I digress from the important subject, the food!

Our meal was definitely noteworthy. The hubs and my friend shared the calamari starter. I was told the calamari was tender, the coating crisp and an extra bonus of zucchini fries were mixed in as well as a side of house dipping sauce. Their plate cleared in a matter of seconds. I assume this meant it was good ;) Myself, I started with the Peperoni ripieni -Roasted bell peppers filled with pancetta and goat cheese au gratin. Salty, sweet, creamy deliciousness, I never wanted it to end. I would barely share with the rest of my table.

For dinner, the birthday girl ordered Cannelloni di carne -Baked home made cannelloni pasta filled with meat and vegetables in a walnut cream sauce. I tried a bite and it melted in my mouth, much the way you think it should in reading the menu. Her hubs ordered the duck(Anatra ai frutti di bosco -Pan roasted duck breast with mixed berries and port wine reduction), which came with a savory bread pudding underneath. My hubs had the shrimp which also had this bread pudding hiding underneath. This item was not outlined on the menu, so I wanted to point it out b/c both guys went crazy over it.

I ordered, with great anticipation, the Osso Bucco on special. The meat was flavorful and fork tender as it disintegrated upon contact. My only complaint was the risotto. It was supposed to be a traditional Milanese risotto, which to me, is a saffron risotto with grana padano/parm-reg cheese. I’m not sure exactly what was in this risotto, only that it was finished with orange juice. Which, according to my palate, ruined the dish for me. This is completely a personal preference. There might be those of you out there that would enjoy the sweetness. It was not, however, what I was expecting and therefore I was disappointed.

We skipped dessert as nothing was really speaking to us (and we had some dessert waiting for us at the Phoenician, thanks Naji!) But, the dessert menu contained the usual suspects: tiramisu, gelato, after dinner coffees, frangelico, port etc. etc.

Overall, with 2 starters, 4 mains, an asparagus and bottle of wine for the table, we made it out of there for $55 a person. Not bad for a fine dining, gourmet experience with excellent service! I will mention though, that our party(mid-30's) did not fit into what seemed to be the typical octogenarian demographic. Seems to be a favorite amongst mature diners. I can see why, with what seems to be reliable friendly service and reasonably priced great food. I guess with age does come wisdom! ;)

Amici Ristorante
3343 W Cary St
Richmond, VA 23221

(804) 353-4700

Monday, April 13, 2009

BT: Good things hide in the freezer.....

I was reading a local blogger talking about freezing wine today and there was total backlash in response. As well there should be when you talk about drinking it after freezing. However, I do freeze leftover wine to cook with later. And to me, that's just fine. Nigella Lawson even agrees with me on this one. ;)

It got me to thinking about what else I stash in my freezer to have on hand. And it's actually quite a bit. I realized that I use my freezer as a second pantry. I understand in these trying economic times, we are all striving to save money. The freezer can definitely aid and abet in this area. And I thought that in sharing what I keep, it might be useful & inspiring to someone. So, here goes the top 10 things I stash in my freezer:

1. Wine - As I already stated, any leftover wine goes right in the freezer. I actually used some frozen, left-over pinot grigio in my Easter gougeres yesterday.

2. Bread - I always buy a cheap whole grain baguette at the market on shopping day. Merely to bring it home, slice half of it into rounds and the other half into small squares to throw into the freezer. This way I can have homemade croutons for soup/salad or a crostini appetizer on the whim.

3. Herbs - You have to be careful here, some herbs, such as Basil can be tempermental. But I find that chopping up flat leaf parsley, blotting the water out of it and throwing it into a baggie to freeze works quite well! Other good herbs to throw into a container and freeze directly are sage, tarragon, chives and thyme. For basil, I will chop it fine, place in a baggie and pour in enough water to just cover the basil(roll up the baggie so all air is pressed out and basil is all at the bottom). This creates a little frozen herb log that I can break a hunk off of at any time to throw into a pasta sauce. Herbs in this form are not good in place of fresh in a salad etc.

4. Homemade Chicken Stock - Invariably, whenever I make a whole chicken, the next day I will make stock. I store the stock in freezer baggies in 1/2 cup increments. This pretty much guarantees easy measurement and less waste.

5. Whole Coffee Beans - There's a lot of arguement surrounding the freezing of coffee beans relating to whether freezing is good for the bean or not. Personally, I've not had a problem and since I'm the only coffee drinker in my house, it takes a while for me to go through a pound. Thus, my freezing method does keep things fresher for me, longer.

6. Nuts - Pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts(Best in Show flashback anyone?) - you name the nut, it's probably in my freezer. Since nuts are rife with natural oil, they eventually will go rancid if stored too long unused. Thus, I always throw them into the freezer upon opening a package. Great to grab a handful to toast up and throw into salads.

7. The Usual Suspects - meat, veggies, maybe a lean cuisine or 3

8. Leftover Tomato Sauce or Paste - I will place separate tablespoons of paste in a freezer baggie, in order to be able to grab it quickly later in the quantity I need to throw it into sauce or chili.

9. Blueberries - I always throw these suckers in a freezer baggie before they turn on me. The hubs and I are usually good about finishing these up fresh, but not always. Therefore, whatever leftover blueberries hit the freezer usually become part of a blueberry pancake on Sundays!

10. A Bottle of Stoli - My inner Edina insists on this. 'Nuff said.

I hope this was helpful to someone or at the very least made you realize that the freezer isn't always where good food goes to die! ;)
* BT = Bella Tip

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Parmesan Gougeres

These were a nice accompaniment to Easter's Coq au Vin. They disappear so fast, it's almost like you never made them! :)

Parmesan Gougeres
adapted from recipe on Epicurious

1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
1/2 stick butter
2/3 cup All Purpose flour
3 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup good Parmesan + more for sprinkling (optional)

S&P to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until butter is melted. Stir in flour; reduce heat to medium-low. Stir vigorously until mixture forms large dough clumps and film forms on bottom of saucepan, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs in medium bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon beaten egg to small bowl and reserve. Add 1/3 of remaining beaten eggs to dough in saucepan; whisk until well incorporated. Add remaining eggs in 2 additions, stirring until eggs are completely absorbed after each addition (dough will be sticky). Mix in 1/2 cup parmesan.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet, forming about 24 walnut-size mounds and spacing about 1 inch apart. Using pastry brush, brush each mound with reserved egg, flattening any pointed tops.

Bake gougères until puffed, golden brown, and dry, about 30 minutes.

Do AHEAD: Can be made up to 1 week ahead. Cool completely. Place in airtight containers and store in freezer. Rewarm on baking sheet in 350°F oven until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

* Can sprinkle a bit more parmesan on top of the gougeres about 20 minutes in to the baking process

Coq au Vin

Spring has officially sprung here in Virginia. It's clear, sunny and cool. A perfect day for the Coq au Vin our friend requested I make. Now, I don't know if Coq au Vin is necessarily considered a spring dish b/c it's pretty hardy. However, for today, it's really the perfect meal.

Beyond the Coq au Vin, I want you to take a close look at the label of the mini-cognac I used in the recipe. Notice the TWA? If I remember correctly, it's been a while since TWA has been in business. Not sure how old this little guy is, but he still had that amazing aroma that hits the nose the second you opened him up. So, into the pot he went!
I inherited this tasty treasure from a friend whose uncle who used to travel all the time and collect mini-bottles. He had such a collection that he passed a chunk off to my buddy. Lucky for me, my friend doesn't drink cognac. Nor do I, typically, but I knew I would eventually cook with it! So, into my pocket it went. And I've enjoyed thinking about the adventures this small vial of delightful flavor went on before it became part of my Easter meal. :)

I used Ina Garten's shorthand recipe for Coq au Vin and have to say that it's a keeper. I drooled from the second the bacon hit the olive oil, until the last bite went in my mouth--

Coq Au Vin
courtesy, Ina Garten

2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.
*Note- Ina is a bit heavy handed with the salt, you would do well to back off of her amounts listed here.