Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Duck Crepinette

These little duck sausage morsels were at the Belmont Butchery this evening and I thought "What the hell?" Duck sausage the length of a finger and the width of two fingers wrapped in caul with a dousing of Grand Marnier. I just had to try them. When frying the caul melts. When eating think of smoke and spice with just a brief hint of game. A very rich treat. And while I would not make a meal of these, I would serve them as an appetizer, possibly sliced and sprinkled with Romano cheese.

Turkey Day Menu and Notes

For quite a few years I’ve been visiting relatives in Tennessee for Thanksgiving and I cook the main meal. And while it’s a bit of a challenge to make a meal in someone else’s kitchen, I still enjoy this ritual every year. We arrive on Wednesday and immediately proceed to the grocery store (The Fresh Market, no less) to purchase everything required for the feast. There is no make-ahead strategy. Everything is prepared on the day itself. Here is the menu and comments:

One Fresh Bell & Evans Turkey
The Fresh Market began carrying Bell & Evans last year and I was impressed. The bird just seemed to taste better. I also appreciated the dark meat which was actually dark and packed with scrumptious flavor. Preparation is fairly simple: salt and pepper between the breast and skin and the leg and skin. Add pats of real butter (I go all out and use Plugra) between breast and skin and leg and skin. Insert herbs between breast and skin and leg and skin. This year I placed thyme on the breast and rosemary on the legs. I roast the bird in an electric roaster. The roaster keeps the turkey moist and frees up the oven for dressing.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Yukon golds, Plugra butter, a few garlic cloves, a tiny amount of cream, salt, and pepper. I make sure we have enough potatoes left over to make potato cakes for breakfast the next morning.

Sautéed Green Beans and Shallots
Sauté the shallots in butter until just caramelized, add fresh beans that have been soaked and then boiled in salted water. I cooked the beans until they were soft because I had diners who preferred them that way.

I make a roux of butter and flour and then pour in juices from the cooked turkey. This year I had enough turkey drippings to forego the addition of canned chicken broth.

Cranberry Sauce
A bunch of fresh cranberries, the juice of a lemon and orange, a couple of cinnamon sticks. Add water and a ton of sugar. Boil to jam-like consistency. I did not add enough sugar for eating at the Thanksgiving table, but I reheated and added more of the sweet stuff. This made a great alternative spread for the inevitable turkey sandwiches. I also liked it on toast. I wished we had had some biscuits.

While most of the menu is fairly standard, I always try to make a different type of dressing every year. This year I wanted to make something with fennel. Alas, the store was out of fennel, so, I used my imagination and made it up as I went along. It turned out to be quite popular. And, of course, I’ll never be able to quite repeat it, but here is the list of ingredients: a loaf of sesame bread and a loaf of challah torn into bite-sized chunks and toasted; toasted pine nuts; crushed fennel seeds; sautéed onions and leeks; a couple of Irish banger sausage links fried and sliced thin; minced garlic; turkey broth from boiling the turkey neck supplemented with some chicken broth. Combine everything and bake for an hour. It was yummy!

We washed it down with a sparkling rose.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pick Pescados for Imaginative Seafood

Not Fine Dining…Fun Dining! This is the proclamation of Pescados, a Latin/Carribean neighborhood bar & grill focused mainly on fish & seafood located on Midlothian Turnpike (in the same shopping center as Food Lion and Kabuto’s). We went on a Friday on the recommendation of several employees of The Wine Cellar. And they did not steer us wrong. We did have to wait for a table, but it was well worth it. We started with Sangria del Sol – orange juice, triple sec, grenadine, and sparkling wine, with some fruit thrown in. Decent, but more like a souped up Mimosa than Sangria. I’d probably get a bottle of wine or try the margaritas next time. For dinner I ordered the Enchilada Acapulco – Jumbo shrimp and Cabo crab, grilled with caramelized onions, tucked into a flour tortilla, with lobster lime cream sauce, diced tomato\, and saffron potato cakes. Basically, 4 large, grilled shrimp surrounded by a mound of sweet crab meat stuffed in a burrito. The sauce was very light and only enhanced the seafood. I also loved the 3 petite saffron potato cakes, but was so full from the burrito that I could only finish one. Hubby got the Tostado Azteca – Sea scallops, jumbo shrimp, and tilapia layered by blue corn tostada, with herb cream, tomato salsa, and microgreens over achiote brown rice. For him, the scallops made the dish spectacular.

Very tasty, laid back, with an extremely nice and attentive wait staff. If you like fish and seafood, you must experience it!

Lunch at Chez Foushee

My hubby and I finally had a Friday off where we actually stayed in Richmond. For years I had heard about lunch at Chez Foushee located at the corner of Foushee & Grace, but since it was only open for lunch Monday-Friday, we had never been able to actually experience it. This past Friday, we did. Since I did not know how crowded it would be, I even made reservations. When we arrived we were greeted by a cheery hostess/waitress, but no one asked if we had reserved a table; and since there were plenty of tables, I don’t think reservations are really necessary. Service was not as good as expected. In fact, we had tables around us that got to order before we did. Could it be the fact we were in jeans and not business attire?? Even though we did order a glass of dry rose for lunch?? My other half ordered the Creamy Potato Soup Topped with Cheddar Cheese, Scallions, and Bacon Crumbles to start. He was a tad disappointed. It was thinner than expected and basically bland despite the tasty sounding additions. And although the soup was very hot, the cheese did not readily melt, making us think it was an imitation variety. In the end he thought the soup had just been thrown together and did not have time for the flavors to meld.

Next course – I ordered Steamed Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers over Mixed Greens topped with Asian Dressing, Sweet Potato Fires, Red Peppers, and Crispy Noodles. The Pot Sticker dough was thin (just how I like it) and the filling was very flavorful leaning more toward pork than shrimp. The Asian dressing seemed to be more for the pot stickers because it was not drizzled over the mixed greens. But the shoestring cut fried sweet potatoes made up for the lack of dressing on the actual salad. A decent light lunch, but I knew around 3 PM I would need a snack. My husband had the Tuna Salad Served with Fresh Fruit and Crackers. Typical tea room fare, and while good, nothing spectacular.

Chez Foushee was a decent place for lunch, but not worth making special plans.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Garlic Sausage

I just made the most incredible pasta sauce using bulk garlic sausage from The Belmont Butchery. Fantastic!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Belmont Butchery & Osso Buco

Tanya Cauthen recently opened Belmont Butchery at 15 N. Belmont. And so far, so yummy. Her shop is open during the week until 7 PM. The pork chops are dense and meaty. The chicken free range and tasty. Last night I purchased veal shanks for my own version of Osso Buco. The recipe follows:

2 veal shanks, ~ ½ pound each
¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried sage
½ cup dry white wine
Tomato puree (I used about ½ of a 28 ounce can)
Freshly grated Romano cheese

Salt and pepper the shanks. Put flour in a zip close bag. Place shanks in the bag. Seal bag and shake to coat the veal. Pour olive oil in a small deep-sided frying pan and heat on medium high until oil is almost smoking. Put shanks in the pan and sear for about 3 minutes on each side. Take shanks out of the pan and set aside. Put onions in the pan, sprinkle with salt, and sauté for about 3-5 minutes on medium. When the onions are beginning to become translucent, add the garlic and sage. Sauté for another minute and pour in white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio from Cycles Gladiator). Turn heat up to medium high and let the white wine reduce by at least half. Once reduced, add about ½ a cup of tomato puree and stir. Nestle the shanks in the sauce and spoon about another ½ cup of puree into the pan, letting the sauce come up about to the top of the shanks. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Let simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, turning the shanks occasionally. Serve over angel hair pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Romano cheese.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

DC Trip - Corteo & Dino

My husband and I traveled to DC this past weekend. Highlights included:

Best Show: Corteo – Cirque du Soleil’s traveling show now performing under the Chapiteau in the heart of our Nation’s Capital. A wild romp complete with lingerie bedecked acrobats swinging from the chandeliers. http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/CirqueDuSoleil/

The Place for a Cheap Martini: Medaterra – This bistro, located at 2614 Connecticut Ave. NW (near the Woodley Park Metro stop) boasts Happy Hour every day from 4-7 PM. This translates to $5 Martinis…and we are talking good-sized ones. We tried the French Kiss, a concoction of Ciroc Vodka (the one made from grapes), Chambord, and Cointreau. Nice, but we decided they were a little too sweet to have before dinner.

Our Latest Italian Find: Dino http://www.dino-dc.com/ – The address is 3435 Connecticut Ave. NW (near the Cleveland Park Metro stop). Dino’s décor consists of faux stone and rustic touches adding to the warm and cozy atmosphere. Make sure to check out the one-of-a-kind light over the semi-circular bar. But the food and wine definitely steal the show. The wine list is many pages and changes on a regular basis. My head began spinning at the sight of so many Brunellos – in many cases there were multiple years from the same producer. And although all of the Italian wines looked tempting, many were $80-90 a bottle. A little over our price range for the evening. But Dino himself (actually, Dean Gold) appeared and made some recommendations. We went with a 2002 Judd’s Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for $55 and it was sheer heaven. We had never seen it in the Richmond area. And after our return from DC I discovered that the winery charges $42 for a bottle http://juddshill.com/ . I was pleased to discover that Dino does not overcharge for his wines. Cheers! And now for the food…wait one second. Before we had dinner, we stopped at the bar. Dino has a nice wine by the glasses list. Two different size pours are available: 3 ounces and 8 ounces. What a fantastic concept. I tried the 8 ounce variety of the 2005 Ironhorse Vinyard Rosato di Sangiovese. Once again, I had never had a rose made from the Sangiovese grape. A very nice prelude to our delicious dinner. In keeping with the concept of different size glasses of wines by the glass, Dino’s menu offers nibbles, small plates, and large plates. And a few of the large plates were available in half portions. I appreciated the flexibility since I wanted to order practically the entire menu. After many minutes of strategic planning we made our decisions – to start we had the Burrata (Bufala Cheese- fresh mozzarella wrapped around fresh ricotta, air freighted from Campania every Sunday & Thursday with olive tapenade, olio DiConciliius, tomatoes, basil) and Gamberoni alla Scampi (Grilled Shrimp- garlic, oregano & olive oil, seaweed salad, roasted garlic). The cheese was creamy and delightful with just the olive oil. We both thought that the olive tapenade was too overpowering. The shrimp were HUGE and very garlicy and since this was a small plate (only 2 shrimp), it was a perfect appetizer. Now, on to the main course. I ordered a half order of Pappardelle ai Cinghiale (Wild Boar Pasta – artisan ribbon pasta from Marche, traditional spicy Tuscan sauce of boar , onions, herbs, pecorino Toscano). I loved the spicy sauce and the pasta could have been served plain – it was that good (but I’m glad it was accompanied by the wild boar!). A half order was definitely sufficient. My husband had the Lasagnette al Ragu (Lasagne – our non traditional take: ragu of pork & veal, fonduta cheese & crispy smoked bacon). Probably one of the richest lasagnas either one of us has ever had. And, yes, we also had dessert – a rustic apple and dried blueberry tart with vanilla gelato. The tart was good, but our waiter had informed us it was an apple and pear tart instead, thus, an ever so slight disappoint at the end of the evening. Just perusing the menu again makes me want to go back. This could easily become our favorite place to eat in DC.

A Place to Avoid: Firefly – located at 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Very loud and supposedly catering to a “hip” crowd. This place also had small, medium, and large plates; unfortunately, the prices seemed to be exorbitant for generally mediocre cuisine. My tiny arugula salad with grated parmesan and 2 strips of average bacon set us back $10. The small plate of duck confit that I had next was only $9 and while the confit was not still attached to the duck leg it did satisfy better than the salad. My husband’s free range roast chicken turned out to be a tale of two temperatures – the leg was not done and the breast was over done and extremely dry. The only bright spot was the wine – a 2002 Auxey Duresses Burgundy from producer Christophe Buisson for $49. There are numerous restaurants in DC. Don’t bother with this one.

Spanish Cava - Avinyo Brut Rosado

Avinyo Brut Reserva Rosado – A Cava (sparkling wine) from the Penedes region in Spain. This little pink gem contains overtones of pomegranate with tropical hints (think mango). The dry bubbly nectar also has a surprising amount of body. Purchased at J. Emerson on Grove Ave. for $19.95. We served it with Tarragon Chicken. A sparkling worthy of presenting at the Thanksgiving table.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Giesen Sauvignon Blanc

White wine is not my usual thing, but I do tend to sigh over a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. And with the 2005 Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, I’m downright rapturous. For me, it’s the grapefruit. The website - http://www.giesen.co.nz/ - describes the taste as citrus. Citrus can conjure up a variety of remembered tastes from pucker-up lemon to honeyed tangerines. With this wine we are talking in your face grapefruit. I think it pairs well with salads and can stand up to most salad dressings. The other night I served it with a Curried Carrot and Apple Soup. Delightful!