It is Friday night, and you are thirsty. Not the Dos Equis thirsty, necessarily, but may be a glass of wine thirsty. Or a cocktail and a glass of wine. Or may be couple of glasses of wine. Bottom line – you want to go out and have a glass of wine. So, where do you go? Yes, I know – this is beyond rhetorical – you can find wine at any restaurant today. But – if you just want a glass of wine, or you want a glass of white, and then glass of red, or you are simply in a mood to taste a few of the different wines, you have two issues. One – by the glass selection in a typical restaurant is limited, or may be even very limited, depending on your luck. Two – by the glass selection in many restaurants is grossly over-priced. When you look at the $16+ by the glass selection, the first reaction is “I’ll just have a glass of water”. Well – the purpose of this post is not to complain about by the glass restaurant prices. My whole point here is to let you in on a little secret and to tell you that I just found a solution to this wine glass craving issue, and I want to share it with you. The solution? Vinoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar in Greenwich, Connecticut.
As you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you see is a wine bar. And then you see another bar. And then the wine list, where each and every wine is available in the glass pour of different sizes and by the bottle. No exceptions. You want to build a flight of Italian reds? No problems. Are you in a mood for a few of the California whites? No problems at all. You want to compare classic Italian Sangiovese with the one from California? You got it. The wine list has just perfect size – there is enough variety, but you are not feeling overwhelmed with the task of finding the wine you want to drink in the foliant you can barely hold in your hands.
The core of the wine list is Italian, but there is still enough variety (California, France, Germany and more). The prices are quite reasonable as well. During the course of the evening we had a number of different wines which our gracious host Sasha kept bringing over. Here are my brief notes:
2012 Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer Sonoma Coast – I read about Gundlach Bundschu wines in many blogs, but never had an opportunity to try them, so when I saw Gundlach Bundschu on the list, I really didn’t care what exact wine was it, I just had to try it. The wine was very nice – Gewurztraminer wines, in my opinion, don’t have the middle ground – they are either good (can be spectacular, yes), or terrible – they don’t have the “well, okay” range – so this was a nice Gewurztraminer, well balanced, with hint of honeydew, spicy with good acidity. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Ferrari-Carano’s Fumé Blanc Sonoma County – a classic California Sauvignon Blanc, with fresh gooseberry and lemon notes, good acidity, a bit too sweet to my taste. Drinkability: 7+
2011 Abbazia Santa Anastasia Contempo Nero d’Avola Sicily IGT – excellent, herbaceous undertones, warm, smooth, inviting, toasted oak and fruit notes. Drinkability: 8
2011 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – cassis on the nose, nice tobacco notes, touch of espresso, round and simple. Drinkability: 7+
So what happens after you have your first glass of wine? Yes, you want food. And food we got – plenty and delicious. The menu at Vinoteca is somewhat similar to the wine list – concise, but very diverse, with the good selection of “ahh, I must to try this” dishes.
We started with the nice selection of appetizers:
Polpettini (house made meatballs, whipped ricotta) – excellent, very tasty sauce, meatballs had nice texture.
Cozze (Prince Edward Island mussels, red curry, french fries) – well prepared mussels don’t need any explanations, right? The only thing which they demand is … yep, extra bread.
Panetto “Italian grilled cheese” (fontina, San Marzano sauce) – perfect comfort food, very tasty sauce.
Next, we had a few Pizzas to share – one better then the other:
Qauttro Formaggi (ricotta, gorgonzola, parmigiano, mascarpone) – was probably my favorite – very intense, cheeeesy
Rustica (charred tomatoes, olives, sea salt, olive oil) – perfectly fresh and delightful
Spicy Lobster (mascarpone, habanero, corn) – excellent spiciness, nice bite, and nice pieces of lobster. I would never think that lobster would work on the pizza – but it actually does!
As we were not fed enough yet, here came the salads:
Italian Wedge (bibb, iceberg, gorgonzola,tomato, crispy prosciutto) – The Wedge is one of my most favorite salads, ever since I tried it for the first time. Crispy bittersweet lettuce and salty
bacon prosciutto – just perfect.
Kale (Bosc pears, walnuts, pecorino) – yes, I know kale is healthy and good for me … but it is just not my thing ( but other people loved it).
Greek Chop (cucumber, watermelon, feta cheese, red onion) – a nice version of the Greek salad, very fresh and light.
You think that was enough food? Apparently not! We got to taste a few more dishes:
Parpardelle Bolognese – believe it or not, but this was my single most favorite dish of the whole dinner. This pasta was served family style, and I swear I could’ve eaten the whole “family portion” just by myself – so homey, so comfortable, so delicious.
Pollo Scarpiello (cherry peppers, sautéed spinach, spicy sausage) – wood-fire roasted chicken – delicious! Perfectly tender chicken, and you can tell that it was roasted over the wood fire. Tasty!
Salmone Al Arranciata (mascarpone mashed potatoes, asparagus, blood orange) – I personally didn’t taste this dish, but people were very happy about it.
And finally – desserts!
Assorted Desserts – Cannoli Cake, Cappuccino Cake, Tiramisu, New York Cheesecake – do you think I can give you detailed notes on the desserts? Yep – I can’t. After that amount of food, the desserts were almost an afterthought. They all tasted good – however, none of them stood out. Note the presentation – I like the choice of the stand out plates.
That’s all, my friends. By the way, today is Friday – but even if you are not reading this post on Friday, you are probably in the mood for the glass of wine and some tasty food anyway, so why not give Vinoteca a try? I’m sure you will not be disappointed! Cheers!
Disclaimer: I visited the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
Vinoteca Restaurant & Wine Bar
33 Lewis Street
Greenwich, CT 06830
When I got a note that there are some spots available in the Tapas cooking class with Singing Chef Neil Fuentes, of course the first word which got my attention was “tapas” – tapas, or “small plates”, is generally my favorite type of food in any restaurant, Spanish or not – so the invitation definitely attracted my attention. The very next question was – who is Singing Chef Neil Fuentes?
I don’t know what we are going to do if one day Internet will disappear – I know this is rhetorical, but don’t you have a tiny, tini tiny fear deep inside, that this incredible source of knowledge, capable of answering any questions you might, or even might not want to ask, will disappear one day? Oh well, I digress. So I used the powerful Internet to quickly come up with lots of answers about Chef Neil – yes, he is a Singing Chef because he can actually sing and dance, he is fun to watch, and he also competed on Chopped (that might be the biggest influence factor for me – huge fun of the show, and have the utmost respect for every Chef who has enough courage to enter that kitchen). Yep, I definitely want to meet Chef Neil Fuentes.
The cooking class was conducted at the kitchen at Chef’s Equipment Emporium in Orange, CT (a heaven for anyone who is into the cooking, if you ask me). When I arrived there, Chef Fuentes was, of course, already in the kitchen, preparing for the class:
All ingredients around looked very promising too:
And then the class started. I can tell you – Chef Fuentes was a pleasure to watch. He managed to cook, entertain and teach all at the same time, with ease. We found out that Chef Fuentes was born and raised in Venezuela, and he started cooking pretty much from the age of 6, as cooking was important in his family. Hmmm, let me clarify the “important” part. Neil Fuentes grew up on the farm, where cooking was done only with the fresh ingredients (yep, that includes the meat). Later on, Neil became flight attendant for the Venezuela airline, which played an important role in his culinary upbringing. You see, Venezuela airline had only 5 planes, but it was serving almost the same number of international destinations as United Airlines. How is that possible and what it has to do with culinary skills building, you ask? Let me explain. The flights were taking place once a week, so the flight crew had a week of time at their respective destinations. Instead of spending time in the restaurants and bars, Chef Fuentes, who has a great ability to make friends, preferred to visit friends and … yes, you got it – to cook with them! This way, he had an opportunity to learn a lot about world cuisines, and build the skills, which he now gladly shares with others.
After arriving to US, Neil Fuentes started in Bridgeport as a waiter at the Taco Loco restaurant. Then he joined SBC Brewing company, eventually becoming the catering manager, until he started his carrier as Private Chef. Then, there was television. To the date, Chef Fuentes recorded 69 episodes on the Channel 8, and he is planning to start his own Chef Fuentes Live show on the Youtube – with special guests appearances, promotions, and the whole “bam” appeal of Emeril Lagasse show (this is definitely an aspiration). But – remember – Neil Fuentes is the Singing Chef! He teaches musical class on Saturdays, writing musical for kids and loves to perform on stage. Okay, let’s get back to food.
During the class, Chef Fuentes cooked 3 different dishes. The first dish which he started cooking was Tortilla Española, which is a traditional Spanish breakfast dish. To make this dish, you need to first to dice potatoes and onions (we used 3 potatoes and 2 onions), and then simmer them in a light olive oil over a medium heat.
Please note the keyword here – “simmer”, not deep fry. Effectively, you cook the potatoes and onions in the oil instead of water. You simmer the potatoes until they will become soft (will take about 20 minutes), then drain potatoes and onions and put aside to cool off. Meanwhile, Chef Fuentes whisked 12 eggs, then added potatoes and onions to the mix, with salt and pepper, and pour mix into the pan over the low to medium heat, for the next 3-4 minutes.
While the tortilla was cooking, Chef Fuentes started working on home-made mayonnaise. which was made out of the egg yolks, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, pepper, olive oil and Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – the mayo was accompanying the Tortilla Española.
After 3-4 minutes of cooking, the tortilla was gently flipped, just to cook for another 3-4 minutes, and then it was flipped again – you want to reach a nice consistency of color. And then – voila! Tortilla Española ready, sliced up Tapas style and served with that home-made mayo. Yummy! I would gladly eat that dish for breakfast (and not only) any day.
Remember, I said 3 dishes, right? Next up – Mushrooms with Quail Eggs. Mushrooms is one of my very favorite foods (mushrooms were always an object of craving in my family as I was growing up), I can eat mushrooms every day. I love cooking them, but unfortunately, I butcher them way too often, rendering them super-dry. What Chef Fuentes did with mushrooms was, in my book, literally a masterpiece. A combination of regular white mushrooms with Shitake mushrooms was used in dish. I found it interesting that Chef Fuentes suggested using Thyme with mushrooms, as it nicely complements mushroom flavor (never done it before, but will do now). Mushrooms are sliced, minced garlic, thyme, salt and pepper are heated up over the medium heat, mushrooms are added afterwards. In about 10 minutes, mushrooms will reduce to about half of the size – and this is when they are pretty much ready. Quail eggs are fried sunny side up, and the final dish is assembled on top of the small, fresh and buttery croissant – perfect!
Last, but not least dish – Ham and Cheese Bruschetta. First the minced garlic goes into the pan with medium hot oil, and the small tomatoes are cut in half. Once the garlic heated up sufficiently and released the flavor, tomatoes go into the same pan, cut side down. Slice the baguette into long slices, and prepare cheese slices (Manchego works perfectly well) and Prosciutto rolls. Once the tomatoes become somewhat soft, start assembling the bruschetta. Take slice of bread, take half of the tomato with the oil and garlic, and simply spread it all over the bread ( you will discard the skin of the tomato when you are done). Put slice of cheese on top of the bread, then prosciutto roll on top of cheese and … enjoy!
Just to give you an idea how much I loved that dish – on the way home, I called my wife to tell her that I’m making an appetizer for everybody as soon as I will arrive. Stopped by Trader Joe’s, got baguette, tomatoes, Manchego cheese and Prosciutto, and in 15 minutes family was enjoying this wonderful bruschetta.
So I told you about fun and entertainment, now – what did I learn? A few simple, but very useful things:
1. Don’t use the knife or the edge of the bowl to break the eggs – this is how you get the shell crumbles! Instead, hit the egg lightly at the flat surface – and effortlessly get the egg’s content into the bowl.
2. When you cook the garlic first, don’t do it over the high heat, it will make garlic bitter! Start with medium heat and let the oil to absorb the garlic flavor – without burning the garlic pieces.
3. Well, don’t know if this is universally important, but – mushrooms pair very well with Thyme.
What else can I leave you with? First, lots of information about Chef Fuentes – here is the link to his website, where you can get to know him, and see him sing, dance, entertain, and of course, cook. Note that Chef Fuentes does both cooking classes and private events – if you live close enough to New Haven, Connecticut, you might consider hiring him. Also, Chef’s Equipment Emporium is running a constant slew of the educational classes and events, make sure to check their events schedule here.
As Chef Fuentes said, food and cooking should be fun and easy – and that’s what you definitely get in his class. Thank you, Chef, for the great time and great food! Cheers!
Do you like French Onion soup? Okay, this is not necessarily the question I want to ask. It is not about the soup, the question is really about the small, typically glazed and bright brown in color crock pots in which the French onion soup is often served in the restaurant. I don’t know about you, but for me the sight alone of such a crock pot is heartwarming and homey, it has the words “comfort” and “relax” written all over it in the big bold letters.
The great things about those little crock pots is that their versatility allows you to go well beyond just the french onion soup – this is a mini casserole dish, which is perfectly suitable for making any type of stew. Also, because of the small size and somewhat individual portioning, while you might be making mostly the same dish for the family, you can make adjustments to each small pot based on the individual preferences – no broccoli in this one, no mushrooms in that, and triple jalapeno for the last.
The dish which I want to talk about today is pretty much chicken and potatoes stew. My original idea was to use the chicken sausage, but – my daughter doesn’t like sausage, so this is where the small pot versatility comes to the play – I can easily make an adjustment for her and use just chicken instead of the sausage. And yes, of course, the same is true about all other ingredients. I’m sure you got my point.
Okay, here we go:
Crock Pot Chicken and Potatoes Stew (makes 4 crock pots)
Prep time: 40 minutes, cooking time: 1 hour
1 lb of chicken thighs (you can use sausages, chicken breast, anything), cut up in a small pieces about an inch in size
2 large onions, diced
1.5 lb carrots, sliced into small pieces (1/4″)
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb fresh peas
4 tbsp chicken broth (can be substituted with water, wine, any cooking liquid)
salt, pepper to taste
[olive] oil for frying
4 dry bay leaves
whole allspice (optional) – few berries per crock pot
Cut up chicken and/or sausages you will be using and start searing it in the pan using the olive oil (if you are using just the chicken, season with salt and pepper prior to searing). You don’t have to cook it completely, but you want to give it a nice sear, so it will take you about 10 minutes on the medium to high heat. Put aside.
Slice onions and start sauteing them on medium heat, for about 15 minutes, or until onion becomes soft and translucent. Dice up carrots (I was using tri-color carrots, just for fun) and slice mushrooms, then add to the pan with the onion once it is ready. Continue sauteing on the medium heat for another 10 minutes. Add peas and continue the process for another 5 minutes. Put aside. Peel and cut the potatoes into the small chunks, add salt, pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil and toss the potatoes well.
Preheat oven to the 350°F. Put the crock pots onto the large oven pan. Put the layer of potatoes on the bottom, then layer of chicken and top it of with the vegetable mix. Of course this is when you can make all those individual adjustments for the ingredients for your picky eaters. Add 1 tbsp of broth (or wine, beer, etc.), put in a bay leaf and 2-3 allspice berries (this is entirely optional). Cover and put into the oven for 1 hour.
And we are done!
Bon Appétit and cheers!
Who doesn’t like brunch, raise your hands. Yep, I thought so. It is literally impossible not to like the slow flow of the delicious food on Sunday, when you still have some of your weekend left, and the late breakfast becoming an early lunch is one of the indulgences of the weekend time with the family.
When it comes to brunch, you have to make some choices. I don’t mean “to drink Mimosa or not”, but most fundamental choice is between brunch buffet and the regular a-la-cart brunch menu. There are pro and cons for both, but this is not a subject of today’s post. What I want to talk about is a recent experience at one of the newest restaurants in lower Fairfield county in Connecticut – Oak+ Almond in Norwalk, CT.
Oak + Almond opened in the Fall of 2013 at the same location where Tuscan Oven restaurant was located for almost 20 years. Oak + Almond is classified as new American cuisine, which I think is quite fitting – lots of focus on local farms and products – you know where the cheese came from, you know where the chicken came from, you know where the eggs, berries and produce came from. As much as possible, everything is fresh and local, which is definitely a trait in the new American restaurant style.
The place is nicely decorated, reusing some of the components of the old Italian restaurant to their advantage, such as the pizza oven (those are always nice to have on hand, aren’t they). The decor overall should be classified as retro modern (or modern retro, whatever way you see it), with some very unusual lighting and heavy dark oak furniture. Here are the few pictures for you:
Charred Octopus (guajillo squid ink sauce. potatoes. andouille. celery) – well done, octopus was just as exact “chewiness” where it is pleasant (I think cooking octopus without making it into a rubber is an art).
Funghi Flatbread (charred green onion. fontina. balsamic) – this was a masterpiece – with all due respect to all other dishes, the mushrooms were soooo … mushroomy! If you like mushrooms – don’t miss it.
O+A Margherita Flatbread (Hamden burrata. tomato. calabrian chile) – this was okay, but slightly… pedestrian, especially comparing to the previous flatbread.
We also had 3 “communal” boards to share – the Artisan Cheese Board (fruit preserves. nuts. crostini), the selection of 6 local cheeses – Cremont, Nancy Camembert, Nettle Meadow Kunik, Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, North Coutry Blue and Ocooch Mountain, all from the Artisanal Cheese); Meat Board (hand selected meats, pickles, crostini) and House Cured Salmon. All three dishes were well done and quite tasty.
Oak + Almond
544 Main Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851
The polar vortex is back with us again, and we need the tools to fight it, right? Well, yeah, you can’t fight mother nature – but at least you can make her blows a bit more palatable.
This is a wine and food blog, of course, so we are not going to talk about space heaters and Amish miracle fireplaces. Right food is a perfect solution for many of the life’s situations, extreme cold being one of them. When the temperature is in the teens, and every breath makes you look more like a fire-throwing dragon, there are few of the heart-, body- and soul-warming dishes which come to the rescue. The hearty stew is one of them. And rich, concentrated, hot soup is probably what comes to mind first while you are out there shoveling the snow.
So it is the soup we will be talking about today. This soup, called Solyanka (if you can read or just care to see the same in the Russian alphabet, it is Солянка Мясная Сборная) is one of the old and traditional Russian soups. Many people know or at least heard of the Russian soup called Borsch, made out of the red beets (Borsch is also a perfect soup for the cold weather, but it is not a subject of today’s post). Much lesser number of people know of Solyanka, which used to be one of the very few soups traditionally served in the restaurants back in Russia starting from the hundreds of years ago.
I believe many home cooks purposefully avoid making the soup, as it often translates into a quite a bit of hassle. Great thing about Solyanka is that this soup requires very few ingredients and very easy to make!
As you could deduce from the title of this post, the main ingredient in Solyanka is … meat! Actually, any kind of meat is going – pork, beef, veal, chicken – whatever you got. It is important to note that we are not talking about raw meat – we are talking about meat products, such as smoked or cured sausages, baked chicken/turkey breast, ham, all sorts of bacon, bologna, hot dogs, any meat leftovers – anything which goes in the category of “cold cuts”.
In addition to meat there is another important ingredient here. The word “Solyanka” is a derivative of the Russian word for salt. But the second key ingredient is not the salt per se – it is pickled cucumbers. The cucumbers can be brined in salt or vinegar, it really doesn’t matter – but they are essential taste component in this soup.
Ready to see the recipe? Let’s proceed.
Solyanka – Russian Meat Soup
Prep time: about 30 minutes. Cooking time: about 30 minutes.
2 lb meat products (cold cuts style)
3 quarts of broth (any one goes – beef, chicken, vegetable).
6 large Dill Cucumbers, peeled and sliced
3 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp capers
3 dry bay leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
Black pitted olives from the can, quartered
First step is to cut your meat products, whatever you are using. I typically use smoked sausages and some types of ham, but really there are no limitations. You have to slice the meat into the small pieces, make sure you will remove any kind of skin or casing if it is present, as those will not be good in the soup. I generally like to roast all that chopped meat in the pan on medium heat, for about 10-15 minutes, to concentrate the flavor.
While your meat is roasting, chop the onions. Take the large pot or casserole dish where you will be making the soup, add olive oil, put it on the medium heat. Add chopped onions and sauté them for about 10 minutes, or until translucent. Next add tomato paste, 3 tablespoons of broth and continue sautéing for another 20 minutes.
While onions and meat are on their way, prepare pickles – remove the skin, slice in half lengthwise, and then cut into the small pieces. Put aside.
Once the meat is ready, and the onions were sautéed for the total of about 30 minutes, add meat and pickles to the pot, add all of the remaining broth, put bay leaves, reduce the heat and let the soup to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. This is it! You are done.
This soup can be served as is, or with the optional sliced lemon, olives and sour cream – I personally like to add all three, but again, it is a matter of personal preference.
And let me present to you the weapon against the polar vortex – a bowl of Solyanka:
To be entirely honest, you really don’t have to wait for the sub-zero temperatures to make this soup. Yes, it is filling and warming from the inside, but overall it has quite a bit of acidity which makes it very refreshing.
So, when are you making it? Looking forward to your thoughts and comments. Cheers!
I do like simplicity in making of the food – easy to make, reasonable prep time, limited number of ingredients – definitely all my preferences when it comes to cooking. But the interesting thing is that in any craft, cooking included, once you master a skill, it becomes simple (you can argue if you feel like it). Of course it becomes your personal simplicity – for the people who don’t practice the same art, your personal simplicity looks quite complicated.
The recipe I would like to share today falls in this exact category – it is essentially very simple – once you master the first step. I call this dish Chicken Roll – and roll it is, made from the whole chicken. The difficult first step is deboning of the chicken. I will not inundate you with the whole procedure of deboning – there are plenty of videos on internet where you will see all the step by step instructions. The key to make it simple? Practice, of course. Do it a few times, and the idea of deboning of the chicken becomes much less intimidating. And you can do quite a few different dishes once you will master that skill.
I’m not sure how this technique is taught in the culinary school – and if any professional is reading this blog (that is a scary thought!), feel free to ridicule my approach. The way I learned to debone the chicken (or any bird for that matter) is by putting the bird breast side down and first making the cut along the spine, so it looks like this:
Once you made that first cut, you start slowly cut along the bones, using boning knife, separating the meat and pulling it back, so it looks something like this:
The reason I suggest doing it slowly is that you want to avoid cutting through the skin. There will be few challenging moments, where you will need to get through the joints, the one by the leg and the one by the wing – you just need to cut around them and then you will be able to cut through. Also, I suggest simply cutting off first two parts of the wings – there is not enough meat inside to try to debone those. In the end (takes me about 15-20 minutes to complete the process), you will end up with deboned chicken, which will look like this:
From this moment on, your cooking becomes very simple! You need to decide on your stuffing – anything goes! You can use other meat as a stuffing, whether raw or cooked. You can use mushrooms. You can use broccoli. You can use couscous. You can use rice. You can use quinoa. You can use any combination of the ingredients. The keys is to use a limited amount, as you still need to make the dish into a roll. You season the chicken inside, put your stuffing in, roll is lengthwise, tie it up with the butcher’s string and … voilà! Roast and enjoy! See, I told you it is simple : )
For this particular chicken roll I used carrots and chicken sausages. Here is the recipe:
Chicken Roll, stuffed with carrots and chicken sausages
Prep time: 30 minutes. Cooking time: about 1 hour (20 minutes per pound)
1 large whole chicken, deboned
3 large carrots
1 lb chicken sausages or chicken sausage meat
1 tbsp olive oil
cotton Butcher’s string
Serve: cold or warm, both should taste good.
Debone the chicken using the suggestions above and internet video as a guidance. Slice carrots lengthwise:
Season the chicken inside using salt, pepper and any seasoning herbs your heart desires. I also used truffle salt, which imparts a bit of a mushroom flavor (it smells mostly by itself, you get very little aroma in the food):
Ahh, most important part – have a glass of wine – cooking is a lot more enjoyable when the wine is involved!
I had some leftovers of Hooker Chardonnay form the previous day – it was delicious – just a touch of butter, vanilla, nice acidity – a perfect complement for any cooking.
You can now preheat the oven for 375F. Place carrots inside of the deboned chicken, then take chicken sausages, take them out of the casings and place on top of carrots. Yes, sausage meat would be easier to use in this case, but we have only one store in the town which sells sausage meat, and I didn’t feel like going.
The only steps left are to make a roll – lengthwise!, as you don’t want any skin inside – tie it up with butcher’s string, rub with olive oil, add salt, pepper and herbs on top and roast! Roast in the oven at 375F, uncovered, for about an hour ( estimate a 20 minutes per pound of meat without bones).
The result should look like this:
And this is how the roll looks inside:
That’s all I have for you for today. Let me know what do you think about this recipe. Would you make something like this? Have fun and cheers!
I know, I know – this is the wine blog, and I’m sure you are surprised with the number of food posts lately. I guess this is all because of the holidays? Well, but then this blog is all about “wine, food and life”, so I guess talking about the food is quite appropriate. Anyway, we will be talking about food today – but this food is made with wine, so we will technically cover both subjects.
When it comes to the French cooking, there are a few dishes which squarely belong to the so called “classic category”. Beef Bourguignon is definitely one of them, fighting for supremacy with Coq au Vin. Today we will be talking about Beef Bourguignon, a.k.a. Boeuf Bourguignon, a.k.a. Beef Burgundy, a stew-like dish, generally attributed to the Burgundy area in France. I personally like all of the stew style dishes, as they generally are easy to make and very rustic and comforting as food, which to me is a very important characteristic.
Main components of Beef Bourguignon are beef, wine, few of the vegetables and aromatic herbs. For a while, I had being making Beef Bourguignon using the recipe from the book called “France: A Culinary Journey”, which is quite simple. In a nutshell, you quickly fry beef, onion carrots and celery together on the high heat, then add the wine and aromatic herbs, close the cover, and let the magic happen over the next few hours. Then I came across some recipes on internet which were a lot more complex, with marinating the meat, boiling the wine before cooking, adding bacon and mushrooms, and so on. After reading through probably 5 or 6 different recipes, all claiming originality and “classicism”, I decided that I have to come up with my own, as none of the recipes really spoke to me. Before I will talk about the recipe itself, let me give you couple of the points I find important.
Wine: The source of this recipe is Burgundy, so stick with the classics on this – Pinot Noir is your ideal case, but I also have done it a few times with Gamay wines (Beaujolais), and it worked quite well. In the wine, you are looking for acidity and light fruity profile. In general, avoid high alcohol, aggressively fruity wines – they will impart an unpleasant flavor. The wine doesn’t have to be expensive, but general rule is very simple – cook with the wine you want to drink.
Marinating the meat: based on my reading and conversations, marinating the meat in the wine is an essential step. It seems to be highly recommended for both Beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin, so I’m going with this. I usually marinate the meat in the wine for the kabobs, which tenderizes the meat and makes it to absorb the flavor, so this definitely makes sense to use the same approach here.
Bacon: My general notion is that bacon makes everything better. However, in the case of Beef Bourguignon, the recipes usually call for making of the lardons (fried square pieces of bacon), which are then added to the meat during the last 15 minutes of cooking. As you are not cooking with an actual pork fat, I see such an addition only as textural, and I don’t believe it adds anything to the dish which is already quite rich, so here I’m saying no to bacon.
Okay, enough of the introductions, let’s proceed with the recipe.
Prep time: about 1 hour. Cooking time: About 3 hours.
6 lb beef for stew – use stew-cut meat from the good store, or take chuck or roast cuts and cut them into 1″ – 1.5″ cubes)
1 bottle of red wine – Pinot Noir or Beaujolais
5 large onions (one for marinade, 4 for cooking)
10 sticks of celery (2 for marinade, 8 for cooking)
4 large carrots (I really mean large, thick carrots – if they are thin, double the amount)
1.5 lb of whole mushrooms
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
2 sprigs of thyme
6 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp allspice
1 tbsp peppercorn
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Serve with: boiled potatoes (classic!), egg noodles, pasta
As a first step, you need to marinate the meat, preferably overnight, so you should start cooking in the evening of the day before. Take two stalks of celery, cut in half. Peel one onion, cat in four pieces. If you are using the whole piece of meat, cut it up into 1″ – 1.5″ chunks. Put celery and onion into the large bowl, put all the chunks of meat on top, pour in a bottle of wine. The wine should fully cover the meat – if it is not – sorry, get another bottle. Take cheese cloth, put in 3 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and allspice. Tie cheesecloth together and put it into the same bowl with meat. Cover, and put in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, get the bowl out of the fridge, strain and reserve all the liquid (you will use it for cooking). Discard celery, onion and herbs, let the meat to drain completely and warm up to the room temperature.
Now, you can start with vegetables. Dice all of the the onions and start sauteing it in the skillet with the small amount of oil – use medium heat. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the vegetables. Dice the celery, put aside. Cut up the carrots in the big chunks – round slices of about 3/4″ in size. If the carrot is too thick, you can first cut it in half lengthwise. Put aside together with celery.
Wash and cut up mushrooms into the half or quarters, depending on the size of mushrooms. Start sauteing the mushrooms in the separate pan with small amount of olive oil and medium to high heat.
Cover the pan initially, as you want mushrooms to release the water, stir a few times. After 3-4 minutes, remover the cover and let the liquid to evaporate. Continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes, or until the liquid will completely evaporated and the mushrooms are lightly fried. Add celery and carrots to the same pan, mix and continue sauteing for about another 10 minutes, stirring periodically.Turn off the heat, put aside.
After about 10 -15 minutes of sauteing the onions (they should gain color and become translucent at this point), turn off the heat and set aside.
Time to start working with the meat. First, we need to sear it. Put the cast iron casserole on the high heat (definition of the high heat depends on your stove – mine is electric, and if I use the highest dial setting of 10, everything burns before it sears, so my high heat setting for the cast iron vessel is 8). Add couple of tablespoons of the olive oil, and let it heat up. Put the flour on the plate, add salt and pepper, and drench the first batch of meat in the flour.
Once casserole is heated up sufficiently, put the meat inside in the single layer, and don’t touch it for about 3 minutes. Turn around, and let it sear for another 3 minutes – you want to get a nice color on the meat.
Prepare the next batch of meat (drench in the flour). Remote the seared meat to another plate, and repeat the process until all the meat is seared. Once the last batch is seared enough, splash some of the reserved wine into the casserole and use your spatula to deglaze it. Reduce heat to medium-low, put back all the meat, add sauteed mushrooms and vegetables. Pour back the rest of the reserved wine, add four cups or beef broth. Prepare the bouquet garni: take cheese cloth, put in thyme sprig, 3 bay leaves and peppercorns. Tie together and put in the casserole (immerse in liquid). Give the content of the casserole a good steer. Cover with the lid, pour yourself a glass of wine and relax, your work is mostly done.
Check the casserole periodically and give the content a good stir every time. Make sure the liquid is slowly simmering and not rapidly boiling – reduce heat further if it is. Also, check the sauce for salt – adjust the amount to your liking. The cooking process should take about 3 hours from the moment you combined all the ingredients – check the meat periodically to see if it is done to your liking. Tougher cuts of meat might take a little longer.
When done, remove the bouquet garni. Prepare your favorite starch and … voilà! You are ready to serve Beef Bourguignon and accept complements from your guests. Of yes, and I hope you didn’t use all the wine – you might enjoy some with your dinner.
So, what do you think? Do you have your own twist for Beef Bourguignon? What do you think of this recipe? Cheers!
This simple appetizer became one of our favorites as of late – it is simple, easy to make – and it is very versatile. I’m not sure how this should be called in the cooking terms – let’s call it a pastry appetizer for the lack of the better word.
The simplicity of this recipe starts from the fact that you don’t need to make the dough – you can use the dough which is ready to go. So far our favorite was Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits, but I’m sure you can use the other brands.
We don’t need to worry about the dough, so the next step is the filling. What I really like about these pastries is that you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to what you want to put inside. Of course your filling shouldn’t be anything raw – the cooking time for the pastries is under 20 minutes. But other than that, everything goes – vegetables, chicken, salmon, pork, anything you can think of. The best is to make your filling into the salad-like consistency, fill the pastries, sprinkle some cheese on top, put in the oven and … voila!
For the pastries we made last week, we used roasted chicken breast, mixed with sauteed mushrooms and onions, a little bit of mayo, fresh dill and shredded cheese. Here is the recipe:
Baked Pastry Appetizer
Prep Time: 20 minutes (depending on what you are using, can be much faster), Cooking time: about 18 minutes.
5 tubes of small Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits, to make 48 pastries.
2 medium size roasted chicken breasts (can be replaced with any other meat), cut up in the small cubes
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
3 medium onions
1 tbsp mayo
1 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 450F, or 425F if using the non-stick pan (follow instructions on your pastry can). Saute mushrooms and onions with olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until soft (onion should be translucent). Once ready, mix mushrooms and onions with chicken, mayo, dill and half a cup of cheese.
Take the muffin pan (we use the non-stick pan with 24 holes). Grease all the holes with oil spray. Open the package of dough. Place the dough pieces in the holes, slightly covering the edges. Put in the mixed filling. Finish filling of all the pastries, then use the remaining half a cup of cheese to sprinkle on top of the pastries (adjust the amount of cheese on top to your liking).
Get the pan out of the oven, let the pastries cool off and … enjoy! Have fun and get creative with your filling! Cheers!
Yes, I had a full intention of publishing the next wine quiz. But I stumbled. The quiz was supposed to be about Dolcetto, and I really couldn’t figure out my approach to the questions, hence… no quiz.
But you know that nasty feeling, when you created a program, a plan, a schedule, if you will – which you now can’t fulfill? Yeah, not pleasant. So, as I usually do in the difficult blogging moments, I bring the videos to the rescue.
Below are some of my most favorite food videos – I’m even surprised that I didn’t share them before. Two of them are the commercials of the Lurpak butter. No, they are not new, but to tell you the truth, they represent food porn in such a pure form, that I keep coming back to them just for a quick minute of pleasure.
I also recommend watching these videos in the full screen mode – for the maximum effect.
The first one was called Kitchen Odyssey:
The next one, is a whole group of Lurpak commercials:
The last one is not for the faint at heart – if you are on a diet, or simply despise heavy foods, skip it. For the rest of you – this is a hard core food. This video comes from the Epic Meal Time, which has a whole series dedicated to fun and radical cooking. Disclaimer – no, I don’t eat like that, but find watching this video very enjoyable.
That’s all I have for you for today. Off to work on my Beef Bourguignon recipe – will be shared soon. Cheers!
What defines the simplicity of the recipe? For me, it is the limited number of ingredients, and ease of the cooking process. For instance, I would never designate my beloved traditional cassoulet as a simple recipe – it takes about 24 hours to make and the list of ingredients is a page long.
The recipe I would like to share today fit the simplicity bill quite well. It has only 3 ingredients (or four, if you would consider garlic as a separate ingredient), and the cooking process is quite simple (but you do spend a bit of the time prepping). As this is a beef stew, you can even reduce the list of ingredients down to two – the beef stew for me must have beef (huh, really?) and onions – everything else is a bonus.
Today’s dish is a beer braised beef stew, which includes onions, garlic and Sicilian eggplant. There is no any particular reason whatsoever to include the Sicilian eggplant into this dish, except that I was in the store, the eggplant looked very good and wanted to buy it, and then I had to actually do something with it.
Below is the recipe, and then I will give you step by step guide with pictures – for no other reason that I like to take food pictures. Here we go.
Beer Braised Beef Stew Recipe
Total time – about 3 hours. Prep time: 40-50 minutes, Cooking time: 2 hours
5 lb of beef – you can use any cut. If you will use a very lean cut, you might have to increase the cooking time until meat is tender
4 medium onions
half a cup of garlic (adjust to your liking)
1 Sicilian eggplant (replace with any other eggplant or skip altogether)
1 can/bottle of beer, 330 oz – you can use any beer, but I would suggest that it should have some intensity to it – lager is good, porter is good too.
Olive oil (any oil you use for frying)
1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
Salt, Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of the Kosher Salt or any other large grain salt
You initial step includes a bit of slicing and dicing. You will need to peel and slice the onions:
Slice it into the small cubes, put into a bowl, add the kosher salt, mix together and let it stand for 15-20 minutes. The salt will make the eggplant to lose some of the water, so it will be a bit faster at cooking.
Prepare the garlic – you can use the whole cloves, only break them slightly with the knife:
Add olive oil to the pan, put it up at the medium heat, and start sauteing the onions with garlic, turning them periodically, for about 15-20 minutes, or until the onion gains color and becomes soft and translucent:
In parallel, you should start searing the meat. I’m using here a beef stew cut from the store – of course you can cut the piece of beef on your own. We need to sear the meat to get rid of all the unnecessary liquid and to gain the nice color. From here on, I’m using my favorite cooking vessel, the enameled cast iron casserole. To sear the meat, you will need to add oil and then put on the high heat – how high the heat should be depends on your stove. I have an electric stove, and if I will heat up the cast iron on the highest setting, the food will burn before it will sear, so I have to adjust it accordingly – but you do need high heat for searing.
At this point ( we are at about 20 minutes into our cooking process), the onions should be ready the meat is seared, so you can first pour the beer into the casserole dish, and use it as a deglazing agent. Add onions to the meat, reduce heat to medium, cover casserole with the lid and let it be.
Add olive oil to the pan which is now freed up, put the eggplant and saute for about 15-20 minutes, or until it softens up and gains color:
And you are done! Your dish should look similar to this:
That concludes our picture presentation of the recipe. I hope you will find this dish easy enough to make, and if you will end up making it or have done something similar before – let me know. Until the next time – cheers!