Duck converts: Cassoulet with sous vide duck confit

Cheval Blanc is one of our favorite Pasadena French restaurants (it’s named after the famous and pricey French wine).  Every time we order a bottle of wine just to be paid a visit by the sommelier, a delightful grand-fatherly gentlemen who walks with a limp and speaks with a thick French accent.  You can see his pleasure in introducing every bottle and he always makes a second visit to ensure you’re enjoying the wine with your meal.

During the Fall/Winter seasons the menu is alive with hearty provincial French dishes such as beef bourguignon, coq au vin, and my absolute favorite, cassoulet.  Cassoulet is a stew, typically served with duck, pork, and sausage, piled over white beans in a thick broth.  At Cheval Blanc the dish arrives in its own lidded pot, opened table side.  The steam fills your nose with the scent of rich spiced meat.  It’s wonderful.

When our friends H+M joined us for dinner last week I mentioned that I wanted to make duck and they remarked that they generally weren’t fans.  No, no I said. This would not do.  Duck is delicious and I was determined to serve them a dish they would enjoy, so I made cassoulet with duck confit.

In my version I made the duck confit (confit means the food has been cooked in its own fat) in my sous vide machine so I could cook it slowly and patiently with less duck fat than it would typically take to confit in the oven.  Duck confit is tender, juicy, and full of flavor.  When sitting atop a cassoulet alongside pork, sausage, and beans it’s absolutely divine.

I didn’t serve the cassoulet with a Cheval Blanc (which can cost as much as 12k a bottle for a vintage classic), but Big N selected  a fine pairing: 2004 Robert Sinskey Four Vineyards Pinot Noir in the Los Carneros area of Napa.  Carneros is on the colder side of Napa, away from the valley floor where they grow bold cabernets, and the wine produced there tastes of dark fruits, cherries, plum, with a bit of spice and a nice earthiness.  This one had some age on it, making it lighter and mellower so as not to overpower the delicate but rich duck.  It was a beautiful match.

And, after one bite of my cassoulet and one sip of this beautiful wine, H+M were duck converts.

Cassoulet: duck confit, pork, sausage, and white beans

This recipe takes some time and a bit of preparation, not to mention access to a good butcher or market that carries both duck and duck fat.  But it’s worth the effort.  Cassoulet is the perfect cold weather dish.  With three kinds of meat plus beans the dish is quite rich, so I suggest skipping a heavy lunch if you know cassoulet is on the menu at dinnertime.  Your guests will surely be duck converts too.

Duck Confit Sous Vide & Cassoulet

Serves 4
Prep time 30 hours
Cook time 3 hours
Total time 33 hours
Meal type Main Dish
Region French

Ingredients

Confit

  • 4 Duck legs with thighs attached
  • 1 cup Duck fat
  • 2 tablespoons Quatre Epices (French "4 spice" mix of black pepper (1 Tbs ground); ground clove (2 tsp); ground ginger (1 tsp); ground nutmeg (1 tsp))
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 4 sprigs Thyme

Cassoulet

  • 3/4 lb Dried White Beans (Great Northern (my choice); Cannellini; or Navy)
  • 3/4 lb Boneless pork shoulder (Cut into 1 1/2" cubes)
  • 2 Onions (Medium dice)
  • 1-2 Carrots (Medium dice)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 lb Garlic Pork Sausage (Split in half length wise, or remove casing and crumble up)
  • 1 Bouquet garni (Wrap a few parsley stems, 1 bay leaf, 3-4 cloves, 5-6 black peppercorns, and 2-3 sprigs thyme in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine.)

Crumb Topping

  • 2 cloves Garlic (Minced)
  • 1 cup Bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • Salt/pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Parsley (Flat leaf, chopped finely)

Directions

1. Pick through beans to remove any stones. Place in bowl, covered with water by a few inches, and let soak overnight.
2.
Prepare duck for confit: Mix Quatre Epices (4-spice blend) with kosher salt. Crumble bay leaves very finely in your hand and add to spice mixture. Wash and pat dry duck legs and generously rub both sides with spice mixture. Let sit, covered, overnight (or upt to 48 hours) in refrigerator. Then wipe off or gently wash off spice mixture and pat dry.
3.
Sous vide the duck: Heat water in sous vide machine to 185 degrees. Place 2 duck legs in a vacuum sealable bag and the other 2 in another bag. Split the chopped garlic, thyme and the duck fat between the bags. Add a pinch of kosher salt to each bag, then vacuum seal, removing as much air as possible. Add bags to water and sous vide for 5-6 hours (you can sous vide for up to 8 hours if you have the time). (The confit can be done a day or two ahead of time. Store bags unopened in the refrigerator).
4.
While the duck is going, place the cubed pork shoulder in a dutch oven. Cover with water by a few inches. Add the bouquet garni and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour 15 minutes. Skim the skum regularly.
Cassoulet-3-of-8
5. Next add the rinsed and drained beans, onions, carrots, and garlic and simmer until beans are just tender, 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the size of your beans.
6.
When the confit is done, remove the duck from the bags (reserve your duck fat for use again, see note) and pat dry. In a heavy bottomed very hot pan, add a little of the reserved duck fat and sear duck until browned and crispy on both sides. Remove duck and set aside.
Cassoulet-5-of-8
7. In the same pan, add the sausage and cook until just browned.
8. Preheat oven to 375. When the pork and beans are done (the beans just turned soft), set a bowl under a collander and drain pork and bean mixture, saving all the liquid. Add salt and pepper to flavor the liquid and stir until salt is dissolved.
9.
Add the beans and pork to a large casserole dish or roasting pan. Place the duck legs on top, nestling the legs in the beans. Then sprinkle the sausage around the duck. Pour some of your reserved cooking liquid into your casserole dish so the liquid nearly covers the beans and comes just part of the way up the duck legs. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Cassoulet-6-of-8
10. While the cassoulet is baking, prepare the crumb mixture. Cook garlic in oil in a skillet until fragrant, then add bread crumbs, salt, and pepper and cook until bread crumbs are golden. Transfer to a bowl and stir in chopped parsley.
11.
When the cassoulet is done, serve it by spooning some pork, sausage, and beans on the bottom, topped with a duck leg. Sprinkle crumb mixture over the beans.
Cassoulet-7-of-8
12.
Enjoy!
Cassoulet-8-of-81

Summer sippin': White Sangria

Summer is the perfect time to get a little crazy with the cocktails. I like to save my bold red wines for hearty colder weather meals. In the summer I enjoy dinner al fresco with a breezy rosé or crisp white.  When its time to get festive I like to mix up a nice white sangria.

Coincidentally, this afternoon my pilates trainer asked me if I had any good ideas for a white sangria that she can take on a picnic date this week.  Boy do I ever, and in fact I just made a delicious white sangria for the Core at our 4th of July weekend in Arrowhead.  Melon White Sangria Recipe below.

white-sangria ingredients

I used an inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand because wines from this region are known for their tropical notes.  You can use a domestic Sauvignon Blanc or even a Gewurstraminer or dry Reisling.  The melon will complement the notes in these wines nicely.  Make up a pitcher of sangria and just before serving add a little ginger ale for a refreshing fizz.

Your guests will love the melon flavors with pasta salad, grilled fish with fruity salsa, ceviche, or carnitas tacos, my accompaniment of choice.  Be careful though, it may not taste too strong, but a few glasses of this stuff will have you singing the 80’s tune while dancing in your platforms.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Happy summer sippin’

White Sangria

White Sangria

Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Meal type Beverage

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc (preferably from New Zealand)
  • 1 bottle Ginger Ale (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cup Honeydew (Cubed)
  • 1 1/2 cup Cantaloupe (Cuved)
  • 10-12 pieces Mint

Optional

  • 1 1/2 cup Watermelon (Cubed)

Directions

1. Empty wine into pitcher and add fruit. Refridgerate for at least an hour, up to overnight.
2. Just before serving, add 1/3 ratio of ginger ale to 2/3 of white sangria. Garnish with fruit.

And one more flavor match: Lamb and Mint with Raisin Red Chard

Since I appear to be on a flavor match kick, we might as well go for one more: lamb and mint.  I don’t know why the two go together.  Maybe the little lamb like to feast on wild mint, or maybe they tend to have halitosis and mint takes care of that, but regardless, on the plate, lamb and mint just work.

For dinner last night I picked up these beautiful rib loin chops from New Zealand (I know, local is best, tsk tsk, but whatever. The New Zealanders have some tasty sheep).  I also have some pineapple mint growing nicely in a pot that was crying out to be used.  I hadn’t heard of pineapple mint either but it tastes like mint and smells like pineapple, which is where I guess they get the name.  I made a quick infused oil with the mint, and a special dry rub to complement the mint oil for the lamb.  Big N plopped the chops on the barbecue so I could get working on the chard.  For the red chard, I added raisins, pine nuts, garlic, and balsalmic vinegar to my saute.  The sweetness of the raisins went well to balance out the mint on the lamb.  For vino we served it with Babcock’s Nucleus Bordeaux blend from Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County.  Spicy, with boysenberry and violet on the nose, this was the perfect match for the minty lamb.

Another scrumptious meal, made even more special with some good wine.  (See my recipes for lamb with mint and raisin red chard below.

Cheers.

lamb-chard-4-of-5

Lamb loin chops with mint infused oil

Serves 2
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Meal type Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 7 Lamb loin or rib chops
  • 1-2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon Ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper (Freshly ground)
  • 2 tablespoons Mint (Finely chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons Olive or grape seed oil

Directions

1. Make spice rub by combining spices and stirring together.
2. Rub over the lamb and let sit for 20 minutes.
3. In a small dish, add mint and a little kosher salt to the oil and let sit.
4. Grill lamb until done. Let rest for a few minutes.
5. Serve lamb topped with mint infused oil.

Red Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Serves 2
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Meal type Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 1 Red Chard
  • 1/8 cup Raisins
  • 2 tablespoons Pine Nuts
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

1. Cut chard stems into 1 inch pieces. Cut remaining leaves into 1 inch ribbons.
2. Toast pine nuts but placing in the bottom of a dry pan heated over a medium flame. Toast until fragrant, stirring every couple of minutes, about 4 minutes total.
3. Remove pine nuts and add a little oil to pan. When hot, saute chard stems, about 4 minutes.
4. Add leaves, raisins, and garlic.
5. Season with salt and a little pepper and cover. Simmer over low heat 6-10 minutes until tender. Add 1 T water if necessary to prevent burning.
6. Uncover, add vinegar and pine nuts. Serve.

Exotic veggies: Fiddlehead surf & turf

Fiddleheads

Learning how to cook exotic fruits and vegetables is a mini hobby of mine.  I tasted fiddleheads for the first time while minibreaking in Santa Fe, New Mexico at this lovely resort in the middle of the high desert.  Fiddleheads are the unfurled fronds of a fern plant.  They resemble the top of a fiddle where the strings attach, hence their name.  They don’t appear to be something you’d eat, but the Native Americans and other cultures in Asia have been eating them for centuries.  High in Omega 3 and 6, they taste kind of like a tart asparagus.  They used to hail from Maine, but are now grown locally in California.  The fiddlehead season is extraordinarily brief, so I was lucky to spot them at my local Whole Foods last week, at $5.99 for a small package.  A splurge for sure.

Anxious to feature fiddleheads for dinner but unable to agree on meat or fish to pair them with, Big N and I decided to splurge with a little surf & turf: cajun style catfish and grilled sirloin.   Fiddlehead surf & turf I kept the fiddleheads simple by blanching for a few minutes in boiling water and then shocking, then sauteing in olive oil, salt & pepper, just like I do with asparagus.  They don’t need much more labor than that. The fiddleheads have a nice al dente crunch to them and a zesty fresh flavor that went well with the spicy catfish.  The sirloin was just a bonus.  Fiddleheads are a treat that says Spring is in full bloom.

We paired our surf & turf with an Amici Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.  The wine had notes of cedar and mint with velvety smooth dark chocolate on the palate.  The ripe fruits and hint of bell pepper paired with the toothy sirloin and acidic fiddleheads.

Dinner with Friends: Winter Tasting Menu

dinner-party-8-of-2 Since putting on my first tasting menu dinner nearly three years ago, I have dreamt about hosting another.  On two occasions I planned an extravagant event, even sent out invitations, only to have to cancel at the last minute when work obligations took priority.  Last night, finally, Big N and I hosted a dinner party for a few close friends as a pre-Valentine’s Day celebration.  True to form, I started planning nearly a month ago, creating a menu that would showcase seasonal ingredients and a few newly acquired tricks.  The menu was a bit ambitious for one person to serve 8 guests while still trying to enjoy the company of great friends rather than disappearing behind the kitchen door all night, but I was eager to pull it off.  And, if I can brag for just a stitch, pull it off I did!

Our dear friends arrived at 7, just as I was finishing the final preparations and mise en place so each dish would be timed perfectly.  Big N served as sommelier, and poured the wine as I prepared the plates in the kitchen.  We carefully selected 5 wines to pair with each of the 5 dishes, though kept the pours short so our guests would safely arrive home at the end of the evening.

dinner-party-1-of-6 I started with an amuse bouche of tuna poke with an avocado mousseline spherification.  The spherification, invented by molecular gastronomy god Ferran Adria of El Bulli, is a liquid center surrounded by a gelatinous membrane.  Taken in one bite, the spherification bursts in your mouth, coating the food with the liquid.  I made the tuna slightly spicy so the fatty avocado created a nice balance.  I won’t go into exactly how I created the spherification, which is an adventure that deserves its own post, but it involved experimentation with some serious (food safe) chemicals, and about 4 attempts before I was able to create one that was edible.  But the tuna poke is easy peasy.  Spicy Tuna Poke Recipe  I paired the amuse bouche with a cava from Spain.  Cava is a sparkling white that is light, crisp, with very little aftertaste.  The bubbly, with the spicy poke, was intended to awaken my guests’ palates and prepare them for the rest of the meal.

dinner-party-2-of-6 Next came the champagne poached steelhead.  My local fishmonger couldn’t obtain my first choice, arctic char, so I went with the steelhead.  Steelhead is actually a sea-run rainbow trout, so it looks like salmon, but is much more delicate, perfect for poaching.  I served it with a bernaise sauce with freshly chopped tarragon, asparagus tips, and meyer lemon air.  Champagne Poached Steelhead Recipe  Air, like foam, is an emulsification that’s become trendy in restaurants these days, though pretty simple to master with a little soy lecithin to stabilize the lemon juice.  I took a bit of a risk attempting it for the first time last night, but luck was on my side.  We paired the steelhead with a sauvignon blanc from Marlbourough New Zealand.  The wine had a nice grassy quality that stood up to the acidity in the bernaise and the asparagus, but the tropical fruit notes typical for wines from this region created an elegant complement to the fish.

dinner-party-3-of-6 Taking a slightly unconventional approach, I served my soup in the middle of the meal.  I wanted to pair my cream of wild mushroom with a red wine and it was more important that the wines flowed from lighter to heavier bodied than for the soup to be served at the start of the meal.  The cream of wild mushroom was my personal favorite of the evening.  Cooked with shiitake, porcini, oyster, crimini, and button mushrooms, I added some homemade parmesan croutons, creme fraiche, and shaved truffles for the extra wow factor.  Cream of Wild Mushroom Recipe  I paired that with a burgundy from the Mersault.  Mersault is known for its white wine, but this red was a winner.  Lighter for burgundy, it struck the perfect balance between earth and fruit, and allowed the richness of the soup to shine.

[SinglePic not found]Finally, my sous vide new york strip.  I’ll post about the marvels of sous vide cooking in a bit, as I have a few posts to catch up on, but suffice it to say if you’ve never had a sous vide piece of meat you don’t know what you’re missing.  The steak was cooked perfectly medium rare throughout, thanks to the Sous Vide Supreme, but I finished them off by searing them in expensive french butter, then spooned a generous portion of cabernet reduction that took me all day to make (reducing takes patience, I’ve learned, but well worth the wait).  Sides included sunchoke (aka jerusalem artichoke) puree and wilted baby spinach.  I paired it with the Lincourt Cabernet from Santa Ynez Valley, a favorite that I’ve talked about before.  The wine is one of the more approachable cabernets, sure to please a crowd.

dinner-party-5-of-6 Finally, dessert, as no tasting menu is complete without sweets.  Normally I try all my recipes out first before attempting to serve them to guests at crunch time, but I took another risk here and made something I’ve never made before.  The apple dumpling recipe I found in the LA Farmers’ Market Cookbook but I put my own spin on it.  I baked a granny apple stuffed with dried cranberries, brown sugar, and cinnamon inside a pie dough crust.  I paired that with saffron kulfi, which is an Indian ice cream made with sweetened condensed milk, cardamom, and more cinnamon.  Saffron Kulfi Recipe Dessert was a definite hit, as I witnessed a few guests scraping their plates.  I paired the dumpling with a light bodied spatlese, a German Riesling that’s not too sweet.

dinner-party-7-of-2 I also made some coconut macaroons as petit fours to serve with coffee at the end of the meal as our guests were winding down, and my lovely friend D spoiled us by bringing french macarons in Valentine’s day colors from macaron artiste Paulette.

The evening was a wild success.  Though I missed some of the fun while plating and expediting each course, I still had plenty of time to sit and chat with our closest friends, and to relish in their enjoyment of my cooking, of course.  Seeing friends enjoy the food I’ve prepared gives me a dorky feeling of jubilation.  Even now I’m basking in the afterglow as I reminisce and share.  I think I need to make these dinner parties a bi-annual affair.

Friday Night Splurge: Braised Pork Belly with Sauteed Cabbage and Savory Apples

As I may have revealed in the past, I’m not the best Jew because Pork and I are good friends.  Matter of fact, I love Pork’s whole family: bacon, sausage, ham, and most recently, Pork’s portly relative- Pork Belly.  If you’ve ever seen pork belly in the raw you’ll realize pretty quickly that it’s no good for you, what with the small amount of meat layered between large amounts of fat, but pork belly tastes so delightful that it’s worth the splurge once in a while, clogged arteries or no clogged arteries.

This particular dinner cost less than $10 dollars to make (what a bargain!), though it takes planning ahead because the pork belly needs some time to cure.  Score the skin of the pork belly with a sharp knife, then add to the curing liquid and refridgerate overnight.  The curing process adds the first layer of flavor to the pork.

The fun begins once the pork is done curing.  Sear the pork belly in grapeseed oil on all sides.  Add your stock, vinegar, and good quality Calvados or Apple Brandy to the slow cooker.  If you’ve had a hard day, go ahead and take a swig of the brandy yourself just to test that it has the right flavor for the job.  Plop the seared pork belly in your slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  (Editor’s note:  I had to steal Big N’s precious Calvados because he guards it well, and I didn’t tell him that I’d used it until after he took a bite of the pork belly, decided he loved it, and was ready to face the news).

Alternatively, you can braise in a dutch oven on the stove top for a couple hours, but I prefer the slow cooker method because dinner is practically ready when I get home from work.  Once it’s done braising, sear it again on all sides to get that nice crispy skin.  I served my crisped pork belly over sauteed red cabbage with savory apples on the side (pork and apples is a classic pairing).  

Braised Pork Belly and Apples Recipe. pork-belly-8-of-8  

Beaujolais For the wine, Big N opened a bottle of nice and light Luis Jadot Beaujolais-Village.  The Beaujolais AOCs are located just south of Burgundy.  These wines are made exclusively from the Gamay grape and are young drinking, light bodied, fairly acidic reds, with raspberry and cherry flavors and some nice spice.  Because of the vinegar in the pork belly, I needed a slightly acidic wine to stand up to the tanginess, and this wine fit the bill. Plus it had enough tannins to absorb some of the fattiness of the pork on the palate and complemented the cabbage and apples well.

Though we decided to stay at home on the Friday night (we’re such homebodies), this meal was special enough to eat slowly and to savor over a good bottle of wine.  It was the main entertainment for the evening.  Plus, the pork belly was so rich Big N and I were glad to be home to slip off into food coma dream land.  Lazy Friday indeed.

Monday Night Fish: Herb Crusted Snapper with Sauteed Red Cabbage

On the weekends I indulge, in food mostly.  I throw dieting out the window and go for the hearty steaks, the rice, the bread, the wine, you name it.  Sometimes I really tempt fate and order dessert.  I do this knowing that on Monday night, I will cook something healthy and light. That will make up for it, slate cleaned.  I am healthy once more.

dinner-2-of-2 Last night, after a typically indulgent weekend and in keeping with the Monday night fish tradition, I made a simple snapper and served that with sauteed red cabbage and a smidge of Israeli cous cous.  Other than the parmesan cheese, which isn’t that bad as far as cheeses go, the fish was light and fairly low cal.  Red Snapper Recipe

Red cabbage, if you’re keeping track, is high in iron, vitamin C, and antioxidants, which protect the body from free radicals, and is a cancer and Alzheimer’s fighting food.  So eat it, it’s good for you, and tasty too when sauteed with a little apple cider vinegar and mustard seeds.  Sauteed Red Cabbage Recipe dinner-1-of-2

To make the meal extra special, Big N opened a bottle of William Fevre 2007 Chablis (about $22/bottle at Whole Foods).  Chablis, located in the northern part of the Burgundy region, is made from Chardonnay grapes.  Unlike white burgundies, Chablis juice is rarely aged in new oaks, so they tend to be more crisp and acidic than their burgundian cousins.  The William Fevre is on the acidic side, with lots of meyer lemon on the nose, and lemon, green apples, grass, and some minerality on the palate.  If you’re leery of acid, this wine will mellow out with age.  Serve it with fish, shell fish, or hard cheeses.

Holiday Wine Selection: Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc

craggy Every holiday season I select a bottle of wine to give away to my clients and colleagues to express my appreciation for the work I received from them over the year.  In years past my selections included California favorites such as Chase Zinfandel, Clos Du Val Pinot, and Babcock Pinot.  For the first time this year I selected a white wine: 2008 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc

craggy-range This bottle from the lesser known Martinborough region was a standout favorite from my trip to New Zealand last March.  All the major critics including Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits consistently rate the 2008 vintage and previous vintages from this vineyard 90 points and above — quite a feat for a Sauvignon Blanc.  At $20/bottle, it’s an incredible value for such a highly rated wine.

Fermented mostly in stainless steel, it has the crisp and light fruity qualities that I love, but the acidity does not overwhelm the palate because 12% of the juice was fermented in french oak barriques.  On the nose you’ll find lime, nectarine, grapefruit, and some faint florals, and on the palate lime, passion fruit, and some minerality.  Serve it nice and chilled with fish or spicy foods like Indian curries.  This wine will be perfect when winter yields to spring and it’s time for dinner al fresco again.

Lamb Pairing: Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Flageolet Beans and Mushrooms

So this is one of those dinners that should have been perfect, except for the slight mishaps in execution.  But the result was so promising that I’m posting it anyway, and will reveal how to avoid the mistakes I made along the way.  Not even I am perfect, after all.

Lamb, I am ashamed to say, is wonderfully delicious. (Remember, I make no apologies here about being a carnivore).  And while you can make some incredible Greek dishes out of the leg of lamb, the best and of course priciest cut is the rib chop.  But, I find rib chops are only delicious when they come from New Zealand, or lately, Iceland of all places.  In fact, I have decided that I dislike Colorado lamb because it tastes much gamier.  I know, I know, that’s bad news for all you localvores and I’m sorry about that, but at least I’m supporting our kiwi friends to the south. 

The rib chops are delicious when grilled simply with a Moroccan style dry rub.  The dry rub I completely made up using what I had in my pantry can be found here:  Moroccan Spice Dry Rub. Rub generously, pat into the meat, and grill on indirect heat preferably so you don’t scorch the meat. Easy.  rudolphs-1-of-5

For sides, green flageolet beans are a traditional french accompaniment to lamb.  I got mine as a gift from the Sinskey Wine Club (my favorite because along with wine you always get a cool culinary gift to go with the pairing recipes also provided).  Though I soaked overnight, unfortunately I did not allot enough cooking time and my impatience and growling belly took over.  These beans take much longer than the 50 minutes the recipe I consulted said to cook them, more like an hour and a half, live and learn.  Though obviously a bit tough, the beans were tasty tasty, and provided a nice texture to go with the meat.  The simple recipe I’m including here corrects my rookie errors.  Hopefully yours will turn out perfect.  Recipe for Flageolet Beans rudolphs-2-of-5

As a final side, I reconstituted some dried shiitake mushrooms that I picked up in the local Korean market.  I sauteed garlic in butter, added the soaked mushrooms, salt and some cooking wine and sauteed.  Next time, I’m using fresh mushrooms.  The reconstituted dry mushrooms weren’t really working for me as they tasted a bit spongy.  So no recipe to post for this one, boo.  rudolphs-3-of-5

Even with the mistakes, the meal came together, albeit in draft form.  It sure looked pretty though, and Big N, for his part, grilled the lamb up just right, showoff.

rudolphs-5-of-5 For wine, we paired with a favorite Gigondas.  Gigondas is a region in the southern Rhone, so wines from here will be predominantly Grenache based, and usually blended with some Syrah and Mourvedre.  I find these wines more floral and elegant than their big Chateauneuf du Pape brother nearby, though some find them more minerally so prefer the more expensive Chateauneufs.  The Gigondas we picked from Whole Foods, 2005 Nectar du Terroir, costs about $20.  In this wine we found dark concentrated fruits like black cherry, lean tannins, and on the nose violets, leather, and some tobacco.  Rich and sultry, the wine complemented the Moroccan spices and hearty beans.  The presentation was so nice, I think I’ll go with a do-over in the near future.

Flavor Bible Unleashed: Sea Bass with Apple Fennel Saute and White Bean Puree

flavor-bible The “cookbook” I find myself turning to most often is not a cookbook at all, but reads more like a primer on flavor affinities.  The Flavor Bible doesn’t include recipes per se, but instead instructs on what foods go together.  I consult The Flavor Bible when I have a few items picked up from the store, but I’m fishing for ideas on how to jazz them up.  Tonight, for example, I had some Chilean Sea Bass marinating in misoyaki sauce (recipe for misoyaki fish, below), and wanted to cook fennel and white beans for sides.  I consulted my trusty Flavor Bible, dinner-4-of-7 and discovered that white beans pair well with olive oil, rosemary, and even pecorino.  Having all of those ingredients on hand, I decided a puree would be lovely (plus I adore my stick blender, it gives off such a gratifying buzzing sensation when it mashes food)!  So I heated up white beans with a little chicken broth, olive oil, and chopped rosemary, then pureed with my stick blender and returned to the stove. I seasoned and added the pecorino and stirred until creamy.
Recipe for White Bean Puree

A quick turn of the page and I learned that fennel goes well with apples. I had an apple handy so apple fennel saute was what I made.  Chopped the fennel and apple and sauteed together until soft, then added nigella (black sesame seeds), red grapes, and fennel greens for color, plus a smidge of cider vinegar for a little zing, because fennel usually needs some acid.
Recipe for Appel Fennel Saute

In under 25 minutes I had dinner on the table and a happy hubby.  Big N paired our meal with a sauvignon blanc that we brought back from Marlborough, New Zealand this March.  If you think most Sauvignon Blancs wreak of cat pee, you haven’t had one from New Zealand.  The River Farm Sauvignon Blanc is typical for the region, with notes of white peach and a little grass, and crisp but smooth tropical citrus fruits on the palette.  It paired perfectly with the slight acidity of the fennel and the richness of the fish.  While sipping the wine, Big N and I reminisced about our adventures in New Zealand biking from one winery to the next and filling up our baskets to the brim with Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs.  Next time you’re eating white fish, or something spicy or acidic, try a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.  They’re great value wines and there’s no need to have a corkscrew with you- nearly all of them have screw tops for added convenience.

Misoyaki Fish

Serves 2-4
Prep time 48 hours
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 48 hours, 20 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
Region Japanese

Ingredients

  • 2-4 Filets of fish (Chilean sea bass, black cod, butterfish work best)
  • 1/2 cup Sake
  • 1/2 cup Mirin (cooking wine, find it in asian food aisle)
  • 1/3 cup Miso paste (in asian markets, light color works best)
  • 3 tablespoons Sugar
  • 2-4 Filets of fish (Chilean sea bass, black cod, butterfish work best)
  • 1/2 cup Sake
  • 1/2 cup Mirin (cooking wine, find it in asian food aisle)
  • 1/3 cup Miso paste (in asian markets, light color works best)
  • 3 tablespoons Sugar

Note

Inspired by Chef Nobu's famous misoyaki black cod and Roy's Miso Butterfish recipes

Directions

1. Heat sake, Mirin, miso paste, and sugar. Whisk to dissolve miso paste and sugar, bring to just boiling, and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
2. Heat sake, Mirin, miso paste, and sugar. Whisk to dissolve miso paste and sugar, bring to just boiling, and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
3. Throw cooled sauce in ziploc bag and add your fish. Suck the air out of the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator. Let the fish marinate for 2-3 days, turning the bag over in the fridge each morning or evening to make sure the fish is being evenly coated.
4. Throw cooled sauce in ziploc bag and add your fish. Suck the air out of the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator. Let the fish marinate for 2-3 days, turning the bag over in the fridge each morning or evening to make sure the fish is being evenly coated.
5. Preheat oven to 400. Place fish in baking dish, uncovered, and discard rest of marinade.
6. Preheat oven to 400. Place fish in baking dish, uncovered, and discard rest of marinade.
7. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Insert toothpick to test, toothpick should go in easily if done. Do not overcook fish, you want it slightly translucent in the middle.
8. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Insert toothpick to test, toothpick should go in easily if done. Do not overcook fish, you want it slightly translucent in the middle.