Friday, March 26, 2010

Chef's Tasting

"Cockles and Chorizo", Wine Pairing: Broadbent Vinho Verde 2008

"Shrimp Cocktail"—pickled shrimp, caperberry, baby cucumber with bloom, glass rimmed with cumin salt, cocktail: tomato juice, mussel broth, lime juice, cilantro juice, cumin, sherry vinegar, gold tequila

"Piquillos and White Beans"—parfait layers of brunoise of piquillo pepper and Tuscan "refried beans," green layer flavored with pesto, tan layer flavored with rosemary, Wine Pairing: La Slina Gavi di Gavi "Giorgio Cichero" 2008

"Morel Risotto"—onion and Carr Valley Shepherd's Blend cheese risotto napping a hidden poached quail egg (surprise!), crispy morel mushroom, Parmesan tuile, fresh thyme leaves, Wine Pairing: Clifton Springs Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2007

"Duck and Veal Ravioli"—raviolo stuffed with Moulard duck and local veal ragù, roasted romanesco, romanesco brown butter mousse (killer!), Wine Pairing: Cristom Syrah Willamette Valley 2005

"Oxtail Empanada"—chimichurri down on the plate, shredded oxtail, crispy polenta, radishes, pickled cipollini, pea shoots, johnny jump ups, Wine Pairing: Boxwood Winery "Boxwood" Virginia 2007

"New York-Style Cheesecake"—mini cheesecakes, poached dried apricots, almond brittle, Moscato d'Asti sabayon, crumbled amaretti, Wine Pairing: Vietti Moscato d'Asti "Cascinetta" 2008

Monday, March 22, 2010

Prosciutto-Wrapped Loin of Rabbit

I like this dish so much that I wanted to share it with you. I love the late winter flavors and the presentation as well. What you see here is prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loin stuffed with Chinese broccoli leaves and goat cheese, sitting in a pool of Fairy Tale squash cream, surrounded by black trumpet mushrooms.

Start by removing both loins from a rabbit (one rabbit serves one person) and cleaning them of silverskin and sinew. When you remove the loins, remove all the meat from the hip to the shoulder blades in a single piece. The best way that I have found to remove the silverskin is to start a small flap of the silverskin at the shoulder end (the pointed end), then flip the loin over, silverskin down on the cutting board, and skin it like you would a fish. Butterfly each loin about two thirds of the way from the hip end to the shoulder end as you see in this photo.

Next, cover each butterflied loin with plastic wrap and gently pound the flesh until it is even in thickness all over. These I have pounded to about 3/8" or 1/2cm in thickness. Then lay a piece of plastic wrap on your board and on top of that lay out enough prosciutto to completely wrap the rabbit loin. Then lay two rabbit loins on top of the prosciutto as you see here, close to one edge of the prosciutto and so that the rabbit forms a long rectangle. Season the rabbit with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, for each rabbit loin, blanch about eight Chinese broccoli leaves. I'm sure if you're contemplating doing this recipe that you know you can substitute any leafy green in this recipe: chard, spinach, rapini, etc. After blanching the leaves, dry them well (important for the next step) and remove any central stem with a sharp knife.

Lay the blanched and destemmed leaves on top of the rabbit. Fold the leaves as necessary to just cover the rabbit. Season the leaves with a little salt and pepper. Bring some fresh goat cheese to room temperature so that you can spread it. You can do this in the microwave, but you have to be really, really careful not to scorch the cheese. Stir a little salt and pepper (you could even use some herbs in the cheese were you so inclined) into the cheese. Then very gently spread the cheese on top of the broccoli leaves. It's probably best to drop small dollops of cheese in the center of the leaves and gently push it out to the edges with the back of a spoon. Go slowly and you'll get the hang of it in no time.

Using the film as an aid, start rolling the roulade from the side where the rabbit is closest to the edge of the prosciutto. Gently tighten the roll with your fingers as you go. Once you have rolled the rabbit in the prosciutto, refrigerate for a couple of hours to solidify the cheese so that it is easier to handle when you cook it later. This roulade can be cooked entirely on the stove top. No oven time is necessary. If you do not have a flat top or a griddle pan that is big enough to hold the rabbit loin, you can heat a half sheet tray on two burners and use that. Sear the prosciutto all the way around; this will take six or seven minutes. Remove the loin from the heat and let stand for five minutes to finish cooking, to rest, and so that the cheese resolidifies a little bit. Slice and plate. I have best results with a sharp serrated knife, second best results with my ultrasharp prosciutto knife.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2003 Rhônes

Last night a customer ordered a bottle of 2005 Vacqueyras, but when the server got to the rack, all we had was 2003. The distributor sent us 2003 when we ordered 2005 and we didn't catch it when it was delivered. Sometimes things are that crazy on Thursday mornings, with six drivers trying to deliver at once.

Back to the story: the customer decided to try the 2003 wine and wasn't happy with it. She was too polite to just send it back out of hand. Instead she sent word to the kitchen for me to come have a taste. And I did. And the wine was shot.

2003 was famous for being the hottest vintage in Southern Europe that most of us can remember. It resulted in very ripe, highly colored, fruity, alcoholic wines with minimal acidity (in those wines that were not acidified by the winemaker). We bought some 2003 wines out of necessity: we don't have enough storage space to stock up on a wine so that we can skip a less desirable vintage such as 2003. However, I do recall not buying any Loires in that vintage: they were terrible from the start.

For the first couple of years the 2003 Rhônes were OK, if atypical. Many customers enjoyed the big fruity, bright purple, alcoholic wines. The last time I tasted this wine, it was still OK, but starting to fade, and this was a couple of years ago.

On tasting the Vacqueyras last night, I found all the fruit to be cooked. The bright fruit had gone over to prunes and raisins, flavors that you would find in a port (or an overripe California Zin). The body was flabby; there was no acid to wake up the palate. And the color had muddied. All signs of a wine on the way out, or in this case, over the hill.

So this is a reminder to those of you with any 2003 European wines: time to drink up.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Smoky Chickpea Salad

Last Saturday, I gave a talk and a demonstration at Apple Blossom Mall called "Tips for Quick and Healthy Eating" in which I talked about several strategies that we can all use for a healthier diet. I talked about substituting fish protein for red meat proteins, selecting lower fat proteins, and also about substituting plant proteins for meat proteins. To my great surprise, the dish that I used to demonstrate eating more legumes, my Smoky Chickpea Salad, was the big hit with the crowd. What a good thing this is, because chickpeas have been shown in lab studies to help control serum cholesterol levels!

I love this salad not only for its fabulous taste but for the fact that I can make it in under three minutes using canned chickpeas!

Smoky Chickpea Salad

4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon pimentón (smoked paprika)
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced (one clove)
1/4 cup finely minced red onion (half a small red onion)

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Finally, I leave you with a little bit of food porn.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blood Orange Tarte Tatin

I wish you could smell this!