Sunday, December 16, 2012

2nd Annual Charlie Palmer Holiday Feast

Have you heard of Charlie Palmer? Perhaps you recognize the name. He has a restaurant or two. One is in Manhattan, his flagship. There is also one here in Reno. He is the executive chef at the Grand Sierra Resort (or GSR as we locals know it) and the namesake for the Charlie Palmer Steak House.

I was fortunate to get a ticket to this year's annual holiday feast. It was impressive! There was an ice sculpture at the entry to the Grand Ballroom.

Each course had a wine pairing, but it wasn't a sit-down traditional meal.  Guests were able to go up to serving stations and watch as chefs prepared the food, plated, and garnished it.  It was quite fascinating!

The first thing I tried was the Pheasant Pot Pie with root vegetables and smoked bacon.  It was paired with Napa Cellar's 2011 Pinot Noir. It was beautiful. The "pot pie" crust was actually a chive biscuit. The pheasant was very mild, obviously since it is farm-raised. Wild pheasant has a much more pronounced depth of flavor.The sauce contained tiny bits of root vegetables with large chunks of smoky bacon.

Second, I picked up some lobster risotto topped with a huge lump of lobster with lobster pan sauce. It was accompanied by Grgich Hills 2009 Chardonnay. The lobster was tender and buttery. The risotto was tender without being overcooked. I ate the whole thing!

Third, I tried the Pork Belly Porchetta with fruit compote and mustard jus. I think this one impressed me the most.  The fruit compote was not too sweet and it had some spice to it.  The mustard jus was meaty and tasty. The roast pork belly was great! I'm not a big fan of eating plain fat, but the flavor was so good, the combination of it with the fruit and jus was really delicious.

Fourth, I picked up the seafood plate. They provided crab legs already sawn open, crab claws, huge cocktail shrimp, steamed mussels, raw oysters, crab salad "shooters" and tuna-stuffed miniature peppers. The crab legs were my absolute favorite. The shrimp were probably actually prawns since they were so enormous. The crab shooters and mussels were pretty good, too.  This wine paired with this was Carrefour Vineyards 2009 Sauvingon Blanc. It was my favorite wine of the night.

Fifth, I went to the carving station.  They served a black-pepper crusted beef tenderloin with chive pomme puree (or mashed potatoes to normal people) and truffle jus. The beef was just right, medium rare, not bloody, warm, seasoned perfectly. The potato mash was also extra smooth and creamy. It was very nice. The wine was Mt. Veeder 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, my second favorite wine.

Charlie Palmer was there, and midway through he spoke about the meal. I like it when the big guy comes to event like this.

Sixth, I found room to try the pumpkin ravioli. The ravioli contained pumpkin puree, topped with brown butter sauce that contained pumpkin bits, pumpkin seeds, Parmeggiano cheese, fried sage leaves, and some toasted hazelnuts. It was nice. I'm not a fan of brown butter sauce, but the ravioli were pleasant. The filling was very smooth. They chose a 2010 Talbott Chardonnay to go with this.

Finally, I made it up to the dessert spread. They had apple strudel with ice cream, but I just didn't have room for that. I opted for a few small chocolates and macarons. The truffles were superb! The chocolate coating was perfectly smooth and crisp, the fillings were amazingly creamy.  The macarons were lovely, not too sweet and mild in flavor. I had to try vanilla, pistachio and chocolate to make sure the macarons were really good.

They also offered other drinks, Firestone Pale 31, a maple whiskey sour, and a chocolate martini. I tried the maple whiskey sour. It was a bit sweet, but the maple flavor was not really noticeable.

Throughout the evening, the live music was very nice. It was soft enough to actually converse with people around the table! Thanks to the Buddy Emmer Band for keeping it just right.

Overall, this was a fantastic event and if I can make it again next year, I'll be there ready to devour the new creations!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sliders with Tomato Jam

Tonight, I wanted to use up some left-over dinner rolls. Since Justin is working late, I decided to challenge myself, sort of my own take on a Mystery Box Challenge. I made tiny cheeseburgers! Sliders!

My sliders contained beef patties seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Then, I made a tangy tomato-onion jam by sauteing some of my last garden tomatoes with onion and olive oil. I topped the meat with Tillamook cheddar cheese, then the tomato jam, a sweet zucchini pickle (made by Justin's step mom Cheryl), and a little ketchup.

Easy food rocks!

PS The kids did not eat the tomato jam. Or the pickles. Typical kids! They don't know what they're missing!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Venison Stock

Since my dear hubby went hunting and brought home a lovely deer, we've been busy butchering it up.  Justin usually does the most basic cleaning out in the field.  He guts and skins it before it comes home.  Sometimes, he keeps the animal whole. If the weather is too warm, he quarters it and brings it home in coolers with ice.

We usually cut it all down into steaks, stew, and jerky meat right away. I asked him to make some big roasts this year. I have some plans that involve making some pretty fancy British venison dishes. They mostly call for venison stock or demiglaze to complete the sauces. Here was my chance to make some stock, too.

I made sure he saved me a bunch of good bones. I used the leg bones and part of the pelvis. We sawed them into pieces with the reciprocating saw, and I got busy cooking before the marrow had a chance to get weird.

Now I have some beautiful stock ready for action!

PS. This recipe will also work for other red meat animals if you don't want or don't have access to wild game.

about 5 lbs deer bones, sawn into about 3" lengths
2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
3-5 large cloves garlic, peeled, whole, smashed
3 bay leaves
1/2 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
6 springs Italian parsley, whole
1 1/2 cups red wine, I used Pinot Noir
water, about 4 quarts for an 8 Qt. pot

1. Brown the bones in the oven, 400F for 30-45 minutes.

2. Transfer bones to your stock pot, about 8 Qt. size.  Use about 2 cups water to deglaze the baking pan. Pour that into the stock pot. Add all the other ingredients. Fill with water up to about 1" below the rim of the pot.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to let it simmer, covered, about 3 hours.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool a few minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bones and vegetable solids. I like to set them in a strainer over a bowl to collect any liquid that may drip off.

5. Using a large mesh strainer, pour the stock into a smaller pot or mixing bowl. Discard any solids left in the strainer.

6. Strain the stock again using a fine mesh strainer or finely woven cloth.

7. Allow the stock to cool completely. I usually let mine chill in the fridge overnight, or outside on the back porch if it's cold enough and the fridge is full. When cold, remove the layer of solidified fat and if there are solidified droplets, strain those out as well.

8. Divide up your stock into portions.Place in a freezer-safe container. Label it and freeze until you're ready to use.  I divided mine up into 1-cup, 2-cup, and 3-cup portions. I got just shy of 3 quarts of stock from this batch. If you have a deep freeze, this stock will be good for at least a year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rose's Banana Bread

Doesn't everyone love banana bread?  I will occasionally make it without nuts because sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don't.

Ba dum dum! (cymbal crash!)

Ok, that was cheesy of me. Sorry. Anyhoo. I like banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, all sorts of quick breads.  This is one of my favorites.

This batch, I made using chopped Brazil nuts and it was fantastic. Rose usually makes hers with walnuts, but my dear hubby (her grandson) is allergic to them. I typically choose pecans as my general go-to nut for baking.

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sour milk (add about 1 teaspoon lemon juice to regular milk, let set until it's curdled)
3 large ripe bananas, mashed about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup chopped Brazil nuts, walnuts, or pecans

1. Cream the shortening and sugar until mixed well.  Add the eggs and vanilla.

2. Sift together the dry ingredients

3. Add half of the dry ingredients and half the milk. Mix. Repeat.

4. Mix in the bananas. Fold in the nuts last. Pour into a greased loaf pan. (See #6 for the 9x13 pan details)

5. Bake in a preheated oven at 325F. For a loaf pan, aim for 1 hour 10 minutes. Rose says this also works in a tube pan for the same time.

6.  If you want to make a 9x13 cake, double the recipe and bake about 50-60 minutes.  The bread should start to pull away from the edges without being dark and it will pass a toothpick test.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Nugget's Best in the West Rib Cookoff 2012

Oh my goodness. I forgot to post about rib cook off!  Yes, we went. We went more than one day, mind you. We are connoisseurs of ribs.

It seemed like they spaced out the rib booths further from each other than in years past. That made walking around much easier.  We also took advantage of the free bus rides from the Legends mall to the downtown Sparks bus station.

We got ribs from the vendors directly and then also one night we went into the Rib Village for the smorgasbord. The kids now love ribs and devoured them faster than me!

We noted that few of the rib-smokers had whole suckling pigs roasting away. They were about $175 a pig.

We wandered through the vendor booths and the food providers. The kids played in the water fountain in front of the theater and enjoyed a few carnival rides, day and night.

We ate a little of everything. Fried zucchini, onion rings, fried peaches, funnel cake, cream puffs, ice cream bars, ribs, ribs, ribs, and washed it down with lemonade.

Justin still loves Bone Daddy's. Justin's mom loved Chicago. My favorite this year was Sweet Baby Ray's, but I still really loved the Aussome Aussie's sauce, like I do every year.

The official winners are below.

1st Chicago BBQ Company
2nd Sweet Baby Ray's
3rd Famous Dave's BBQ
4th Porky 'N Beans BBQ
5th Checkered Pig BBQ
Best Sauce Famous Dave's BBQ
People's Choice Back Forty Texas Barbeque

See you next time! MUAH!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New England Clam Chowder

It's starting to cool down where I live. It's fall. That means it's comfort food season. One of my favorite comfort foods is clam chowder.

 Dear hubby Justin is off hunting. My folks came up to help with the kids while he's away. I made this for dinner since they are very fond of chowder. The kids are still in their weird food phases, so they wouldn't touch it. Silly kids! I wonder how long it will be until they figure out what they've been missing.
1 white onion, minced
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon butter
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cans clams in juice, (1 can chopped, 1 can minced)
1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 Saute butter and onion until onion has softened. Add the bacon, potatoes, and juice from the canned clams to the pot. Save the clams for later. Cover and simmer about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. You may need to add some water, enough to just cover the potatoes.

2. Combine the flour with the milk and cream.  Mix well. Add this to the pot, along with the clams, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, pepper, and chicken bouillon.

3. Bring up to a simmer. Continue simmering until slightly thickened.  Add the parsley just before serving.

4. Serve with sliced bread. French baguette or sourdough go well with chowder. You can also serve it in a bread bowl, just hollow out a boule round.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Basic Bread Pudding

Way back when I was a kid, my mom used to make bread pudding. She also had two different sauces and you never knew which one she felt like making until it was on the table.Sometimes it was a glossy lemon sauce. Sometimes it was whiskey sauce.

I've had tons of bread pudding over the years and I keep changing what goes on top.  That depends on what ingredients I've added to the bread pudding itself.  Chocolate chips baked into the bread pudding with Chantilly creme on top is really good. I also happen to love the recipe below with pecan praline sauce on top.

This example has a simple homemade vanilla caramel sauce drizzle.  Not to shabby for a weeknight, don't you think?

1 small loaf (1lb or so) of cinnamon bread or white bread, cubed, I keep the crust on
6 eggs
3 cups milk, I used whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspooons vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
dash of salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Spread cubed bread in a 9"x13" baking dish.

2. Beat together eggs, sugar, cream, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.  Pour over the bread.  Gently press the bread into the custard to make sure all pieces have absorbed some moisture.

3. Place the pan inside another pan filled partially with water. This is your Bain Marie. Bake at 325F about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

4. Remove the pan from oven. Remove it from the Bain Marie and allow to cool about 15 minutes before serving.

4. I like it warm, topped with some kind of sauce like lemon, whiskey, caramel, chocolate, or whipped cream. Be sure to store this in the fridge.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Last week, two of the ingredients in my mystery box that didn't get used for mystery dinner, got used on another night.  Hey, I was not letting this good stuff go to waste!

A while back a saw this recipe from Giada de Laurentiis. So I made it. It was good. The kids wouldn't touch it because, ack! Green veggies!

They're weird kids. They might eat broccoli and green beans, but forget anything else green. Oh well. Kids go through phases. I hope it won't last too long.

Anyhow, I eye'd Giada's recipe and cooked it up. It sounded perfect. I had the pancetta and sprouts left from the mystery box. And you know pancetta is the Italian version of bacon so it has to be good. Anything with bacon is delicious.

Yum, fresh sprouts! I trimmed off the stem end and washed them. Aren't they cute? Like miniature cabbages.

Diced up pancetta frying away.  The addition of garlic was so tantalizing.

Mix it all up, hot and juicy. Add a splash of chicken broth and simmer it down.

This one is definitely on my radar for the future. Just make note to use low-sodium chicken broth because the pancetta already provides a fair amount of salt.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Imperfect Potatoes a la Boulangere

Recently, Mom brought me a couple bags of potatoes from her garden. I was quite pleased to get her potatoes since my potatoes failed thanks to bugs.  Darn it for trying to figure out organic gardening.

So what do you make with lots of potatoes?

A while ago, I was looking up French potato casserole recipes, like potatoes dauphinoise and potatoes a la boulangere. They are very similar in technique. Both require peeled, thinly sliced potatoes baked in a dish with some liquid.  Dauphinoise uses cream or milk, while boulangere uses stock or broth.

Now let me remind you, food does not turn out perfectly for me every time. I wish it did!

This was tasty, but a bit soupier than I wanted. I managed to use onions from my garden and they were so good! I added bacon because everyone loves bacon and it really compliments potatoes in general.

about 4 pounds of potatoes, I used Mom's red potatoes
4 slices of thick bacon, sliced into lardons
1 large onion, sliced
1 can low-sodium chicken stock, about 15 ounces
salt and pepper

1. Peel and slice potatoes. I used my mandoline slicer to get them about 1/8" thick. Set aside.

2. Sautee together the bacon and onion until the onions are caramelized.

3. Layer potato slices in a 9"x13" dish. Season with salt and pepper.  Add half of the onion-bacon mixture. Add another layer of potato slices, season again. Add the rest of the onion-bacon mixture. Top off with a third layer of potatoes.  Carefully pour the chicken stock into the pan. Season the top with salt and pepper.

4. Bake in a 400F preheated oven for about 1 hour.  The potatoes should be easily pierced with a fork when done.

5. Let it rest about 10 minutes before serving.  It will soak up some of the stock, but it's still pretty juicy. It may look a little runny, but it sure tasted good. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mystery Box Steak Tostada with Squash Apple Peach Taquito

Justin gave me a whole bunch of ingredients today for Mystery Box Dinner #3. There is enough leftover from tonight's meal to have a decent dinner tomorrow, too.

Today, I received fresh Brussels sprouts, green beans, beef top round steaks, pork ribs, corn tortillas, dill gherkin pickles, a chunk of banana squash, basmati rice, canned whole mild chiles, canned whole tomatillos, prosciutto, pancetta, fontina cheese, goat's milk cheese, pinto beans, and red kidney beans.

I raided the fridge and pantry for vegetable oil, lemon, white wine vinegar, a habanero chili pepper, mayonnaise, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, chicken bouillon, a green apple, agave nectar, a peach, and herbs and spices.

 I combined the tomatillos, half the can of mild chiles, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and a tiny bit of the habanero chili to make salsa verde.

The pinto beans got smashed with some diced mild green chili, oil, and spices to become refried beans.

The basmati rice, combined with chicken bouillon, salsa, and water to become Spanish rice.

I smeared the steaks with a spiced mayonnaise, then grilled them quickly. To serve, the steaks were sliced thinly.

I fried some tortillas to crisp them up for the tostada base.

To plate the meal, I started with a bed of Spanish rice. I smeared the refried beans on a tostada, topped it with sliced beef, crumbled goat's cheese, lettuce, sour cream and salsa verde.  I also added salsa verde to the plate surrounding the rice base.

Also, the banana squash went in the oven to roast. Then after peeling and cubing, I combined it with diced apple, diced peach, lemon juice, agave nectar, and cinnamon. This was rolled into a corn tortilla and fried into a dessert taquito. It was topped with cinnamon sugar and whipped cream.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Home Canned Tomatoes

I had 10 pounds of tomatoes sitting in the fridge. I decided we couldn't eat all the tomatoes from the garden right away and that canning them (actually preserving them in a jar) was a good idea.

It's a lot of work to preserve anything in a jar. I had forgotten this.  It's been a few years since we've had enough of anything to make canning worthwhile. Thankfully, Mom was around to help me. Also I relied heavily on my copy of the Ball Canning and Preserving Blue Book.

I got my supplies together and washed.

We blanched the tomatoes to get the skins off then cut out the stem-end core.

We sliced them in half and loaded them into hot jars with 2 T. lemon juice and 1 tsp. kosher salt per quart jar. I did not add water or pre-cook the tomatoes. This was a pack-in-its-own-juice type of recipe.

Then we boiled them forever, or for what seemed that long. They actually cooked for 1 hour 35 minutes thanks to the altitude adjustment. (Please research correct cooking times for your location. The original recipe said to cook 1 hour 25 minutes in a boiling water bath at zero altitude.)

Then, we covered them up all night-night-lamby-kitty so they wouldn't cool off too fast and hoped that they would all seal up tight. (It wasn't really night time at this point and no lambs or kitties were involved. That's just a little inside joke between me and Mom.)

After the jars cooled a long while, they started to pop. That means the lids sucked in and that they had sealed properly.

Now I have 3 quarts plus a pint of tomatoes saved for later. Yes, it's time consuming but you honestly can't beat the flavor of home-grown food.