Birthday Wine+Food Extravaganza

When Mrs. B's birthday was approaching, I asked her what she wanted to have for dinner.  My offer was to make anything and open any bottle of wine, because that's how we roll in Chéz Bakas. She just said she wanted some sort of cream based pasta and that's it.  I ended up making 2 courses because it was a school night, and she didn't get home until almost 8pm.  So here's what we had:

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Créme D'asperges Soup

paired with P Gimmonet Brut Champagne

2 lbs asparagus 1 large yellow onion, chopped 1 potato (wrap in a towel and microwave for 5 minutes, cut into cubes) 6 cups chicken broth 3 TBSP butter 4 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 TSP fresh lemon juice 1/2 cup créme fraîche or heavy cream 3/4 TSP sea salt 1 TBSP fresh ground pepper

Cut tips from a dozen asparagus

Cut asparagus into 1/2" pieces (not the base of each stalk - flavor is bitter). Cook onion, potato and garlic in 2 TBSP butter in large pot over medium low heat. Stir occasionally until onions are soft. Add 6 cups chicken broth, bring to a boil, then simmer covered until asparagus is soft - about 20 minutes.

Purée soup in small batches (seriously! small batches.  I burned the @#$* out of my hand when the top of the blender popped off).  Tranfer small batches into a large bowl.  Once all soup has been puréed into a smooth texture, pour back into the pot and add créme fraîche.  Add more broth to thin if needed.  Bring just to a boil and whisk in 1 TBSP of butter.

Add lemon juice, then serve garnished with reserved tips.

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Linguine with Lemon Orange Cream and Crab Cake

paired with 2007 Hahn SLH Pinot Gris

2 TBSP butter 3 shallots, minced 1 cup chicken stock (or broth) 2 TSP grated lemon peel 1 TSP grated orange peel 1/2 TSP cayenne pepper 1 cup frozen peas (thawed) 1 cup heavy cream 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice 12 oz Linguine (cooked) 3 TBSP fresh mint leaves, sliced thin salt and pepper fresh grated Parmesan cheese

For the crab cake I saved some time and picked one up from Whole Foods. My crab cake recipe of choice is here.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Sauté shallots until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add chicken stock and simmer over medium-high heat until it's reduced to about 1/4 cup.  Add cream, lemon and orange peel and cayenne pepper.  Simmer until sauce thickens—4 minutes.

Stir in peas, then simmer another 2 minutes.  Add in half the mint leaves and lemon juice.  Stir in cooked pasta until coated, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a large bowl or plate with crab cake on top, garnished with remaining mint leaves.  Add fresh grated Parmesan to taste.

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Chicken Saltimbocca

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Serves 4 Traditionally, this classic Italian dish is made with veal, but chicken also works. The sauce will help keep the chicken moist while the Marsala compliments the prosciutto.

INGREDIENTS 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 2 TBSP Olive Oil 8 oz. mushrooms sliced in half ½ cup beef stock or broth ½ cup marsala or Madeira 2 oz. chopped prosciutto 2 TBSP chopped sage 2 TBSP butter Salt and Pepper

Slice chicken breasts in half length-wise then place in a reseal able plastic bag. Pound each breast with a meat mallet until they are about ¼” thick. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, Sauté 2 pieces of chicken at a time in olive oil until browned, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate with foil on top to keep warm.

In same pan (do not clean bits out of pan), cook mushrooms until they begin to brown over medium-high heat. Transfer mushrooms to another plate. Add marsala and beef stock to pan, reduce heat to medium-low and reduce liquid to half. Remove liquid in pan from heat, then add sage, prosciutto and butter. Serve chicken with sauce poured over top.

This recipe tends to lean towards the salty side of the taste map. Both the beef stock and prosciutto have a good amount of salty taste, so to offset that with the wine I look to a wine with sweetness. Your basic buttery Chardonnay will have enough vanilla creaminess and sweetness to compliment this recipe. I don't think a Sauvie B would work as it's too bitter. Perhaps an Italian Soave or Pinot Gris would also work as this is an Italian dish. When cooking regional fare, the wines from the same region are often a good place to start.

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One of the Chardonnay's I like with this recipe is the Norman Reserve Chardonnay from Paso Robles. Rich and creamy, and so buttery even Mrs. Buttersworth would say, "Damn! That's buttery!" I like the complex apricot, tangerine, lemon, peach and vanilla toastiness. The intensity of flavors are pretty similar which makes this Reserve (under $20) a great choice. Cheers!

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