Independence Day Sliders

.. Fourth of July is a great time to fire up the BBQ and grill up some burgers.  This year I tried some different slider recipes, especially now that grocery stores have slider buns in their baked goods section.  Here's a few winners from the weekend:

Pulled Pork Sliders

Ingredients: 2 lbs pork belly 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1/2 cup ketchup 1/3 cup cider vinegar 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup tomato paste 2 TBSP paprika 2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce 3 TSP salt 1 1/4 TSP black pepper coleslaw toasted slider buns

Directions: Combine all the ingredients except the pork belly, slaw and the buns in a slow cooker and mix together. Add the 2 pieces of pork and cover the slow cooker. Set for 8 hours on low.

After 8 hours, using 2 forks, shred the pork and remove the pork with the remaining sauce into a large bowl. Toast the slider buns and add some of the pulled pork to each bun along with coleslaw.  Light a cigarette after then repeat.

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Inside Out Cheeseburger Sliders with Forever Caramelized Onions

Ingredients: 1 lb. ground chuck 1 egg breadcrumbs 1/4 TSP chili flakes generous salt and pepper cheddar cheese cut into cubes toasted slider buns thick cut bacon, slow cooked 1 Walla Walls sweet onion, sliced 2-3 TBSP butter

The title of this recipe has "forever caramelized onions" in it for a reason. For best results, remove skin from onions and slice thin. Cook with butter in a crock pot for 24-36 hours on low checking occasionally. You won't believe how good the flavor comes out! Add a little more butter accordingly if necessary.

Combine ingredients in a medium to large bowl. Work in the egg and breadcrumbs so the ground meat will hold it's shape. Shape into small golf ball sized servings, then work a cube of cheese in the middle making sure it's fully covered on all sides by the meat mixture. Press your thumb in the top before grilling.

Serve by grilling to desired doneness with your choice of condiments, thick cut bacon and those beautiful golden onions.

Lamb Sliders

Ingredients

1/2 lb ground lamb 1/5 tbsp minced garlic 1/2 cup minced shallots 1 TBSP minced thyme 1 TBSP minced cilantro leaves 1 TSP minced mint leaves 1/4 TSP ground cumin 1/2 TSP coriander powder 1/2 TSP ground black pepper salt to taste

12 slider buns or mini pita breads

Method

Place all the ingredients for the patties in a mixing bowl and combine well using your hands. Shape into about six small sized patties not too thin, but not too thick either. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes for the flavors to combine.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Remove the patties from the fridge and make about three holes each in the patties with your finger.

In a large oven proof non-stick skillet, heat the oil and add the onions. When the onions start to sizzle, arrange the lamb patties on top of the onion bed without touching each other.

Bake in the oven for 6 minutes on one side. Turn the patties over, and stir the onion bed to make sure they don’t burn. If it shows the signs of burning, remove the onions from the pan after the first 6 minutes, and finish caramelizing on stove top, when the patties finish cooking on the other side.

To serve, warm up the pita bread/buns in the oven, spread some spicy mayonnaise or a blended yogurt or chutney of your choice, arrange the meat patties and top it with the caramelized onions. You can add some lettuce, tomato etc to the burger as well.

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#WorldCup wines Tasting Notes: 2004 Pizzato Tannat from Brazil

Vivid, dark, red with violet traces in appearance; red fruit, spices, raisins, jam, cocoa nose; it’s a well balanced, good length, and medium to high-bodied, medium-dry wine with fine tannins.

Here's a suggested food pairing to go with the wine:

Ingredients:

240g rack of lamb (2 cars) 120g Sweet Potato 70g onion 50g Pine Nuts 70 ml Dry white wine 80 ml Dry red wine tannat 15g Gorgonzola 6g Garlic 2 bay leaves 1 Orange 1 Egg Salt to taste Thyme to taste Pepper to taste Butter to taste Olive oil to taste

Preparation:

Cleans the ingredients. Make a marinade for the car with white wine, bay leaf, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic and half the onion. Peel sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. When cooked mash until a puree, add the grated orange and blue cheese .. Beat the egg whites and mix gently Bring to boil pinion. Once cooked peel and chop into brunoise (finely chopped). Reserve. Seal the rack of lamb in a skillet with olive oil. Return to oven to finish cooking. In the same pan used to seal the car and without washing, place the red wine and release the juice that was at the bottom of the skillet, add the remaining onion finely chopped. Pass the sauce through a sieve and return to fire. Season with salt, pepper and add the already cooked and chopped pine nuts. Mount the plate putting the mashed sweet potatoes on the rack, drizzle with some sauce and garnish with pine nuts.

Note: If you have not Pinion, need not ask. Seal: Skip the meat in a skillet with hot fat until they are stained with both sides.

Preparation time: 40 minutes + 2 hours for marinating

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Butternut Squash Soup

INGREDIENTS

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced 1-1/4 LB potatoes, peeled and diced 3 carrots, peeled and diced 1 QT vegetable stock 2 TSP lemon juice 2 TBSP brown sugar 1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped 1 Pint cream 2 TSP curry powder 2 TSP curry powder

In large heavy pot, melt butter on low heat.  Add onions, squash, potatoes and carrots.  Cover and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are translucent but not brown, about 1 hour.  Add vegetable stock, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Add cream and curry powder.  Use hand blender and blend until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Avocado, Apple and Field Greens Salad

Kitchen Still Life
Image by kiddharma via Flickr

. . Serves 4

INGREDIENTS 5 cups greens such as watercress 1/3 cut rice vinegar 1 TBSP finely chopped Walla Walla sweet onion ¼ cup finely chopped Fuji apple 4 TSP soy sauce 3 TBSP olive oil 1 ripe avocado 1 TSP sugar

In small bowl mix together vinegar, olive oil, onion, apple, sugar and soy sauce. Trim greens keeping thin stems and leaves only.  Toss greens with enough dressing to lightly coat greens.  Quarter, pit and peel avocado then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Toss with greens.  Serve on a chilled salad plate.

Wine Pairings: This is a pretty straight forward recipe that's quick, healthy and tasty. There's some nice tanginess from the soy and rice vinegar, which is offset by the creamy texture of a nice ripe avocado. You want a white wine, and probably one with some acidity that cuts through the avocado without tasting weird with the tanginess.  The apple helps bring it all together with a white like a French white like a Pouilly-Fuisse or Chablis.  Those are likely to be grown in limestone soils in climates that provide more acidity.  I recently had the Louis Jadot 2008 Pouilly-Fuisse and thought it was decent for the price:

Jadot is pretty widely available.  If you want to try something that's domestic, check out what they're doing in Washington's Horse Heaven Hills appellation.  Great stuff starting to come out of there at very reasonable prices.  One of my favorite places to visit is Walla Walla because the drive from Portland, Oregon to Walla Walla is incredible.  Woodward Canyon is one of the first wines I started collecting back in the day.  Their 2008 effort is awesome (like all their other wines).

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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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Grandma Jay's Hamburger Steak in Mushroom Gravy

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This is a recipe my Grandma made for my Mom, who in turn made it for us growing up.  Chances are we'll make this for our kids some day.  It's quick, easy and can be substituted with ground turkey.

INGREDIENTS

1 LB ground beef 1 egg 1/4 cup coarse dry bread crumbs 1 TSP Worcestershire sauce 1 PKG dehydrated onion soup mix 2 TBSP olive oil 2 TBSP flour 1 can mushrooms, drained (save juice) 1/8 TSP ea. Salt and Pepper

Mix meat, egg, crumbs, seasonings and half the dry soup mix together.  Shape into 4 patties and brown in a large skillet on both sides in oil.  Remove meat, set aside.  Blend flour into drippings, then add mushroom liquid plus enough water to make approx. 2 cups.  Cook until thickened and smooth, stirring occasionally. Add remaining onion soup mix plus mushrooms, cook 5 minutes, then add meat.  Heat meat in gravy, spooning gravy over top until desired serving temp.

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Grilled Chicken & Honeydew Salad

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1-1/4 cup boneless and skinless chicken breasts 1 TBSP olive oil 1 cup honeydew, cut into small bite sized pieces 1 bunch green onion, finely chopped 1 TSP dijon mustard 1/2 cup mayonnaise (low fat) 2-1/2 TSP brown sugar 1 TBSP Kirin 2 TBSP fresh tarragon, finely chopped 1/4 pecans, toasted and chopped 1 TBSP pepper

In a medium bowl, combine mayo, , mustard, rice vinegar, half the brown sugar, tarragon then season with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate. Heat grill to medium heat, spray with PAM for grills.  In a small bowl mix together pepper with remaining brown sugar and 1 TBSP olive oil.  Cover chicken breasts with mixture.  Cook chicken on grill turning once.  Chicken is done when juices run clear. Chop chicken into bite sized pieces.  Mix chicken, melon and green onion to dressing mixture.  Serve on salad plates.

Since spring is sprunging around the country, there's a natural desire to savor the fresh veggies and eat something healthy.  Chicken and salads are some of the healthiest things you can eat, but let's face it, they're BOOORRRRING!

So I like to add a little something called flavor to the salad so you actually enjoy eating something that's good for you.  The mayo is the one ingredient that can derail this whole, "I'm eating healthy so I think I'll have seconds" train.  Take a look at cutting the mayo down in half or replacing it altogether with a soy based mayo.

Because there's some creaminess to the salad, a wine pairing that has some acidity to cut through the creaminess is needed.  You can go a few ways with a wine+food pairing.  I'd go for a Chardonnay/Viognier blend or a Pinot Gris.  Why?  'Cause that's how I roll.  But more to the point, a Chardonnay would work fine, but the dijon is going to give a little Jackie Chan kick to it, and there's honeydew.  Bang for the buck I found the Cycles Gladiator has great quality for not very much money.

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Southwestern Skillet Steak with Chipotle Salsa

. In the middle of winter grills often sit covered in snow, waiting for a nice day to come along so they can once again serve as man's other best friend.  That leaves BBQ fans challenged to cook their steaks indoors and still get that grilled texture.  My father-in-law introduced me to this recipe that will scratch the itch for people who love a good grilled steak.

skillet

INGREDIENTS for STEAKS 2 8-ounce New York strip steaks (about 1" thick), trimmed 2 TBSP olive oil 1 TSP coarse salt 1 large onion, sliced 2 large garlic cloves, chopped 2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro 1 TBSP plus 1 TSP chili powder 1/4 TSP dried crushed red pepper 1/4 TSP Cumin 1 TBSP water 2 poblano chilies, seeded, sliced Additional chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Mix in onion, garlic, 2 TBSP chopped cilantro, 1 TBSP chili powder and crushed red pepper. Add 1 TBSP water. Cover and cook mixture 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chilies and sauté until tender about 6 minutes. Transfer mixture to plate leaving some bits in the skillet.

Rub each steak with salt, pepper, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Raise heat to high and add steaks to same skillet. Cook as desired, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter and cover with aluminum foil. Top steaks with cilantro. Serve with onion mix on top or on the side with salsa.

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INGREDIENTS for CHIPOTLE SALSA 3 cups fresh corn kernals (about 3 ears) 4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced separately 2 TBSP unsalted butter 2 garlic cloves, minced 1-½ TSP coarse salt 1-½ TSP ground cumin 1-TSP chili powder ½ TSP black pepper 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced 1 to 2 fresh chipotle chiles, finely diced, including seeds

Heat a dry large cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat until hot, then pan-roast corn, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Cook white part of scallions in butter with garlic, 1 TSP salt, ½ TSP each cumin and chili powder, and ¼ TSP pepper in skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until scallions are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in corn, tomatoes, and chipotles.

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WINE PAIRINGS - With most steaks you can pair most hearty reds like Cabernet, Meritage blends or similar wines.  Because this steak has some heat, you want a hearty red with a ripe style so the sweetness offsets the heat.  Think of wines with a "jammy" component like some Australian Shiraz or Petite Sirah style wines.  The finished steak will have texture that is almost blackened.  Here's a few wines that will marry up nicely:

one of my favorite Australian wineries

The Tapestry wines are phenomenal!  And they're widely available in the U.S. in most states.  This wine should be between $15 and $20 on the shelf at most retailers.  I like it because you get the riper style without over extraction.  This gem comes in at 14.5% alcohol and is aged in French, Yugoslavian and American oak.

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Quixote wines from Napa have reinvigorated my love for Petite Sirah.  The winery sits nestled away in the hills of the Stag's Leap District right next door to Shafer.  Full throttle, dark, inky, naughty, funkified velvety goodness that'll stand up to this meal.  Enjoy!

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Dungeness Crab Cake Salad with Watercress, Fennel and Orange

watercress INGREDIENTS for CRAB CAKES 1 egg, beaten 1 LB fresh Dungeness crab 3/4 cup bread crumbs 1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese 1/4 cup mayonaisse 3 shallots, finely chopped 2 TBSP dijon mustard juice from one lemon 1/4 cup green bell peppers, minced 1/4 cup red bell peppers, minced 1 TBSP green onions 2 TBSP parsley, finely chopped 1 TBSP butter 1/4 TSP cayenne pepper

INGREDIENTS for SALAD 4 cups watercress, rinsed 4 oranges, peeled and separated juice from one lemon 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 1 fennel bulb, cleaned and sliced thinly Salt and Pepper to taste . . To prepare the crab cakes, heat butter in a sauté pan over medium low heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together shallots, grated cheese, lemon juice, mayo, egg, mustard, bread crumbs, bell pepper, salt and cayenne.  After mixing, add in crab meat, then divide into 8-10 balls.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To prepare salad, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl, toss watercress, orange segments, fennel and onion together.

Remove crab balls from refrigerator and flatten into one inch thick cakes.  Heat 2-3 TBSP oil or butter in a skillet and cook for 4 minutes on each side over medium heat.  Distribute salad mix on chilled plates, top with dressing and crab cakes then serve.

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Wine pairings for this dish are pretty easy.  It's a flexible dish suitable for many Chardonnay's or rich whites.  The crab cakes are pretty hearty, so make sure to serve with a white wine that can hang.  I've tried oaked Chardonnay's and unoaked Chardonnays.  The both worked.  Pinot Grigio, Semillion, Viognier and other whites also work.  If I had to pick one wine as the most ideal pairing, it would be the Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay from Livermore.

I'm more of an unoaked Chardonnay kinda guy, but once in a while, you just want that buttery butter ball that even Mrs. Butterworth thinks is buttery.  The Riva Ranch Chardonnay isn't obnoxious — still refined and a great expression of the vineyard.  Many people don't realize the Wente's were one of the first wine family's in California going back to the 1850's.  They've quietly gone about producing consistent well-priced estate wines.

The Riva Ranch has a creamy "dusty" texture with mineral highlights that can best be described as a combination of wet rocks and smoke.

detail_bottle_riva_ranch

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Holiday Wine+Food Pairing Recipes

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Strawberry and Almond Spinach Salad

0622SpinachStrawberry3

INGREDIENTS 1 LB baby spinach leaves, washed 1/2 cup sliced green onions 1/3 cup slivered almonds, drizzled with honey and slightly toasted 1 cup sliced strawberries 2-3 TBSP chopped fresh dill

INGREDIENTS FOR DRESSING: 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 1/4 cup sugar or Truvia 1 TSP garlic, minced 1/4 TSP sea salt 1/4 TSP fresh ground pepper 1/4 TSP dry mustard powder 1/4 TSP onion powder 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, sugar or Truvia, olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, dry mustard and onion powder.

Wash dill and pat dry or use a spinner. Trim off feathery ends, discarding thick stems. finely chop dill and set aside. Wash and slice strawberries.

Wash spinach and spin dry or pat dry with paper towels. Place spinach in large mixing bowl. Thinly slice green onions and add to spinach in bowl. Add slivered toasted almonds and chopped dill and mix together.

Whisk dressing a few time to be sure it's well-mixed, then add desired amount of dressing to salad and toss.  To keep dressing from making leaves heavy, pour dressing around sides of bowl mixing spinach against it rather than pouring dressing directly on to spinach.

Arrange salad on individual serving plates. Toss sliced strawberries with 1-2 TBSP of dressing, then arrange strawberries over salad on each plate and serve.

Wine Pairings: The strawberries deliver a bit of tanginess that would benefit from a touch of salt and pepper. This recipe is meant to be easy to make and easy to transport to parties. It's colorful, it's light and it's healthy. Better yet, this recipe is created to pair with wines you'd expect to find at holiday parties like Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. An unoaked Chardonnay will be even better because the fruit and acidity will be more complimentary with the strawberries. Here's a few wines I'd recommend:

+ Bethel Heights Pinot Gris - Oregon + Spann Vineyards Chardonnay/Viognier - Sonoma + St. Supéry Oak Free Chardonnay - Napa

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Roast Lamb with Shallots, Mint and Mustard

Roast Lamb Chops

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS For lamb: 1 crown of lamb made from two 8-rib racks (about 4 1/2 pounds total) 3 TBSP butter, room temperature 1 TBSP plus 1/2 TSP Dijon mustard 2 TSP dried rosemary

1 cup dry white wine large shallots, chopped 1/4 cup chicken stock 3 TBSP fresh mint, chopped

For Spring Vegetables with Mint: 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved 1 baby carrot bunch, stems trimmed to 1 inch, peeled 1 10 OZ. basket pearl onions, peeled 1 LB fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut crosswise into thirds

3 TBSP butter 3 TBSP fresh mint, chopped

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon mustard and 1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary in bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Place lamb in roasting pan. Rub all over with butter mixture. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. and continue roasting until thermometer inserted into lamb registers 140°F. for medium-rare, about 40 minutes. Transfer lamb to platter; let stand 15 minutes.

Pour off fat from roasting pan and set pan aside. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over low heat. Add shallots and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary; sauté until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add wine to roasting pan and bring to boil over high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Add wine to skillet. Add stock; boil until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon mustard and mint. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon vegetables in center of and around roast. Serve, cutting lamb into chops and spooning sauce over.

To make spring vegetables: Place potatoes in vegetable steamer and steam 10 minutes. Add carrots and onions and steam until vegetables are almost tender, about 10 minutes longer. Add asparagus and steam until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes more.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add mint and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and stir until vegetables are coated with butter.

Wine Pairings: The right selection of lamb will make all the difference. Colorado lamb is some of the best in the country and should be readily available at most decent markets. The resulting holiday dish will be tender and flavorful which bodes well for a lighter style red wine. Cabernet or high alcohol reds will most likely overpower the flavors. Here's a few I recommend:

+ Chateau Musar Rouge 1995 - Lebanon + Twisted Oak River of Skulls - Calaveras County, CA

+ Lucienne Pinot Noir Doctor's Vineyard - Central Coast, CA

+ Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc - Walla Walla, WA

Pinot_Doctor's_07

 

Herb Crusted Filet of Beef

tenderloin

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS 1 3-lb. Beef Tenderloin 3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1/2 cup Madeira 2/3 cup Vermouth 1/4 Cognac 1 bay leaf 1 TBSP butter 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 TBSP marjoram 1 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped 1/2 cup cold water sea salt and pepper

HERB CRUST: 3 slices white bread, crusts removed 1/2 cup fresh herbs, chopped (thyme, marjoram, rosemary, parsley) 2-3 cloves garlic, minced

At least 2 hours before cooking, combine all ingredients together (not Herb Crust or Madeira) in a large bowl or pan. Place meat in mixture and cover entire cut of beef with herb mix. Refrigerate for later cooking.

To make herb crust, place bread in food processor with herbs and garlic. Process until well blended and fine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill Method: Preheat grill to medium high. Take beef out of marinade and set marinade aside for later. Cook each side of meat 4 minutes or so giving it a nice sear on all sides. After searing, move beef to upper rack or cooler side of grill and cook 20 minutes.

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425°F. Oven sear beef (brown sides, about 5-7 minutes each side) then reduce heat to 350°F. Cook for 30-35 minutes making sure to baste throughout cooking.

After beef is done cooking, remove filet from grill or oven and place on a platter, then cover with foil tent. Place platter in oven with oven off and door open, or with the oven on WARM for 20 minutes. Take the marinade that was set aside and pour it into a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to boil and reduce liquid by half, add madeira, then reduce by half. Serve sauce on the side late with beef. If you cooked the beef in the oven, you can use the roasting pan instead of a small saucepan so you get all the yummy bits.

To finish, rub herb crust mixture all over beef, brush a light amount of olive oil if needed. Place herb-covered beef back on the grill and cook each side about 2-3 minutes per side taking care to not burn the crust. If using the oven, broil each side for 2-3 minutes taking care to avoid burning.

Carve beef and serve with sauce on side.

Wine Pairings: Here's a regal beef dish that's sure to be a crowd pleaser. If you actually like the people you have over at your house you can bring out the good wines to impress them. Better yet, pull out a magnum. If it's your family and they're driving you up one wall and down another you can opt for the lower tier swill. If you dine at Chez Bakas, chances are it's all good stuff. Because this beef dish requires a little extra preparation, why not serve a wine that's got a little extra Bruce Lee round house kick to the taste buds? I'd serve these wines with this dish:

+ Quinta do Crasto Old Vines Reserva - Portugal + Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon - Washington + St. Supéry Dollarhide Ranch Cabernet - Napa + Vilafonté Series C - South Africa

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Garlic Roasted Chicken

garlic roasted chicken

INGREDIENTS 1 free ranch whole chicken 2 whole heads of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half horizontally 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 cup white wine 3/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, Marjoram Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375° Rinse chicken inside and out with cold water. Drain and pat dry. Mix together 1 TBSP fresh ground pepper, 1TBSP sea salt and herbs in a small bowl. In a 9x14 roasting pan, cover chicken with olive oil making sure to coat entire bird. Rub salt, pepper and herb mixture all over chicken including inside the cavity. Wrap chicken legs together with string. Put halved garlic heads into pan around chicken. Put roasting pan in oven on center rack and cook for 20 minutes. Baste chicken with wine and roast for another 25 minutes. Baste chicken again using pan juices. Turn chicken over and repeat process. After 90 minutes chicken skin should be golden brown. Chicken is done when clear juices run from thigh after poking with a knife.

Place chicken on platter with tail in the air so moisture and juices flow downhill to breast meat. Cover with foil and let chicken stand 10 minutes before serving with roasted garlic.

Wine Pairings: Here's a chicken dish that'll go with that buttery butterball Chardonnay you've been wanting to open. It's chicken. Keep it simple and enjoy! A few wines I'd serve:

+ Au Bon Climat Nuits Blanches Chardonnay - Santa Barbara + Sokol Blosser Evolution - Oregon + Domaine Jean-Marc Vincent, Les Hautes, Auxey-Duresses 2006 - Burgundy

Snowball Cookies

snowball cookies

INGREDIENTS 1/2 cup butter 2 TBSP sugar 1 TSP vanilla 3/4 cup chopped pecans 1 cup flour 1/4 TSP salt Powdered sugar

Cream butter Add all other ingredients, except the powdered sugar. Mix well. Shape into 1" balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes. These should be light in color, not brown. Cool and roll in powdered sugar.

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HOW TO: Grill a Turkey

charcoal Here's a recipe that might help reduce the amount of dishes and cleanup. The result is a turkey with a smoky flavor and crisp skin and comes from Barbara Ries' A Tradition Is Born. Use a well-brined bird (overnight). Serves 12

INGREDIENTS for the brine 1 12-lb. turkey 1 cup kosher salt 1 lemon, halved 1 orange, halved 1 onion, cut into wedges 3 gloves garlic, chopped 4 bay leaves 1 TBSP dried thyme 1 TBSP ground black pepper

INGREDIENTS for the rub 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 cups flat leaf parsley, finely chopped 2 TSP chili powder 1/2 TSP cayenne 1/4 TSP ground black pepper 2 oranges, zested and cut into wedges 8 TBSP unsalted butter 1 large onion, roughly chopped 1 carrot, roughly chopped

1. Brine the turkey by combining salt, lemon, orange, onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and pepper in a 12-qt. pot or cooler. Add 1-1/2 gallons of cold water and stir together. Squeeze lemons and oranges into brine and add halves. Submerge the turkey, weigh down with dinner plates if necessary. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. The morning of Thanksgiving, remove the turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Make the rub by combining garlic, parsley, chili powder, cayenne, black pepper and orange zest in a large bowl. Using your fork or hands, work butter into ingredients to form a paste. Rub all over turkey. Put orange wedges, onions, carrots and 3 cups water into disposable roasting pan fitted with a rack. Set the turkey on top.

3. Build a medium-sized charcoal fire in a kettle grill, arranging the coals so they cover only one half of the bottom grate of the grill. For a smokier flavor, add water-soaked wood chips to coals. Place cover on grill and open the top and bottom vents of the grill, let the coals burn until and instant-read thermometer inserted into the top vent of the grill reads 500°F. Transfer roasting pan to the top grate of the grill on the side opposite the coals. Cover grill and cook for 30 minutes then cover breast with aluminum foil. Cook turkey, adding water to roasting pan as necessary and replenishing the coals every hour or so to maintain a temperature of roughly 350°F. Continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the turkey's thigh resisters 165°F. That's about 3 hours for a 12-lb. bird. After grilling, let sit covered with foil for 30 minutes.

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Norwegian Meatballs with Cream Sauce

Spaghetti Bolognese
Image by Lachlan Hardy via Flickr

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Makes about 30 meatballs

Meatballs 4 TBSP butter 1 small onion, chopped 2 slices day-old rye bread, crusts trimmed, torn into pieces (about 1-1/2 cups) 2/3 cup beef stock or beef broth 1 egg 1/4 TSP ground allspice 1/4 TSP ground white pepper 1/2 pound ground beef 1/2 pound ground veal

Sauce 2 TBSP all purpose wheat flour 1 1/3 cups beef stock or beef broth 2 TBSP whipping cream Ground allspice

For meatballs: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Combine bread and stock in large bowl. Mix in onion mixture, egg, allspice and pepper. Add ground beef and veal and blend well. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill.) Shape meat into 1 1/4-inch balls. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs and sauté until cooked through and brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to platter and keep warm. Reserve drippings in skillet. For sauce:
Add flour to drippings in skillet and stir over medium heat until brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in stock and cream. Simmer until sauce is thick and smooth, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with allspice, salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meatballs and serve.

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BBQ Pork Ribs

Barbecue sauce
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1 rack pork ribs, defrosted 12 OZ BBQ sauce 1 TBSP olive oil 1 white onion, finely chopped 1/2 TSP celery salt 1 TSP chili powder 1/2 TSP onion powder 2 TBSP Old Bay Seasoning 1 TSP Paprika 10 OZ. honey 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 cup brown sugar Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Brush ribs with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. While ribs are cooking, combine remaining ingredients together. After ribs have roasted for 30 minutes, pour/brush half of mixture over ribs and roast for another 30 minutes. Preheat grill for finishing. Remove ribs from oven and place face down on grill. Cook 5 minutes, turn over and brush remaining mixture all over ribs. Cook on grill 5-10 minutes until desired doneness. You can also use the broiler for finishing instead of the grill. Clean the grill by putting aluminum foil over the grates and turn the heat to high after you remove the ribs. It'll cook off all that sticky sauciness.

Alright, so it's not bacon, but it's close. It's pork, baby! Pork ribs cooked on a grill...what could be better than that? Well, actually, lots of things. But I'm not gonna lie, these ribs are mighty tasty. There's so many different ways to do ribs, but what I was going for here was a BBQ sauce with just the right amount of attitude with a little Bruce Lee roundhouse. If you want more cowbell, dial up the chili powder as this is more of a doctored BBQ sauce than one from scratch. Depending on which sauce you use as your base, it might have quite a bit of sugar in it already. So to offset sweetness, add more bitter flavors like garlic. Zinfandel-based wines seem to pair well with this recipe. Tonight I'll be popping open a bottle of 2006 Spann Vineyard MoZin from Sonoma. It's a blend of Zinfandel, Mourvédre and Petite Sirah. This is one of those wines where someone at the table will verbally exclaim something like, "OMIGOD that's good!" or some descriptor using four letter words to impress how good the wine is. It's well made, and in true Spann style, it's has impeccable balance. If some red wines are like a wool sweater on your tongue, this is a cashmere sweater. Silky, aromatic and enough flavor intensity from the Petite Sirah to stand up to the BBQ sauce on the ribs. Cheers!

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Asian Cucumber Salad

Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered fo...
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INGREDIENTS

10 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped 2 TSP honey 2 TSP toasted sesame seeds 1/2 cup white wine vinegar 1/2 TSP sesame oil 5 TBSP low sodium soy sauce Mixed salad greens

Arrange cucumber slices and green onions in a shallow glass dish.  In a covered container, shake remaining ingredients together (except salad greens).  Pour mixture over cucumber and green onions.  Refrigerate for at least one hour. Drain dressing from cucumber and onions.  Serve cucumbers and onions on salad greens with dressing drizzled on top.

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