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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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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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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Holiday Wine+Food Pairing Recipes

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Strawberry and Almond Spinach Salad

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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

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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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Asian Cucumber Salad

Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered fo...
Image via Wikipedia

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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Pork Tenderloin with Dried Cherry and Rosemary Sauce

.. tongue-map_pairing14

What do these icons mean? Serves 4

INGREDIENTS 2 LB pork tenderloin (or 2 1LB cuts) 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil ¾ cup red wine ½ cup chicken stock ½ cup beef stock ¼ balsamic vinegar ¾ cup cranberry or apple juice 4 garlic cloves, minced 6 shallots, minced 4 TBSP rosemary, finely chopped ½ cup dried cherries Salt and pepper to taste

In a small pan, boil chicken and beef stock until reduced to about ¼ cup. Preheat oven to 375˚F.  Pat pork dry  and place in a glass baking dish then sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl mix together cherries, reduced stock, red wine, vinegar, cranberry juice, garlic, shallots and rosemary.  Pour mixture over pork and marinate for at least 2 hours.

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat.  Cook pork (leave marinade off to the side) 2-3 minutes on all sides leaving it under cooked, but browned. Pour marinade over pork and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly pink in the middle basting throughout.

I like the Twisted Oak Tempranillo to pair with this recipe.  The icons above will indicate how each recipe pairs together.  With this pairing, both wine and food are well balanced between Bitter, Salt, Sweet and Sour.  The dried cherry and rosemarry sauce combines sweetness and sourness from the cherries with bitterness coming from the rosemary and shallots.  Together, they offset the saltiness of not only the pork, but also the beef/chicken stocks.  What you end up with is a good balance between all four flavas.  Your palate might want a little more of this or that.  The Twisted Oak Tempranillo, as with most of @eljefetwisted wines is perfectly balanced.  Both recipe and wine are about the same on the intensity of flava scale coming in around 6-7.

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Please let me know if you try this pairing and report back any adjustments or success stories you have.  Cheers!

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