Heirloom Tomato Soup

. This recipe comes from Chef Brandon Sharp of the Michelin Star Restaurant, Solage in Calistoga, CA.  A recipe like this warms the soul when the weather gets cold.

Heirloom_Tomato_Soup
Heirloom_Tomato_Soup

INGREDIENTS 1 yellow onion, medium dice 1/4 cup Olive Oil 1 bunch fresh basil tied with 4 sprigs of thyme and 4 sprigs of marjoram 2 cloves of garlic, minced 5 overripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and large chunked 1/2 TBSP salt 1 TSP balsamic vinegar 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large saucepot, sweat onions with herbs in oil over medium low heat until tender. Stir in garlic and quickly add tomatoes and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until tomatoes are broken down. Drizzling in balsamic vinegar, remove herbs and blend soup with a hand blender while pouring in extra virgin olive oil.

Filet Mignon w/ Mushroom & Madeira Sauce

 

INGREDIENTS

3 TBSP butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 12 OZ button mushrooms, thinly sliced 1/2 cup minced shallots 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme 4 5-ounce filet mignon steaks (each about 3/4 inch thick) 1/2 cup Madeira 1-1/2 cups beef stock or beef broth 1/2 cup whipping cream Salt and Pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 TBSP olive oil in heavy large skillet or pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 10 minutes until tender. Add 1/4 cup shallots and half of garlic, sauté until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in thyme; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mushroom mixture to medium bowl. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plate, cover with foil. Add remaining 1/4 cup shallots and garlic to same skillet. Sauté 2 minutes. Add Madeira and boil until reduced by half. Add broth and boil until mixture is reduced to 2/3 cup. Add cream and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Return steaks to skillet, cook to warm up, about 1 minute. Transfer to plates. Spoon sauce over and serve.

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WINE PAIRING

A meal as regal as this one calls for an exceptional wine. So far in 2009, the Spann Vineyards Cabernet from Sonoma is the best Cab I've had all year at any price. For $35 you would expect a good wine. The Spann Cabernet is a GREAT wine and could easily fetch $60.  This is an "OMIGOD" wine to be sure.  At least one person lucky enough to get a glass will inevitably blurt out something along those lines.  It's rich, it has depth, it's like cashmere in a glass balancing sweet jammy fruit with elegant nuances.  Peter and Betsy Spann have the ability to create beautiful wines that aren't over the top or overpowering, yet show layer after layer of interesting notes.  This reminds me of the 1988 Cheval Blanc I had last fall.  Perfectly balanced between sweet, sour, salty and bitter, it compliments the Filet pefectly.

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Fruit Stuffed Pork Loin Roast w/ Bergstrom Pinot Noir

. . Here's a wine+food pairing from Bergstrom's wine club.  In my recent shipment they included this recipe, and being the pork lover that I am, I thought it would be good to share with all my readers.

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Fruit Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

INGREDIENTS 4 lbs boneless pork loin roast prepared for stuffing 1 cup pitted, chopped prunes 1 cup dried, chopped apricots 1 clove garlic 8 TBSP butter 1 TBSP dried thyme 1 cup Madeira 1 TBSP molasses Salt and Pepper to taste . 1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees 2. Mix prunes and apricots, roll up in cavity of pork loin and secure with twine 3. Cut garlic clove into thin sliver, make slits in roast with tip of knife and push garlic into slits 4. Rub the roast with the softened butter then sprinkle with salt & pepper and thyme 5. Set the roast in a shallow pan, mix the Madeira and molasses, then pour over roast 6. Set the roast on the middle rack of the oven and bake 1-1/2 hours or approximately 20 min per pound. Baste frequently. Roast will be medium when the temperature is 160° degrees 7. When roast is done, remove from oven and cover with an aluminum foil tent for 15 min 8. Slice thin and spoon pan juices over slices. Garnish with watercress if desired.

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GARLIC SCALLOPED POTATOES

INGREDIENTS

3 lbs yellow potatoes peeled and sliced thin 2 cloves of garlic 6 TBSP butter 3 cups heavy cream Salt and Pepper to taste . 1. Cut garlic and rub over the survace of a shallow casserole dish 2. Layer potatoes with dots of butter & cream. You can also add caramelized sweet onions to layering if desired 3. Bake slowly at 325° degrees for approximately 1-1/2 hours. It's important to cook slowly so the cream doesn't curdle but gets absorbed by potatoes 4. When done, increase heat to 400° degrees for last 10 minutes to brown tops 5. Let potatoes set for about 10 minutes before serving

The History of Restaurants & Dining

Although public eateries existed as far back as Ancient Rome and the Sung Dynasty in China, today's modern restaurants originated in 18th century France.  The word, Restaurant comes from the French word, restaurer which means "to restore".  Early establishments were built as a place where people could come restore their energy and strength.  The establishments weren't fancy nor did they have tables with linens.  They were basically rooms where someone could come and consume meats that would restore one's health, especially when someone wasn't feeling well.

The modern Café originated in Constantinople in the 1500's and served as a place where educated people could come meet.  Coffee was big in Constantinople, so the term coffee house translated into café.

During the French Revolution restaurants evolved into something like today's establishments where food and drink were served.  One of the first restauranteurs was a man by the name of Boulanger, who opened a spot near the Louvre where people could stop and restore their health.  Another restaurant called the Grand Taverne de Londres was opened by Beauvilliers in 1782.  Until this moment in history, meals weren't prepared for individuals by a chef.  Patrons ate what was offered.  Beauvilliers and Boulanger created the first menus with dishes that could be prepared individually by a chef.

History's first sommeliers came from the same time period.  The word, sommelier came from a French word that was for designated court servants who were responsible for transporting supplies.  Over time, the word evolved to represent a steward who was responsible for stocking and serving wine, beer and spirits.  Today, a sommelier needs to know what the wines in their restaurant taste like and be familiar with how the wines would pair with foods.  Sommeliers also need to be familiar with beers, cigars, spirits and represent a high level of service.

I became a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers because I wanted to be an educator, a student, a servant and a reference for wine+food.  Hope you find this information useful for the next time you're dining out.  Happy dining!

The Top 10 Bacon Recipes of 2010

. Hey bacon fans, get your defibrillators ready because the 3rd annual list is out.  The numerous uses for bacon ceases to amaze me, so I like to celebrate the versatility of bacon with an annual top list of recipes.  Past year's lists are worth checking out:

2009 Top 10 list of Bacon recipes

2008 Top 10 list of Bacon recipes

This year's list represents simplicity and ingenuity.  The past two years I'd get messages saying I left something out of the list, so this year I decided to crowd source the top ten list.  Without further adieu, here they are in no particular order:

1. BACON WRAPPED RUMAKI -

When my friend (and same birthday buddy) Kris O'Connor told me about this recipe I wasn't sure about it.  Well, I went from slightly skeptical to thoroughly convinced in one bite.  It goes to show that you can wrap bacon around just about anything, and it'll be good. The combination of sweet, savory and sour is a artery clogging trifecta of goodness.  Try to eat just one.  Seriously, try it.

2. BACON WRAPPED CREAM CHEESE STUFFED CHICKEN

It might take you longer to say the name of this recipe out loud than it does to wolf it down.  If you're a single guy, and you'd rather do something other than cook an entire meal but you want something tasty...this is the way to go.  Leave it to our friends at CHOW to come up with this recipe, and another good use for bacon.  My favorite thing about this recipe is it sounds like it might be healthy because it's got chicken in it...but it's not.

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3. BUTTERMILK BACON PRALINES -

Submitted by Libby V. of Swirl Girls fame.  You'll need a cigarette after eating one of these gems...

Adapted from Martha Hall Foose’s “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea”

Makes 24 small pralines

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1. In a heavy-bottomed, deep saucepan, combine the sugars, buttermilk, corn syrup, baking soda and salt over medium heat. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the mixture reaches 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

2. Remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, pecans, orange zest and bacon. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.

3. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a silicone mat or buttered parchment paper. Let stand 30 minutes, or until cool. Store in an airtight container.

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4. CORNBREAD MADE WITH BACON FAT

If I was a caveman and just discovered the internet, this would probably be one of the first things I came across online.  It's cornbread, which by itself is delicious, but it's made with frickin' bacon grease.  Pretty popular recipe actually, but I like the one on the Homesick Texan blog.  If you're a real health freak, don't put butter on it.  But if you're not concerned with your health, slather butter AND bacon bits on top.

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5. BACON FLAVORED COTTON CANDY

You might want to order some Shake Weights off ESPN if you're going to take one of these down.  I remember hearing about this last year, but it was too late to make the list.  Not sure how to make this exactly, but there's an article and quote from Mary Constantine of KnoxNews.com...

"Yes, I said bacon-flavored cotton candy, and before you wrinkle your nose in disgust, let me tell you, it was one of the most incredible creations I have ever tasted. I don’t know the chemistry behind Brock’s magic of rendering bacon into the flavorful fairy dust, but it worked. I only wish I could have bagged some up and brought it home for all to sample."

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6. BACONTOTS

If there was ever an example of "keep it simple stupid," this is it.  Do the math: Bacon + Tots = delicious grubby little treat.

Thanks to Bacon Unwrapped for this idea.  You gotta admire someone who makes a commitment to bacon like that.

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7. SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA

This was literally the first bacon-y recipe we made in 2010, but it wasn't the last time we made it.  If you're watching your carbs, use wheat pasta.  God forbid you don't want to load up on carbs when you're ingesting bacon.  Not only is the recipe easy and cheap, but it's fun to pair with wine.  What would you pair with it?  Please leave suggested pairing in the comments section.

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8. DECONSTRUCTED BLT

I love the internet!  Whoever the genius is that thought to take a BLT and turn it inside out should be given some sort of award on the same level as a Noble Peace Prize.  They take the carbs out, and dial up the most important ingredient, which is bacon.  Thank you to our friends at Not Martha for one of the coolest, and most innovative uses for bacon.  It's got tomatoes in it so it can't be all bad, can it?  Here's the recipe!

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9. HOT BACON DRESSING

You gotta get your greens in there somewhere.  Each year I like to throw in a "healthy" recipe to utilize the power of pork.  This year it's a salad dressing that's been around for a long time.  One recipe in particular that's been in my wheelhouse is the Hot Bacon Dressing recipe from Ellen Folkman of TampaBay.com

Put it on a spinach salad with a hard boiled egg or just drink it out of a glass.  Who cares?  It's got bacon and that's all you really need.  Everything else is just window dressing.

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10. INSIDE OUT BACON CHEESEBURGER SLIDERS

Yep, I said it.  If you somehow ate your way through my top ten list and made it to this recipe, you better consult with a doctor before shoving one of these babies down your gullet.  The original idea was for the Independence Day Sliders post, but we were feeling frisky, so we added bacon into the mix.  Then I turned 40 and realized my mortality.  You can't eat like this all the time unless you just really want to give your arteries the finger.  If you do try these, you'll be handsomely rewarded with savory goodness.

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So there you have it bacon brethren...the top 10 list.  By no means is this the end all list of the year, it's just the list of recipes that push the envelope to try new things.  If there's anything I missed, please leave comments and share your favorites!

Pork Shoulder with Potato & Butternut Bake

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INGREDIENTS

5 LB shoulder of pork 1 small onion, peeled 1 TBSP flour 10 OZ dry cider 10 OZ vegetable stock 3 large potatoes 1 Butternut squash Butter Parmesan cheese sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 475ºF.  Score the skin of the pork.  Place pork in a roasting pan skin-side up.  Cut the onion into wedges and place slightly underneath the pork.  Season pork with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for 25 minutes.  Reduce oven to 375ºF and cook for 2 hours.  Remove from oven and let stand for 30 minutes.  Remove pork from roasting pan, place roasting pan over burners on low and sprinkle flour in mixing with a wooden spoon.  Turn heat up to medium and gradually add cider and stock.  Mix together until you have a smooth gravy.  Salt and pepper to taste. FOR THE BAKE: Pell and thinly slice potatoes, peel and seed butternut squash.  Put a layer of potatoes in a buttered ovenproof dish then layer with butternut.  Layer 2 more times.  Place 2 or 3 knobs of butter on top, pour in 275ml of stock.  Cover generously with parm cheese.  Bake at 170ºF for 1 hour.

What wine to pair?

Do yourself a favor and get a really good pork shoulder for this recipe.  You can see the recipe list and preparation isn't too complicated, so it does well with a nice cut of pork.  Read through the ingredients and preparation and imagine where you're going to taste the sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami flavors.

Pork is cooked with vegetable stock can get pretty salty, but you'll offset that with the sweet cider.  I find this recipe can be adjusted so there's a good balance of flavors, and sometimes I'll add a TBSP of rosemary just for a little more.

Some of the grapes that tend to compliment this dish well are domestic Pinot Noirs or some lighter Syrahs.  Cabs and Merlots from new world regions aren't ideal, but 1995 Chateau Musar Cuvee Rouge went well.  That's a Cabernet blend made with some Cinsault.  It didn't overpower the flavors of the pork.  One of these days we'll try pairing it with the Chateau Musar Blanc, which, according to Serge Hochar is his "red wine".  The whites are sublime and might stand up nicely to this dish.

Tonight's pairing will feature 2005 Maison Bouachon La Tiare du Pape from Southern Rhone.  The blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from Chateauneuf du Pape vineyards are influenced by Mistral winds, and are grown in in clay and limestone soils, covered with quartz round stones.  I don't believe there's a "perfect" wine and food pairing, but I have fun experimenting and trying new combinations with the hope that one day I'll experience that one life-altering experience that is "the perfect pairing".  Please leave suggested pairings of what you think would be good with this dish in the comments below.  Cheers!

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Balsamic Glazed King Salmon

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I'm finding salmon to be a really great fish for wine and food pairings.  There are so many different ways to prepare salmon, and a wide range of wines to pair with.  One of my favorite grapes is Pinot Noir, and Pinot just happens to go hand in hand with salmon.

This dish makes good use of the Balsamic vinegar to cover up any fishy taste.  Norwegian salmon is nice and fatty, and has a flavor perfect for this dish.  When you grill the salmon, the grilled flavor really gives the salmon a nice glaze.

Check out the 1996 Domaine Leroy Bourgogne from Burgundy. Burgundy Pinot Noirs take longer to come together in the bottle so you have to be patient.  When you get a good one, it's magic in a bottle.  Burgundy has 4 levels designated on their labels:

Bourgogne - when you see that on the label, it means the grapes were sourced from anywhere in Burgundy.  Pretty broad area.

Villages - Burgundy is broken up into villages, such as Cote de Nuits.  This zooms into a smaller area within Burgundy.  Grapes from that village are in a Villages bottle, pronounced (vilaj).

1er Cru - Also known as Premiere Cru.  This zooms in even more to a specific vineyard that's within a village, which is within Burgundy.  Pinot really starts to express terroir when you get into a specific vineyard.  Quality and collectility goes up.

Grand Cru - When you get a wine from a Grand Cru vineyard, you have something special.  This is the ultimate expression of terroir and winemaking.  Some Grand Cru wines from Burgundy fetch upwards of $2,000 a bottle because the quality is the highest, but supply is the lowest.

Leroy is one of the top producers in Burgundy, so although her Bourgogne is the lowest of the four levels, hers is still spectacular.  The 1996 is very youthful, velvety and complex.  Aromas out of the glass are like a tractor beam bringing the glass to your lips—you're powerless to stop it.

LeroyBoug

recipe from Chef Ron Barber

INGREDIENTS 4 salmon steaks – about 6 ounces each, 1 inch thick 1 cup balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup Cabernet Franc 1 TBSP fresh lime juice 1 TSP sugar

Combine the balsamic vinegar, wine, lime juice, and sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and reduce the mixture by half – allow to cool.  Add the salmon steaks to the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Prepare a charcoal or gas grill.  Remove the salmon from the marinade and pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper and grill over high heat for about 4 minutes per side.  Serve with grilled vegetables and steamed rice.

photo via SheKnows

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Presidential Rack of Lamb a la Richelieu

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When President and Mrs Reagan visited Paris in the mid 1980's they did have many official functions including a diplomatic dinner with President and Madame Francoise Mitterand at the Elysee Palace (the White House of France) Naturally, the diplomatic decorum demanded that the American guests of honor should return the invitation. The Reagans were staying at the US Embassy and decided to honor the French President and first lady with non American food. The chefs at the US Embassy were French chefs. The Lamb recipe is very fancy in terms of prestige. It was put together by chef Auguste Esccoffier at the turn of the 20th century. It was named in honor of Cardinal Armand de Richelieu, who was chief minister to King Louis XIII in the 17th century.

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INGREDIENTS 2 racks, 6 chops each., have the butcher cut the chine bone for easy serving of chops.

Marinade: 1/2 bottle of white wine 1/2 cup of quality olive oil 1 medium onion sliced 1 whole bay leaf crumbled 1/2 teaspoon of dried marjoram, or 2 TBSP of fresh if available 8 black peppercorns, coarsly crushed 1/2 TSP of dried thyme, or 2 TSP of fresh salt to taste

Marination needs to be a minimum of 4 hr. Overnight would be good. Keep turning and spoon over the rack.

Place in the oven and grill at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes depending on cooking level preferred. Keep to lamb warm in the oven while the sauce is being made.

Sauce: Place the drippings in a fry pan. Remove some of the fat. Add a cup of port or madeira. Reduce under high heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of butter one at a time. Serve the sauce in a gravy boat at the table.

marinate AT LEAST 4 Hrs.

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Chicken in Garlic and Shallots

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INGREDIENTS 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or 10 chicken thighs) 1/2 cup olive oil plus 2 TBSP olive oil 10 peeled garlic cloves 10 shallots, peeled and split Several sprigs of parsley, sage and thyme Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Toss with 2 TBSP oil and brown on both sides in wide frying pan or skillet over high heat. Remove from heat, add garlic, shallots, herbs and remaining olive oil. Do not chop herbs. Bake covered in a dutch oven or covered baking dish for 1-1/2 hours.

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