BOTW–Damnation

Well, what with the world ending on the 21st of May and all, Mrs. Flannestad and I were talking about what we would want for our last meals.

We’re not huge fans of overly rich foods, so no Foie for us, thank you.

To be honest, one of my favorite dinners is fairly simply roasted chicken with a salad and risotto.

I suggested it, Mrs. Flannestad said, “Make it so!”

I learned this risotto dish on egullet.org from an actual Italian. Steep some dried mushrooms (I used Chanterelles) in hot water. Remove soaked mushrooms from soaking liquid and reserve liquid. Mince mushrooms. Trim and clean your asparagus. Break off the tips. Steam (or blanch) the stalks. Prepare an ice bath. When the stalks are tender, drop them in the ice bath to stop them cooking and set the chlorophyll. Puree the stalks in a blender with some of the soaking liquid from the mushrooms. On a stove, combine pureed asparagus with the rest of the soaking liquid and some water, chicken, or veggie stock over low heat. Brunoise a half an onion and a half a carrot (some like to use leeks or celery instead, so the carrot color doesn’t distract). Heat a heavy pan large enough to contain your risotto. Add oil and 1 cup risotto. Cook until it is fragrant and lightly browned. Add the onion and carrot and sautee briefly. Add enough warm stock to cover the rice. Simmer, adding liquid as it is absorbed until the rice is just a little firm to the tooth. Stir in the minced dried mushrooms. In a separate pan, saute the asparagus tips. Stir a little finely grated parmesan (or other tasty cheese) into the risotto. Add some finely minced fresh herbs, (like Marjoram or Oregano,) and adjust seasonings. Fold in aspargus tips. Serve and grate a little more grated parmesan cheese.

Spatchcocked the chicken (as usual from Avedano’s), rubbed it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs. Roasted in a convection oven at 400 degrees F until done.

Russian River Damnation, of course.

Damnation: In the great beer producing country of Belgium, some brewers have made it a tradition to give their beers an unusual name. Sometimes the name is curious, now and then it is diabolical and other times it is just plain silly. Damnation is our brewmaster’s interpretation of a Belgian style Strong Golden Ale. It has extraordinary aromas of banana and pear with mouth filling flavors of sweet malt and earthy hops. The lingering finish is dry and slightly bitter but very, very smooth.

7.0%ABV / 1.068 O.G / 25 BUs

Salad with not so great tomatoes (it’s too early in the year) and balsamic vinaigrette.

True Confession: For many years I overdressed my salads and over seasoned my salad dressing.

Hey, I grew up in the midwest, and really the lettuce was more of a garnish for the syrupy salad dressing and accoutrements of the salad. The idea that you’d want to actually taste the greens was foreign.

However, since moving to California, we’ve had a lot of good salads, and I’ve realized simpler is better, when it comes to dressing.

I’ve actually read a bunch of classic cook books, and its interesting that garlic is never really an ingredient in the actual salad dressing. Usually what is suggested is that you rub a garlic clove into the salad bowl before making the dressing and tossing the salad.

I’ve started adopting that, though I don’t have a big wooden salad bowl.

What I do is put a little kosher salt in the bottom the bowl, then I rub the garlic clove in that. Sort of making garlic flavored salt. Then I rub any garlic sticking to the clove and discard the clove. To the seasoned salt, I add the ingredients for the salad dressing. Finally toss the leaves in the dressing. I’m still working on dressing my salads less, but this ends up giving you salads that taste more of your ingredients and less of raw garlic.

Pulling out the big guns, Radio Couteau La Neblina, 2007.

Spanish for “fog,” la neblina rolls in from the Pacific Ocean to blanket and cool the coastal Pinot Noir vineyards of western Sonoma County. Aged on primary lees for 15 months, this cuvee is a blend from four truly coastal vineyard sites where this classic vintage was captured. The core of this blend is from vines planted in the Goldridge soils of the Sebastopol Bench along Gravenstein Highway 116. We fermented with 10% whole cluster in 2009 to add tannin complexity, structure, and spiciness.

Salad with Tomatoes and vinaigrette, Asparagus Risotto, Spatchcocked Chicken, Damnation, Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Mrs. Flannestad. Life is good!

Saturday Night Dinner March 4, 2011

I’ve covered Julia Child’s Salmon with Aromatic Vegetables before, this time we used Steelhead Trout from Avedano’s Holly Park Market instead of Salmon. Hard to find Wild caught Salmon these days, Steelhead is our second choice, along with Arctic Char. Another good use for those hard to finish bottles of Dry Vermouth, by the way.

Fish with Aromatic Vegetables

Method: Pre-heat an oven to 300 F. Finely chop a combination of equal parts onion, celery, and carrot. Heat a Saute pan, add butter and vegetables. Saute until the vegetables are tender. Add dried or fresh tarragon and thyme. Deglaze pan with a generous amount of Dry Vermouth. Butter a roasting pan approximately the size of your fish fillet. Place the fillet skin side down in the pan, salt, pepper, and some cubes of butter. Pour vegetables on top of fish. Add more dry vermouth to come up half way up the side of the fillet. Cover with buttered parchment paper or lid and place in oven. Bake until fillets are just cooked through. Remove fillets from liquid to warm plate. Pour liquid into sauce pan and reduce until syrupy. Optionally, mount the sauce with butter. Pour over filets and serve.

To be honest, I think this would be an awesome sous vide preparation.

More interesting, though were the side dishes, generally riffs on flavors I associate with Southern Italy.

Pan roasted Cauliflower braised in cx stock with red chile, garlic, herbs, anchovy paste, olives, and sherry vinegar.

METHOD: Cut up a head of Cauliflower into “florets”, heat a saute pan. Add some olive oil and then Cauliflower. Let “pan roast” over high heat until you get some nice color. Add minced garlic, crushed red chile, fine chopped herbs, an anchovy filet, and some chopped Green Olives. Give a shake or two. Pour in some chicken (or vegetable) stock and cook until the Cauliflower is tender. Finish with a splash of sherry vinegar to brighten the flavors.

I’ve been rediscovering Cauliflower lately and enjoying the flavors. This was one of the more interesting preparations I’ve done recently.

Israeli Cous Co us with pine nuts, raisins, lemon zest, herbs, and cinnamon broth.

METHOD: Heat a pint or so of chicken stock until warm with a cinnamon stick. Heat a deep saute pan. Add some olive oil and a cup of israeli cous cous. Add some pine nuts, raisins, and sliced green onions. Saute briefly, then add chicken stock by the cupful. continue to add stock as it is absorbed until the cous cous is tender and cooked through. Finish with herbs and the Zest of one lemon.

I really like Israeli Cous Cous, you often cook it rather like risotto. A bit more fun than the pilaf-like preparations for regular Cous Cous.

Both of these side dishes could be described as “profoundly unfashionable” in flavor and style, nearly Medieval with their emphasis on strong flavors, herbs, and spiced. I really liked them in combination with the milder fish preparation.

Serve with a nice, light red wine, like this Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Wild Hog Vineyards.