Saturday Night Dinner, Feb 26, 2011

We’ve been big fans of Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher since our Wall Street Journal reading parents introduced us to them a number of years back.

Aside from being down to earth wine critics in a sea of pretension, they also have been the advocates of a tradition they call Open That Bottle Night. The idea being that a lot of times you need to get away from pointless hoarding of wine, it is often better drunk sooner, rather than later.

As part of the whole Open That Bottle ethos, they started organizing an annual “Open That Bottle Night” the last Saturday in February.

Dottie and John Share Their Thoughts on Open That Bottle Night

When we began writing our “Tastings” column for The Wall Street Journal in 1998, we tried to write an accessible column that answered the real questions that real people had about wine. Soon, we realized that the question we received most often was this: “I have a bottle of xxxx that I received from my grandfather (or saved from my wedding, or bought at a winery, etc.). When should I open it?” (The addendum was usually: “And how much is it worth?”) We told everyone the same thing: Open it this weekend and celebrate the memories. But we answered the same question so often that eventually we figured, jeez, let’s just set a date when we will all open that bottle together and celebrate the memories. We chose a Saturday in September 1999.

A few years ago, Mrs. Flannestad gave me their book, “Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes from a Marriage”, which is a wonderful memoir of a successful marriage accompanied with an appreciation for wine.

We always try to celebrate Open That Bottle Night a little, in the spirit of John and Dorothy, accompanying a bottle of wine we have been putting off opening with a tasty dinner.

Grilled 5 Dot Ribeyes. Red Wine and Black Trumpet Risotto. Rainbow Chard braised in a spicy tomato sauce.

This wine dates back to a trip Mrs. Flannestad took to the wine country with her parents, before we were married. In fact, it was on that visit to California that we told them we were going to be married!

What, you say they only do citrus supremes on Food Network? Nuh uh, we have them at Chez Flannestad! Tarocco Orange Supremes, to be exact.

One of the advantages to living in California is the occasional beautiful day in February, usually the first time we get out the grill for the first year. The short daylight, though, usually means grilling in the dark, which can be quite spectacular when working with Lump Mesquite.

Right, well the dinner turned out wonderfully, though I thought the steaks were cooked a bit beyond my “ideal”. Fortunately, Mrs. Flannestad enjoys hers a bit closer to “Medium”, so this pleased her. Learning to compromise is an important skill in a successful marriage!

Unfortunately, while the reminiscing over the bottle brought back happy memories of that trip to Napa 10 or 11 years ago, the wine itself was corked and mildewy tasting. After a bit of wishful thinking about whether the wine tasted better after “breathing”, we gave up. Yep, that’s a spoiled wine, all right.

Slight disappointment, but from John and Dorothy’s advice Mrs. Flannestad knew to be prepared for this possibility and had another wine picked out as backup!


Roast Chicken Breasts with Porcini Risotto

Had a friend over Friday night and made Roast Chicken Breasts with Porcini Mushroom Risotto. Unfortunately, too busy cooking to take pictures.

I first made a gremolata-substance as a sort of “rub” for the chicken.

Mince 3 cloves garlic, zest of one lemon, 1/4 cup parsley, and 2 tablespoons fresh oregano. To this add a good amount of salt, freshly ground pepper, and a quarter cup of olive oil. Rub this all over 2 bone-in, skin on, chicken breasts, taking special care to get the mixture under the skin over the breast.

Pre-heat oven to 425 F.

Do the risotto prep:

Rehydrate a quarter to half cup of dried porcini mushrooms in enough boiling water to cover. After they have rehydrated and cooled enough to handle, remove the mushrooms using a slotted spoon. Mince the mushrooms. Strain the liquid through a couple layers of fine cheese cloth or a paper towel. Put it in a sauce pan over very low heat on the stove.
Finely dice 1/2 onion and 1/2 carrot.
Slice 1/2 onion, lengthwise.
Slice 6 Crimini Mushrooms.
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme.
Grate 1/2 cup Parmesano Reggiano.
You’ll also need 3 or 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock added to the mushroom liquid above, and a quarter cup of cream (optional).

Put the chicken breasts on a roasting pan and place in the oven.

Saute the sliced mushrooms until they have given up their water and start to brown. Add the sliced onion, season with a little salt, and cook until translucent. Deglaze the pan with white wine or vermouth. Cook until the wine or vermouth is syrupy, and remove the pan from heat.

Heat another large saute pan. Add a good amount of olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add 1 cup Arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to smell toasted. Add the diced onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent. Begin by adding a good ladle full of warm stock to the rice and reduce heat to a simmer. Continue adding stock gradually as it evaporates and cooks into the rice.

Hopefully, somewhere around here, your chicken breasts will have reached around 155 F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from oven and allow to rest until you finish the risotto.

When the risotto is nearly done, but still a little toothsome, check the seasonings, stir in the cream and sauteed mushrooms and onions, and chopped dried mushrooms. Add minced herbs. While stirring, add in the Parmesan, reserving a bit to add on top when serving. If it seems too Sticky add a bit more stock or cream to loosen.

Place the Risotto on the plate, sprinkle with a little parm and freshly ground pepper. Slice the chicken breasts and lay next to the risotto. Serve with a crusty bread, a nice red wine, and maybe simple salad of greens in a light vinaigrette.