Nacho Mama Surprise – Guest post

Part of my meandering career path found me in Chicago for several years, where I came across a direct marketing wiz named Elizabeth “Sunny” Heyer.   Little did I know she was also known as Naco Mama.  Here’s why.

Here’s a different take on nachos . . .  I used to make this when I lived in Boulder . . .from leftovers initially.  Take a baking dish and line with refried beans – a thin layer . . . then make ‘stripes’ across the beans using everything and anything that’s left over.  We started with a small piece of steak from a doggy bag, sliced, it made our first stripe.  Then we laid down some slices of leftover chicken next to it, then a stripe of sour cream, then a stripe of salsa, then some chopped veggies (any kind will do), and then… you get the drift!! One layer was different types of olives, then peppers – roasted or chili . . . depends on your taste. Once we added a stripe of rice and topped the whole dish with shredded jack cheese.  It’s fast, easy and you can put anything in it . . . I added cubed tofu to the rice and no one was the wiser – given that it was a meat eating, sprout stompin’ crowd.

Pop it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes and serve with chips on the side . . . or spoon it directly into the mouth. . .  I named it ‘Nacho Momma Surprise’  and it became a huge hit at parties . . .

I always had it with wine. . . but it goes well with beer too!

Thanks Sunny!
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

Easy Bacon, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart

Years ago, long before I worked in wine, I visited wine country whenever extra time and money made themselves available.  Over the years, I warmed the sheets in quite a few wine country Inns. This tart recipe is from one such place – Sonoma’s Hidden Oak Inn.  It features a tangy goat cheese which is the classic pairing with crisp Sauvignon Blanc, both items being native to the Loire Valley, where one is seldom found without the other.

It is a simple recipe, but an enjoyable one – a perfect combination.  It calls for a frozen pie crust, but those with the inclination and time can certainly bake their own.

.
.
Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
5 Slices bacon, fried, drained & crumbled
½ Lbs (8 Ozs)  goat cheese
1 Tbsp bacon grease
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp Salt
~ 5 spears of asparagus, stalks shaved and then cut in 1-inch pieces
½ tsp pepper
½ Lbs puff pastry, defrosted
1 Egg yolk

Procedure

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Sauté shallot in 1 tablespoon of bacon grease for about 1 minute.  Add asparagus and cook over medium-high heat until the asparagus is tender.  Remove the pan from heat and add crumbled bacon.  On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the pastry to a 10 by 16-inch rectangle.  Transfer the pastry and the parchment to a baking sheet.Using your fingers, pat the goat cheese onto the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.  Sprinkle the asparagus, bacon and shallot mixture evenly over the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.  Whisk together the egg yolk and a splash of water (~1.2 tsp) then brush the edge of the tart with egg wash.Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool slightly, slice and serve warm with a simple salad of mixed greens splashed with really good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  Pairs perfectly with a crisp white wine such as a racy Sauvignon Blanc or old world Chenin Blanc.

Cheers, Dave the Wine Merchant

“Runaway” Chicken Chowder

I’m never sure if the name for this dish refers to the chicken seeking escape from the chopping block, or the recipe’s run-away popularity.  Either way, its bright orange color (and great flavor!) has made it the traditional dish at the annual family Halloween party hosted by our friend (and club member!) Laura Nagle.

It is one of the rare dishes featuring Halloween colors that is not a contrivance, but rather a memorable dish in its own right.  In fact, at the Nagle’s annual Halloween bash, it just may be as big an attraction as the candy.  At least for some attendees  ;-)

Recommended Wine Pairings
This chowder has the sweetness of the yams, a bit of a warming kick from the peppers and the rich texture of  the chicken and hominy.  To compliment all elements, I recommend an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer (click to buy) or one featuring a nose-full of fragrance and a fuller body – a classic California Chardonnay or a rich white Rhône wine such as Viognier.

Ingredients
3 Boneless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Med onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 or 2 Large golden yams,  peeled and sliced thin (2-3 millimeters)
4 1/2 Cups Chicken stock or broth
1-2 Serranno peppers seeded and minced
1/2 tsp Ground coriander
2-3 tsp Ground cumin
2 Cans golden hominy (16-Ozs), drained
2/3 Cups fresh cilantro
Toasted Black sesame seeds or toasted Rye bread croutons for garnish (optional)
Sour Cream for garnish

Procedure
Remove the skin and fat from the chicken and cut into 3/4 inch cubes.

Over high heat, melt butter in stock pot or large sauce pan and stir-fry chicken, stirring constantly, just until no longer pink. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside to drain.

Add onion and potato slices to pan with 4 1/2 cups of stock. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the peppers, coriander and cumin and blend in the pot with a stick blender, or in batches in food processor or blender. Whatever your blending tool of choice, continue until smooth.

Return all ingredients to the pot and add the chicken and the hominy. This chowder can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated for up to two days.  Also freezes well.  When ready to serve, simply heat, top with cilantro leaves and garnish with sour cream, if desired.

Serving Ideas
This chowder is welcome throughout the cold winter months. But to leverage the Halloween theme (for which this orange soup is ideal!) sprinkle with black sesame seeds or croutons made from dark rye bread.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Moules Marinieres – Mariner’s Mussels, the Highway to Heavean!

Mussels Marineires recipeFor one of my rather large birthdays, the kind that either demands a grand celebration with friends or a quiet closet in which to whimper, Superwife and Cole surprised me with a trip to the Loire Valley.  One of my favorite meals was at this street side cafe in Tours.

This simple meal – mussels, crisp french fries, a fresh baguette and a cool glass of local Chenin Blanc – brought me closer to heaven than I probably deserve (or will ever be again, now that St. Peter knows I’ve found this loophole).

Wine Pairing Ideas
When paired well, the right wines can provide the same slice of Tours street side nirvana. So pull a cork on one of these wines, splash some into your glass, then add some fresh-shucked oysters or steam some mussels (recipe below) and you’re in for an hour of pure happiness.


Moules Marinières with Lardon

Moules Marinières are also known as “Sailor’s mussels” or “Mariner’s mussels.”  This basic dish consists of fresh mussels delicately steamed in white wine with garlic, parsley, butter, onion and cream sauce. The addition of lardons by the chef at our sidewalk cafe was a unique twist, adding a permeating smokiness.   Along with the small amount of cream added to the juice, this extra richness suggests a fuller-bodied white wine – an austere wine will fight this dish.  Think Dry or off-dry Riesling, Chenin Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay and perhaps even Viognier from a cooler clime.

Be sure to have a good baguette (more than you think you’ll need) to dip into the delectable sauce and juices once your mussels are gone. Mussel veterans eat by using an empty mussel shell as a pincer to pick the remaining mussels from their shells – a fun way to eat with your fingers!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an opening course)

  • 2+ Lbs of fresh, live mussels
  • 1/2 Pound thick bacon or pancetta, cubed
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • 5 fl oz (1 glass) of dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 large handful of finely chopped parsley
  • 4 tbsp of cream
  • salt and pepper

Procedure
Clean, debeard and rinse the mussels several times in cold running water. Discard any that do not snap shut when tapped and set the rest aside in a colander. Cook the lardons in the bottom of a wide, deep pot until crispy but not burned. Remove, drain on paper towel.  Remove all but one Tbsp of bacon fat, add enough butter to equal 2 Tbsp total, then add the chopped shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat until the shallots have softened.

Add the white wine and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add mussels and cover, cooking on a high heat for several minutes. Gently shake the pan several times during cooking to redistribute the mussels. It is best to remove the mussels one by one as they open, placing them in a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the juices – liquid gold. Again, discard any mussels that have remained tightly shut, as they may produce unpleasant gastro-intestinal side effects (you don’t want to know).

Return the lardons to the liquid and boil until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and parsley. Taste the sauce and add salt or pepper to taste. Transfer the mussels to a large bowl, pour the reduced liquid over the mussels, and serve immediately. Pair with any of these wines and you’ll agree that happiness is at hand.

Les_moules_cropped_and_lightenedCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.
~Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French gastronome (1755 – 1826)

 

Sparkling Wine with Tuna Tartare on Chips

Try this once and I think you’ll want to bring it out for all your holiday parties, beginning with Halloween and on through New Year’s eve, or even Valentine’s Day.  I’m betting it is destined for your permanent recipe book, it is just that good.  Sparkling wine loves the saltiness of both the fish and the chip.  Speaking of chips – be sure to use a fresh bag of Ruffles “Naturals”.  (And no, I don’t own their stock!)

Ingredients
1 Egg yolk (as fresh as possible, this is not cooked except by the acid in the vinegar)
1 tsp peeled and grated ginger
½ Clove garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp Japanese hot mustard (or 1 tsp dry hot mustard)
1 Tbsp Mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1 Tbsp Soy sauce
¼ Cup rice vinegar
1/3 Cup peanut oil
2 Tbsp Sesame oil, combined with the peanut oil, above.
¾ Pound Sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/8 inch dice.  (if no sushi-grade tuna is available, freeze
regular tuna steaks for several hours to kill any unpleasant parasites)
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp snipped fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Bag ridged potato chips (I recommend Ruffles “Naturals”)

Procedure
In a food processor, combine the first six ingredients (up to the soy sauce) and process until smooth.  With the motor running, add the vinegar and when combined, introduce the peanut and sesame oils.  Stop the motor as soon as the oils emulsify.  Cover and refrigerate.

For the tuna, combine the chopped tuna with the shallots, chives, and pinches of salt & pepper.  Mix in enough of the dressing to moisten well, toss again, and add more if needed.  You don’t want the fish to sit in a puddle of dressing at the bottom of the bowl, and you’ll likely have dressing left over – use it as a dip, salad dressing or a topping for grilled fish.

Presentation
When eaten in a casual setting, I enjoy scooping the fish onto my chip taken from a large bowl, or even the bag, depending on the occasion.  More formal gatherings call for the largest of the chips to be placed on a platter, the fish dropped onto them by the teaspoonful, then topped with one or two chives (cut about 2“ from the tip), or a razor-thin lemon wedge.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

NOTE: This recipe originally appeared as an insert to accompany a sparkling wine selected for members of my wine sampling programs.  Click here for membership information.

Wild Boar-Tomatillo Chili

On most weekends, we haunt the hills of Anderson Valley, where we try to grow olives.  One weekend several years ago, Superwife got the notion that a perfectly good Saturday morning should be spent putting her jogging shoes one in front of the other until they took her to the top of the hill (elevation 1,100 feet).  Never one to follow another’s path, she blazed her own trail, and in so doing startled a small family of large feral pigs, who were apparently unaccustomed to seeing such energetic humans.

Though feral pigs are a few generations removed from wild boar, but they replicate like rabbits, have a taste that’s more flavorful than farm-raised pork, and can tear up acres and acres of virgin hillside as they forage.  This is an unfortunate combination of traits, as it makes them quite popular with the local hunters.  Their foraged diets make their meat a little richer and gamier than pork, a bit less so than wild boar.  Any of the three meats are acceptable here (1-2 days advance notice is usually required to obtain wild boar).  Whichever meat you use, ask your butcher to grind enough for ingredient #2, below…

INGREDIENTS (6-8 servings)

2 Tbsp olive oil 1 tsp smoked paprika
½ Lb ground wild boar 1 Bottle dark beer
1.5 Lbs wild boar shoulder, in1/2-inch dice 1.5 Lbs tomatillos, husked and coarsely chopped (yes, they are oddly sticky!)
Kosher salt & fresh-ground black pepper 1/2 Cup crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 Large white onion, chopped 1 Cup chicken broth
4 Cloves garlic, minced 2 (14.5-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
2 Large Anaheim peppers, diced small Juice from ½ a lime
2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced Garnish:
1 Tbsp chili powder Chopped red onions
1 Tbsp dried oregano Sour cream
2 tsp ground cumin Chopped cilantro

Procedure
Season the meat (both the shoulder and the ground portion), with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat for three or four minutes, add half the olive oil and when it shimmers, brown all the meat in two batches for 3-4 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil and sauté onions for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then add the peppers and continue for another 3-5 minutes. Return meat to pot and add a tsp salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, the chili powder, cumin, oregano and smoked paprika.  Combine until the spices are evenly distributed. Deglaze the pot with the beer, scraping up the flavorful browned bits on the bottom!

Add tomatillos, crushed tomatoes and chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pinto beans and continue to cook for another 45 minutes, again stirring occasionally. Just before serving, stir in the lime juice, taste for seasoning adjustments, then garnish and serve!

Adapted from a recipe by Amanda Gold, San Francisco Chronicle

DSCN0419Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

NOTE: This recipe was included as an insert with the October, 2009 shipment to members of my wine sampling program.  Click here for membership information.   To see additional wine pairings for this dish, try my Rhone Style Reds selections, or my collection of Zinfandels.  The spice of the chili can sometimes fight a high-alcohol wine.  Minimize this by selecting one with enough ripe fruit to balance the alcohol and to serve as a salve for heat-tenerized taste buds!

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Pissaladière Niçoise (Onion tart with anchovy & olive)

File:Pissaladiera.jpg
Image from Wikipedia - click for entry

To those following my recipes (thanks Mom!), I apologize for including onion tart recipes two months in a row. But as I flipped through our old copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” this particular version evoked a visceral reaction (i.e., hunger) and a memory (i.e., fond) of a 1996 bicycle tour through Provence.

Perhaps it was the beautiful scenery, or maybe the number of calories we burned every day, but by lunch time I was game to try anything I could recognize on the menu.  In what may be a male extension of never asking for directions, I equally refused to break out the translation book to interpret French Menus – I figured an occasional culinary surprise might make the trip more memorable.  I mean, what could possibly be so bad?

Except for ancovies, which I hated.  Until this little tart came along, gave me a seductive wink, and took me for a ride I’ll never forget.  If prepared properly, the anchovy adds a barely discernable enhancement you can’t quite identify as “fishy”.

A very wine-friendly dish, as long as the wine is not too tannic – the saltiness from the olives and ancovies only serves to enhance the roughness.  Otherwise, pair this with most any medium-to-full bodied white or light-to-medium bodied red.  Avoid dry rosé wines at all cost, unless you feel you deserve a heavenly experience!

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Lbs chopped onion
  • 1 Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, and 1/2 bay leaf, tied in washed cheesecloth)
  • 2 Cloves unpeeled garlic
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pâte Brisée Tart Crust, partially cooked (recipe follows, below)
  • 16 Stoned (pitted) black olives – the dry Mediterranean type
  • 1 Pinch of ground cloves
  • 8 Anchovy fillets, whole

Preparation
Cook the onions very slowly in the olive oil with the herb bouquet, garlic and salt for about an hour.  Discard the bouquet and garlic.  Stir in ground cloves and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the onions in the pastry shell. Arrange anchovies over the onions in a sun-burst shape.  Distribute the olives evenly across the tart and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Bake in top third of oven for 10-15 minutes or until bubbling hot.

Pâte Brisée (Short Crust Pastry)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
  • Scant ½ tsp Salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 6 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Chilled Crisco, Lard or other
  • 6 Tbsp ice water

(Ratio for a “short” crust = 2 parts Flour to 1 part Fat)

Julia’s recipe was written 25 years before the food processor, but I think she’d have found it a useful addition to her kitchen.  So I recommend its use to simplify the making of your pie crust and assure fool-proof results!

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of your processor and pulse briefly to combine.  Add the cold butter while pulsing repeatedly just until it combines with the flour and resembles small gravel or clumps of oatmeal.  With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water just until the dough comes together in your bowl – stop as soon as it forms a ball.  Remove everything from the bowl, dust with flour, kneed twice or thrice and then form into a ball, flatten to about an inch thick, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.

Remove your crust and let it warm for just a few minutes.  Unwrap it and sprinkle four over a flat surface and begin rolling out your crust, working from the center to the edge, turning ¼ turn, roll, turn, roll, turn…and repeat until dough is sufficiently thin and well shaped (add flour to rolling surface as needed.)  Place crust in an 8” tart pan, and bake at 400 (F) for ~9 minutes.  Remove and cool completely before filling.

Wine Pairings
When I first tasted this dish, it was paired with a Rhone wine.  I have difficulty imagining a more perfect pairing, but this first wine is a bit pricey for many budgets, so I’ve also included a very food-friendly Merlot (and no, I don’t need to hear the old joke again) as an affordable alternative.  I’ve also suggested a blush wine, one of the sign post wines of Southern France, and perhaps the most versatile of the still wines when paired with food!

2006LaBrumaPeay Vineyards, 2006 Estate Syrah “La Bruma”, $47″
I’ve selected this subtle, cool-weather syrah to go with the pissaladiere recipe.  Its subtle aromas and flavors of pepper, lavendar and just-ripe blackberrry are intriguing on its own, but also provide a nice foil for a wide range of medium-to-heavy dishes.  From the talented hands of Winemaker Vanessa Wong, formerly of Peter Michael Winery, the Sonoma Coast appellation is undoubtedly proud of this iconic example of their vineyard’s capabilities.  (If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Andrew Lane, 2005 Merlot, St. Helena  $18
Like Miles Raymond in the movie “Sideways”, I am not a big fan of most Merlot.  They can be the dumb blondes of the wine world, wallowing around in the shallow end of the pool with the likes of sweet white Zinfandel.  Not this one.  A relative Rhodes Scholar.  An impressive wine in its own right, I’d dare say you’d peg its price tag well above its modest tarif if tasted in a blind tasting. (Sorry, no image available!  If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Rose bottle shotElkhorn Peak, 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir, $19

Though this wine was not included in our club shipment, that is not a reflection of a lack of quality.  In fact, it’s the only blush wine in my portfolio this year.  Which is saying something.  It’s just that, after four years of evangelizing blush wines, then being stuck with excess inventory after their purpoted popularity exceeded the reality, I finally realized that these wines were best relegated to the specialty shelf.  For those of us who enjoy these great, dry wines, you’ll not be saddened once the cork is separated from this bottle!

A saignee from Elkhorn Peak’s estate pinot production, this wine is relatively deep in color, despite just 8 hours of skin contact at relatively cool temperatures.  It’s flavor is true to type – red fruit notes of strawberry and cherry, with enough acidity to evoke a squeeze of lemon over the whole fruit pile.  See if you don’t also find a bit of sassafrass in there!

A Note On The Recipe
40Th Anniversary, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking

This recipe originally appeared in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” Volume One, P. 171 (picture on right).  Published in 1961 by Knopf and 1966 by Penguin Books.  It’s available through ecookbooks.com for $24 (as of tonight, anyway) at http://tinyurl.com/qedfru

Dave with WineCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
866-746-7293

Quote of the Day
The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook
~ Julia Child, American Gourmet Food Pioneer, Author and TV Personality (8/15/12 – 8/13/04)

Tapas Recipe – Pinot Noir with Tarta de Cebolla (Onion Tart)

2007 Tous Ensemble labelIn June, 2009, this recipe was paired with the Copain, 2007 Pinot Noir “Tous Ensemble” ($36), which was sent to members of our Miles’ Pinot Selections sampling program.  Click here to find alternative recommendations.

This recipe is easily adapted to create a single large tart which can be cut into individual, pie-shaped servings.  But in keeping with our Tapas theme, this recipe calls for a number of individual-sized tarts, making this much easier to serve as an appetizer without utensils.  This is a much welcomed small plate to serve when people are meeting at your house for a glass of wine before heading out on the town!

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen puff pastry
  • 1/4 Pound thick-cut bacon (preferably nitrate-free), cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 6 Large onions, very thinly sliced
  • White pepper, to taste
  • Egg, beaten slightly

Procedure

Lay out the pastry dough, repairing any tears by pinching.  If your kitchen is equipped with individual-sized tart tins, by all means enlist them here!  If not, cut the dough into about a dozen 5” rounds.  Either way, refrigerate the dough until ready to use.

Heat a large pan over low heat, then add the chopped bacon.  Cook for ten minutes, then melt the butter and add the onions, cooking on low for 45 – 60 minutes, stirring frequently.  When done, the onions will be golden and beautifully caramelized.   Spread onto a cookie sheet and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Assemble the tarts by placing the cooled onion/bacon mixture in the center of each circle, leaving an uncovered perimeter of a scant inch or so.  Using a sharp knife, score the dough almost all the way through, making a complete circle around the onion mixture – this allows the puff pastry to rise up around the tart’s contents.

Brush the egg wash onto the uncovered perimeter.  Place on middle rack of pre-heated oven and bake for ~20-25 minutes or until edges are a dark golden brown.  Serve hot.

A French Variation
Though the French are not known for their Tapas tradition, they do have some pretty good culinary chops.  I fondly recall a French onion tart that brought warmth and a smile to our group of cyclists on a cold drizzly day.  But it incorporated toasted walnuts and blue cheese for added complexity.  Just be sure to substitute 2 Tbsp of Blue Cheese for 2 Tbsp of the butter, stirring it in with the walnuts in the final few minutes of cooking your onions.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

Today’s Quote
It would be nice if the Food and Drug Administration stopped issuing warnings about toxic substances and just gave me the names of one or two things still safe to eat.

~ Robert Fuoss, food author & wheat farmer.