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!

Roast Chicken with Orange-Honey Glaze

I’m a huge fan of honey.  And this recipe was posted by some online wine friends currently on an extended tour of Australia.  Not only am I thoroughly jealous of their travels, but they also had the chance to don bee suits and inspect the world’s last genetically pure strain of bees. Pair this dish with some nice vegetables sautéed with sliced garlic and it makes an easy mid-week meal.

A Chardonnay works well with this dish, particularly if the oak is moderate and the acidity is good,  because it bridges across to the orange-and-honey glaze, the salt of the chicken and the vegetables, and, well, everything.  If your palate leans towards wines with a bit of sweetness, try a dry muscat or Riesling.  I think Viognier would work quite well, though look for one with alcohol below 14.5% if it’s to work well with this bright dish.

* Whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces
* Juice of one orange
* 2 Tbsp honey
* 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce


Pre-heat oven to 400℉.  Stir together the orange juice, honey and soy until the honey is dissolved.  Wash and thoroughly dry the chicken (some chefs recommend letting the skin dry out for a day in the refrigerator).

Baste both sides with the honey liquid. Place a rack inside a roasting pan, chicken on the rack (not touching, if possible and roast for ~50 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 185℉.

This next step is a royal pain in the patootie, but if you can baste the chicken pieces with the pan drippings every 5-10 minutes, you’ll be thrilled with the crispy skin that it creates.  Make sure the skin doesn’t burn – the sugars in the honey make it easy to do!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Simple Apple Crisp

apple-crisp-bigResearch tells us Americans are cooking at home less and less.  They say this is because planning and preparing a meal takes more time than we have in our busy schedules.  And I can believe it – what with two incomes required to cover expenses, time is already tight.   Throw in a bit of business travel, a late night or two at the office, a play date for your kids and maybe a soccer practice and… it’s no wonder we all rely so heavily on fast food and take-out.

If that sounds like a typical week in your household,  this simple dessert may just change your mind about cooking at home.  It’s easy to prepare as well as delicious.  Relatively healthy too, if you can resist the scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

And remember, one of my keys to good food and wine pairing is to be sure the sugar in the wine is at least equal to the sweetness in the dish, so forget about that Chardonnay that worked so well with your roast chicken at dinner time – this dish gets ecstatic when paired with a good white dessert wine.  Scroll to the end to see my recommended pairings.

2/3 Cup raw oatmeal
1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground allspice
1/3 Cup pecans, toasted until aromatic, cooled and chopped
Pinch salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into bits and kept cold
4 Medium baking apples (though not a traditional baking apple, I like the tart Granny Smith, as the Malic acid compliments my recommended wine)
Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a pie plate or small casserole dish.

In a food processor (note, this recipe can also be done by hand, combining the butter with yourfingertips until it is in even, pea-sized pieces), combine all the dry ingredients (up to and including the salt), pulsing until just combined.  Add the cold butter piece by piece, pulsing two or three times after each one until all the butter is added and the mixture resembles pea-sized pieces. Don’t over-process or your topping will be one big butter clump instead of moist and crumbly.

Peel, core, and coarsely chop the apples and place in the bottom of your buttered baking dish, then sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples.  Place your baking dish on top of a baking sheet (in case it bubble over) and cook until the fruit bubbles around the sides and the top is golden, ~30 minutes.

Remove the crisp from the oven and preheat your broiler until it’s screaming hot.  Raise your oven rack so the crisp will sit about 4 inches from the broiler, then cook until golden brown, about 30 seconds (note, if you happen to own one of those fancy kitchen blow torches, it works just fine and provides a lot more satisfaction for your flame-lovin’  inner caveman!)   Let cool about 15 minutes before serving.

Wine Pairings
Nothing tops off a great dessert (or a great evening) like a well-paired dessert wine.  And this dessert pairs well with a good late-harvest white wine or ice wine.  Check our dessert wine section for possibilities ranging from the affordable to the luxurious.  My current recommendations:

Affordable – the Trecini Cellars, 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc ($30/half bottle) – this relatively affordable dessert wine is made from grapes, 10% of which were affected with the sought-after “Noble Rot”, Botrytis Cinera.  At just 11.5% alcohol, this wine is sufficiently sweet to stand up to dessert, but has a delicious mouth-watering quality that prevents it from being cloying.

Nobility 72 px WideLuxurious R.A. Harrison Family, 06 “Noility”, Late Harvest Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc ($75/ half-bottle) This product comes from the talented hands of Roger Harrison, who spent 25 years perfecting his dessert wine skills at Beringer before starting his own family label.  This wine is so pricey simply because of how it was grown and produced.  For starters, the grapes were infected in the vineyard by the benevolent mold known as Botrytis Cinera, which concentrates the remaining juice in these late-harvest grapes.  The fruit is then picked BERRY BY BERRY, with the harvesters trained to select just the most perfectly formed grapes.  Further selection occurs in the cellar before fermentation begins.

Speaking of fermentation, it takes place in barrel, following the procedure established at the famed Chateau d’Yquem, perhaps the most famous of all botrytised dessert wines.  A scant few hundred cases available.

Dave the Wine Merchant