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  • New Years Eve – Champagne

    As the end of the year fast approaches, I think back to all the things that made the year. I suppose top of the list is the London run, and my education into champagne and vodka martini’s..

    To compliment the year end celebrations, a selection of champagne cocktails

    Wikipedia says :

    Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. It is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name.

    The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier. Through international treaty, national law or quality-control/consumer protection related local regulations, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have recognized the exclusive nature of this name, yet maintain a legal structure that allows certain domestic producers of sparkling wine to continue to use the term “champagne” under limited circumstances. The majority of US produced sparkling wines do not use the term “champagne” on their labels and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term as it can be confusing to consumers.

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  • New Years – Collard Greens for Luck

    The “good luck” traditions of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, where they are viewed as symbols of good luck, and the accepted custom is to eat the symbols. This custom is followed by Sephardi and Israeli Jews to this day. In the United States, Sephardi Jews moved to Georgia around 1730s where the practice was apparently adopted by the locals around the time of the Civil War.

    The traditional meal also features collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion. Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.

    As I am from the South, I tend to like Collard Greens, and I’ll take a run through on how to prepare them. A couple of notes though :

    • Select bunches with smaller, dark green leaves
    • Soak the greens in cold water for at least 15 minutes
    • Wash / swirl / shake the greens in the water
    • Rinse them completely
    • Do this at least three times
    • If you feel grit at the bottom of the sink, repeat the Wash / Rinse

    • Stem and chiffonade them and soak / rinse once more
    • Dry thoroughly, I use a salad spinner

    Background
    Collard greens are a staple vegetable of southern U.S. cuisine, often prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard greens in “mixed greens”. Typically seasoned when cooking with smoked or salted meats (ham hocks, bacon, ham or similar meats), diced onions, vinegar, salt, and pepper (black, white, or crushed red).

    Traditionally, collards are eaten on New Year’s Day, along with black-eyed peas or field peas and cornbread, to ensure wealth in the coming year. These lowly plants are symbolic of the “Green Backs” in the coming year..

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  • Calves Liver with Onion Gravy

    NOTE: A photo gallery is to come, just as soon as I process the photos

    I am still enjoying my winter break with Madam Bad Wolf, and we are planning our New Year’s Celebration, but before New Years we need dinner.

    As the high will be ~19 today, I was looking for a hearty cold weather meal. While in the local not so supermarket, I spied calves liver. The realization that it has probably been a year since I have had liver struck me, and this was an immediate purchase.

    Liver with bacon and mashed potatoes, covered with mounds of sauteed sweet onions and drenched with a glorious red onion gravy is a meal from both Madam’s and my own youth. Hot, simple, hearty, comfort food.

    Wikipedia says:

    Liver and onions is a traditional dish. Its main ingredients are slices of liver (usually pork or beef) and onions. The liver and the onions are usually fried or cooked together, but sometimes they may be fried separated and mixed together afterwards. The liver is often cut in fine slices, but it also may be diced. Liver and onions is a favorite in the UK and in Germany, where it is usually eaten along with boiled or mashed potatoes. Lamb’s liver is the usual choice in the UK and is often accompanied by fried bacon.

    In the French traditional recipe the liver is fried with butter and lard. In Catalan cuisine olive oil is used, instead of butter, and fried garlic is added to the mixture. In Italian cuisine, the fegato alla Veneziana recipe includes a dash of red wine or vinegar and the fegato alla Romana a dash of white wine and is cooked in lard.

    In the USA, liver and onions as a dish once enjoyed widespread popularity and could usually be found at family diners and American home-style restaurants. This meal is currently more common to the cuisines of the southern and upper mid-western style foods.

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  • Flatbreads – A whimsey

    notop

    Madam Badwolf has left me to my own devices while she ventures into town. I have a taste for fresh bread, but not just the average run of the mill white bread, more like a naan, or perhaps a lavish bread.

    Seasoned with all sorts of seeds, with minced garlic and onion folded in, perhaps smeared with a cheese or a cucumber, onion and garlic spread.. Crisp on the crust, chewy on the inside, savory, warm and cool..

    It does look like I am making flatbreads today…

    Background
    A flatbread is a simple bread made with flour, water, and salt and then thoroughly rolled into flattened dough. Many flatbreads are unleavened—made without yeast or sourdough culture, although some flatbread is made with yeast, such as flatbread made with whole wheat flour.

    There are many other optional ingredients that flatbreads may contain, such as curry powder, diced jalapeños, chili powder or black pepper. Olive oil or sesame oil may be added as well.

    Flatbreads can range from one millimeter to a few centimeters thick. Flatbread was already known in Ancient Egypt and Sumer.

    One supposes the thinner the crisper, and the crisper the better…. (Oh, how I am sure this is a BAD piece of logic…)

    I’ll also play some evil rougechef games with flavorful liquids, (Beer), and some toppings..

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  • Sausage Stuffing Puff Pastry Rolls

    As leftovers from the holiday dinner, I have a good bit of puff pastry sheets. We’ll be exploring how to use these to make more elaborate dishes, in a smaller time frame. For now a revamp of a favorite.

    A hand meal, stuffed with sausage, dressing, and possibly cheese or fruit, and rolled into a puff pastry sheet. These can be sized to individual servings or to a main course item, to be sliced and served with either a spicy mustard or slathered with red onion gravy.

    Really this is the source recipe for “pigs in a blanket”, and “cocktail wieners”.

    A Sausage Roll is a type of savory convenience food commonly served at parties and available from bakeries and milk bars as a take-away food item. Originating from the United Kingdom, it is also very popular in the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

    The basic composition of a sausage roll is generally a sheet or sheets of puff pastry sliced into two, wrapped into tubes around sausage meat and brushed with egg or milk before being baked. They can be served either hot or cold.

    Some variations on the basic recipe include chopped vegetables, such as carrots, onions, or courgettes; other seasonings such as herbs and spices; and the use of split sausages.

    Sausage rolls may be served and sold in various lengths from 1 or 2 inch so called “party” or “cocktail” sausage rolls, up to 6 or 7 inch “jumbo” sausage rolls. In the UK, Republic of Ireland, Australia and the Netherlands, they can be sold as large as 12 inches long.

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  • Meatless Monday – Vegetable Biryani

    Given the two major issues with Cholent, (1. It is VERY RICH AND HEAVY, 2. If well made it is irresistible), it is time for something a bit lighter. It is also cold enough I am NOT doing a cold salad.

    Looking at the spice rack, I see cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom, some chili powder, sounds like a Garam Masala, and from that I am thinking Indian.. A Biryani is my favorite Indian food. This is a simple vegetable biryani, one can add all sorts of things, lamb, beef, etc, but for a basic fill your stomach meal, this is the one. Not a real light meal, but lighter than the three bowls of Cholent I consumed yesterday…

    Background

    Biryani is a set of rice-based foods made with spices, rice (usually basmati) and [[meat](chicken)]/vegetables. The name is derived from the Persian word beryā(n) which means “fried” or “roasted”.

    Biryani was brought to India and Pakistan by Persian travelers and merchants and local variants of this dish are not only popular in India and Pakistan but also in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and among Muslims in Sri Lanka.

    The spices and condiments used in biryani may include but are not limited to: ghee, peas, beans, cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander and mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic. The premium varieties include saffron. For a non-vegetarian biryani, the main ingredient that accompanies the spices is the meat—beef, chicken, goat, lamb, or shrimp. The dish may be served with dahi chutney or Raita, korma, curry, a sour dish of eggplant (brinjal) or a boiled egg.

    The difference between biryani and pullao is that while pullao may be made by cooking the items together, biryani is used to denote a dish where the rice is cooked separately from the other ingredients.

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