Monday, February 24, 2014

A Small Sampling of Wines with Foods

The "Winefest Renaissance" benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen, will be held on April 12th this year. My husband has been busily recruiting people who will promote my part in the event, which, similarly to last year will be a selection of 6 different wines, and foods prepared specifically to pair with each wine. This is a wonderful way to show the differences in what a wine tastes like on its own, as opposed to tasting with a food, and most pertinently if the food is made with only food items that pair well with that varietal or style. We also provide rating sheets to help people examine what exactly they like or dislike about any given wine, and why. These rating sheets are ones I have created, and are each person's to keep. Last year too many people seemed to be under the impression that we were "grading" them on how they rated. This was not the intent at all, but for each person to discover more about what they like or dislike in a wine, and why. There is no right or wrong to this process; only knowledge gained.

Chicken, Pear & Onion Tarts with Chevre Cream
Green Pea, Feta & Mint Spread
In preparation, some of the people my husband has recruited are unfamiliar with rating wines. They will need to know what this is all about in order to drive people to my tables. Thus, as we did last year, we held a little mini wine tasting last Friday evening for a couple of young women, to teach them what is involved in rating a wine and learning what one can discover through this process. Then, I wanted to demonstrate the differences between tasting a wine on its own merits, and then tasting a wine paired appropriately with a food. I chose one white wine and one red, and made a couple of foods to taste with each. I chose a 2012 Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc with floral, pear and citrus flavors, and paired this wine with my Green Pea, Feta & Mint Spread on artisanal bread, and Chicken Pear and Onion Tartlets with Chevre Cream, a new creation of mine. The red wine was a 2003 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape. The Chateauneuf was served with Glazed Pecans with Garrigue Seasoning and Garrigue Seasoned Flank Steak with Cheddar and Arugula. I will touch on the red wine and its food pairings in my next blog. Today I will focus on the Chicken, Pear and Onion Tartlets recipe.

Steps 1 & 2; cream cheese, butter, salt, 1/2 the flour and nuts
Steps 3 & 4: second half of flour processed in
To date, I am able to pair wines with appropriate foods quite easily. With my Wine and Food Pairing Sheets, which I talked about in my blog of February 17th, I just run down the column under the particular wine style and select a few of the listed foods to create a recipe. I did this with the Chenin Blanc column, selecting chicken, pear, red bell pepper, macadamia nuts, cream cheese and Chevre cheese. First I wanted to make the tart shells with cream cheese and butter, and added ground macadamia nuts. As a matter of fact, though this was my plan, when I actually made the pastry I completely forgot about the nuts! I had already ground them and set them aside, but when it came time to add them to the food processor, I just forgot. No worries though; when I rolled out the pastry dough, I put the ground nuts onto the mostly rolled pastry, pressed them in, then finished rolling the pastry to the desired thickness. Voila! When I rolled the pastry, I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter and made little pastry rounds to fit into the mini tart pans. I wanted a bit of a lip to the pastry, so it would not slide down into the pans while blind baking, and I used a second, identical but empty tart pan to set on top. This kept the tart shells in place. If you do not have that many tart pans, you may have to work a bit harder to make the little shells stay put while baking, but it can be done.

Macadamia Cream Cheese Tart Pastry 

Makes about 35 mini tart shells or 1 9-inch tart crust


Steps 5 & 6: adding liquids & forming dough

1 stick unsalted butter, cold in small cubes
1½ cups all-purpose flour, divided in 2 parts
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup macadamia nuts, pre-ground
½ of an 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons vodka
1 teaspoon vinegar

Into the bowl of a food processor, place half of the flour, the macadamia nuts, salt, butter and cream cheese. Pulse repeatedly until the mixture makes wet, large crumbs (Steps 1 & 2). Add in the rest of the flour and pulse to finer crumbs (Steps 3 & 4). In a small measure, combine the water, vodka and vinegar. Add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. Remove the dough from the processor, bring together to form a ball, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap or place in a zip-top bag (Steps5 & 6). Chill the dough thoroughly, at least 3 hours before using. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.

Steps 7 & 8: rolling, cutting, fitting in tart pans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 on Convection). If making mini tarts, have tart pans handy. If the dough has been frozen, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or set on the counter to thaw until workable. Flour the surface and Roll out the dough to
1/8-inch thickness, or less. Cut into 3-inch diameter rounds and fit the dough rounds into the mini tart tins, allowing a bit of a lip to overhang. Prick all over with a fork (Steps 7 & 8).

If you have extra identical size/shape tart tins, before baking carefully set one empty tart tin on top of the first. This will help in keeping the dough from slithering down into the well while baking. Bake the shells for 12 minutes. Remove the top tin and bake for another 3 – 5 minutes longer, or until golden. These can be kept in a tightly sealed container for 2 days ahead.

The filling was a combination of the other ingredients I chose, with some seasonings:


Chicken, Pear & Onion Filling

Steps 9 & 10: baked shells and chicken filling

Makes about 35 mini tarts 

1 pre-cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped finely, (or rotisserie chicken)
1/3 cup orange juice
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and sliced 5/8-inch across
½ teaspoon salt
1 firm pear, cored and cut into tiny pieces
½ red bell pepper, chopped finely


2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stems
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
A few grinds of white pepper
½ teaspoon anchovy paste
1 (6-ounce) Chevre cheese, softened
Pinch salt
Zest of 1 lime
4 – 6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 recipe Macadamia Cream Cheese Tart Shells, baked

Finished Tarts
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil, swirl the pan, then add in the onions. Sprinkle on the ½ teaspoon salt. Cook the onions very slowly over low to medium-low heat for at least 45 to 55 minutes, stirring very often until caramelized and browned, not burnt. Add in the pear, red bell pepper, chicken, thyme, lemon zest and juice, pepper and anchovy paste. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes (Steps 9 & 10). This mixture can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated until needed.

The anchovy paste makes the flavors more complex, but is not enough to taste. If not using anchovy paste, more salt may be needed. Taste the mixture and adjust accordingly.

Open Star Tip 1M or 2110
In a small bowl, combine the Chevre, lime zest and 3 tablespoons of the cream. Mix with a hand mixer until smooth. This should be firm enough to stay in place, but loose enough to go through a piping bag. Add more cream as needed. Refrigerate until needed.


When ready to serve, pack the chicken & pear mixture tightly into the prepared tart shells. Top with the Chevre Cream, either using a piping bag with an open star tip (I used 1M), or using 2 spoons to place a dollop of the cream on top of each tart.




My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.  

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