Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sometimes it Works, Sometimes it Doesn't

I have been busy experimenting with recipes for the upcoming April 12th Wine Tasting Event for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen. I have 6 wines I will be pairing with appetizers created especially for that particular wine. Learning to rate a wine will be a part of this process of finding out what one likes about a wine, or dislikes. Finding if the wine is great all on its own, or better/worse with a food. 

I go about the pairing of food to a wine by using a list of appropriate foods that are best with a particular varietal or style of wine and selecting items that would pair well to create an appetizer. I wrote a few days back about the empanadas I created. Aside from the mess I made of the edges before getting the crimping and folding right, the flavors were excellent. While I have not tasted the wine that these will pair with, I have tasted this brand of wine in the past and I believe the flavors will be excellent. 

Normally, I create a recipe and the execution is relatively flawless. Last evening I was making an idea of an appetizer to pair with some very high end Italian wines, and the flavors were just perfect. The way it was put together, however, was most definitely not. The Porcini & Coffee Rub made the flank steak just scrumptious. The Garlic Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes were delicious. But... I used Yukon Gold potatoes and they just came out too soft to work with. I am going to experiment tonight with Russets and see if they work better. Nothing wrong with the flavors though! If you are having a nice strong red wine, such as a Cabernet or a strong Italian wine, these potatoes are the ticket!

Roasted Garlic & Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes


serves 3 - 4, for a meal

3 - 6 cloves roasted garlic
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced, cooked in salted water
4 ounces Gorgonzola or Blue Crumbles (1 cup)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the potatoes through a ricer or whip with a mixer, adding the rest of the ingredients to blend well.


Beautiful presentation, but impractical
My original idea was to see if I could roll the slices of flank steak into a cone shape, pinning the edges with a cocktail toothpick, and then piping the mashed potatoes into the cone. That idea was a complete, total no-go. There was no way to secure the cone so it wouldn't fall open. Instead, I tried rolling the meat slice into a tube and piping the mashed potatoes into the tube, but the mashed potatoes, while delicious, were far too soft. Strike two. I had some fancy cocktail bread in the freezer so I got that out and sliced it very thinly. The bread was about 3-inches in diameter. I brushed the bread with olive oil and toasted both sides under the broiler for a minute to crisp. I cut a piece of the thinly sliced flank steak about 3 x 3-inches, set it on the bread, then topped with a piped rosette of mashed potatoes. This was a beautiful presentation, so I went with that. I invited my sister-in-law, Sherri over and along with my husband, we all ate these appetizers for dinner, discussing flavors, presentation and practicality. 

We all agreed the flavors were perfect. The presentation was lovely. However, the actual eating was a really big problem. Flank steak is a nice cut of meat, if you slice against the grain. Once a piece is as large as the 3 x 3-inch square I set on the toasted bread, there is far too much of the long grain of the meat. It was hard to take a bite. The whole piece of meat wanted to drag along, and with the mashed potatoes so very soft, they tended to want to slide off and make a mess. Not good when one is walking around with a glass of wine in one hand at a party or event.

So, we spent quite a while discussing how to remedy this problem. For one, the slice of
New idea: Flank roll atop potatoes
toast was too big. Setting any meat on a toast that size means 2 to 4 bites - large for my purpose. I will make small diameter baguettes to fit my need. (In fact I made a starter batter already to that end.) I will make the baguettes, hopefully, about 1 1/2-inch in diameter, making a tiny bite when sliced. Instead of a flat slice of flank steak, I am planning to use sirloin, cut into cubes. I will pipe the rosette of potatoes onto the bread, and set the cube of meat on top of the potatoes. Hopefully this will make small enough bites to make them easier to eat. 


If you can find dried porcini mushrooms, I would truly recommend making the Porcini & Coffee Rub for Beef (Flank Steak, thick sliced Strip Steak, to coat a Rib Eye Roast, etc). The flavors were stupendous, though I could not truly taste the coffee. I may try this using espresso powder when making again.

Porcini & Coffee Rub for Beef 


Makes enough for 2 flank steaks

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 - 2 Starbuck's "VIA" instant coffee, French Roast or Bold
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 tablespoon alder-smoked sea salt, or other salt of choice

1 tablespoon black peppercorns 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (more if desired)

Grind the mushrooms in a coffee grinder used only for spices. Remove to a clean jar. Place the alder smoked salt (usually in larger crystals), the peppercorns and the onion flakes in the spice grinder until fine. Add these to the porcini powder along with the coffee powder, sugar, garlic powder and ancho powder. Cover the jar and shake to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Sprinkle onto each side of the steak and press in well. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight before proceeding with your recipe.

For flank steak, I set a rack under the broiler so the meat will be about 4-inches from the element and broil for 6 minutes per side. Tent with foil for 15 minutes before slicing thinly, at a strong diagonal, across the grain of the meat.


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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