Thursday, April 17, 2014

Winefest Renaissance and Fine Fishing Friends

I have been absent from blogging for almost a solid week. I kept meaning to come up to my office and write a blog, but it was one crazy-busy time. Today I have free time; a real rarity lately.

For the last month I had been prepping for the Winefest Renaissance event to benefit the Boys and Girls' Club of Aberdeen. My part in the event was to create 6 different foods to pair properly with 6 wines I chose to showcase for the event. I believe I have already written about all the appetizers I created, except possibly the Chicken and Artichoke Spread with Pine Nuts. 

Chicken Artichoke Cheese Spread with Pine Nuts
Chicken Artichoke Cheese Spread with Pine Nuts
This last is an old recipe I altered very slightly to better pair with the Sancerre wine. To make things a bit easier on myself, I used a rotisserie chicken from the deli and just removed all the meat from the bones and chopped it for the spread. Instead of using a mold to form the spread, I rolled it into logs and rolled the logs in a mix of finely minced fresh parsley and fennel fronds. It went wonderfully with the wine, as did everything else, for which I am grateful. There would be nothing worse than to try and demonstrate how good a wine can taste with the proper food and the pairing not work!

Chicken Artichoke Spread with Pine Nuts

makes one mold, or 2 long, thin logs

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, finely minced
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 (6 or 7 ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, minced
1/2 cup pine nuts, or other nuts of choice
3 scallions, white & light green parts only, minced
1 teaspoons capers, minced
3 olives, minced
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Place the cream cheese, chicken, Parmesan and artichoke hearts into the food processor. Alternatively, all this can be mixed by hand or stand mixer, if the cheese is soft enough at room temp. Process until well mixed, then add in the rest of the ingredients and process just to combine. 

To make in a mold: line with plastic wrap a container large enough to hold the spread. Press the mixture in evenly and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until needed. This can be done up to 3 or 4 days in advance. To serve, uncover the mold and set a plate over the top. Holding the mold on the plate firmly, flip over the mold and plate and remove the outer plastic wrap.

To make into a log: Form into two or more logs as needed. If serving on crackers, the logs should not be much larger in diameter than the crackers. Once the logs are formed, chop herbs of choice (such as parsley, fennel or cilantro) very finely. Coat the logs in the herb mixture. Keep chilled until needed; up to 3 or 4 days. Do not freeze.

On the evening prior to the Winefest Renaissance Event, our great friend Rich arrived with three fishing buddies; Tom, Dick.... and Allan. I had prepared a lasagna the week before so I would not have to try and concoct a dinner in the midst of making all these little appetizer foods for the event. The lasagna was tasty, but I definitely need to give that recipe another try. Too dry, not enough sauce. Oh well. We had a meal, and I had fresh garlic bread and wine - no one went hungry. I even made my Best Apple Crisp, Ever at the last minute using frozen apples I had prepared and frozen last Fall. The guys went out fishing the day of the event, returning home to shower and change around 3 PM. No fish, alas. 

Best Apple Crisp, Ever

Best Apple Crisp Ever
Best Apple Crisp Ever

Makes one 9 x 13 pan

8 cups apples, thinly sliced
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste
4 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

2 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
10 tablespoons butter, melted
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste

Mix first 5 ingredients and arrange in an ungreased, 9 x 13-inch shallow baking dish. Mix first 4 topping ingredients in a separate bowl. Add eggs and toss with a fork until crumbly, like for streusel. Sprinkle the topping onto apple mixture in dish. Drizzle with the melted butter and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake in 350 degree oven about 45 minutes, or until browned and bubbling and apples are cooked through.

NOTES: This recipe can easily be cut in half.

Sunday, once the whole affair was done with, I had a lot of leftovers, so I set out everything that was left and between the 4 guests, my husband and myself, we did a really good job of polishing off the rest. That day was a blur.

Basic Potato Roll Dough, made into Buns
Monday I made a Chicken Curry for dinner. I also decided to make some Naan Bread to pair with the Chicken Curry and the Peas in Tomato Sauce. I had made Mango Chutney last Fall sometime, so that was also part of the meal. The guys came home from their fishing day with 5 Northern Pike. I understand that these particular fish are difficult to filet as there is something about the way the bones run that requires a bit of special skill. One of the group, Tom, was the only one that had done this in past, so he worked gamely to get all the fish fileted and frozen. Dick used one smaller fish to make Ceviche, which turned out fantastically good.

On Tuesday the fishing crew decided they might stay out late. They said not to try and hold supper. So I made pulled pork (recipe to come at a later date)

Baby Greens, Mandarin Oranges and Candied Almonds
Baby Greens, Mandarin Oranges and Candied Almonds

and potato salad (see my blog of March 11 for the Potato Salad recipe). As I had no buns, I made some, using my Basic Potato Roll Dough recipe. I had bought some ring molds the last time I shopped at Inspire here in town. Inspire is a fantastic store featuring gourmet kitchen utensils and home decor, as well as serving gourmet coffees and chocolates. My plan with these ring molds was to try making buns and maybe at some point English Muffins. Haven't gotten to the English Muffin part yet, but the ring molds worked splendidly for the buns (see photo above). It ended up that the guys got back right at supper time, so we all sat down to eat. 

Perfect Medium Rare Filet Mignon
Perfect Medium Rare Filet Mignon
Yesterday was my birthday. The guys said I had been so hospitable and welcoming, as well as serving them all sorts of wonderful foods, that they were going to cook me a meal for my birthday. The day started out with Dick already in the kitchen making coffee when I surfaced. He also made a batch of scrambled eggs with bacon for the three of us who were awake for breakfast at that point. I was thoroughly questioned about my likes and dislikes for a fine meal. They wouldn't allow me to do anything at all to contribute, though I stayed in the kitchen most of the day just to be able to point them in the right direction to find ingredients or utensils. Merriment abounded all the day long as they shopped and then prepped the foods. All of them contributed some skill set to the day, at differing time slots. While Dick prepped potatoes and onions to be made on the grill, Allan and Tom worked on making the swinging door between the kitchen and dining room work again. Later they worked on some of my dining room chairs that are coming apart, and took a look at my kitchen table that won't come together! Rich was in charge of getting the potatoes and onions on the grill in sufficient time for the filet mignons to get done at the right time. Dick made a huge salad with mandarin oranges and also candied some almonds to use for the salad. He made a salad dressing I will try to approximate at some time, using vinegar, olive oil and frozen orange juice concentrate. Allan used to own and run restaurants, so he was chosen to grill the filet mignons. Dick also sauteed mushrooms in butter to serve with the steaks. I had requested coleslaw, because I just love it, so that was also served. They even went and got me a little bakery cake and candles.
Blowing out my candles

The meal was to-die-for good. I cannot imagine going out anywhere for a finer meal. My husband is a wonderful man, though no gourmet cook. He will take me out for my birthday and we have enjoyed some truly fine meals together over our 25 years together. I appreciate fully being taken out to dine; I thoroughly enjoy being served, since usually it is I who serve meals. Having this wonderful meal come out of my own kitchen without my help was truly out of the normal realm of things in my little universe. I sat and sipped tea while watching everyone cook and repair things. If any of you guys read this blog, my heartfelt thanks to Rich, Dick, Allan and Tom for a most enjoyable birthday from beginning to end. 

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.