Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gutsy Cooks Club: Cassoulet alas Monday Night

The only way this week's Gutsy Cooks Club recipe for Cassoulet from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible was going to get made by us was for some serious adaptations to recipe to be made. With only 5 days until heading out to Cabo for Spring Break it's the type of week where we cook what's on hand or we don't cook. So I'll call this Monday Night Cassoulet.

The most classic component of any version of a French cassoulet is the white beans and we had those on hand.

Here's our version of Monday Night Cassoulet:

2 cans white butter beans drained (replacing dried navy beans)
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 lbs. Bulk Italian sausage (replacing pork sausage & pancetta)
1 chopped white onion
1 cup chopped carrot
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 bone in chicken thighs (replacing duck legs)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes (replacing tomato paste & water)
1 large can Italian canned, pureed tomatoes
1 cup red wine (replacing white wine)
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried parsley

After gathering ingredients we cooked the Italian sausage in our favorite splurge buy dutch oven on the stove top and then removed the sausage draining it on paper towels.

We then browned the chicken in the sausage drippings for extra flavor.

We pulled the chicken to sauté the carrots, garlic & onion.

 Next after seasoning with salt & pepper we added wine to deglaze the yummy bits from the bottom. We added thyme & bay leaf with the canned tomatoes.

We then added back the sausage & chicken thighs back to the dutch oven and then moved it to a 320 degree oven for 35 minutes.

While the cassoulet was in the oven We mixed the Panko,grated Parmesan & parsley before adding to a skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until browned.

We removed from the oven and topped with with the bread crumbs.

We enjoyed our cassoulet with our ever present mid week wine, Columbia Crest '08 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, one of our truly tried & true reliable go to favorites. We honestly have never been disappointed in this wine for the price.

We both really enjoyed our version of the cassoulet and given the chaoticness of the week this was a good thing because we ended up eating it most of the week.

We also toasted that this would likely be one of our last comfort meals of the season. The days are finally getting longer thank goodness which means gardening and lighter meals are beckoning us. (which is so needed for our current fitness levels.)

One day we do want to make the more classic version using pancetta & duck but that probably won't happen until next fall or winter so it will have to be something to be looked forward to.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gutsy Cooks Club #25 part 2 on The Mountain

Today is the official first day of spring and we've just returned from a weekend spent in blizzard like conditions on the mountain. Days left for skiing are limited now and the weather forecast was calling for the perfect conditions so we were happy to accept the invitation to stay up at Crystal mountain with G's teaching buddy at his cabin for the weekend at the last minute. I had planned to make the remaining 2 of 3 recipes of the Gutsy Cooks Club Menu this week on Friday night so plan 2 kicked into action. We decided we'd make dinner for our generous friend Frost when we arrived. So accomplished the Thai Noodle Stir-Fry part of the menu but decided deep frying shrimp toast at someone elses cabin that we had never been to before might be a bit much so we decided to skip the shrimp toasts part of the menu.

We both hustled directly home after work Friday. G started prepping the veggies for the Thai noodle dish while he waited for me to get home. We weren't exactly sure what to expect as far as kitchen equipment so our goal was to make it as easy to put together when we arrived as we possibly could. We also decided that since we were skipping the shrimp toast recipe that we'd use the shrimp instead for the Thai Noodle Stir-Fry in place of the chicken.

We finally hit the road shortly after 6 p.m. with a few last minute stops along the way. The drive to Crystal Mountain is approximately 2.5 hours usually. But we never expected to hit a blizzard just outside of the Greenwater. From Greenwater to the hill it was absolutely dumping snow. Snowflakes that felt like they were the size of snowballs.
Driving in the blizzard!
We finally arrived to Frost's cabin on the mountain about 8:00. And we had hike back to it with all of our stuff on our backs but it was well worth it.

We arrived and immediately started making our first course. G had been craving a favorite summer dish that we make and he was determined he wanted to make for Frost. Mango & Avocado with Crab and a Sweet Chile Vinaigrette. It didn't match the setting or weather but oh well. Before we left home I made the vinaigrette; 3/4 Mae Ploy's Sweet Chile Sauce to 1/4 Rice Vinegar and a dash of salt. Up at the cabin we sliced the mangoes and avocados. Put them on a bed of greens and topped with fresh lump dungeness crab and dressed with the vinaigrette. It is a wonderful starter.

We enjoyed our starter with a reoccurring white lately Oregon Savoureux Pinot Gris.

We then chopped our onion & red pepper the only 2 veggies we didn't pre-prep.

I sauteed the shrimp and set them aside and then stir fried the veggies and added the sauce and shrimp back to the pan.

We opened our second bottle of white wine to go with our dinner, a Townsend Bay Pinot Gris that was quite sweet it complimented the spicy stir fry well.

We enjoyed our dinner for three anticipating a great day of skiing on Saturday.

We ended our eventing telling stories, drinking more wine, eating dark chocolate laced with bacon, telling more stories and drinking more wine.
 This wine G was determined would be fabulous Coda made by Cadence winery. It's made with his favorite Tapteil grapes from red mountain. But sadly G was the only who actually thought it would be as good as he expected. Frost & I were both underwhelmed with it. I eventually had to convince the guys it was time to go to bed I think they would of kept telling stories all night. But I also knew they'd want to hit the mountain pretty early and I needed to sleep for that to happen.

We woke up to this:
 9 inches of new and blue sky, a rarity in March for Washington state. It was a fantastic day. I've become very much a fair weather skier at my old age of 43 and this was the type of day that makes me want to ski.

We had a great time. We met another couple of friends up there as well and skied the day together enjoying powder and blue skies.
Mt. Rainier

It was so fantastic we dogged out of our supper club commitment to stay one more night and get another day in.
We had dinner in the lodge and watched the snow continue just teasing us with a great day to be had on Sunday too.

Sadly we woke up to supposed winds in the 80mph range and most of the mountain on wind hold.
My gear stayed right where you see it in the picture on Sunday morning. High winds do not match my fair weather skiing attitude. G & Frost went up for a few runs though and came back before noon.
It was great weekend with some good food and wine and great snow, on Saturday at least.

 It made me love skiing again,which makes G very happy. We will make the shrimp toast recipe though because I'm very interested to give it a try just couldn't pull it off this week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gutsy Cooks Club #25 Sweet & Sour Chicken

This week's Gutsy Cooks Club Asian inspired menu was one I'd been looking forward to making. We love to eat & make a wide variety of Asian dishes. One thing we have never made is Sweet & Sour Chicken. I had been thinking that I really wanted to make this recipe minus the batter and deep frying of the chicken to be slightly more on the healthy side but in the end I went with the recipe.

We decided to round out the meal with some Chinese BBQ fresh from Costco & some homemade spring rolls made by one of my parents who made to sell as a fundraiser for our school. We decided to bake them as opposed to frying them.

G ran to the store to pick up some canned pineapple, scallions and a red bell pepper the only ingredients we were lacking to make the chicken. I gathered the long list of items needed and got started.

First I started by making the beer batter for the chicken following Monica's suggestion to sub baking soda for the baking powder.

I then put together the sweet & sour sauce.

I heated the vegetable oil to 350 degrees using my candy thermometer. We then dipped and fried our chicken pieces after the batter sat for 30 minutes.

I was pretty excited when the chicken came out looking pretty yummy looking.

Next, I sauteed the pineapple, scallions and red pepper. Added the sauce and then the chicken.

We used a dark mushroom soy sauce that we bought at one of our local Asian markets that is very yummy but also made the sauce a little darker than I wanted.

We have our Chinese inspired meal with a bottle of  Oregon O'Reilly's pinot gris that G picked up on his trip to pick up the last few ingredients. O'Reilly's is made by another one of favorite Oregon wineries Owen Roe.

The chicken was good, the sauce was tasty but I forgot to put on the blanched almonds at the end I even had them measured out ready to go just got distracted I suppose.
Next time I'm going to go with my gut and skip the deep fried step and I predict it will be pretty good that way too!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rick Bayless' Creamy Chicken & Greens with Roasted Poblano and Carmelized Onion

My honey is back home in the Northwest where he belongs and what better way to really welcome him back than to make a meal inspired by his fav Chef Rick Bayless. Ever since we got his cookbook Fiesta At Rick's this particular recipe has had my eye.

Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion. ( Again this recipe is linked and easily found on Rick's website....I've been so surprised how many of his recipes from the book are freely available on his website too.)

It can be used as a taco filling but after making it we think it could be just as good served with Mexican rice too.

First we chilled a bottle of Mercer Chardonnay (our current favorite chardonnay) because this recipe just screamed to be paired with a creamy chardonnay.

Then I gathered the short ingredient list:

Next I roasted the poblano chiles in the broiler (way to nasty out to venture out to the grill on this particular evening.)

The rest came together super easily. Brown the chicken in a skillet, remove when almost done.

Caramelize some onions; this really made the flavor outstanding, so give them the time to get really good and caramelized if you make this dish you won't be disappointed by the wait! Add some chopped garlic & then 5 cups of greens. I had baby spinach so that's all that I used but Rick calls for a mixture of greens. Then cook down the greens by adding some chicken broth and thyme.

The last step is to add the Mexican crema and chicken back to the mixture and bring back to temperature.

We enjoyed the dish with our favorite go to veggie; roasted asparagus. We grill asparagus several times a week during the summer. But on days like today in rainy Tacoma we've adapted our 2nd favorite preparation which is to toss it with a little olive oil and lots of ground pepper and put in the oven under the broiler until it starts to get crispy & brown..sooooo good!

We served our rich, creamy, absolutely delicious chicken dish with some warm fresh tortillas, chunks of avocado and cilantro. The Chardonnay paired perfectly.

Really this dish you must make. It was super easy on a Monday night, didn't even start until after 7:00 and dinner was on the table within 30 minutes.

I think this is recipe #6 we've made from the Fiesta at Rick's cookbook so far and it has yet to let us down. We are still working toward completing every recipe and we're enjoying our attempts along the way to this goal.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gutsy Cooks Club Menu #24 Part 2: Irish Stew

Well not sure about this one...this may be my first The Illustrated Kitchen Bible Recipe that is a non-recommendation for my Gutsy Cooks Club adventures.

This recipe for Irish Stew called to slice & chop onions, carrots, potatoes and lamb then basically layer it all in there uncooked with salt & pepper, thyme & bay leaf and then top off with beef or lamb broth and bake. So just the method itself left me questioning the technique.

Even I know to get a good layer of flavors in a stew the meat is best seared before going in the pot to become a stew. So that was the first adjustment to the recipe I made which was purposeful. The other adjustments were more in response to being too lazy to want to go out in the pouring down rain to the store again this weekend.

Once I realized G wouldn't actually be getting home until after 9p.m. tonight I decided to alter my serving plan. My sister, niece & nephew were coming for the afternoon so I decided we'd have the Irish Stew for dinner.

I had saved & froze the other half of the huge lamb roast that I bought for the lamb kabobs a few weeks ago so I pulled that out of the freezer and then chopped in small pieces and seared in olive oil first seasoning with salt & pepper.

I then prepared my veggies. I had baby carrots and baby Yukon gold potatoes on hand so I went with those options.

 It called for 2 1/2 cups of beef or lamb broth and for the life of me I was sure I had organic beef broth in the pantry we always do but I was wrong evidently we don't always after all. I decided to improvise with a combination of half chicken broth and red wine in it's place.

I used a great everyday Washington Cabernet Sauvignon Grande Estates from Columbia Crest. I highly encourage you to follow the link and read more about Columbia Crest wines. They are incredibly easy to find, get great ratings for their price and are a very reliable everyday and cooking choice.

I layered the potatoes, lamb, onions and carrots seasoning with each layer. Added the bay leaf and thyme and topped with my chicken broth red wine combo.
ready for the oven
I then put it in the oven for an hour covered.

While cooking I had fun with my niece & nephew making tie dye cupcakes. What a messy adventure...but they loved it.

I then removed the lid from the stew and let it cook another 40 minutes. Even then the liquid hadn't really absorbed much.

We had stew with the ficelle baguettes I had made yesterday that I warmed before serving.We topped it with a little grated Parmesan (my niece & nephew are much more likely to indulge if it's topped with a little cheese.)

 The Irish Stew turned out okay, not great, not much flavor just rather blah to be honest. The lamb tasted good but the rest was nothing to rave about.

The funny story of the evening was that my niece & nephew happen to be the world's most picky eaters so just when I was ready to snap a photo to send to uncle G because he wouldn't believe it...I said "Oh uncle G will be so shocked you're both eating lamb stew" it was all over they had no idea it was lamb and were happily eating it until then. My mistake. They loved the bread though and of course their wacky tie dye cupcakes for dessert. Sadly I didn't get a photo of those wacky cupcakes.