Monday, October 29, 2007

Potatoes Anna- one of those melt in your mouth French creations was a definate hit at the Issaquah cooking club. A marriage of yukon gold potatoes, butter and parmesean cheese with a slightly crisp crust. Yukons are peeled, sliced paper thin and slowly layered on top of each other in a flower petal design in a smking hot sautee pan, with melted butter at the bottom. Then, layers are continued with butter, salt and pepper and parmesean until the top of the pan. Next the pan is put into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes- check for bubbling sides and fork tenderness. Finally, remove the sautee pan and quickly flip the potatoes out onto a sheet tray. The bottom of the potatoes should have a caramelized, brown crispy lovely crust and soft butter potato layers underneath. I served these potatoes with brined green peppercorn hanger steak medium rare.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

October Cooking Club

Okay, I know I am suppose to be starting the wine making series and I will, but I do want to put up some pictures from the cooking class. I'll start with creating raviolis. With an avocado green kitchen counter top covered in flour, me covered in flour and the phone, my wine glass and later, the tv remote- People do tell me I "get into" cooking, and yes, my patient husband just smiles and often does my stacks of dishes not saying a word. So once you make pasta dough- you must let it rest for 30 minutes to relax the gluten- keep it covered with plastic wrap so that it doesn't dry out. Previously, I slow cooked a pork shoulder for 10 hours with tomato sauce, red wine and caramelized onions and I had that cooled and ready. I also had boiled and pureed parsnips with cream, butter, nutmeg and S+P. It was also waiting the rolled out pastry sheets. Using a pasta machine, I roll it from 1-6, keeping the dough a little firm. It is a given that some raviolis will be sacraficed to the boiling pot of salty water so it is a good idea to always over count.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wine Making Series Part 1

Earlier this year on a September Saturday morning, we met with my uncle downtown Seattle in the SODO district to pick up more than a ton of petite syrah and old vine zinfandel grapes. The grapes were in wooden crates, held together on a pallet, trucked in from Santa Clara California. The Farmer, Louie Cello was there to meet us. We loaded up my uncle's pick up with stacks of the wooden crates with purple grapes overflowing out the sides. We were told to watch out for brown recluse, as they hang out in the vineyards, i did not see any, though you can bet I had one eye looking out for them always.

We drove to the infamous Doug Shadd's house near the University District and began to unload the wooden crates. Doug Shadd is a facinating character. Not yet 5'10, large coke-bottle glasses magifiy gentle eyes and I've never seen him without a heavy flannel shirt or mud splashed denim or carharts. He is in every way a farmer. In his back yard he has two apple trees he has grafted that produce more than 5 diffrent kinds of apples. A line of different colored carboys holding different types of grapes fermenting look like a painter's watercolors against the side of his house. We instantly got to work.

A ton of grapes is a lot! We unloaded crate after crate of grape clusters the color of antique velvet curtains from a childhood theater stage- dusty, deep and violet. We tipped them one by one into the crusher de-stemmer. A mechanical device that looks like it came out of a comic book- The Crusher De-Stemmer! Moo-Ha HA HA! Or an evil villian if nothing else. Actually it is quite amazining. The stainless steel machine is a speedier process than your average Italian grape stomping event- and a bit less leg hair. With a motor much smaller than your push-lawn mower, a belt moves to turn the wheels, that turn a stainless steel tube- resembling a cylindar cheese grater- removing stems into one large white bin and grape skins and its sticky juices into the other.

Once all of the grapes are separated from their stems, a small does of sulfites are added to the juice to prevent the wrong types of unwanted yeast from growing. Using my uncle's refractometer- we test the grape's sugar content- measured by Brix. Zinfandel at 24.9, Petite syrah....just over 19- which is not good. We will have to add sugar to the Petite syrah. next, the grapes will sit for 2-3 weeks among the skins to absorb all the lovely deep purples and red and crimson of red grapes and then its time to press!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Before Wine Making

I knew that my uncle made wine. It was always a mystery to me growing up and thinking back to Thanksgiving dinner- the one classic day of the year in my extended family where we gathered together to eat and drink extra well. How was it that suddenly my uncle would pull out from a leather wine carrying case, two or three green glass wine bottles with the only label being a piece of masking tape roughly torn at the edges and slapped on with the inscription that read: Chardonnay 89’ or Cab 87’? Wondering where these bottles came from and why were all the aunts and uncles suddenly cooing in the corner of the sweet smelling kitchen? What was so wonderful about those bottles? I would have to wait and learn.

It wasn’t until years past and I came back from studying abroad in Italy did I even begin to learn about wine. My family appreciated wine, my uncle made wine and in Italy it was apart of life, the vines grew, they produced grapes you made wine. In Italy, one doesn’t just eat food to stop some annoying hunger- you worked while the food around you was being made. The Italians know what is important in life, food first, work second.

I knew growing up that if I listened I would learn from all the people whose crafts I admired. I think there is something to be said about not being raised filthy rich- if you have to struggle and be smart about getting information-because you don’t have the power of money to buy your way- you listen more, you have to.

I respect food. It took me awhile to understand it and I am still understanding it. I was raised in the 80s- of course it was going to take me awhile. Like everyone else around me, it wasn’t the time of the farmer- it was the time of the scientist. The time of the frozen food isle and the 2-liter bottle of sugar. Food colored, processed, freeze-dried and packaged.
It was the dark age of food consumption. I feel blessed to have been raised by an intelligent cook. More than anything about my childhood sometimes, I’m thrilled that my mother in a word was and is “creative.” But, when the time came, you can’t blame my mother for rejoicing in the microwave oven. Cooking was and still remains a slave duty. As a cook myself, we are in the “back” of the house, low wages, long hours, heavy lifting and burns. We are not to be seen. But without my mother being a crafty woman, we could have eaten like so many other people who eat to sustain, to be entertained or quickly by instant food, and I wouldn’t have known any better.
It is not to say that we are out of the dark ages of food consumption- I think we are in the midst of a slow food revolution however. If you look around people are celebrating the arts of what used to be known as mandatory labor. People are sewing clothes again, learning to cook and learning to farm.

It is to this long segment of history that we get to the winemaking series.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Food and Wine Pairing Dinner For the Oct. Cooking Club

I promise I will write more about the wine making process, as I am so excited to share the thrill of picking up wooden crates of violet and plump petite syrah grapes and watching them be crushed into juice. For the moment though, I cannot think of anything else but preping for the October cooking club that will be taking place this Friday evening. I will try and remember to take photos, as I usually get lost in the happy conversation of talking about food with the cooking club members. This Friday's menu will be paired with wine chosen by a friend of mine from Last Friday we tested some of the wines with a couple of the menu items and to me I felt they were perfectly paired, bringing out the best in both the food and the wine.

Early this morning I was up making gravlox for the cooking club event. Living in Ballard and thinking of my maiden Norwegian name, Evavold, I thought about women and men who perhaps made homemade lox from scratch as a weekly occurrence, and laughing because, who makes gravlox at 7 a.m. before going to work? Gravlox needs to cure for at least 48 hours. I'll be making the raviolis tonight and freezing them, right after I pick up 5 hanger steaks from Don and Joe's Meats from Pike Place Market- and marinating them with brined green peppercorns.
Even though quince is suppose to be in season right now- I am having the hardest time finding it- closer to Thanksgiving, quince will be everywhere- I'll check Pike Place today.

October's Cooking Club Menu

Thyme Pate Choux with Homemade Lox and Lemon Crème Fraiche

(Airy thyme flavored pate choux with homemade cured lox with citrus and dill cream fraiche

Fennel and Asian Pear Salad with Sautéed Quince Wrapped with Culatello

(Citrus dressing, licorice flavors, pear and pineapple pear flavors of quince and the salty culatello cured ham)

Single Ravioli filled with slow roasted pork and parsnip puree with beef demi

(Earthy and sweet creamy parsnip with complex slow roasted tomato infused pork )

Green Peppercorn Hanger Steak with Potatoes Anna

(Deep beef flavor, spicy green pepper flavor, potatoes Anna is a stack of paper-thin potatoes cooked with butter and Parmesan- or similar cheese, fresh herbs)

Seasonal Fruit With Simple Syrup And Fresh Vanilla Whip

Wines to be paired

2006 Snoqualmie Nearly Naked Gewurztraminer ­
2005 Saint Laurent Rosé ­
2005 Des Voigne Cellars San Remo Sangiovese ­
2003 Willis Hall Chandler Reach Cabernet ­