Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mark Your Calendars - Wine Events

If you have the weekend of September 15th free, check out these local wine events:

It seems poor planning to have these two on the same weekend, but I'm sure they're both worth checking out. We had a lot of fun at the VA Wine Festival last year (though the traffic sucked). We will be at my fabulous friend Cate's wedding that weekend, so we'll miss out on both this year. If you go, let me know how it was!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Celebrating Marriage with Heavy Cream

Happy 2nd Anniversary to me and Chris! What did I give him this year? An extra 5 pounds by forcing him to inhale this menu:

  • Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam and water crackers (washed down with a bottle of Domaine Chandon's Riche) Mt. Tam is pretty much my favorite cheese. It's a lovely triple-cream that is a lot like brie but with a smoother flavor.
  • Salad of baby greens, blue cheese, pears and pancetta crumbles with a port dressing. To make the dressing, I simmered a cup of port (the cheap cooking kind, not real port) with a diced shallot until it was reduced by half. Then I strained it, added a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. It was surprisingly sweet and mellow and went well with the blue cheese, which had a lot of kick.
  • An unbelievable Samoa cheesecake (Culinary Concoctions by Peabody) Mine was not nearly as pretty as Peabody's, but it sure was good!
Duck Au Poivre
I had a hard time finding a recipe for exactly what I was looking for, so I combined the cooking instructions from this recipe (The Gilded Fork) with the sauce from this one (Epicurious). Just thinking of this sauce makes me drool. I will definitely be making it with steak sometime soon.

4 duck breast halves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns (I used Penzy's French style peppercorns)
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup Cognac or other brandy
3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Score the skin side of the duck almost through to the meat in a crisscross pattern. Mix the peppercorns and salt and rub on both sides of duck breast.

Heat heavy-bottom skillet over low heat. When skillet is hot, place breast skin side down. Brown the duck without turning. Discard any fat throughout the process. About 7 minutes.

Turn the duck over. Place skillet into preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until center is rare. Remove from oven. Let rest on a board for 5-7 minutes. For service, slice duck, skin side up on a 45-degree angle, into thin slices.

Pour off fat from skillet, then add shallots and half of butter (2 tablespoons) to skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until shallots are well-browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add Cognac (use caution; it may ignite) and boil, stirring, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream and any meat juices accumulated on platter and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook over low heat, swirling skillet, until butter is incorporated(not the most appetizing picture of the duck, I know. You will just have to take my word for how awesome it was)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Puckin' Perfect Pizza Dough

Did you know that Wolfgang Puck kicks ass? I base this claim on one amazing meal at the Vegas Spago and his stellar pizza dough recipe. The recipe yields dough that is a little chewy, a little sweet and pretty much perfect. We make pizza at home every other week or so and have since abandoned dough from Trader Joe's and Bobolli. Obviously, this recipe takes a bit of effort and foresight, but it freezes well for the next time. Thanks, Puckmeister! And say hello to Sparky, my mixer (gifted to me by two of the most fabulous men I know ; )
Our favorite toppings - fresh tomato (thanks, Dad!), fresh mozzarella, turkey Italian sausage and artichoke hearts:Served with an awesome unfiltered wheat ale (Troegs Dreamweaver)And a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and blue cheese
P.S. Puck will be opening The Source in the Newseum (whenever they decide to unveil that thing). I'm excited.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mark Your Calendar - Oktoberfest!

Pencil September 29-30th in on your calendars. Why, yes, that is the weekend following my birthday, how nice of you to remember. Coincidentally, it is also Frederick's Oktoberfest at the Frederick County Fairgrounds.

Hmmm . . . wait . . . Oktoberfest in September? At first I thought there was a joke about the intelligence of the city of Frederick in there, but I didn't realize that it's be celebrated in September in Germany for awhile. You learn something new everyday. Anyway, we've enjoyed the Maryland Brewer's Oktoberfest several times in the past but I'd like to check out Frederick's version this year. Looks like there will be more to do than just drink (what?!?).

Ta Da!

So there you go. I've up and joined the blog bandwagon. I don't profess to be a very good writer, and I know I certainly can't compare to the likes of my favorite food bloggers at Smitten Kitchen, Simply Recipes or The Amateur Gourmet .

Oh crap. Now that I've told you about those real bloggers, you'll probably never come back. What have I done?

Hmph. Well, if you do return you'll find some recipe reviews, some entertaining menus, some foodie events and festivals and maybe even a restaurant review or two. And please, I welcome comments! I've always thought my family and friends have been one of the best resources for cooking advice. Since I don't think I'll ever get Granny Annie on, you guys will have to make up for it!