Monday, September 25, 2006

Braised Lamb Shanks

I love those slow cooking dishes like braised lamb shank. I browned it in the dutch oven, then added stock, wine, bay, parsley, rosemary and put it into the oven for about 2 1/2 hour on 325 degrees.

I also cooked a pot of white beans which I flavored with a smoked pork trotter, bay leaf and mirepoix of carrot, celery, and onion. Lamb and beans have this great affection for one another, so close to the end of the cooking, I combine them for about 1/2 hour so that their flavors may marry. It's kind of one of those happily ever after stories in a soup bowl.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chihuly at the Missouri Botanical Garden

As if the Missouri Botanical Garden weren't breathtaking and astonishing enough at every sensory level, they added an art glass instalation by the arttist Dale Chihuly. It is practically visual overload. It has been here since April 30 and leaves October 31.

We went last night which was only the second Monday evening open. Throughout the summer the garden has been open on days and Thursday evenings. All the glass installations were illuminated dramatically. The glass sculptures took on various organic forms and blended into the various gardens in which they were placed.

There were two of his tentacle-like chandeliers-one at the entrance in colors of cobalt, aqua, and white;one suspended under the foot bridge into the Japanese Garden over the lake, it was all firey shades of red, which reflected in the waters of the lake underneath. The gates into the rose garden were also adorned with bright yellow tentacles and the Garden is featuring a new rose hybrid named for Dale Chihuly (it is a flower with yellow centers which bleed to deep rose at the end of the petals.

There were onion shaped floats in all the many lilly ponds. They were in all colors, and some metalic, and some marbelized. In the Climatron (which is a geodesic dome that houses the rainforest garden) the glass looked like gorgeous flowers from outerspace, ditto the desert garden.

It was a terrific evening-the weather was cool and crisp, they were playing 50's lounge music (Tony Bennett, Louis Prima, Keely Smith) in the sculpture reflecting pool area which was set up as a cafe, unfortunatley they were pouring horribe wine-I had a glass of Lagaria Pinot Grigio which tasted of vinegar and might have made a delightful salad dressing but was not a delightful cocktail. We left about 10 and went home to a cold supper. Our wonderful neighbor Linda treated our little group to this outing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wine blogging Wednesdays-Champagne

I chose Nicolas Feuillatte, which in hindsight I would choose something else. It wasn't unpleasant, in fact it was enjoyable, but it just didn't seem special in any way. It had a lime and green apple flavor component. After I purchased the bottle at Whole Foods-I know it's not cool to buy wine at a grocery store, but Whole Foods is a bit different, and I do like the wine department manager-I read more about Nicolas Feuillatte. It is the Number 2 selling Champagne in France and It is the Number 6 selling Champagne in the world. It is produced in Chouilly, a tiny village close to Epernay in the Champagne region. It cost $28 dollars and was certainly worth the cost, but just wasn't that special-it reminded me alot of the California sparkling wines produced by French houses such as Domaine Chandon-there just seems to be a lack of depth to the experience and I think some Spanish Cavas are just as interesting for the same amount of money. Mike Parker awarded it 92 points-go figure.

I wish I would have purchased a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, which I do like alot, but I thought it
was just too well known to blog about. I do have a Veuve Cliquot story. On the last evening on a trip to New Orleans I was without a reservation for dinner. How had I neglected this? I really wanted to eat at Bayonna in the French Quarter, owned by chef Susan Spicer. I called and pleaded my case, they were totally booked, but if I didn't mind waiting they would seat me if they had a no show reservation or squeeze me in at the end of service. A friend and I spent a pleasant hour in their courtyard garden with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. Bayonna is housed in a cottage that is typical of the French Quarter. They are set very close to the street with the front windows completely shuttered, and unless you get to peek into the back you would never guess at the splendor of their courtyards and gardens.

They eventually found a table for us and we entered the dining room. It was basically one large room which was divided by two huge floral displays. I ordered a blood sausage with caramelized apples, sweet breads with lemon and capers, and a grilled duck breast. We just kept drinking Veuve Cliqout throughout the evening. Chef Spicer's dishes have a pronounced French influence, and it was an elegant and memorable dinner.

Sadly Bayonna isn't reopened after Hurricane Katrina. Last I read they were still restoring equipment which had water damage eventhough the French Quarter was spared the worst of the damage. I hope they do get it reopened, because it was such a beautiful dining experience.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Food Blog Tag

The food blogosphere has a new game of tag in which bloggers list five foods to eat before you die. It was conceived by Melissa at Traveler's Lunch Box after seeing a BBC documentary. I am so flattered that Ruth from Once Upon a Feast tagged me, I honestly thought only my mother (Hi mom!) and my cousin in Texas (Hi Kev!) read this blog. So thanks for asking Ruth here is my list-each and every one a personal epiphany into my world of food.

They are not in any particular order of chronlolgy or importance.

1) Properly Roasted Chicken
I never get tired of eating roast chicken. Crispy skin, juicy meat, and the ability to absorb complimentary flavors makes it one of the best canvases for the kitchen artist. With the old Shaker quote "that which posesses the most uses is the most beautiful", it is truly the most beautiful dish because after you have enjoyed the dinner, the leftovers make terrific sandwiches, salads, and pastas. Then the bones make stock. For expert advice on how to roast a chicken properly please read Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise" or Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking"-the secret is in the brining.

2) Mom's Tomato Cocktail
My mom makes and home cans this most incredible vegetable juice. She also grows all the stuff that goes into it as well. It contains tomatoes, sweet peppers, basil, sort of a homemade V-8. It is sweetness, sunshine, and good cheer in a glass. On Sundays around here we add a shot of vodka or tequila to enjoy with our eggs and pastries. Very limited quantities of this elixir are available.

3) MFK Fisher's Peas
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher has been the most influential food philosopher/writer in my life. Her writing is prose, her insight and intelligence is formiddable, and her passions burn like fire.
In her book "An Alphabet for Gourmets" first published in 1949 in the chapter P Is For Peas, she recounts a lunch of just picked, just shelled early peas high in the Alps around Lake Geneva. I have been pining for those peas since I first read the story in the 1980's. I know I shall never taste those peas, but I remain enchanted by them over 25 years later.

4) Coulibiac of Salmon
This was one of the first sort of "show off" dishes I learned to make. Today it seems hopelessly old-fashioned but just the same in its day it was a great vehicle to impress dinner guests, seduce lovers, and take on picnics. I remember one particular night when I was living in Chicago I took this dish to a picnic at the Ravinia Festival. That night Ella was singing with the Chicago Symphony. The combination of a migical vocalist like Ella, with the music of the Chicago symphony, the beauty of Ravinia, and a damn good fish dish remains a benchmark of taste. Was it the fish, the music, Ella, or the company? For a great recipe use "The chez Panisse Menu Cookbook" where wild rice and quail eggs add an American touch to this French-Russian hybrid.
5) Buerre Blanc
I must include a sauce and that sauce has to be buerre blanc. It is an almost universally complimentary sauce. It is sensational on steamed vegetables especially asparagus, it can elevate anything simply grilled like lamb chops or salmon fillet. I know the foods trends are leaving me behind with things like foam, esfericacion, and essence but I just can't seem to get my lips around foam.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lillet Blanc for Mixlolgy Mondays VII

I know this is an extremely old-fashioned aperitif, but I still enjoy it. I like to serve it chilled, straight up with a fruit garnish usually orange. This time I it garnished with a slice of nectarine because I had them around for the tart I was making. Lillet has been around since 1872, when it was created in Bordeaux. I am fascinated with the Edwardian Age of dining because of its over the top excess and celebration of wealth created by the robber barons. Lillet somehow fits into my mind set for this era. It is also the perfect summer time cocktail served out of doors on my deck in an overly fussy wine glass.

Check out all the bloggers favorite summer cocktails after September 18 at The Cocktail Chronicles.

Monday, September 04, 2006

La Festa al Fresca-Farewell to Summer

Here is a farewell to summer tart. The stone fruits and berries are quickly coming to an end. The first hard fuits are coming into the markets-I just purchased locally grown Gala's this last week. I made a tart with the last of the black berries, raspberies, nectarines, plums, and blue berries.

La Festa at Fresca

It must be Fall

The first of the apples are showing up in the farmer's markets. Mrs. Crook, one of the farmers who delivers to me, delivered some Gala beauties to my back door last week. They are so crisp and delicious eaten out of hand. The evenings are getting cooler as well. Time to start changing the menus to Fall. Saturday I made veal chops with a Bourguignonne sauce, and red cabbage with those same apples.