Archive for the ‘Just my dinner’ Category

Christmas Chicken and Custard


Family, friends, food, wine, repeat – what’s not to like about the holiday season?! I figured I should slam up an unfocused post during the holidays. Unfocused because 1] I am successfully in holiday mode and 2] there are a myriad of food prep duties and social occasions speckling my days.

This year’s Christmas dinner menu:

Oven-dried tomato with goat cheese on crostini with Aussie bubbly

Garlic-stuffed roast brined chicken with mashed potato, gravy, and high-bush cranberry sauce – paired with a grand cru Alsace pinot gris. I followed two important principles related to brining and roasting time – which are both based on weight [3.9 kg chicken]. Brined it for a day as per ‘Charcuterie”s instructions, and roasted it for 4 hrs as per J.P. Jayet [poulet de Bresse farmer in France] instructions: 180C, 1 hr/kilo, nothing on the bird except salt. Since it was brined, I didn’t even have to season it. Or the gravy. So odd. Not much room for improvement on this bird or it’s pan juices, so I’ll be sticking hard and fast to these rules from now on.

Braised shoulder of beef on potato with sauteed mushrooms – paired with an excellent Penfold’s Cab/Shiraz.

Creme Brulee [as seen in photo, but with less...brulee]. Another particularly stand-out item. I’m not sure I can top the texture/doneness of the custard.

Cheese board with grapes

It’s a busy season that we look forward to for a long time, and it ends in the blink of an eye after a flourish of festivities. I hope you and your family and friends have a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday season!!

Indian Summer Al Fresco

I’ve needed a night like this for a long time. A quiet night to enjoy some food, some wine, some company, and some lovely weather. An evening to sip a rosé in the heat, grill some food over a wood fire, and watch the moon come up by the warmth of the fire and with a nice Pommard. An evening with no agenda, but that goes off without a hitch, connecting on many elements, while remaining entirely un-rushed, and fully relaxed. An evening that leaves you refreshed, ready for more, rather than ready for a rest.
The first course. I went shopping at our local seafood specialty shop, lightly hungover from the 4 Wines & a Plate night, completely unmotivated, but knowing that if I didn’t buy something, I’d regret it later, as I had a friend coming over for the evening. Default ‘birthday food’ for me: salmon. I picked the fish that was copiously fatty, of course. So one of my favorites, salmon belly sashimi, presented two ways, as shown above. Learned two things: 1. fleur de sel is key when there’s that much fat involved. 2. wild chive is great with it, but is better thinly sliced as to not take away from the buttery texture of the meat and fat. The wine: Rabl Rose from Austria.

Course two was enjoyed in front of a fire fueled by maple that we’d cut down on our property – which I loved for cooking with. I owe much of the success of this evening to the humble sausage, as it was when my dinner guest mentioned he was bringing it that I became resolved to do an evening cooking beside a fire. Grilled sausage with skewered veg – including some zuchini we pillaged from my garden, and some funky peppers. Always a treat. The wine: a simple greek red

Course three. We then prepped the remainder of the fillet for the fire – another favorite: wild chive crusted salmon loin. Hardcore readers will recognize this one. What can I say, it’s a favorite. I marveled at the way the fish fat was deep frying the flesh, protected from the ember heat by the charring skin. It left the top very rare, while obtaining the salmon-fat-deep-fry flavor I love. It’s not the prettiest approach, but it’s a darn tasty approach. The wine: Torbreck Struie from Australia

Course four. After sitting around for hours shooting the shit with happy tummies – and often shortly after the next cork gets pulled – some kind of cold or cured meats normally appears around here. Italian cacciatore is a favorite of mine. Very fatty, and we found that over the fire it upped the enjoyment factor quite a bit. So wienee-style-cured-meat-over-the-fire course. Nice.

What followed was interesting. Under a full harvest moon, a 2004 Chateau Chantaloutte Pomerol was decanted, tasted, and we proceed to roast most of the herbs in my garden over the embers, enjoying the transitioning aromatics. Some ‘smelling notes’: thyme is really earthy. Sage is more fragrant, and gets nasty. Lavender shows soap, licorice, zellers, rubber, and vanilla candle – it’s also the ‘longest’. Tarragon surprises for a delicate herb, with sweet licorice and mini soap. Lovage changes fast, and apparently smells exaclty like ‘deng guay’. The last thing that hit the fire that night I could actually call a fifth course: ember roasted apple – freshly picked from the tree, split, skewered, and roasted on the dying embers until the juices were hissing hard and the skin was charring slightly. Lovely.

Sign me up for more nights like this. Please.


A recent commitment to myself has been to diversify the meats I cook and serve, as the ready supply of game makes the menu around here a little…game-centric. When was the last time I served duck for example? Last Christmas – afterwhich I barfed my guts out all night with the flu. Which may explain that one. But that’s not the point. The point is, I love duck. I LOVE pork. I love chicken. I LOVE fish. But somehow, they don’t appear quite as often as they should at the table.

So times are changing. Today, I bought a whole leg of pork, a giant bone-in shoulder roast of beef, a whole duck, and a couple dozen chicken thighs. So tonight, I put together a quick chicken fricasee with cream sauce on sour cream and chive mashed yukon gold. A quick raid of the last of the salad greens. My wife loves this kind of food. I love my wife. God bless meat-versification.

Grandpa Beans

My great grandparents on my mom’s dad’s side were from Vendée [France], where ‘Mogettes de Vendées’ – a well respected French white bean – are grown. [The 'well respected' Tarbais bean was recently spotted at $45/kg locally]. My grandfather grew up eating beans, and fed them to his kids, and his grandkids. He makes them, to this day, at the ripe age of 84 or so – but I believe he uses Great Northerns, the closest readily available substitute.

MAN, did we hate beans as kids. The older generations were split into love/hate camps. And it was ‘a thing’. If you brought friends to the lake where my grandparents lived, they were expected, as everyone else, to eat beans. As a celebratory arrival dish. Before a meal. A right of passage, nearly. A good friend of mine politely declined years ago, and my grandfather jokingly offered him the choice of eating them, or having a bean enema in the middle of the night [my grandpa had a medical background].

Years later, I have developed a fondness for them. Nostalgia being part of it, I’m sure. But I also had some really good contorni in a restaurant in Buonconvento in Tuscany that illustrated how simple and lovely white beans could really be. Since then, I’ve made them often, screwing up the odd batch – I believe because of the hardness of the water.

So here it is. Here’s my current adaptation of the ‘grandpa bean’ recipe, in its simplest form.

A cup or two of dried Great White Northern Beans [Mogettes, ideally, but unavailable mostly]
1 Bay leaf
1 clove garlic


Put the beans in a big bowl. Cover with a couple inches of water, and let sit overnight.
The next day, drain, and put the beans in a pot. Cover with water, maybe 1/4″ or 1/2″ over the beans. Add bay leaf. Squash clove of garlic, toss it in. Do not season. Bring to a boil and cook until the beans are tender. For me, this depends on the whims of nature, and can take 45 minutes or 5 hours, depending on which way the wind blows. Keep an eye on the water level to make sure the beans are JUST covered. When tender, season to taste with salt and pepper.

This is good eaten day-of, but completely unnecessary. We’d eat one bean batch for days. Some bean-eaters added chili sauce. Sometimes the bean batch had odd things like herb blends or cinnamon or bacon. I like them plain. They re-heat a charm, and perhaps one of the big reasons I’ve been making them a lot is, my toddler loves them. Just waiting to see how old she gets before she too, hates beans.

4 Garden-Inspired-Courses and a Guest

garden lettuce w belle farms olive oil and riesling vinegar vinaigrette

soup: garden beets, lovage, chard, carrot, red onion, parsley

herbes de provence roast chicken with garden kennebec, norland and yukon gold

quickie moelleux with quickie garden raspberry jam

The Wines:
2007 Chateau de Lancyre Rose, Luberon France [88-91 pts]
2003 Chateau de Carles, Fronsac, France [91-93 pts]

Pot Stickers



Oh, don’t think I made them from scratch. Frozen, in a bag, from my fav local asian supergrocer. Still yum though.

Roasted Pepper Linguine

I’ve been on a bit of a red pepper kick lately. And on a bit of a pasta kick as well. For some reason, when the days start getting longer, I tend to shift from the fall’s meat-and-potato heavy menus to lots of pastas for some reason. Hence the dish.

To be quite honest, it was…plain. Luckily, my wife and little girl dig ‘plain’. My wife likes to call it ‘classic’, not ‘plain’. And some further honesty: this post would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the photo of my daughter, slurping up her pasta. The only thing she devours more ferociously than pasta is danube salami. Such a good girl.

Fish N Chips: Northern Pike


It’s good to have ‘sources’. Today, a whole 8 lb Northern Pike found its way into my kitchen. After much gutting, skinning, and deboning [boning being the correct term, but deboning sounds less vulgar, no?], I had a good platter full of fresh fish to play with. And a copious collection of veg oil that I didn’t want to bring with me on our impending move. So:deep fried northern pike with yukon gold fries.

Not that there was much debate. As soon as I heard a fish was coming the decision was made to deep fry some of it. Ever since this post, I’ve wanted to do some more local lake fish. Execution could have been better, but it was a treat nonetheless.

Tastiest Chicken I’ve Made. Period.


Yes, a lofty and potentially deluded claim. I buy chickens whole and do whatever we feel like with the parts, using the rest for stock. I don’t know if this was a particularly tasty bird. Was it ‘finished’ well at the farm? Was I just really hungry? Not sure. But I’m gonna write this one down to try it again.

- good olive oil
- herbes de provence [from my herb garden in this case]
- french grey salt
- coarse black pepper

Put ingredients in a big bowl. Toss chicken in it. Roast at 375 for an hour to an hour and half, or until the juices are well into running clear. Sounds too easy. I must try this again. It just sounds wrong.

Chicken Stew


I forgive your shock for actually seeing a new post up here. I’ve been negligent. I’ve been consumed by real estate sales, purchases, kitchen design, and work. Life happens. And food and wine continue to happen in between, but sometimes you lack the time to post about it. Such is life.

Tonight’s dinner was a simple chicken stew. Nothing fancy. Mirepoix, lightly seared chicken, mushroom, a touch of my home-made herbes de provence – and some nice New Zealand sauvignon blanc. What a nice pairing. Highly recommend it.

The wine reminded me intensely of Alsace. Which reminded me intensely that in a few short months, I will be in Alsace. Drinking white wine and cooking for my family. Life is good.