Sunday, January 29, 2012

Red Wine Pepper Steak over Asian Potato Pancakes Paired with 2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc

Red Wine Pepper Steak over Asian Potato Pancakes-2

With Peking duck on the menu earlier last week, I decided to stick with the Asian theme for this pairing and prepare my interpretation of pepper steak and an Asian influenced potato pancake.  I am a huge fan of potato pancakes and appreciate them for their flexibility in adapting to nearly any ethnic cuisine with just a few amendments – your creativity is the only limitation.

My pepper steak preparation diverges from many of the recipes you will find by the addition of water chestnuts, three varieties of peppers, and substitution of stewed tomatoes and red wine for the more traditional beef broth.  The Asian influenced potato pancakes uses a common approach with the addition of scallions, cilantro, and wasabe powder.  These modifications led to a sauce intended to complement the wine pairing, and potato pancakes that add a distinct Asian flavor rather than the more pedestrian flavor of a plain potato pancake.  Our dinner crowd was pleased with the results. 

2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc-1

My pairing choice for this meal was the 2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc. And just for fun, Golf Buddy Steve brought a 2009 Rosenblum Cellars Vintner’s Cuvee California Syrah. With two wines to compare and contrast with the meal, our fun was easily doubled. Part of our delight came from dissecting the meal and all the possible combinations of food components and wine. But first, here are some tasting notes:

The 2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc starts with a bold perfume laden nose that belies the the full body and deep flavors of black cherry sprinkled with cracked pepper. The long and satisfying finish returns to the floral perfume found in the nose with a hint of smoke and oak.

The 2009 Rosenblum Cellars Vintner’s Cuvee California Syrah winemakers tasting notes: Dark and rustic, our 2009 Syrah Cuvée shows a distinctly old-world profile. Classic Rhône-style characteristics of meat, leather and spice are married with the native richness of California fruit. Black-cherry and currant aromas carry meaty soy notes and high spices in the nose. The intensity of the fruit comes through on the palate, with juicy layers of boysenberry, cassis, dark plum and a touch of anise. This smooth, succulent palate is wrapped up with grippy tannins that hold the flavors for a lengthy, satisfying finish.

2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc

While both wines were an excellent choice for the pairing, as we looked at different components of the meal, we found the Cabernet Franc with a slice of beef was the best choice. On the other hand, a forkful of potato pancake (with peppers, onions, and water chestnut) paired best with the Rosenblum Syrah. With a fully loaded fork containing each of the dish components, both wines worked equally well.

If you care to view this pairing as a bi-coastal wine throw down, our conclusion was a pleasurable draw.  While many believe Virginia wines continue to seek a distinct identity, I am convinced there are plenty of gems to be found.  I plan to find each of these gems and have already discovered several wineries hitting home runs across their portfolio.

Red Wine Pepper Steak over Asian Potato Pancakes


Pepper Steak


  • 1 1/2 pounds top sirloin beef cut to roughly 2-3 inch strips 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 green bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 red bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 yellow bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


  1. Slice the beef.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high and add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is tender.
  3. Remove onions and add beef strips until browned.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, stir to incorporate all ingredients, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Asian Potato Pancakes


  • 4 large potatoes. I prefer to scrub them and leave unpeeled.
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons wasabe powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 9 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Using grater or food processor, coarsely grate potatoes and onion.
  2. Transfer to colander, allow to drain. Then press to force out remaining liquid.
  3. Transfer mixture to large bowl, add eggs, scallions, cilantro, flour, salt, wasabe powder, and pepper. Stir gently to combine.
  4. In large nonstick skillet over moderate heat, heat 3 tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking.
  5. Drop 1/2 cup portions batter into pan and gently flatten each into 4-5 inch diameter pancakes.
  6. Fry, turning once, until well browned on both sides.
  7. Fry remaining pancakes adding oil as necessary.
  8. Keep warm until ready to serve.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Peking Duck Paired with 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Merlot

Peking Duck

To celebrate the Chinese New Year and the New England Patriots victory over the Baltimore Ravens, I decided to prepare a Chinese classic – Peking duck.  Well, it is not exactly roasted raven, but it is about as close as I plan to get. 

This pairing also features a special treat thanks to the nice people at Barboursville Vineyards.  Following a recent post featuring the Barboursville Chardonnay (Halibut Steak Poached in Coconut Milk with Coconut Milk Foam, Garlic Sautéed Asparagus and Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers and Potatoes Pan Fried in Duck Fat Paired with 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Chardonnay) Luca Paschina, the winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards was very generous in sending me several of their wines to taste and pair.  Barboursville Vineyards produces fantastic wine (I am now a solid 2 for 2) – you will be hearing more about them soon.

2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Merlot-1

While all the flavors and textures of Peking Duck combine to warrant it’s exalted place as a Chinese classic, the sweet rich flavors of the hoisin sauce dominate.  Normally, I would have prepared the hoisin sauce, but decided to go with the store version with a bit of elaboration (orange zest, orange juice, sesame oil, and sriracha).

Selecting the 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Merlot was pretty straight forward for this pairing.  Merlot is always a good choice for duck, but with the addition of the hoisin sauce, my choice was confirmed, and gratefully rewarded.

2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Merlot

The 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Merlot is an exceptionally approachable wine that is pleasantly restrained in it’s treatment allowing the terroir and grape to speak for themselves.  The medium body of this wine was a precise match for the Peking duck.  But the real treat came with the magically complementary flavors.  The wine features flavors of red berries, a barely perceptible hint of oak, and round subtle tannins adding to an exceptionally smooth mouth feel.

If you have yet to be impressed by a Virginia Merlot, I encourage you to visit Barboursville Vineyards.  You will not be disappointed!  This was confirmed by our group of wine drinking Patriots fans.  Unanimous accolades for the Merlot, duck and Patriots echoed through the house.

Peking Duck-1


Roasted Peking Duck


  • One 4 to 6 pound duck
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
  • 1 diced scallion
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha
  • 2 scallions diced for garnish


Hanging Peking Duck

  1. Clean duck. Wipe dry and tie string wings, cut a hole through the neck skin, and run the string through the hole.
  2. Hang duck in cool, windy place for 3 to 4 hours. 
  3. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add ginger, diced scallion, honey, vinegar, and sherry. Bring to boil. Pour in dissolved cornstarch and stir to ensure no lumps.
  4. Gently place the duck in the boiling liquid and scoop liquid over duck for 10 minutes.
  5. Hang duck again in cool, windy place for 3 to 4 hours or until thoroughly dry.
  6. Place duck breast side up directly on the rack in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Set a pan half filled with water in bottom on a rack below the duck to catch drippings. Roast for 30 minutes.
  7. Turn duck and roast 30 minutes more.
  8. Turn breast side up again. Roast 10 minutes more.
  9. Mix hoisin with sesame oil, orange zest, orange juice, and Sriracha.
  10. Carve duck and serve on Chinese pancakes with hoisin sauce mixture and scallion garnish.

Hanging Peking Duck-2

Alternative preparation if you don't have the time to let the duck hang and dry.

  1. Skip the original hanging procedure and proceed to the boiling.
  2. Preheat oven to 375.
  3. Place duck in a roasting pan with a grate to allow the drippings to fall away from the duck.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes breast side up, flip for 30 minutes, and finish with breast side up for 10 minutes.

Chinese Pancakes


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 to 1 cup boiling water, as needed
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil, or as needed


  1. Add flour to the bowl of a kitchen mixer with a dough hook. Turn mixer to medium and add the boiling water.
  2. Allow the dough to knead until smooth. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Turn the rested dough out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough in half. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll each half out until it is 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or a pint glass to cut out 3-inch circles of dough.
  4. Brush 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil over the top of 2 dough circles. Lay one pancake on top of each other, so that the oiled sides are together. Roll out the pancakes to form a 6-inch circle. Continue with the remainder of the pancakes.
  5. Heat a non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add one of the pancake pairs and cook until browned on both sides
  6. Remove the paired pancakes from the pan and pull them apart. Continue with the remainder of the pancakes.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pan Seared Scallops over Sautéed Spinach and Chipotle Cream Sauce Paired with 2010 Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay

Pan Seared Scallops over Sauteed Spinach and Chipotle Cream Sauce

When it comes to the Christmas and New years holidays, our family has a tradition of doing something, uh, non-traditional.  For example past holidays have included; Christmas in Machu Picchu, Christmas in Galipan (a village in the mountains outside Caracas - like taking a step back in time by about 100 years), Christmas in Chef Sue’s restaurant giving away Christmas meals, Christmas and New Year’s in Disney (doesn’t sound unique, but it becomes more so when you are doing it with your adult children and it becomes a culinary/drinkfest!), and so on.

This year, Chef Sue, Soon to be 1stLT Ryan and I went to Atlantic City, NJ to attend a Viking cooking school at Harrah’s Casino.  We then went on to spend New Year’s Eve and the following day with great friends and hosts Don and Beth.  First, let’s get on with the Viking Cooking School.

Pan Seared Scallops over Sauteed Spinach and Chipotle Cream Sauce-1

We have attended cooking classes at CIA Greystone, Sur La Table, Army Navy Country Club,Cook Street, Chef Sue’s 28 year sous-chef indenture program, and now the Viking School at Harrah’s.  Each of these were handled quite differently, and I now feel I have sufficient data to suggest a desirable formula – from the participant perspective.  And just so we are clear, these are not professional chef classes – these are intended for cooking enthusiasts.  I will not critique each of the classes, but I will tell you that Viking did it best albeit not perfectly.  Harvesting the best from each, here is my recipe for an ideal cooking class:

  1. Start with a cocktail or a glass of wine.  Liability? How about responsibility?  Screw it – have a drink and get to know the Chef.
  2. Construct cooking teams of no more than four with prep tables sized for a team of four.
  3. Don’t forget the basics; bar rags, sanitizer, convenient bus cart, and aprons to send home with the students - with your logo.
  4. Each team should prepare all the dishes on the menu – don’t divide the cooking among teams.
  5. Have the prep tables fully stocked and ready to go.  The students may not know the definition of mise en place, but they will appreciate it!
  6. Sharp knives! Always offer a short lesson on knife technique.
  7. Use top-notch gear.  Nobody wants to attend a cooking class and realize their home kitchen is better equipped.
  8. If something needs to go in the oven, have the oven preheated!
  9. Don’t use prepared food.  Going to a cooking class and opening a jar or can of anything is unforgivable.  Only use fresh ingredients.
  10. Make sure your ovens and cook tops are correctly installed (leveling was a problem more than once – uneven heating in the oven another fault).
  11. For the instructors:  When there is a reason for doing something, say so!  Anyone can read a recipe, but not everyone understands the “why?”  Explain the purpose and process of correctly preparing things like a rue - why it works the way it does.  This is important for the novices, and the more experienced participants will understand.
  12. Ensure you have a motivated and friendly kitchen support crew to clean an prep between courses.  In other words, while the team is working the skillet, a kitchen team should be cleaning the prep table and making it ready for the next task.
  13. Include at least one element of technique the average cook could use to improve on their passion(more is better…up to a certain point of saturation that varies depending on the skills of the participants).  EVERYONE needs to go home having learned something…even the better cooks.
  14. Serve the fruits of class labor at a nice dining table.  Standing around a stainless prep table in the kitchen is not classy.
  15. Serve the dinner with wine paired to the dishes – and not the bottom of the shelf.  Need to charge more for that?  Go for it…the result is so much better.  Oh, and read my blog - understand why the wine and food go together, and talk about it.  This should not be a matter of “try it, you’ll like it.”
  16. Offer doggy bags.  Not only will your students appreciate it, they may take the leftovers home, share them with neighbors Barney and Wilma, and you may get a recommendation.

Wow, when I started writing the list, I had now idea it would be so long.  But now that I have the magic formula, maybe I should start my own cooking school!  But before I do that, I know you have taken a cooking class and found things you liked or disliked.  Let me know!  We can grow the list and outline the five star formula for cooking classes.

2010 Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay

Now on to the rest of our New Year’s events.  Our weekend was principally composed of sightseeing around Cape May New Jersey with Don and Beth along with a couple of stops at Cape May wineries.  I was impressed with both wineries, but fell in love with one – Hawk Haven Vineyards and Winery.  Hawk Haven is committed to producing authentic French Style wines and is doing a wonderful job.  Of course we picked up a few bottles, so you will be hearing more about Hawk Haven.

The weekend was capped off by a wonderful dinner of Pan Seared Scallops over Sautéed Spinach and Chipotle Cream Sauce prepared by Beth.  The meal was paired with Don and Beth’s standby favorite Chardonnay - Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay.  The chipotle cream sauce was a wonderful addition to the buttery sweet scallops, and the wine echoed the creamy buttery flavors while offering mouth watering acidity - a perfect complement to the scallops.

2010 Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay-1

Tasting notes from the winemaker:

Golden yellow color with a pale hue. Seductive aromas of peach, melon, and citrus are balanced with honeysuckle and vanilla. On the palate, flavors of pears, peaches and melons are backed with lively acidity. A nice touch of vanilla-scented oak provides an added flavor dimension. The creamy palate has a lingering finish of melon and citrus fruit with a satisfying buttery complexity. Our favorite pairing for this wine includes scallops in a cream sauce, pasta carbonara, chicken risotto and Cornish game hen.

Next year for the holidays, I recommend a cooking class – one that meets my list of requirements for the ideal class.  At minimum, find some time to spend with friends…you can’t go wrong.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bobotie with Saffron Rice Paired with 2009 Glenelly The Glass Collection Stellenbosch South Africa Cabernet Sauvignon

Bobotie with Saffron Rice-2

Bobotie (pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable and the “tie” as “tee”) is a wonderful South African interpretation of meat loaf.  In my mind, meatloaf is a great cold weather comfort food.  But if you have grown tired of the same old uninspired meatloaf, this recipe is a fruit and curry filled take on the traditional.

Bobotie with Saffron Rice-1

Bobotie differs from the average meatloaf by adding fruit (raisins, apples, apricots), curry, and a wash of eggs to cover the dish with a pleasant texture and added layer of flavor.  This variant of meatloaf is a wonderful blend of subtle flavors that make it welcome change to your meatloaf repertoire.  My interpretation of South African Bobotie features ground bison and a tablespoon of Trinidad pepper sauce to add some kick and yet another layer of flavor.

For the pairing, my first decision point was to choose a South African wine.  Next, I decided to take the route of creating a balance in the pairing through contrast rather than complement.  I decided to go with a South African Cabernet Sauvignon and settled on the 2009 Glenelly The Glass Collection Stellenbosch South Africa Cabernet Sauvignon.  With a 90 point rating from Robert Parker, it is a classic Cabernet from South Africa but has a bit more of a polished style than others I've tried. Very balanced from start to finish with plenty of plush fruit, and firm acidity corralling the dark fruit.  This is a food friendly wine.

2009 Glenelly The Glass Collection South Africa Cabernet Sauvignon-1

My hopes for balance through contrast were rewarded.  The dark plush fruits added depth of flavor to the brighter fruits in the dish, and the acidity balanced the richness nicely.  At $15, the 2009 Glenelly The Glass Collection Stellenbosch South Africa Cabernet Sauvignon is a great value.  With slightly coarse tannins, I recommend decanting to let the wine open, or better yet, save it in your collection for a couple of years.  It is sure to mature nicely.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 pounds ground bison
  • 2 apples pealed and grated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 slices thick-sliced bread
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup almonds coarsely chopped in a food processor
  • 1 tablespoon Trinidad Pepper Sauce
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Juice from 1/2 of a small lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Butter


  1. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and soak in milk.
  2. Brown the bison in a hot skillet over medium high heat with one tablespoon olive oil. When browned, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Sauté onions and minced garlic with one tablespoon olive oil until soft.
  4. Add curry, brown sugar, salt and pepper, and lemon juice and continue to cook for two minutes.
  5. Transfer onions to the bowl with ground bison.
  6. Lightly squeeze milk from the bread and add to the bowl with the bison. Do not add the milk.
  7. Fold in one egg, grated apple, raisins, almonds, pepper sauce, and apricots.
  8. Coat a casserole dish with butter, and add the mixture.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
  10. Beat 2 eggs with the milk used for soaking the bread.
  11. Pour eggs and milk over the casserole, add several pads of butter and the bay leaves to the top of the casserole.
  12. Return to the oven for another 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  13. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  14. Remove the bay leaves, cut into squares, and serve over saffron rice.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Halibut Steak Poached in Coconut Milk with Coconut Milk Foam, Garlic Sautéed Asparagus and Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers and Potatoes Pan Fried in Duck Fat Paired with 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Chardonnay

Halibut Steak Poached in Coconut Milk-1

Cooking and creating great meals is an endless challenge with infinite possibilities.  There is always something to learn and explore.  For quite some time I have wanted to conquer culinary foams.  This week I found both the inspiration and the magic ingredient to make it happen.  While spending New Year’s with good friends who are also foodies and wine lovers, Beth mentioned a recent experience with foam she enjoyed – oysters with celery foam.  The idea of celery flavors mixing with the salty sweetness of oysters sounded like a winner to me, so I dedicated my efforts to overcoming the foam challenge.

The key to making culinary foam is lecithin.  I began my search in the local grocery stores – bust.  I moved on to the culinary specialty stores – nada.  I concluded I would have to go to the web and order it.  However, once I started my search I found that lecithin is a common dietary supplement found in health food stores and vitamin shops like GNC.  Bingo!  I jumped on the metro, went to the nearest GNC (conveniently located next to my favorite cigar store) and picked up a big canister of lecithin granules for $11 – enough to satisfy my culinary curiosity for the next year or so.

Oysters with Celery Foam

The process of making foam is pretty simple – take a cup or two of the juice or other liquid you want to use as a foam, add a tablespoon of lecithin granules and hit it with a submersion blender until it foams.  Spoon off the foam and add it to your dish – quick and easy.

Now that you have the ingredients and the process, we can back up and ask the question “why?”  The beauty of culinary foams is the ability to add a layer of flavor without changing the structure of the dish – much like a sauce, but without the addition of butter and lengthy reduction.  The result is pure flavor, and much lighter than traditional sauces. 

The oysters with celery foam is a good example.  Oysters and a celery stick doesn’t work well – the oyster slides to the floor.  You could try grating or shredding the celery, but it still does not work.  By running celery through a juicer, foaming it, and adding a dollop to the oyster, you achieve something visually appealing, does not detract from the essence of the oyster, and adds an interesting layer of flavor while not affecting your experience of oyster structure.

2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Chardonnay-1

The same holds true for the entre – while poaching fish in coconut milk adds a hint of flavor, the coconut milk foam adds a distinctive layer of flavor to the dish.  With the rich buttery flavors of the halibut steak and coconut milk, I chose the 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Chardonnay for our pairing.  Fermented in stainless steel, this Chardonnay is nicely acidic, refreshingly crisp and features flavors of apple, pear and bright citrus.  The acidity and citrus formed an elegant balance with the richness of the fish and coconut as well as the rich flavors of the potatoes fried in duck fat. 

2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Chardonnay

At $11, the 2010 Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Chardonnay is an exceptional value and holds great promise for a broad range of pairings.


Oysters on the Half Shell with Celery Foam

Easy stuff.  Run 5 or six stalks of celery through a juicer to produce about one cup of celery juice.  Add 1 tablespoon of lecithin granules and blend with an immersion blender until foam forms.  Shuck your oysters leaving the belly in the deep side of the shell and spoon a dollop of celery foam.

Halibut Steak Poached in Coconut Milk with Coconut Foam

Halibut Steak Poached in Coconut Milk


  • 3 cans coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 pound halibut steak
  • 3-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lecithin granules


  1. Reserve 1 cup of coconut milk for foam and pour remainder in a pan just larger than your halibut steak.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat and add halibut fillets, cooking for about 10 minutes turning the halibut at the 5 minute mark.
  3. Just before finished, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add lecithin granules to the reserved coconut milk and blend for about 30 seconds or until foam forms. Spoon foam over halibut and serve immediately.


Added to the halibut steak, I sautéed asparagus and mushrooms with minced garlic.  For additional color and flavor I halved two red peppers and put them under a broiler until the skin was charred.  After removing from the broiler, cover the peppers with a towel to let them steam.  Peel the skins (very easy after charring and steaming), slice into long thin strips, place in a shallow bowl with three thinly sliced garlic cloves, drizzle with olive oil, and season to taste.  Toss.  Do this process early to let the peppers marinade.

Finally, I pan fried thinly sliced potatoes in garlic and duck fat.  Just reach in the freezer and pull out your container of duck fat next to the ice-cream (no duck fat?  Shame.)  Just before tender and turning brown, add a healthy portion of finely chopped parsley and season to taste.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.