Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crab Bisque, Crayfish and Cheese Grits, Cajun Fried Aligator with a Sweet and Spicy Remoulade Paired with Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling

In my last post, Adventures in Juice Land Aided by Cold Soup, I wrote about my recent exploration of a juice diet (strong armed by Chef Sue) along with my thoughts on moderation when embarking on any similar dietary trek.  This pairing is part of that moderation and features somewhat of a seafood theme of crab bisque (brackish water) , crayfish and cheese grits (saltwater), and fried alligator (fresh water).

My real dilema with this meal was the wine pairing.  Early on in the conception I settled on a refreshing Riesling.  I was confident a dry Riesling would pair well with the bisque and the alligator, but as I thought further I was concerned a dry Riesling might be challenged by the strong and spicy flavors of the crayfish and grits.  There was only one thing to do - select both a dry Riesling and an off dry Riesling and let the chips fall where they may.  It turned out to be a pleasing decision.

I selected two Rieslings from Chateau Ste Michelle; a 2010 Columbia Valley Dry Riesling, and a 2011 Columbia Valley Riesling.  The winemakers tasting notes for the dry Riesling state “The Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling is a crisp, dry and refreshing style of Riesling. It exhibits fresh flavors of white peach and mandarin orange, and ends with a clean finish. This is an incredibly versatile food wine and my favorite with oysters.”  I agree with these tasting notes and would add that the aromas nicely echo the flavors - you taste precisely what the nose foretells.  I would also add that the wine has a well balanced acidity that reinforces the winemakers claim this is a versatile pairing wine.

The 2011 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling is the slightly sweeter sibling of the 2010 dry Riesling.  The sweetness is developed in moderation and does not detract from the prominent peach and citrus flavors.  Winemakers tasting notes: “Our Columbia Valley Riesling is a blend of Riesling from throughout Washington’s Columbia Valley. We craft it to be a refreshing, off-dry Riesling vintage after vintage. The wine delivers sweet lime and peach character with subtle mineral notes. This is our “any day Riesling” that is a pleasure to drink and easy to match with a variety of foods.”  At times, the sweetness of some Rieslings can limit pairing options, but in this case the sweetness is sufficiently moderated that pairing options are more diverse than the sweeter interpretations.

The great fun of this pairing - two wines and three components to the meal - presented six pairing combinations leading to a thoughtful and enjoyable meal.  I will start by saying both of the wines worked nicely across the plate.  The peach flavor featured in both wines worked splendidly across each of the pairings.  However, both Chef Sue and I had our favorites - and our assessment was in lock step.  The dry Riesling worked best with the crab bisque and the alligator.  Both benefited form the well balanced acidity.  Our favorite pairing was the 2011 Riesling with the crayfish and grits.  The added sweetness balanced perfectly with the piquance of the crayfish and cheese grits. 

At less than $10, these wines are exceptional values, magically enjoyable, and great choices for pairing with your favorite dishes.  I highly recommend both for your next pairing or simply enjoying as a refreshing choice on a warm summer day.

As you read through the recipes, you will note that the quantities far exceed a dinner for two designed for moderation.  I plan on enjoying the leftovers for a couple of days!  Blissful.

One final note - please accept my apologies for the photography.  Unlike my normal dining room photo studio products, these shots were taken with my iPhone.  I sadly forgot to pack my camera and lighting kit for our weekend retreat.  I will do better next time barring any further age induced memory lapse.


Crab Bisque


  • 1 pound freshly picked crab meat
  • kernels from four ears of roasted corn
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 5 basil leaves finely chopped
  • juice from 5 large tomatoes (either use a juicer, or mash the tomatoes through a colander) 
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine corn, onion, basil and tomato juice in a pot over medium heat and allow to cook for two hours (important in reducing the acidity).  Add water as necessary to maintain appropriate consistency.
  2. Just before you are ready to serve, add the crab and heavy cream.  Bring to serving temperature and ladle into bowls.

Crayfish and Cheese Grits


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound cleaned precooked crayfish
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tomato finely diced
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring water and half and half to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
  2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil.  Sauté onions and garlic until onions are tender.
  3. Add diced tomato, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, creole seasoning, and chili pepper. Sauté until liquid is reduced by half.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Plate the grits and top with shrimp mixture.  Enjoy.

Cajun Fried Alligator

  • 1 pound aligator loin cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  1. Prepare egg wash by beating egg with a dash of water.
  2. Prepare breading by combining corn meal, panko, cajun seasoning and a dash of salt and pepper.
  3. Coat alligator cubes in egg wash then coat with breading.
  4. Gently place coated alligator in 375 degree oil and cook until golden brown.
  5. Serve with sweet chili pepper remoulade for dipping.
Sweet Chili Pepper Remoulade

Mix 1/2 cup sweet chili pepper sauce (available at any Asian market) with 1/2 cup mayonaise.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Adventures in Juice Land Aided by Cold Soup

Earlier this year Chef Sue purchased a juicer.  I was skeptical.  Back in the mid 90s, we had a juicer which was a great idea, but cleaning the damn thing hardly justified the end result.  Things have changed since the 90s.  Today's juicers are better designed and easy to clean.  Making fresh juice now takes less time, from start to cleanup, than brewing a pot of coffee.

Since the time of her juicer purchase, Chef Sue concocted increasingly complex juices more and more frequently.  I was amused.  Eventually she began replacing meals with fresh juices made from kale, cucumber, spinach, celery, beats, carrots, apples, berries, oranges, melon, grapefruit, pineapple and just about everything else you can find at the farm stand.  I continued to smirk and giggle - when she wasn't looking.  Then I realized she was shedding weight.  Wow, there might be something to this.

After a bit of thought, I became less mocking and more intrigued.  Think about it; how big of a vegetable basket do you need to equal the calories in your perfectly prepared steak?  And what are the nutritional differences?  Now take that basket of vegetables and run them through a juicer to extract all the important stuff.  The result is a nutrient rich condensation of raw, unprocessed fresh veggies and fruits with comparably few calories.  It started to make sense to me, and I joined in Chef Sue's juicing - on occasion.

Chef Sue's juicer subversion strategy was beginning to take hold.  A couple of weeks ago, she sealed the deal.  One night she asked if I wanted to watch a documentary on juicing.  I reluctantly agreed.  After watching the movie, I decided to jump in with both feet.  If you care to watch the video "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" here is the link:  I have been doing the juicing thing now for nearly two weeks and have shed seven pounds, regained lost hair, regrown a finger lost in a tragic golf accident, and watched that nasty rash disappear.  Well, at least I did lose the seven pounds.

Being a firm believer in moderation, I cannot live only on juice (or any other restrictive miracle diet).  I cannot live without something to chew on, and cannot imagine sustaining myself without the world of flavors I enjoy.  So I modified the approach to include principally cold soups (great during the heat of summer!), not feeling guilty if I decided to pan sear scallops, or enjoy a nice meal of pulled pork with friends.  And to my joy, I recalled that wine is grape juice!  No need to dump my favorite beverage!

Several bushels of fruits and veggies, and 7 pounds lighter, I am happy with my compromise.  Over the last couple of weeks I have researched/created several cool summer soups with something to chew on.  The only exception is the first recipe - I made this simply to satisfy my desire for wonderful flavor and a touch of variety (warm soup).

And don't worry, I have not conceded our routine wine pairing extravaganzas.  On the menu for this evening is crab bisque, fried crab and grit balls, crawfish and cheese grits (a take on shrimp and grits), and fried aligator strips paired with a yet to be determined Riesling.  My mouth is watering already!

Here are the recipes for the soups I have used to supplement the juice program.


Curried Zucchini Soup


  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise then cut into 1 inch sections
  2. In a 4 quart or larger pot, sauté onions until tender with olive oil.  About half way through the process add the minced garlic.
  3. Add curry powder and stir to coat evenly.
  4. Add zucchini, chicken broth, and coconut milk.  Cover and continue to cook over medium low heat until zucchini is tender – about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender.
  6. Season to taste and serve.



  • 5 ripe tomatoes 
  • 2 large cucumbers, chopped 
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped black olives 
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste 
  • 2 1/2 cups water 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced 
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced 


  1. Score a cross in the base of each tomato. Cover with boiling water for 1 minute, plunge into cold water, drain and peel away the skin. Remove seeds and chop the flesh so finely that it is almost a puree. 
  2. Mix together the tomatoes, 1 of the chopped cucumbers, 1 of the chopped green pepper, garlic, olives, vinegar, oil and tomato paste, and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. 
  3. Use 2 to 3 cups of chilled water to thin the soup to your taste. Serve chilled with the chopped onion, green pepper, scallions, cucumber, and herbs and served separately for diners to add to their own bowls. 

Mango Gazpacho


  • 2 fresh mangos 1/4-inch-diced 
  • 2 cups orange juice 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch dice 
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice 
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic 
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced 
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, basil or cilantro 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

  1. Process mangoes, orange juice and oil in a blender or food processor until pureed. Transfer to a medium bowl, along with remaining ingredients. 
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Watermelon Gazpacho


  • 6 cups cubed seeded watermelon 
  • 2 cucumbers, chopped 
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint 
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 
  • 3 tablespoons honey 
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice 
  • 20 small mint leaves 


  1. Reserve a dozen (or so) small pieces of watermelon for garnish. 
  2. Working in batches, place the remaining watermelon, the cucumbers, red bell peppers, onion, jalapeño pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, 3 tablespoons of fresh mint, the ginger, honey, and pineapple juice into a blender, and blend for about 30 seconds per batch. 
  3. The mixture should be well blended but retain some texture. Pour into a large bowl, and refrigerate 1 hour. Serve in bowls, and garnish each bowl with a couple of chunks of the retained watermelon and 2 small mint leaves. 

Avocado and Tomato Soup


  • 4 large tomatoes 
  • 1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced 
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels 
  • 2 tomatoes, diced 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • salt and pepper to taste 


  1. Using a juicer, extract the juice of the 4 large tomatoes. 
  2. In a medium bowl combine the tomato juice, avocado, corn, 2 diced tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon juice. 
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for 1 hour and transfer to serving bowls. 

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup


  • 1 cantaloupe - peeled, seeded and cubed 
  • 2 cups orange juice 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 


  1. Peel, seed, and cube the cantaloupe. 
  2. Place cantaloupe and 1/2 cup orange juice in a blender or food processor; cover, and process until smooth. 
  3. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in lime juice, cinnamon, and remaining orange juice. 
  4. Cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Garnish with mint if desired. 

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Salmorejo, Curried Chicken and Crabcake Sliders

Sometimes an unplanned dinner can turn into something spectacular.  This was exactly one of those instances.  On Saturday, Chef Sue was picking up some veggies and in a moment of weakness bought a chicken.  Once home, she put it on the rotisserie thinking it might come in handy sometime later in the weekend.  Meanwhile, I was reading an article on salmorejo - a traditional Andalusian dish from Spain.

With my recent enjoyment of cold soup during the oppressive heat we are experiencing the DC area, I plunged ahead with my research of salmorejo.  Salmorejo is the creamy yet creamless cousin of gazpacho made with breadcrumbs, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and vinegar.  It is peasant food which puts good use to leftover bread.  Bless those peasants - it is simply delightful and creamy beyond belief.

As I researched salmorejo, I found the recipes did not vary much, but in each case the recipes emphasized the need for ripe tomatoes.  With the poor quality of store purchased tomatoes, I recommend buying them from your local farmers market or a road side stand to avoid the greenhouse ripened tomatoes that are hard as baseballs.  If you cannot get seasonal vine ripened tomatoes, canned tomatoes would be a better choice than the grocer version.

The meal came together when we decided to make curried chicken salad from the rotisserie chicken, add crabcake sliders from fresh Maryland crabs, and add freshly grilled corn on the cob.  In summary, a perfect meal for a hot summers day.

A couple of notes about the curried chicken salad.  Start with your favorite chicken salad recipe and add some curry, diced apple, halved grapes, and nuts of your choice (I prefer chopped walnuts).  Easy and tasty.

This meal was not planned as a wine pairing, so we pulled a bottle of daily drinker Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc.  It worked just fine and was a refreshing addition to the meal.



  • ·      1 pound panko breadcrumbs
  • ·      1 ½ pounds ripe red tomatoes (approximately nine medium tomatoes), peeled and seeded.
  • ·      1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ·      1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ·      1 garlic clove
  • ·      salt to taste
  • ·      Serrano ham
  • ·      2 hard boiled eggs

  1. 1.     Put the panko and the tomatoes in the food processor and blend until well combined.  If you don’t have a large food processor, you may have to do this in batches.  If you don’t have a food processor, a blender will work and will definitely require several batches.  Be sure to put the tomatoes in first then work in the bread crumbs.
  2. 2.     Add the raw garlic and olive oil. Blend until the mixture turns creamy and smooth.
  3. 3.     Add salt to taste and vinegar, and mix again.
  4. 4.     Refrigerate at least three hours.
  5. 5.     Garnish with Serrano ham and slices of boiled eggs.
  6. 6.     Variations on this recipe include the addition of red peppers, onions, and lemon.  Experiment and have fun.
In vino veritas, buen provecho.