Tag Archives: wine

Seared scallops with Christmas risotto

For Christmas Eve dinner, my sister and I prepared a meal perfect for the night before Christmas because it won’t compete with the rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. Scallops seared to a caramel brown sit atop a creamy risotto made with bacon, basil, jalapeno and bright red tomatoes – creating a red and green festive plate.

I’ve made this risotto a couple times before, after seeing it here on We Are Not Martha. However, I’ve had to change a few things. For example, adding the tomatoes at the very-very end to prevent them from dissolving into the risotto. Also, I used more chicken stock than it called for, to add extra creaminess. The only fat you’ll need comes from the smoky bacon, which will blow your family away with the addition of garlic and white wine.

Truly, there’s little to dislike about this dish. The following offers small portions for 4 people, but plenty for 2-3.

Seared scallops with Christmas risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound large sea scallops, rinsed, patted dry, salt and peppered
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced (or 1/2 of large jalapeno) – approx 2 tsp
  • 3/4 c. arborio rice
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
  • 3 c. chicken stock, low-sodium
  • 2-3 tomatoes, seeded and diced (roughly 1 c.)
  • Handful fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 c. Parmesano Reggiano, grated, plus more for serving

Heat chicken stock in medium saucepan over medium heat on back burner. Keep simmering.

Meanwhile, add bacon to large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, reducing heat to medium-low, until bacon is crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off all but 1 T of the bacon fat.

Return pan to medium-low heat and add garlic and jalapeno (you could also substitute a pinch of red pepper flakes here). Cook for a minute, until foaming.

Stir in rice and cook until translucent around the edges; 1-2 min.

Add wine, scraping up the bacon bits from the bottom. When wine is absorbed, add 1 ladle (1/2 c.) chicken stock. Stir until absorbed, repeating until all the stock is used or the risotto is creamy with just the smallest bite to it. You don’t want it to be grainy in the middle – but slightly al dente. Check for seasonings (I’ve never had to add extra salt and pepper).

While the rice is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat with butter and EVOO. When butter is melted and foaming, add scallops and sear until a nice brown crust forms on each side. Reserve to a plate.

When risotto is done, stir in the cheese until melted, then add the basil, tomatoes and reserved bacon.

To serve, spoon risotto onto plates, then top with scallops. Serve with extra cheese to dust on top.

I can’t tell you how delicious this is. Served with more white wine and a salad, my family was sighing with happiness. Please try this – special enough for a holiday, but perfect for any ol’ day. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Scallops gratineed with wine, garlic, herbs

I don’t do dinner parties very often, so sometimes it’s nice to create one for  two people, as if you were feeding a crowd. Make it complete with flowers on the table, candles, themed music, wine and entertainment.

All things French recently got under my skin. I wanted a French meal with French wine and to watch a French film. Describing this to a co-worker over drinks one night, he asked, “Are you a Francophile?” After I figured out what that meant, I said no, I am not obsessed with the French. I simply like cooking with butter.

Julia Child immediately came to mind and I picked her version of scallops Provencale – gratineed with white wine, garlic and fresh herbs. I’m usually wary of shellfish cooked with cheese, but I must say this turned out perfectly splendid.

Grant got a really nice French white wine and red wine, and tuned Pandora to something you would hear in a French cafe.

Before preparing the scallops, I finished up this bizarre yeast-cake that is supposed to be like the one Amelie makes in her movie. I’ve never made a cake with yeast, I’m assuming this is a French tradition. Anyway, you essentially fold the dough over butter and sugar a bunch of times, then top it with sliced fruit (I used apples tossed with lemon juice and orange zest), and more sugar and butter.

Then you bake it and everything caramelizes and oozes together.

I must say I didn’t fancy this cake, which is why I’m not going to bother you with the recipe.  The texture seemed wrong – I just didn’t get it. But the fruit was tasty.

Certainly, the star of the show was the scallop dish, as described below (note: Julia writes her ingredients as they appear in the cooking method, so notice the multiple times butter is listed):

Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. minced yellow onions
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 1/2 T minced shallots
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 lb. washed scallops (we used the small guys)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c. flour in a dish
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2/3 c. dry white wine plus 3 T water
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/4 c. Swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 T butter cut into pieces

Cook onions slowly in butter in small saucepan for 5 min, until tender and translucent but not browned. Stir in shallots and garlic, cook 1 min. Set aside.

Dry scallops and cut into 1/4 inch slices, if you don’t have the small ones. Small ones can be whole. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, roll in flour and shake off excess.

Saute scallops quickly in large pan, heated with 2 T butter and 1 T oil for 2 min, to brown. Work in batches, if needed.

Pour wine and water into pan with all the scallops, de-glazing with a wooden spoon. Add herbs and cooked onion mixture. Cover and let simmer for 5 min., then uncover and boil down sauce for 1 min. Check for seasoning.

Simmering away

Spoon scallops and sauce into a baking pan (or individual ramekins), sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter.

Ready for the broiler

Run under moderate broiler 3-4 min, until heated through and cheese is lightly browned.

We served the scallops hot and bubbling, with some toasted French baguette and more French wine.

I complained that my scallops were a little tough, but Grant said I was crazy. One thing I WAS crazy about was this sauce! Oh my, Julia, you know how to make a great sauce. Bread is absolutely necessary to sop up all that flavor.

We finished up supper and then settled down to watch “Amelie,” of which I finished a little over half before drifting off to sleep. A satisfactory end to Frenchie day.

Enjoy your dinner parties for two (or one), friends! xoxo

Quick, easy Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is one of those classic French dishes that I imagine would transport me to Paris, with Julia Child on my arm. We’d have a leisurely day picking out a nice plump bird, slab of smoky bacon and a hearty red wine, then spend the next 10 hours cooking it all together.

When I’m not jet-setting with my fantasies, I’m in a warm Southern kitchen with a checkered tea apron around my waist, seeing what my wooden spoon will cook up next. This streamlined Coq au Vin lacks the all-day cooking richness that the classic dish enjoys, but it still hits all the right flavor notes. Think bacon, onions and red wine all bubbling away in your skillet. The smell is wonderful and I enjoyed the festive purple color. A nice weeknight dinner – maybe I’ll tackle Julia on a Sunday.

Bon Appetit’s Quick & Easy Coq au Vin

Ingredients:

  • 4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 8 ounces large crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, halved (Note: I omitted)
  • 8 large shallots, peeled, halved through root end
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine (such as Syrah)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
  • 4 teaspoons all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 300°F. Sauté bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.
Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon parsley. Add to drippings in skillet. Sauté until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side; transfer to pie dish (reserve skillet). Place in oven to keep warm.
Add mushrooms and shallots to skillet; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; toss 10 seconds. Add wine, 1 1/4 cups broth, bacon, and 1 tablespoon parsley. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Boil 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place flour in small cup. Add 1/4 cup broth, stirring until smooth.
Add flour mixture to sauce. Cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange chicken on platter; stir juices from pie dish into sauce and spoon over chicken. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.
Enjoy, Frenchies! xoxo

Wine-poached pear tart

No kitchen is complete without Julia!

I have a theory, after reading Martha Stewart Living for many years, that she has simplified her gourmet recipes. I call it the Rachael Ray effect – modern cooks want great-tasting meals without all the gourmet techniques. And then Julia happened. Oh, Julia. Julia, Julia. After a certain blog-turned-book-turned-movie came out, who hasn’t been attempting Julia Child’s wonderful pastries and roasts in their so-not-French kitchens? I must say that Julia was not writing for the at-home cook. Or at least not the modern cook, who wants easy, healthy and fast recipes dumbed down to a 4th grade level.

Today will be known as the day I attempted my very first Julia Child recipe. Julia’s Pear Tart, which I found at another blog. It was written long and in a confusing order. I re-worked the recipe a bit, but I must warn you that this still took me ROUGHLY FOUR HOURS. From start to finish. Perfect for the holidays, if you are looking for an excuse to spend time away from the family. Also perfect for a free Sunday morning.

Julia Child’s Pear Tart, adapted by WriteGal

Make the sugar crust:

1 1/3 c. flour

7 T sugar

1/8 tsp baking powder

5 T butter, chilled, diced

2 T shortening

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water

1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder. In food processor, add butter and shortening, pulsing, until it resembles oatmeal flakes. Add egg and vanilla until dough forms a ball. Flatten into a disk and chill until firm, 1 hour to 3 days (if making ahead).

For the frangipane (I had never used this cooking method before, so I really had to trust Julia!):

1/2 c. toasted almonds, pulverized in food processor

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

3/4 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

1 c. whole milk

3 T butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

Whisk egg and yolk in large bowl (KitchenAid) until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until  pale yellow – 3 min. Beat in flour.

Heat milk in medium pot until scalded, temper into egg mixture, then pour all into egg bowl, whisking vigorously.

Pour milk-egg mixture back in the saucepot over moderate heat. Stir slowly until mixture thickens and coagulates into a stiff paste. NOTE: You will think you are doing this wrong because you’ll scrape up big globs from the bottom of the pot. Just keep stirring until it looks like some sort of gummy paste. Mom said it was like wallpaper paste. Beat vigorously with a whisk over low heat for 2-3 min. to cook the flour. Your arm will be sore! Take it off the heat and mix in butter, vanilla, almond extract, almonds. Let cool to room temp. Cover with a buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

It looks like peanut butter!

Now, bake the crust. Heat oven to 375.

On a floured surface, roll out chilled dough to 1/8 in. and transfer to false-bottomed tart pan (8 or 9 inches is fine). Press into corners and fold 1/2 in. over the edges. Trim excess.

Line tart with buttered foil and fill with uncooked rice, beans or pie weights. I used barley. Bake for 10-15 min. until just set and not sticky (mine took about 20 minutes, I couldn’t believe it!). Remove foil and weights, then cook another 7-8 min., or until lightly browned. Remove from oven to cool COMPLETELY.

For the pears:

2 c. red wine (I used merlot)

2 T fresh lemon juice

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3-4 rip-firm pears (Mine were totally not ripe)

1/4 c. red currant jelly or other dark preserve

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine wine, lemon, sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel, half, stem and core the pears (melon baller is helpful). When liquid is boiling, add the pears and simmer until tender. Mine took 20 min. because they were so unripe, but yours might take 8-10 min.

The pears will become a rich ruby color and your house will smell like mulled cider. Let the pears cool in the liquid for 20 min. and then drain on a rack.

Rapidly boil the liquid down until the syrup starts to bubble like caramel, 230 degrees (I used a meat thermometer). Remove from heat and add preserves, stirring until dissolved.

Now, assemble the tart!

Paint the inside of the shell with the syrup. Fill shell with frangipane, smoothing with a spatula. Cut pears and place on top.

Lightly glaze pears with some of the remaining jelly. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

How did it taste, you ask? Very gourmet. The crust was perfectly flaky and flavorful, although some of the jelly baste dripped through and stuck to the underside. This can be remedied by simply putting buttered parchment on the bottom of the pan. The frangipane wasn’t too sweet, but had a rich nuttiness to it. The almond flavor was strong but not overpowering. In fact, the roasted almonds gave it an almost cocoa flavor, which surprised my guests to realize it had no chocolate in it. The pears tasted wonderful, just like mulled wine, and the jelly glaze was a wonderful finish. I recommend using the more tart red currant preserves because they match well with the sweetness of the other ingredients. A truly elegant dessert.

Enjoy, friends, and I hope everybody is having a happy and peaceful holiday! xoxo

Chicken with prosciutto and sage

IMG_4593

I have to say “Wow” to this dish. And admit that Shanlee inspired me to make it with her blog post, in which she describes how it turned her husband, a chicken-hater, into a chicken-lover. Oh, Martha Stewart. How you make foodies out of all of us! Can I play you when someone makes your version of Julie/Julia? Heck, I should write the damn blog-turned-book-turned-movie. “Martha & Me.”

Back to why this dish works: A twist on veal saltimbocca, a Roman classic. The chicken cutlet is only lightly seasoned – in fact, rather unseasoned, and just lightly fried. But that works perfectly with the rather strong, salty flavor of the prosciutto and the amazingly powerful sage leaf that magically infuses the whole chicken breast. I usually think cooked prosciutto is too gamey, but not so in this dish.

A simple white-wine and sage sauce spooned over at the last minute adds an extra tang and richness, tying the whole thing together.

Here’s what impressed me: the prosciutto actually stayed ON the chicken when I pan-fried it! When I do this method with bacon or pancetta, it seems like the pork always falls off somehow. But not here. The thin prosciutto held onto the chicken, trapping the sage leaf inside like a pressed flower.

We really loved this and I will definitely be making this again. It would be perfect for company because it doens’t take long (30 min. total), can easily be multiplied and has wide appeal (My W-S friends? Interested?).

Ingredients:

1/4 c. flour

Kosher salt and pepper

One fresh sage leaf for every chicken breast, plus 4 more, chopped (sage keeps for weeks in the fridge)

4 chicken cutlets (I bought one package – 1.25 lbs – of “thinly sliced” chicken breasts from the store, which basically had five cutlets that I didn’t have to pound out. Use whatever you can find.)

One slice of prosciutto for every chicken cutlet (I just bought one pre-sliced package)

4 tsp. EVOO

3/4 c. dry white wine (pinot griggio?)

1/3 c. chicken stock

1 T cold butter

Method:

In a shallow bowl, stir flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Set aside.

Lay one sage leaf on each cutlet and wrap the prosciutto around it, pressing to seal. Dredge each cutlet in the flour and tap off excess.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp oil over medium. Cook 2 cutlets at a time until golden brown on each side and cooked through – about 4 min. per side for me. Remove cutlets to a plate with foil and keep warm while you add more oil and cook the rest. I put the chicken in the oven on “keep warm” while I made the sauce.

Add wine and broth to skillet and cook until reduced, 2 min. Let cool 1 min. and add butter and minced sage. Stir until melted.

To serve, Martha says to spoon the sauce on the plate, then the chicken. We served ours with toast and some couscous with almonds – even mashed potatoes would work here. A simple side salad would be nice.

Please enjoy this elegant take on a simple chicken recipe. Stay hungry, friends! xoxo