Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Food Night would like to take a moment to express thanks to everyone that has brought their time, resources and intellect to the table these past few years. And of course, thanks to every one of you that has read the musings on these pages. This is just the beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. – If you are looking for how to prep your turkey in future years, look no further than this roast/braise combo from Michael Ruhlman. That's how Food Night rolled this year, to absolutely perfect results...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Proper Pan Roasted Chicken

Chicken. Some say it’s boring. Some even use it as a catch all “flavor” descriptor for bland and boring food stuffs. “Tastes like chicken” has basically become a punch line. So take your chicken to the next level by following these simple steps, and you’ll be amazed how delicious chicken can be.

Before we get to the technique involved here, let’s touch on three things you can do before the fowl hits the frying pan that will facilitate success:

1. The pan. Use properly seasoned cast iron. Or, use a nice stainless steel pan (such as All Clad). A 12’’ pan will allow you to cook 1 or 2 pieces of chicken. Never exceed 2 pieces in one pan.

2. The pan must be hot. Not warm, not nuclear… but hot.

3. The chicken. If at all possible, buy your chicken at Heartland. Why? Because the chicken there is fresh, properly butchered, and air dried in the cooler so the skin is DRY. Which is a very good thing, since it’s impossible to crisp up wet, soggy skin. If you can’t get to Heartland, buy an ethically raised, hormone free, skin on chicken breast, leave it UNCOVERED on a plate in your refrigerator for two or three days to dry out the skin. And yes, this step is worth it if you don't get your poultry at Heartland.

Pan Seared Airline Chicken Breast

1 (or 2) Kadejan Farms Airline* Chicken Breast(s)
Oil (not olive, ideally peanut or grapeseed, but canola would suffice)
Salt (kosher for seasoning, Maldon for garnish)

*An “Airline” chicken breast leaves the first joint of the wing (i.e. the “drummie”) attached to the breast. Also, the skin is left on, which is key, since it’s hard to get crispy skin without, you know… the skin. And you absolutely do want crisp skin on your chicken.

1. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking, pat any moisture off the chicken with paper towels, and place skin side down on a plate. Sprinkle kosher salt over the flesh side. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Put your dry pan on the stove over medium to med-high heat. When it’s hot (not warm, not nuclear), film your pan with oil, a generous teaspoon per piece of chicken. It should instantly ripple, perhaps smoke slightly. Add the chicken skin side down, and note the loud sizzle when it hits the pan.

3. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes on the stove, add butter (approximately 1 tablespoon per piece of chicken) to the pan, gently lift* one side of the chicken so that the melted butter has a chance to get between the skin and the pan.

*If your chicken is stuck to the pan… forget lifting it, and just put the pan with the butter in the oven. Maybe try to lift it again after it’s been in the oven 5 or 10 minutes.

4. Put the pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on size of chicken.

5. Chicken is done at an internal temperature of 165F. If chicken isn’t done after 15-20 minutes, turn chicken skin side up and return to the oven until done. Note chicken will continue to cook approximately another 5 degrees after it’s removed from the oven. When done, allow chicken to rest on a plate for 4ish minutes before slicing.

6). Garnish with Maldon. Devour* while standing over the sliced meat in the kitchen, or in a civilized manner at the table with your favorite accompaniment(s) (Dijon mustard? Sriracha? Mixed green salad? Caramelized brussles sprouts and a sunny side up duck egg?........).

*Make sure you freeze the wing bone in a freezer safe bag, to reserve for making chicken stock. You’ll be making this chicken often enough that you’ll have a bag full of wings in no time.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Grilled Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Food Night is excited to bring you this timely* post at the height* of sweet corn season in the upper Midwest;

*False. Though it was timely a short while ago.

Do you have in ice cream maker? Well, if you have one of these…

… then, yes, you do. And if you do have a Kitchen Aid, and you are reading this, then you should own this and this. The pasta attachment and the ice cream attachment are two things Food Night really wouldn’t be the same without. Well, those two things and plenty of this…

Anyway, Food Night VERY passionately endorses making your own ice cream. In all seriousness, it is A). Easy, and B). Vastly superior to anything you can buy in a grocery store, and you can buy some pretty deece stuff these days.

So if you’ll allow Food Night to spend your money for you; buy the ice cream attachment, and then buy this book. It’s all you need. Well, that and this recipe for…

Grilled Sweet Corn Ice Cream

5 egg yolks
1c whole milk
1c cream
6T sugar
2 ears corn
Pinch salt
1T bourbon
Pinch cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
Pinch paprika (smoked, preferably… optional, but recommended)

1). Grill corn on med-high direct heat, while still in the husks, until husks are blackened on all sides (seriously, blacken the hell out of them). Remove husks, some kernels should have slight to moderate char. Cut kernels off cobs, cut cobs in half and reserve.

2). Combine milk, cream, sugar, corn, cobs, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add cinnamon and paprika if using. Remove cobs from the pan, puree corn/cream mixture with an immersion blender, retrun cobs to pan and steep for an hour.

3). After an hour, remove cobs, squeezing liquid from the cobs back into the pan. Set up a medium bowl in an ice bath. Wisk yolks together in a separate medium bowl. Rewarm corn/cream mixture, and temper the yolks by pouring the warm cream mixture into the yolks very slowly while constantly stirring.

4). Return mixture to the pan, and the stove, and cook slowly on med-lowish heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture reaches at least 170 degrees, or the custard coats the back of a spoon.

5). Pour mixture through a (medium mesh) strainer into the bowl in the ice bath, add bourbon, and stir to cool for a moment.

6). Strain. Strain. Strain. And once you’ve finished straining the mixture, strain it again. (Recommend; start with the medium mesh strainer, as the mixture isn’t pureed terribly finely by the immersion blender. Then do at least 1 preferably 2 passes through a fine mesh strainer. Straining is KEY to a smooth result).

7). Cover the mixture with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the custard. Chill overnight. Then freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Have a Passion

Random thoughts reflecting on an absolutely perfect Food Night last night….

My favorite apron, a gift from Niver + Grandma Eastman's napkins + Calera corks + a broken glass = Food Night.

At the table last night, we discussed when a wine becomes “more” than just a beverage. It’s a hard concept to convey, and is certainly a subjective topic. One person’s perfection is another’s blahsville. Last night we had a wine that approached the wine stratosphere. 2003 Solaia…

Can there be a “best” Food Night? Each one is so unique and gratifying and memorable. That’s why we started documenting these things on the WWW’s, so we could remember them all. The flawless summer night we sat outside and enjoyed the 1996 Calera Reed. The night we had the 1999 Fay, or the 2001 Monte Bello, or the 2000 Dunn. All the truly fabulous guests we’ve shared the table with. Each experience lends something to the collective. And the collective has become something I honestly can’t imagine being without.

The lineup of wines last night was bordering on ridiculous. 2007 Clos Des Papes. Antinori….. not once but twice. 1997 Tignanello and 2003 Solaia. Calera…. not once but twice. Both Mt. Harlan Chardonnays, 2009 and 2004, and a cool discussion about “I thought white wines didn’t age”. Well, clearly certain ones do.

We are wine-obsessed. We care a little too much, and get a little too excited about wine. But it’s brilliant to have a passion. If you’ve got a passion, share it. Cultivate it. Grow it. Some get to go to work and immerse themselves in their passion. I know lots of those people, and I admire, respect and somewhat envy them. Others work to have the means to do what they love. I’m starting to get comfortable living on that side of the coin. The important thing is to have a passion, or four, or twelve. Care so much about something that it makes you want to grab random strangers and inundate them with said passion. Whether that passion is music, legos, the color blue or wine. Have a passion. And be passionate.

The Food Night table was filled with passionate people last night. And that was a beautiful thing.

Food Night hopes you are indulging in your passions as often as possible.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chicken Skewers

Sticks. They can put an eye out, says your mother. But they can also stab portions of protein slathered in a spice paste. In this iteration, we have chicken… the humble* boneless skinless chicken breast, in fact. It’s on a stick, it’s not deep fried (copyright MN State Fair), and you can whip it up in no time. Food Night had some extra time on it’s hands, so we went a little ga-ga with the garnish, so feel free to edit as desired.

*And by humble, Food Night of course means BLAH.

Chicken; On a Stick
Serves 4 as a first course/small plate

For the spice paste
1 clove Garlic, shaved thin
1/2t caraway seed
2t coriander seed
1t alleppo chile flakes (find at Penzey’s)
Zest from 1 lime
White peppercorns to taste
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large mortar and pestle and pulverize into a paste. Stir in a couple tablespoons of toasted sesame oil.

For the Chicken
1 whole boneless skinless breast*, cut into large, equally sized chunks
Skewers, soaked in water for an hour or more

*And by “whole”, Food Night means all of the breast meat that would be found on a chicken.

Slather the chicken chunks in the paste, let stand for at least an hour, preferably 4hrs. Overnight would actually be ideal.

For the pickles
Juice of ½ the lime
Pickling cukes, halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into pea size dice
Serrano chile, shaved thin on a mandolin (optional)
White wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a small container, let stand at least 30 minutes.

For the Garnish
Fresh peach, chopped
Mangalitsa coppa, from Heartland*, shaved thin
Blanched, shocked, grilled garlic scapes, from Heartland*
Microgreens (Heartland*)


To assemble
Remove the chicken in the paste from the refrigerator, skewer (2 pieces per skewer), leaving space between each piece of meat. Then, ALLOW CHICKEN TO REST ON THE COUNTER 20 minutes prior to grilling.*

*As you can see by the capital letters, Food Night is trying to emphasize that this is an important step. Food from fridge to fire results in faulty food lacking in proper caramelization and doneness. And honestly, it’s about the EASIEST thing you can do. Actually you don’t even have to “do” anything… just let the skewered bird sit there… and walk away.

Food Night grills it’s skewers on a gas Weber grill over direct high heat, with the grill uncovered. Turning as appropriate, this usually takes roughly 5 minutes total. Grill the garlic scapes (if using) when the chicken comes off in the same way – high heat, uncovered.

Allow your skewers to rest post-grilling for a few minutes, then plate on top of some of the pickles, peach dice, garlic scapes, and top with the coppa and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cucumber Gazpacho

How about a short and sweet little ditty on Cucumber Gazpacho? Cukes are everywhere in the Farmers Market right now, and we just had a little impromptu Food Night last night, so… circumstances seem ripe for such a ditty.

I recently had some cucumber gazpacho at Heartland, and of course subsequently had discussions with the gents there about how exactly they made it. The following is how Food Night made* it, which much thanks to Dan, Chad and Aaron at Heartland for their knowledge (** fist bump **).

*What follows is the recipe exactly how Food Night made it. Included “optional” ingredients are highly encouraged, but shouldn’t prevent you from buzzing up a batch of this stuff if you don’t want/have/need/like any of these ingredients.

Cucumber Gazpacho
24ish ounces cucumber (used; pickling cucumber), roughly chopped
1T creme fraiche
2T fresh dill
2T fresh parsley (blanched for 5-10 seconds, shocked in an ice bath)
1T fresh cilantro (blanched, shocked)
Juice from 1 lemon
Splash white wine vinegar
4 ice cubes

Optional (but highly encouraged) Ingredients
6 raw almonds
1/2t smoked paprika
1/2t ground coriander seed
Pinch ground caraway seed
4T dry white wine

Garnish (again, obviously optional but highly encouraged)
Maldon salt
Fresh dill and chive
Diced poblano chile
Crème fraiche thinned slightly with a spash of water

1). Combine all ingredients in a blender. (I usually salt each cucumber as I put it in the blender to help track approximately how much salt to add. It's easier to salt "a" cucumber, rather than a pile of them, right?)

2). Puree to desired consistency.

3). Check for seasoning, adding salt/acid as necessary.

4). Serve, with garnish.

So yeah, basically gather ingredients. Put ingredients in blender. Turn blender on. Consume*.

*With a glass of Calera Rose.......................... but you knew that already.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chicken Wing Confit

The exception that proves the rule. That’s what we have here on Day 2 of our Fantastic Four Food Night Grilling posts. Course #2 – not grilled. But it DOES touch on a technique Food Night is extreeeeeeemly fond of; Confit.

And in this case, Chicken Wing Confit. There is no question that the wing is not exactly the most glamorous part of the bird. When you think “chicken wing”, you likely think of deep fried, smokin’ hot, somewhat forgettable bits of bird that are typically drowning in buffalo or other cloyingly sweet and/or sour sauce. Not to put words in your mouth, of course. But if you confit the wing... look what fun that can be...

Food Night assures you, the confit process is INSANELY easy, and produces results that are preposterously good and disproportionate to the level of effort required. The simple three step "how to confit poultry" process is as follows;

1). Cure. Season your poultry with a healthy does of salt. More than you normally would use if you were going to simply grill or sautee the item. Seasonings? Optional, but encouraged. Add them now. Garlic, fresh herbs, fennel, clove, peppercorn, etc. Cover, and let the product hang out on the cure in the refrigerator for 24 hrs. Or more, preferably, like say 72 hrs.

*Those are duck legs from Heartland on the cure.

2). Rinse, pat dry. Place in an oven going pot. Cover completely with fat (traditionalists would use fat from whatever protein you are using…chicken fat, duck fat... but I’ve been using olive oil to great success thanks to Michael Ruhlman). Bring to a bubble on the stove, then place in a 180 degree oven for 12 hours.

*Whole Foods currently has very cost effective large format containers of olive oil.

3). Remove the pot from oven, skim any gunk off the top of the pot, and let cool. DONE. You now have confit’d… whatever. Duck legs. Chicken legs. Chicken wings. Duck wings. Go crazy. Store your “whatevers” COMPLETELY submerged in the fat in the refrigerator*, where they will keep pretty much indefinitely. Please make sure your whatevers are totally submerged in fat to preserve them safely and properly.

*Here is where a Le Creuset vessel comes in handy as it will go from refrigerator, to oven, to cool on the counter, and back to the refrigerator. Very convenient.

From here, you can simply remove your preserved legs/thighs/whatever from the fat, and reheat them on a sheet pan in the oven, perhaps broiling them a little at the end to crisp up the skin.

For the GrillTastic Food Night, I had some leftover chicken wing confit that I’d made a few weeks earlier. And I found some of the season’s first killer heirloom tomatoes at the co-op. So… this happened…

Honey Bourbon Glazed Chicken Wing Confit with Heirloom Tomato Salad
1). Make chicken wing confit, using the technique above. This can/should be done WELL in advance. Food Night added a whole pile of fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, oregano) and lots of shaved garlic, in addition to allepo chile flakes, fennel, coriander seed and cumin to the cure. And the wings were actually on the cure for 72 hours.

2). Get started on Heirloom Tomato salad (recipe follows). You’ll want the tomatoes seasoned and sitting in a colander as you warm the wings in the oven.

3). Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove wings from fat (fat should be at room temp so it isn’t solidified), arrange on baking sheet, and place in oven to warm.

4). Whisk together the Honey Bourbon Glaze (recipe follows) while wings are warming.

5). Baste wings with glaze a time or two while they are warming.

6). Remove wings from oven. Turn on broiler. Reduce glaze in a saucepan to thicken. Baste again with thickened glaze and broil to char SLIGHTLY. Remove from oven, and baste again.

7). Lovingly arrange wings on a plate, scatter with tomatoes, garnish with more shaved radish, chives, and a few flecks of Maldon on the wings (not on the tomatoes… those are plenty seasoned).

8). Devour. But don’t eat the bones…

Heirloom Tomato Salad
Heirloom Tomatoes, of various colors
Breakfast Radish, shaved thin on a mandoline
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Finely diced fresh green or red chile (optional)
Finely diced chives

1). Dice the tomatoes into smallish (pea sized or larger) chunks. Place in a colander, season with salt, and let stand for at least 20 minutes. The tomatoes will throw some moisture, concentrating their flavor.

2). Toss the tomatoes with the remaining ingredients and reserve for use with the wings.

Honey Bourbon Glaze
2T honey (or brown sugar if you find yourself honeyless)
Juice of half a lime
Zest of half a lime
2t sriracha hot sauce
1T whole grain mustard
1T Dijon mustard
1T soy sauce
2T bourbon
2t smoked paprika

Whisk all ingredients together. The end.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Food Night goes Grilling

As you probably have heard, it’s a weeeeeeee bit steamy here in the nation’s mid-section. How do we combat the heat at Food Night? We stand over a hot grill, that’s how. Because when you move AWAY from the grill... the sauna that is the atmosphere doesn't feel so bad! Anyway, it recently occurred to me that we have not had ONE single grilled item at Food Night.* Ever. How is that possible?! That’s a Food Night fail right there.

*Not including the braised pork shoulder which gets seared on the grill prior to braising.

For grilling inspiration, Food Night looked to the best restaurant in St. Paul… The Strip Club.

(photo by Tom Wallace, for

When not Food Nighting, you can sometimes find me enjoying proper food and drink at The too-fabulous-for-words Strip Club Meat and Fish.* Chef JD does a killer little ditty there called “meat on a stick” that changes daily and is typically served with fun little accoutrements. Who doesn’t love grilled bites with accoutrements?! Inspired (and after standing over the grill, excessively perspired), Food Night fired up the grill on a recent Saturday that was so sweltering, even the wine was sweating...

*Suggestion – if you would like to experience a perfect Saturday morning… begin at the St. Paul Farmers Market, cruise across the Street to the Heartland Market to pick up Saturday dinner proteins and whatever else, then scoot up the hill to TSC for brunch while sitting at the bar. Bang. Perfection. See you there.

Hell, we even grilled the SALAD at Food Night!

So let’s do this; let’s see if Food Night can pound out a post a day for the next four days – one for each course at the recently completed Food Night on a Stick. Yes? Yes.

Grilled Summer Salad

Like lots of things at Food Night, what follows is ripe for your brilliant and learned improvisations. Whatever you’ve got and wanna grill and make a salad out of… be my guest. But I must say… the following was super summery and delish.

- Garlic Scapes (pictured above, get ‘em at the Heartland Market, Farmers Market, etc); blanched for 30 seconds, shocked in an ice bath, patted dry,
- English Peas (shelled, blanched, shocked)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Brussels Sprouts, halved through the core, excess leaves removed and reserved.
- Herbs (purple basil, arugula, tarragon, lemon thyme, whatever you want)
- Cucumber broth (recipe follows)
- Shallot (finely diced)
- Lemon juice
- Maldon sea salt

1). Fire up the grill, and get it HOT. (Food Night uses a gas Weber that gets blazing hot). Season scapes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts separately with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

2). Skewer the tomatoes (soak the skewers for an hour in water if they are wood), and grill the tomatoes long enough to just blister the skins a tad and soften partially. Toss Brussels sprouts directly on the grill, they will pop and fuss a little bit, turn once to mark and soften, and remove. Grill garlic scapes to desired level of charredness.

3). Sautee reserved Brussels sprout leaves in a modest amount of olive oil for a couple minutes over med-high heat, finish with a little finely diced shallot and a splash of lemon juice.

4). Combine tomatoes, scapes, sprouts, peas, and herbs in a large bowl. Drizzle with cucumber broth, olive oil, lemon juice. GENTLY toss to combine, and sprinkle with a dash of Maldon sea salt.

5). Arrange lovingly on a plate, and finish with your favorite cured pork product from Heartland Market… Food Night used the utterly insane Wild Boar Prosciutto. Get it while you can (it’s very limited) – that stuff is funky delicious. Garnish with sautéed sprout leaves, micro arugula, and a drizzle of the cuke broth. Or, don’t.

Cucumber Broth
- 1 English cucumber, washed, rough chopped
- Handful bright green herb(s) (parsley or tarragon work great, blanch and shock for brighter green color)
- Salt (enough to season the cuke)
- Handful of Ice
- Water (maybe a ½ a cup… enough to get the mixture moving)
- Lime juice (roughly juice of ½ a lime)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree. Extensively. Strain if you must, but not required – really depends on how finely your blender can puree the food stuffs. I like it unstrained for use in this salad as it retains some body/structure and seems more like a salad dressing substance. If strained, I’d probably emulsify it with oil for the salad dressing (as you would vinegar for vinaigrette).

Use as directed above. And with seafood. And in your favorite Hendricks Gin cocktail.*

*YEAH. Definitely use with Hendricks.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Very Spring-tastic Food Night

Food Night. Spring. Spring + Food Night. What an opportunity!! Ramps. Asparagus. Peas. Eggs. Mushrooms. Oh, and Durden is in the house (literally). The outdoor dining zone is in play…

So please, witness what happens when Spring and Food Night collide....

Spring Orgasm Soup is what we called this. And full disclosure… Food Night got that terminology from Dan Step. This Spring, when all the ramps and asparagus and greens started appearing at Heartland, Dan sent me a text to the effect of “It looks like Spring had an orgasm in here!”. That slayed me, so I retained and reused that here. Yes, Food Night is so eco-friendly, we even reuse clever wordplay. So what... we've got here... is...... asparagus (blanched and shocked), English peas (ditto), ramp greens (ditto), parsley (ditto), all vitamix'd with a little half and half, and lemon. Silky springy goodness. That vitamix is a life altering apparatus, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. (Thanks again Mpls Auxiliary Chapter!!)

Pasta. Pasta is never a bad choice. Unlike milk, which yes… is sometimes a bad choice. But this time Food Night tossed a bit of white wine into the dough, to great success. The pesto was a little disappointing – I mean it worked, but I was efforting this (HIGHLY encourage you to check out that link… really). If anyone knows how to get pesto to look like that… like it’s had cream added to it… please let me know. My right arm is now twice as strong as my left from all the mortar-and-pestling, but my pesto did NOT look like that. Sure it tasted fine, delivering fresh basily and pine nutty goodness, but let’s just move on.

Chicken confit. Pea puree. Seared oyster mushroom. This....... was the REAL DEAL. One of the best things ever at Food Night. Just ask Alex. D-Step taught* Food Night the mushroom technique – mushrooms, tossed in oil, roasted in a 375ish oven until they have some color (10ish minutes? Maybe more… free country remember), then finished in a HOT pan with butter, hit with some fiiiiiiiiinely minced shallot and garlic, finished with a healthy pinch of fresh herbs and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. So literally the time from when the mushrooms enter the pan until they are done (if your pan is HOT enough…) is like a minute. Bang. That just happened.

*And apparently Adam Vickerman taught Step that technique... you want to cook (good) mushrooms like this is all I can say.

Hash. Smoked lamb shank (via Heartland), duck confit (via Food Night), fingerling potato, oyster mushroom, fresh herbs, brussles sprouts. Pea puree. Couple bacon lardons. And a perfect sunny side up egg. Looks good enough to eat, right? We thought so….

*We really aren't doing the pea puree justice here. I think Food Night first-timer Scott said "I could eat this stuff like yogurt". Yes - what he said.

To drink? This ......happened........

It's been a debate here at Food Night Home Offices... how much to really say about wines? Because after all, how interesting is it to hear about a wine that someone else drank? It can be informative, it can be interest peaking, it perhaps can even be mildly entertaining. But Food Night thinks... maybe less is more when it comes to the wine frothing at the mouth? So let's just say two things about this incredible wine...

1). The Dunn 2000 Howell Mountain (in Food Night's opinion) was vastly superior to the 2005 Clos Des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape, which we also (thoroughly) enjoyed that evening. And the '05 Clos Des Papes was not exactly Yellow Tail, seeing as how it earned Wine Spectator's "Wine of the Year" distinction in 2007. So... there's that.

2). The Dunn drank like high end bordeaux, and was consistent with the two prior Dunns we've had (the 1992 while on Food Night Field Trip, and the 2001). It was decanted for 10 hours prior to consumption, and drank perfectly. It probably elicited between 10 and 20 "Holy S&%t is this stuff amazing!!!" type comments during it's consumption from various consumers. Rich, full bodied, balanced, with a minty/eucalyptus tinge that we found very appealing, and a finish that I think I'm still tasting a week later.

Let's leave it at this - if Food Night was stranded on a deserted island, and could have a lifetime supply of one domestic CABERNET producer's wines (thus eliminating Calera from consideration....) dropped from a C-130 onto said island (a likely scenario, obviously)... Food Night would request Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet.

Yes... it's that good. Easily.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Goat Cheese Ravioli

Clearly you have been perfecting your duck egg pasta dough technique. So now, it is time to turn said sheet of silky succulent pasta into a goat cheese carrying apparatus. Also known as “proper food”.*

*Ever watch Jaime Oliver’s “Jaime at Home” TV show? I don’t think he is making new episodes anymore, but I believe it is being rerun on Cooking Channel now. It is completely reflective of why I’m such a massive fan of his, and probably where my Jamie Olive man-crush was born. If I could cook and/or eat and/or have a beer with and/or share an apartment with one “celebrity” chef, it would be Jaime, hands down. Anyway, I heard him say as he was finishing making something that “this is proper cooking”, and now “proper” is my favorite cooking adjective. By far. Feel free to incorporate it into your everyday vocab as I have done. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Goat Cheese Ravioli

1 duck egg pasta recipe
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tsp or two of water)
Soft goat cheese (such as Donnay)

1). Lay sheet of pasta on a floured work surface. And flour a sheet pan or other “landing zone” for your finished raviolis

2). Dot the pasta sheet with roughly a tsp of goat cheese. Place goat cheese on top half of the sheet, as shown, as you’ll be folding the bottom half over it.

3). Brush egg wash between the cheese, and along the top of the sheet. Egg wash will help make a good seal, serving as pasta cement, if you will. Mmmmmm, pasta cement.

4). Fold bottom half over top half, and seal. Work from the folded side of the sheet, forcing any air out the top. You are essentially molding the soft pliable pasta around the dollup of tart goat cheesy goodness.

5). Divide into individual raviolis using a knife, ring mold, or preferably this $5 pasta wheel (best $5 gift I ever got). Transfer to afore mentioned floured landing zone.

Here is where you also have a chance to gently squeeze out any air pockets, and make sure all 3 sides are sealed. The most important thing here is a good seal. If there is a smidge of air trapped in there, don’t stress.

6). Plop into heavily salted water that is GENTLY boiling until done. Usually a minute or two. Or, freeze, and they go from freezer directly to the water.

I tossed these with a little diced carrot, sunchoke, and butter.

Proper cooking.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Game Changers

Diner commentary at the Food Night table (pictured) has always led me to believe that the seared scallops at Food Nights past have been up to par.

And looking back, I honestly do think they were pretty good. But Food Night isn’t satisfied with “pretty good”. So in a quest to turn that culinary par into a birdie (or better), Food Night tried something new with the seared scallops this time. The results? I’ll let this picture say a thousand words………

I mean………… THAT is how you sear a scallop! End. Of. Discussion.

Food Night actually has a bit of a foodgasm every time it looks at that picture. I may even go to Sears and get wallet sized copies of that picture made and pass them out to strangers on the street, like some people do with pictures of their grandkids. And you think I’m kidding…

I guess what I’m saying is, this scallop searing methodology “tweak” was a bit of a GAME CHANGER. And actually it was only one of TWO game changers that transpired at “Food Night – Quack Edition”.

Game Changer #1; The shockingly simple scallop searing scenario.

Game Changer #2; DUCK CONFIT. Please witness….

Food Night is a bit ashamed it took this long to confit some duck. You know how sometimes when you are reading the letters to the editor of your favorite magazine, and someone writes in to say something like:

“Dear Sports Illustrated, it was actually Sven Blimpenberg and not Hugo Richalds that scored the game winning goal for Canada against Greenland in the Frozen Tundra Cup in 1962”.

And after printing the correction letter, the editor usually follows it with a “SI regrets the error”. Well, Food Night regrets the error, and will be confiting the bejezuz out of many fowl legs in the weeks and months to come.

And you should too! Therefore, Food Night is gonna show you how. That is…. if succulent, moist, rich, tender, literally falling off the bone goodness like this…

… would be of interest to you. And if it isn’t, well… I don’t know how to help you. You’re on your own.

So, two game changers, and we haven’t even BEGUN to discuss the wines of the night! Some were new and unique, some were familiar favorites, and then there was this guy… the winner of Best-In-Show for the evening…

*This seems like a good time to mention that, obviously, someone that knows what they are doing with a picture taking device was in attendance at Food Night. That would be Dan Stepaniak, the very same Dan from Heartland that provided the incredible duck product for “Food Night – Quack Edition”. THANK YOU Dan for your excellent contributions, culinary and otherwise, to Food Night!

To sum up; in the coming posts, we are going to revolutionize your scallop searing skills. We are going to build on your duck egg pasta making skills (that you have no doubt been practicing) via goat cheese raviolis AAAAAAAND via course #4 at “Food Night – Quack Edition”, dubbed Duck Three Ways...

*Come on, I can’t show you ALL the photos yet!!! But I can tell you, Duck Three Ways was located in the plates above, about 10 seconds after that picture was taken. And, I dare say, it was the highlight of the evening’s food stuffs.

So have a look at the menu for “Food Night – Quack Edition”, and your server will be along shortly to take your order…

Heartland Duck Charcuterie
procuitto, sausage, duck fat fried chipotle ciabatta

tomato, roasted red pepper, guajillo chile, foie gras buttered crouton

braised fennel, chipotle salsa, orange zest, hedgehog mushroom

Duck Three Ways
duck egg pasta, duck confit, foie gras butter

Goat Cheese Ice Cream, Mocha sherbet

Louis Latour, Pommard-Epenots, Premier Cru

Chateau Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac

Leroy, Bourgogne Blanc

Domaine des Remizieres, Hermitage Blanc, Cuvee Emilie

Le Are, Amarone della Valpolicella

Casanova di Neri, Pietradonice

Parusso, Barolo, Bussia Vigna Munie

Antinori, Guado Al Tasso

The Standish Wine Company, "The Relic", Shiraz, Viogner

Clarendon Hills, Old Vines Grenache, Kangarilla Vineyard

Sutter Home, White Zinfandel