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.