Off The Vine
John Noakes & Chef David Repp
Yes folks my favorite holiday is here—the one that requires no gifts to be given or received, no cards to mail, and no ugly ties to be returned. Thanksgiving is about as pure as a holiday can get. Food, wine and family
It brings families closer (at least for one day) and this includes, but is not limited to (feel free to fill in), significant others, in-laws, outlaws, siblings, parents, grandparents, and any combination of family that may or may not create indigestion, drunkenness and the silent treatment. Read more
Off The Vine
By: John Noakes & Chef David Repp
Chef Dave Repp and I were talking to each other about this week’s column and recipe as we usually do…through our people, because we’re so popular now that we are feuding like The Eagles and we only see each other and speak face to face at appearances. Such is the price of fame I guess. Of course I’m just joking; Chef Repp and I absolutely love working together and creating columns and recipes, and of course trying everything before it gets to your table or goblet (the hard part of our job).
We’ve decided that this week’s column will discuss beer since we are smack-dab in the middle of Oktoberfest, and that the recipe would cover how to make basic stocks (chicken/beef). With the upcoming Wine Walk-About series resuming there will invariably be many recipes that involve stocks so we want our readers to be prepared with your very own already made and sitting in the freezer stock, because everything tastes better when it’s homemade.
What do we know about Oktoberfest besides that it is another guilt-free drinking holiday whereby I am free to drink beer out of an enormously large stein (huge glass) and consume so many grilled German pork sausages (Würst) with spicy brown mustard that my cardiologist would have a heart attack just watching me? For most of us sadly that is all we know about this raucous holiday that lasts for 16 days from September into early October in Munich, Germany. Of course the women all look like the St. Pauli Girl with beer steins in hand and ready to serve. The men are stuffed into their snug fitting Lederhosen like Clark Griswald in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and of course there are the endless sounds of the accordion and polka music (no wonder we have to drink so much beer!) Yes, yes that is all wonderful, but as you know with my column I love to teach and to learn so gather around friends, fill your steins with beer and let’s learn very quickly where and why Oktoberfest originated.
Oktoberfest was originally created to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Bavaria on October 18, 1810. The marriage and ensuing celebration was so grand and enjoyable that it was celebrated every year. One problem though, the weather in Germany is very unstable during mid to late October so it was pushed back to September and early October. By this point I imagine that you are already looking at the recipe so I’ll stop with the lesson and move on to some great Oktoberfest beers you should try this season. Ayinger Oktober fest-Marzen (more full bodied and malty), Hofbrau Oktoberfest from Munich which is lighter in style and taste than Ayinger, and then there is Negra Modelo from Mexico…yes that’s right I said Mexico. It is the only German Dunkel-Lager style beer produced in Mexico.
Whichever beer you choose, the main point is that Oktoberfest is a great excuse to get all of your friends and family together to enjoy some good food, beer, and friendship in the great outdoors before the cold winter is upon us. Cheers!
BASIC CHICKEN STOCK
5 lbs chicken parts ,wings, backs, legs etc
1 medium onions peeled and chopped
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs rinsed and chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbls whole black peppercorns
3 quarts cold water
Put all the ingredients in a large soup and bring to a boil
Simmer for 1 ½ hours skimming any scum and oil
Strain through a fine sieve and cool
BASIC BEEF STOCK
5 lbs beef or veal bones
1 tbls canola oil
1 cup red wine
2 medium onions peeled and chopped
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs rinsed and chopped
3 Tbls tomato paste
1 gallon cold water
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tbls whole black pepper
2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 425
Place the bones on a medium sheet pan and roast in the oven for 1 hour
Mix the vegetables canola oil and tomato paste and spread around the bones
Keep roasting until the bones are nicely browned and vegetables are caramelized
When the bones are browned scrape them into a stock pot
Place the sheet pan on a burner and deglaze with the wine, scrape that into the pot
Add the water and herbs, bring to a quick boil then simmer for a least 4 hours
Strain through a fine sieve and cool
Off The Vine:
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” Nothing could be more apropos for the season that is summer. This is a time when we get together with friends and family for outdoor cocktail parties and barbeques and talk about the people who didn’t attend and revisit old family feuds. Lord knows that after we’ve spent one-third of our summer walking between the raindrops and watching our precious barbecue dreams wash down the sewer drain with a rusty can of Old Milwaukee, we deserve, no we are owed, sunny weather from here on out so we can catch up on our partying.
As I’ve done in previous columns, I will refer to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio from here on out as SB and PG respectively. SB and PG are fantastic varietals and it is no wonder why they are so popular. All I’m saying is that sometimes we get wrapped up in a wine and never branch out and explore new varietals, and that’s why I’m here. Think of me as your wine svengali for our short journey.
So what kind of wine am I talking about here? Specifically we are going to be looking at four bottles of white wine—two from Italy and two from Portugal. Our first “Adventurous White” is from Sicily,Alta Villa Della Corte ($15.99) which is produced from the ancient Grillo grape varietal. It has a bright straw yellow color with a lively nose of citrus, and apples that finishes fresh and clean. Next we will head to the mainland of Italy and to the northeast to Veneto to explore the wine called Soave. In particular La Cappuccina Soave ($13.99) which is made entirely from the Garganega grape. It matures on the lees (dead yeast cells, grape seeds and other solids) for five months which gives the wine a bit more weight and complexity on the palate but still remains light and refreshing with good acidity. This Soave will sore with fish, pasta, and chicken or simply by itself.
This isn’t so hard…we’re almost done here so no cheating and looking over at the recipe.Our next “Adventurous Whites” will be found in Portugal. It’s not just for Port anymore. We are going to look at two different styles of Vinho Verde which is a designated growing area in the northwest of Portugal. The first is the lighter bodied of the two Farol ($11.99) the grapes used are Alvarinho and Trajadura. This wine has a light fizz that wakes up the mouth along with aromas of apple, mint, and lime. Absolutely refreshing and perfect with seafood and fowl. The next Vinho Verde is Clemen reserve ($12.99) it is made with the same grapes as the previous wine but right off the bat you will notice a yellow citrus color that is vibrant on the palate with great acid, also a bit weightier in the mouth than its lighter bodied brother and no fizz.
So you have your invitation to the big barbecue this weekend, or maybe you don’t and you’ll be sitting in a dark corner of your home with a bottle of wine and glass. That’s fine too and sometimes preferable. What do you bring? How do you distinguish your gift-bottle of wine at the party from everyone else’s? You can be sure that at least a dozen people will take the easy way out and over-pay for Santa Margherita PG which will then, in return, under-deliver on your palate. As enjoyable as it is to poke fun you don’t want that bottle in your gift bag.
We can surely do better than that and spend almost half the money with the aforementioned white wines. Show up to the party with your “Adventurous White” bottle proudly outstretched in your arms as your friends look on in envious amazement. As I’ve mentioned in other columns, make sure to open the bottle immediately so you are assured of getting a glass; here at Off The Vine we always look favorably upon hoarding.
All of the wines mentioned in the column go superbly with Chef Renato Donzelli’s refreshingly creative fish recipe. He is the Owner/Chef of Basso Café Mediterranean Fusion Restaurant at 124 New Canaan Avenue in Norwalk. It’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) with a pittance of a corking fee so stop on by Off the Vine to pick up a couple of bottles on your way to dinner.
Chef Donzelli will be sharing some of his innovative recipes with us from time to time in my column so keep your eyes peeled. To see the menu and daily specials go to www.bassobistrocafe.com
Seared Striped Bass over Lemon-Steamed Potatoes with a Pineapple-Jicama Salsa.
1 ½ cups diced peeled pineapple
1 cup diced peeled jicama
½ cup diced red onion
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 to 2 Serrano chiles, seeded, chopped
Lemon Steamed Potatoes:
12 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus extra for garnish
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Extra Virgin Olive oil and parsley for garnish
4 pieces – 5 to 7 ounce each Striped Bass portioned fillets (skin-off – 1 piece per person)
Freshly Ground White Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mix the first six ingredients in medium bowl for salsa. Season with salt and pepper.
Peel and quarter potatoes. Melt butter in a skillet; add lemon rind, lemon juice, and potatoes, stirring gently. Cover and cook over low heat 35 to 40 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and chopped parsley.
Season the Striped Bass with salt and white pepper, then saute in olive oil until cooked, making sure it stays moist.
Place the potatoes in the center of the plate in a pile. Lay the Striped Bass over the potatoes, and top with pineapple-jicama salsa. Garnish plate with fresh cilantro or parsley.
Let’s face it—we all want wine that tastes great and doesn’t break the bank. I don’t care if you work at UBS or UPS, everyone wants more wine for their dollar.
Good news: In this economic downturn that has spread throughout the world the wine drinker wins…imagine that. There has never been a better time than right now to experience wine under $15. I can never write enough columns about all of the value wine that is out there in the marketplace. The only thing that you need is an adventurous spirit and a wine store that is constantly tasting and sifting through the mediocrity to find the coolest, tastiest wines under $15.
The table is set for some great wine. I’ve done my homework so feel free to look over my shoulder and cheat off my test. Of course all of these wines will go superbly with this week’s recipe which is my very own creation. I love Riesling because it is so versatile and fits so well with so many different food flavors. The high acidity cleanses the palate of spice and gets you ready for another bite.
Pacific Rim Riesling $14.99 from Columbia Valley Washington is made in the off-dry style from organically grown grapes which means that it has some light sweetness which I think shows this varietal off best. Don’t let a little sweetness scare you away, this wine is very refreshing especially on a hot day, make sure you open the bottle as to assure you get the biggest pour, because it will be empty within minutes.
For the next wine I would suggest the Culley Pinot Noir from Marlborough New Zealand, and at $13.99 it actually tastes like a Pinot Noir with notes of raspberry along with good acid. It isn’t some slopped together Pinot Noir imposter that you usually find at this price point. Ok class, keep your heads up and pay attention the recipe is just around the corner.
One more wine that is under $15 by just one penny but worth every one of them is red Zinfandel from the Peachy Canyon Winery in Paso Robles. This wine is so food friendly with medium acid and bright fruit with a touch of spice that it should always be present at the barbecue, unless you want to greedily horde it in the house so you can sneak inside to fill up your glass while your friends drink Yellowtail. That’s ok too. There are too many great value wines to talk about in this column so feel free to stop by my store and take a look around and talk to me about them. I’m constantly bringing new under $15 wines in every week.
Now my friends you shall be rewarded for your patience with this weeks rockin’ recipe that was created in the space between my ears over many years. Although I have to give credit to my long-time friend Rob Ardigo for sharing his secret on how to cook a crispy-skinned baked potato. Thanks bro.
Thai Peanut Teriyaki Marinade Flank Steak with Baked Potato
- 1.5lb-2lb Flank Steak
- 4 Idaho Potatoes
- 12 Tbl–Soy Sauce
- 1 ½ Tsp–Thai Fish Sauce
- 3Tbl–Teriyaki Sauce
- 2 ½ Tsp–Red Curry Paste
- 2Tbl–Chili Paste
- 3Tsp–Fresh Grated Ginger
- 3Tbl–Thai Fruit/Vegetable Concentrate
- 2 ¼ Tsp–Crushed Chopped Garlic
- 2 ½ –Lime’s Juiced
- 4 Tbl–Peanut Butter (Chunky)
Put ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. All the ingredients can be bought at the any Asian market.
Place flank steak and marinade in a ziplock bag and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Pre heat oven to 500 degrees
Poke holes in the potatoes unless you want an explosion in the oven. The potatoes should cook for 1 hour 10 minutes. If it stays in a few minutes longer it’s no big deal.
Now this is important part for getting and maintaining maximum crispiness. Take the potatoes out right before you are ready to sit down and eat. Cut them in half immediately this will assure a crispy potato. When the potato sits uncut out of the oven it steams itself soft. Hopefully that makes sense.
While the flank steak is cooking pour the marinade into a pot and reduce by ¼ over medium high heat and reserve for the table. This tastes great over the potato.
When slicing the flank steak remember to slice across the grain of the meat and on a slight angle. Don’t slice thick pieces.
Walking through my wine store, I’ve noticed that one particular style of wine doesn’t seem to move quite as briskly as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Yet it is quite possibly one of the finest wines out there. I’m talking about Meritage/Bordeaux.
You may be asking yourself, “What!?” Quite simply when you read or hear Meritage/Bordeaux what you want to be thinking is a red blend. To get more technical (which I hate) classically a Bordeaux blend hails from the left bank of the Gironde River in the Bordeaux region of France. Such famously expensive first-growth Chateaux like Margaux and Lafite Rothschild hail from this region and when we talk Bordeaux blend we are talking about five main grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc that are blended in different percentages to create these expensive wines.
Alas, they don’t always have to be expensive, and the rich aren’t the only part of society that gets to enjoy these magnificent blends because there are Bordeaux in every price range. I hope you are all taking notes—there will be a test. However, France doesn’t have the monopoly on expensive Bordeaux blends.
Tuscany is another region that has famously expensive, almost out-of reach for us regular folk wine. In that region is a beautiful town located in the province of Livorno on the western coast of Italy called Bolgheri. It’s most famously known for the crazy-expensive Sassicaia, which is a Bordeaux style blend; and the town is lesser known for bird-watching, which I guess is fun as long as you have a glass of wine in your hands.
So we’re all experts on the five grapes that get blended to create Bordeaux for left bank first-growth Chateaux. Excellent, let’s move on to Meritage, America’s version of the Bordeaux blend without getting into a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo including cease and desist letters from Bordeaux and a possible international wine incident for infringing on their legal right to the term “Bordeaux blend”. Anyway, Meritage being an American blend is not relegated to only five grapes to blend with no wiggle room. No sir—we have the wine freedom to interpret and be creative with the Meritage blend. Quite simply it can be any blend of red grapes as long as it totally rocks taste wise. Doesn’t that sound like a wine you want to drink? There are too many taste profiles to explain. So I’ll leave you with the invite to come taste some great Meritage wines this Friday and Saturday from noon-8pm at my wine store Off the Vine in Norwalk.
Of course I have three great Meritage recommendations to pair with Westport-based Splash Restaurant Executive Chef Dave Repp’s recipe below.
Whitman Cellars 2003 Narcissa Red blend Washington State, $12.99 two for $22.99, 2004 Buzzard Tree Meritage Paso Robles California, $15.99, and 2005 Spann Vineyards Mo Zin red blend, $21.99.
WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO
serves 4 as a side or 2 as an entree
- 2 cups mixed sliced mushrooms
- ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms roughly chopped
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- ¼ lb unsalted butter
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
1)in a medium sauce pan add the dried porcini mushrooms to the chicken stock and bring to a quick boil turn of the burner and let sit
2) in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté and season the onions and mixed fresh mushrooms
3) using a wooden spoon stir in the Arborio rice and add the wine and season with kosher salt , keep stirring
4) When the wine is ¾ absorbed stir in 1 cup of the hot mushroom stock. When the stock is almost fully absorbed, stir in another cup of hot mushroom stock. Repeat the process until the chicken stock is gone then stir in the parmesan cheese and season with kosher salt and pepper. If the risotto is too thick you can thin it down with hot water.
Use a wooden spoon. It won’t cut or mash up the rice
Constantly stirring the risotto pulls out the starch that gives risotto its creaminess.