April Dinner 2015


Often things don’t come together as planned. The April dinner was a semi-last minute affair that was scheduled to feed 8-10 people. Through a series of unanticipated events, it ended up at the last second with just four participates with only 2 wine drinkers. The original menu was:



Fried Mozzarella Balls

Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Superiore NV


Kirsch Kaltschale (Cold Wine- Cherry Soup)

Block 478 2011 Pinot noir; Carol Shelton “Wild Thing” 2014 Rendezvous Rosé


Avocado, Mandarin orange, and Mango Salad with a Jalapeno vinaigrette

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Mosel Riesling Spätlese 2008


Chicken Croquettes with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Kim Crawford 2013 Sauvignon blanc


Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with a Mushroom Ragout, Asparagus Roasted in Prosciutto Bundles, and Potatoes Roasted in Duck Fat

Ravenswood “Teldeschi” 2011 Zinfandel

Cheese Plate

Guilloteau Fromage d’Affinois Double Cream; Satori Bellavitano Balsamic Gruyere; Special Reserve Emmi DiBruno Aged New York Cheddar

Stags Leap “S.L.V.” 2010 Cabernet sauvignon


Strawberry Raspberry Rhubarb Pie with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

DaVinci Late Harvest Reisling 1987


Given the abundance of food and the lack of eaters, the first course was dropped, the dessert postponed until the next day, and the cheese plate consumed several days later as a light supper.

We elected to pour all of the wines at once (yes courses can go, wines cannot!) which allow each of the wines to pair with each of the courses, even if they were not anticipated to pair well.


IMG_6090Soup Course:

We used a recipe from http://germanfood.about.com/od/soupsandstews/r/Cold-Cherry-Soup.htm for the soup. Canned sweet cherries substituted for the fresh, a tart cherry juice was used, and a walnut liquor (Nocello Walnut) replaced the suggested amaretto. The Block 478 pinot was used for the red wine. Although the wine was inexpensive, it was surprisingly good. Not unexpectedly, it paired best with the very sweet but satisfying cold soup. The sweetness clashed with most of the other wines leaving them hard and bitter.




IMG_6097Salad Course:

The final salad was a combination of two Bon Appetit recipes. In included ripe mango slices, tangerine sections, avocado slices and spring mixed greens
dressed with a jalapeno/tangerine vinaigrette(http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/avocado-and-tangerine-salad-with-jalapeno-vinaigrette). The slightly  spicy dressing provided an interesting depth to the dish and paired best with the Riesling.




Chicken Croquettes:

Originally, the dish was to included garlic beans but this was dropped. Although this diner-type dish is not what we usually include in these dinners,IMG_6116 given that the appetizer were (supposed to) be deep-fat fried, I though this might be fun. Since this was our first experience making them, the croquettes were made exactly according to the recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chicken-croquettes-recipe0.html). Although OK, these were nothing to special. Should we ever make again, there are several modifications that I would try to deal with the relative blandness. First, addition of minced onions/shallots to the batter would be good, along with a little spiciness such as Ancho powder or crushed red peppers. Second, the recommended 3 ounce size for the croquette got the inside of the football-shaped croquets only lukewarm when the crust was a golden-brown.  I would consider  decreasing the size of each piece and perhaps forming them into a more “rope-like” shape. The suggested gravy was tasty but thin and very pale. I would consider a more tradition roux cooked to a darker hue and relatively more roux to liquid.

The garlic mashed potatoes were from an Alton Brown recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/creamy-garlic-mashed-potatoes-recipe.html). There was little new about this recipe except that  the garlic was added to the cream rather than the potato cooking water and it did not use butter. These were some of the most garlicky mashed potatoes (hmmm) I have had and were rich even without the addition of butter.

Both of the white wines paired well with the dish. The stand-out pairing was the Riesling.


IMG_6112  Stuffed Beef Tenderloin:

I bought the tenderloin at Whole Foods- excellent meat but pricey. I ordered the cut and was told that all they had was prime beef. I was asked if that would be
acceptable.- looking at the piece of meat I of course said yes. It is probably good that I didn’t know the price of the meat since, if I had, I wouldn’t have gotten the
incredible piece of meat. The tenderloin was simply prepared. It was butterflied,  oiled, salted and pepper and seared on a cast iron grill pan. When slightly cooled,
crumbled blue cheese was placed on the inside cut and the tenderloin “closed” and tied with butcher twine. The meat was placed back on the pan and placed in a
preheated 450 degree oven to bake for about 25 minutes. The meat had a nice sear and was perfectly done to medium rare. The meat was wonderful and the blue cheese added a depth to the flavor. It may not have been necessary but was beautiful.

The mushroom ragout is a riff of our usual mushroom preparation. The recipe come from Fine Cooking (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/porcini-cremini-mushroom-ragout-sauce.aspx). The only real difference from our “standard” was the use of Marsala wine and addition of a little thyme. Because they were available, we used hens-in-the-wood, brown oyster, yellow oyster, shitake and rehydrated porcini mushrooms for the dish. ‘Smrooms and heavy cream- what’s not to love.IMG_6122

The roasted potatoes followed a recipe from the current Cook’s Illustrated magazine (https://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/8342-duck-fat-roasted-potatoes). The potato chunks are briefly boiled in salt and baking soda to brake-down the surface pectin and develop the surface starch paste. The potatoes are then mixed with duck fat (!!!!) and roasted in a hot oven for about 30 minutes with turning half-way through. Seasoned with salt, these were outstanding and may have trumped the meat (although Sandy, who is not a fan of duck fat, declared them just OK).

The prosciutto wrapped asparagus bundles (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-chiarello/roasted-asparagus-bundles-wrapped-in-prosciutto-with-seasoned-bread-crumbs-recipe.html) were good. The addition of a more complicated breading and the addition of the prosciutto was tasty but tasters agreed that a simple roasted asparagus would have be as good and less work.

As was a surprise to no-one, both the cabernet and zinfandel went beautifully with the entire dish (and by themselves). Given my preference for zins and the Ravenswood Teldeschi in particular, I would give the nod to the zinfandel. Because of the grilled prosciutto and the seasoned bread crumbs, even the asparagus paired reasonably well with the red but really shined with the Riesling.



IMG_6508Given the season and intrigue with another Cook’s Illustrated recipe (http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/8361-strawberry-rhubarb-pie?
incode=MCSCZ00L0&ref=search_results_2), I decided on a strawberry-rhubarb pie. The crust is another riff on including alcohol (in this case vodka)
instead of water for a flakier crust. The first such recipe I saw like this was from Alton Brown who used Apple Jack
(http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/super-apple-pie-recipe.html). The other unusual aspect for the crust was its two refrigerated rests- one  before rolling out the crust and one after. Since I didn’t have any vegetable shortening, I used cold butter for all of the fat. The dough was very moist and as a result needed a lot of dusted flour to keep from sticking but it also rolled-out and transferred to the pie pan dramatically easier than most recipes.
Because no recipe is sacred, in addition to the rhubarb and strawberries, I added fresh raspberries. The addition of 1/3 cup of sugar to the top crust made
beautiful but crunchy. The resulting crust was buttery and flaky. This may become my go-to crust recipe- more time consuming than many but a nice end-
result. The addition of the tapioca to the filling made the filling very firm. It made it easy to serve but I would probably cut the quantity in half to
retain a somewhat juicier consistency.  The taste was superb and paired nicely with Luke’s homemade vanilla ice cream. Given that the 2 drinkers had already sampled 6 wines, we elected to forgo the dessert wine.

Although the evening did not rollout as planned, the dinner was a success.

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>