Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cotes d'Agneau Champvallon / Lamb Chops with Potato and Onion

We're caught up on our posts, so I guess that means it's time to start cooking again. Scott was in the mood for lamb, and this recipe didn't seem like it would take too long after a visit to the gym. There are only three main ingredients: lamb, potatoes and onions.

Procedure is pretty easy. Sprinkle the chops with salt & pepper and sear on each side. Remove them and set them aside. Add the sliced onions to pan an sauté them until they're tender and starting to brown. Mix the onions with thinly sliced baking potatoes, fresh thyme & parsley, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Place the lamb chops between two layers of potato mixture, pour enough chicken broth to almost cover and bake until the potatoes and chops are tender.

The bake time is between 45 and 75 minutes. Not all of the broth absorbed, but I think the remaining potato, onion and broth mixture would make a great soup with a little smoked sausage. I'm looking forward to it for lunch this week.

The end meal was amazing. I think this was one of the best recipes we've had from the book lately. The lamb was tender and didn't taste too much like we chewed on a wet sheep's wool. The potatoes were tender with the subtle flavor of the thyme and garlic. The onions had almost melted into the broth. Mmm...

The wine pairing proved to be a bit challenging. The lamb was rich enough that it needed red wine, but the potatoes and onions called out for white wine. Instead of splitting the difference and pleasing neither side of the dish, we opted to pair dinner with Maui Brewing's Big Swell IPA. The potatoes enhanced the fruitiness of the beer. It wasn't a perfect match, but it was pretty good.

Definitely a successful evening. Dinner went mostly according to plan, and we didn't have any of the mishaps that have plagued us recently. Another bonus? I have somehow managed to post dinner the night after eating rather than three weeks later. Yay for actually staying on track!

Spring break is officially over tonight. We go back to work and school tomorrow. I'm sure we'll fall behind on cooking soon, but it was nice to take a bit of a break.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Brioche de Gannat / Auvergnat Cheese Brioche

And we're caught up! Scott and I went down to visit friends in Oakland and visit wine country in Napa and Sonoma for our spring break. I finally got us caught up on the drive from Oakland to Boise. I know it's out of the usual scope of the blog, but look for a recap of our Sonoma and Napa adventures soon. We were able to visit Ridge Lytton Springs, Shafer Vineyards, Joseph Phelps, Dominus Estate, and a few others. I love Scott's job... One of the coolest parts about being able to visit Dominus is that they are not open to the public. Look for pictures soon!


I was lucky enough to receive a Professional Series Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer for my birthday last year. I had salivated over them for ages, and I can’t thank my husband & both sets of parents enough for letting me finally have one in the kitchen. It looks so pretty sitting on the counter, and I’ve loved how much easier recipes that require mixing are. The mixer also brought me an unexpected benefit: my husband realized he loves to make bread. The smell of bread rising in the house is so comforting and warm. I’m not sure there’s a better smell to come home to. The bread-making has slowed since his semester of school has started, but he’s still occasionally busting out the dough hook to make us some treats. Scott tends to like the richer breads. One of his favorites is a Portuguese rich bread from Mark Bittman’s Best Recipes in the World. If it has eggs or dairy, chances are he’s earmarked it for a weekend day.

We’ve tried the regular brioche recipe in the book before, and this was a savory version with gruyere. The procedure is the same as with a brioche, and the mixer does most of the work. One of these days, we’ll have to attempt to hand knead, but it’s kind of fun to be able to have “easy” homemade bread. We did have a little miscommunication regarding the gruyere: I told Scott that I had grated all of the cheese and that he’d have to measure out what he needed. He heard it as his grated cheese was in the fridge. Oops. The final product definitely had the tang of gruyere. It was recommended to bake the bread in a loaf pan, but Scott tends to like the more rustic look of a hand-shaped round. The bread was still done in the middle before the outside got too crispy or burned. I bought him a Sil-Pat back in November, and it has made baking bread just a little easier. We don’t have to worry about making sure the house is stocked with parchment paper, and I’ve appreciated that we’ve cut down a bit on waste. I’d like to find him a Sil-Pain one of these days. They’re designed to make sure the crust is crunchy and doesn’t burn, but I haven’t seen any in any of the kitchen shops I’ve visited.

So how was the cheesy bread? It was fantastic. The texture was light and airy. It smelled so good when it was baking that I had a hard time waiting to cut it open. He sprinkled a little Ballard Truffle & Salt Cheddar on the top, which gave an extra layer to the crunchiness on the crust. The middle was fragrant, and there were small pockets where the cheese didn’t melt completely into the dough. We both agreed that we should have had some high quality ham to go with the bread. It would have been amazing with a smear of Dijon mustard and some Black Forest or Serrano ham. We’ll be sure to put in the proper amount of cheese next time, but it’s nice to have measuring mistakes turn out okay in the end.

Sauté de Poulet Aux Quarante Gousses d'Ail / Sauté of Chicken with Forty Garlic Cloves

The main star of the night was the Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. Really, how can you go wrong? We did have to buy garlic for the first time in ages for the recipe. My mom grows garlic in her garden to sell at Market, so we typically have garlic coming out of our ears, but this time of year can be a little lean. We used up the last of Lazy Dog Gardens’ Italian Purple a few weeks before we cooked the recipe. Even though I didn’t have the homegrown stuff, the chicken was delicious. Forty cloves sounds like a large amount for something that serves 4-6, but the cooking time mellows out the flavor. The end product is quite similar to roasted garlic.

We had to change up the procedure a little bit because we had a burner out of commission. The original recipe calls for searing the chicken pieces and then cooking everything on the stovetop. We still seared on the stovetop, but we finished the dish in the oven. We put a lid on the pan, so the juices were kept in. Once the chicken pieces were done, I pulled the chicken and half of the garlic out and set them aside covered in foil. I squeezed the remaining garlic out of its skins (the cloves are separated but not peeled) and mashed them with the pan juices. I thickened the resulting sauce and poured it over the chicken and the rice.

We served dinner with a 2007 Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley, one of my favorite Oregon Chardonnays. The garlic pieces that were set aside can be squeezed out of their skins and smeared on the chicken or mixed with the rice. The mellow, rich flavor of garlic and herbs in the sauce complemented the wine nicely. The Arthur is aged in a combination of mostly neutral and one- and two-year old oak barrels, and it doesn’t go completely through malolactic fermentation. The resulting wine is not the typical buttery oak bomb that can be associated with Chardonnay. Rather, the fruit (apples, pears and tropical fruits like pineapple) has a chance to shine through. The barrels give the wine a richer texture than stainless steel would, and the result is a wine that is very food friendly. Both the wine and the pan sauce had similar textures in the mouth, further enhancing the meal.

Garlic harvest is typically at the end of June or beginning of July. I can’t wait to give Chicken with Forty Garlic Cloves another try with Idaho-grown fresh garlic.