Sunday, May 29, 2011

Asian Menus Verdicts

The month of May is almost over. Can you believe it? They say time flies when you're having fun. I can agree to that, especially now that I'm having fun in the kitchen! Awhile back you may have read my post about trying to cook some Asian dishes. As of today, all the recipes have been tried and tested, and here's how it all turned out.

The first recipe was for Coconut Curry Chicken that I found online. It sounded great, but the reviews didn't agree with what was in the ingredients, stating the taste was quite bland. With that in mind, I modified the recipe and added more curry among other spices, and used less of the saucy ingredients. My husband loved it, but I was "meh" on the flavors. The verdict: I'll make it again, but the recipe needs works. It did go great with toasted garlic naan bread, however. Here's what it looked like:

No wine pairing was tested because I decided to make it last minute, and it was a week night (not like that would have stopped me any other day!)
I think it would pair well with a Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

The first major 3 course meal I did using the slow cooker was on May 20 where I tried my hands at a Chinese themed menu, which ended up being 2 courses because it was a Friday and we were pressed for time for later plans with friends. I did a honey hoisin chicken in the slow cooker, using onions instead of sesame seeds, what I was originally going to do. My hubby makes a delicious veggie fried rice that he paired up with it. And I forgot to accompany all this with garlic stir-fried broccoli. Whoops! The rice is always good, so props to my man as usual! The chicken breast recipe I've tried before and is a keeper, especially with the onion substitution-it added great depth of flavor. The wine pairing was an unoaked Mondavi Chardonnay from Cali that I thought would show more sweet, fruity flavours, but instead had notes of butter and vanilla; tasting like it was slightly oaked! For dessert I whipped up some almond cookies. Originally I was going to try to do them a little more fancy, but they wound up being regular cookies. We had friends over later that night and they said they enjoyed the cookies (almost all were devoured!), so I'll consider that a pass where the wine pairing was an epic fail. The verdict: Tasty, and an easy dinner to whip up.

Next was Thai night on May 23, which is also the 7 year anniversary of my journey to Alberta. What better way to celebrate (and spend a rainy day indoors) than to cook a 3 course meal and pair it with my favourite Riesling, Cave Springs? I did a Thai beef curry in the slow cooker, and for lunch we had pork satays grilled on the barbecue. Although my husband loved the satays, I felt the sauce fell a little short and there wasn't enough for all the food on the skewers. I'll make it again because he loved them so much, but next time I'll double up the sauce. In my opinion, the curry fell flat on many levels-there wasn't enough spice, and to me the flavours didn't jive with what I consider traditional Thai food. However, the pairing worked wonderful with the sweetness of the Riesling and the acidity playing nice with the spiciness of both dishes! Dessert was Kluai Buat Chi, bananas boiled in sweetened coconut milk. While my hubby found the dish way too sweet, I loved it! Will do it again, but will tone down the amount of sugar called for next time. Paired well with the Riesling as well! Here's what it looked like:

The verdict: Outside of the dessert, I shouldn't quit my day job :P But the pairing proves that I'm learning something in Sommelier school!

Next up for the finale of the Biggest Loser, I cooked up Beef Madras, the recipe on the side of our bottle of red curry paste. I paired it with an Argentinian Malbec (more on that in a future post). My husband requested that I use twice as much curry paste as the recipe calls for, so I did, and boy were our mouths on fire for the duration of the show! It is the first time I've ever used naan bread for anything other than dipping-I had to use it solo to cool off my mouth between bites! And the wine didn't help because the Malbec was spicy and just re-ignited the 5 alarm blaze!
The verdict: I'll do this one again, but next time only use the amount of curry paste it calls for! I love spice, but I have my limits!

Finally, tonight was Indian night. I received a recipe for Chicken Tikka kebabs through the mail-another reflection that the best things happen by fluke. So I modified the recipe because I had some other ingredients to use up and served it on a bed of rice with a side of carrot sambal, another really spicy dish. Here's what they looked like:

The verdict: now that my nose has stopped running from all the spices, I must say that the best of the Asian dishes came out tonight, both the Tikka kebabs and the sambal (although I think the carrot dish is really a Thai side)! Next time I might style up the food for photos for aesthetic purposes.

Now that May is almost over and I have vacation coming up in June, I plan to take the month off. Maybe if I stay out of the kitchen for a little bit time will slow down and us Canadians can enjoy what little summertime we have!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Factoid Friday: The Aging Power of Penfolds KH

Did you know...The 2008 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Cab Shiraz ages well? Food and Wine magazine mentioned this in their "100 Bottles to Drink Right Now" article back in 2010. Not only are Penfolds bottles found in stores throughout Canada at very reasonable prices, but the article also mentions that a bottle of the 1976 blend is still drinking well at time of writing!

Click here
to see the full article. I think I'm going to head to the store and add it to the cellar - a theory well worth testing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Vintage...

In a previous entry I mentioned Robert Renzoni's 2008 La Rosa rose of Sangiovese, my favorite rose. I wanted to pair it with soup one night, to see if it really cured a hangover. I also had a master plan to break out the bottle of wine the day before our best friends moved back to Ontario to test the hangover theory with them after a last night of heavy "celebrating". Unfortunately, I couldn't pull the trigger in either case, for 2 reasons:
1) I can't get this bottle of rose up here in Canada, and
2) The bottle was signed by the winemaker when we visited the Renzoni winery last May.

I suppose a third reason should be listed and that's because La Rosa happens to be my favorite rose...or so I thought. Until Saturday night, when I finally had the courage to open the bottle.

Ah, the anticipation...remembering how I felt when I first tasted it at the winery, and how it made me feel when I first tasted it. To me, it was the perfect rose! So why didn't it taste as good on Saturday night? Don't get me wrong, it wasn't corked or anything, just not the same as I remember it-and a little less vibrant of a palate. The possible reason hit me at work today: it could be past it's prime.

I did a little research; checking the internet, some of the books I've collected, and asked friends how long a rose wine should be aged for, if at all. The answers I found range anywhere from drink as soon as possible, to aging up to 2 years. Since the bottle of Renzoni that I have is a 2008, that makes it a year older than the 2 years advice-no wonder it tasted off!

I didn't want to waste the bottle so to try and balance out the rest of the wine, I looked up suitable pairings for rose. What I discovered was something I never would have dreamed would pair well with rose: lamb burgers with homemade tzatziki. The recipe and pairing is from the "This Food, That Wine" book. Here's what they looked like:

The end result: the fruity flavors of the rose helped tone down the bitter flavors of the lamb while bringing out the fresh flavors in the tzatziki-many different flavors blending in the mouth! Easily one of the best pairings I've ever had and perfect for summer!

Lesson learned: Rose wines are best drank as soon as possible. Isn't that the fun part anyways?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Slow Cooker Sundays: A Taste of Asia!

If cooking was a disease, I am now fully infected! I love to do it, even if I don't consider myself a great chef by any means. I do it all the time. I do it to kill the "Sunday Night Blues". I do it when I'm feeling romantic. I do it to celebrate the turning of seasons. I do it because I love cooking. I do it to try something new. The something new that I feel like trying for May's Slow Cooker Sundays is Asian cuisine, a fare I don't cook often.

I was going through my old cookbooks last Sunday and I found a recipe for Thai Beef Curry that I've always wanted to make. It turns out that I already have most of the ingredients, and after leafing through the rest of the cookbook I found a few more recipes to try under the same food umbrella, and the idea officially took off!

The last 2 Slow Cooker Sundays have been dedicated to my lovely mother and grandmother in honor of Mother's Day, cooking up some of their recipes that have inspired me. Floating Chicken, Roasted Curried Cauliflower & Spinach Soup, and don't forget the wine pairing: Hernder Vidal, the official white wine of the Holowatys! Starting this week and throughout the month, I will try my hand at concocting edible meals featuring the flavors of China, India and Thailand. Here they are:

Shanghai Potato Cakes
Slow Cooked Oriental Chicken with veggie-fried rice
Garlic Stir-fried Broccoli
Almond Crescents
Pork Satays
Carrot Sambal
Beef Curry
Kluai Buat Chi
Chicken Curry
Beef Madras
Tandoori Chicken
Onion Salad
Indian-style Basmati Rice Pudding

I might even try my hand at paneer, an Indian cheese. I'm also hoping to find a really spicy side to go along with the Tandoori Chicken.

Wine pairings are definitely in the cards. A German Riesling is a definite must, as the sweetness will cool down the heat of some of the dishes. Other recommendations I found via the internet and some of my cookbooks are Gewurztraminer (I would likely pair one of my fave whites, Summerhill's Ehrenfelser), Rose, Bubbly (we have a great Prosecco that's slightly sweet that could work well) and there's also the option of taking a night off wine and enjoying a good beer with the spicy flavors!

Any advice, definitely send it my way! And stay tuned for photos...