Pears Poached in Red Wine

I’ve eaten a few poached pears in my life, but none like the one I ate in Napa Valley while on vacation with my husband.

The hotel we stayed in offered brunch every morning, and it was there where I discovered the beauty of fruit mixed in wine.

This is a simple recipe.   Play with it.

Next time, I will experiment with cloves.

I used a Merlot for the red wine.

Pears Poached in Red Wine

Adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman

Time: Overnight , largely unattended.

A light simple and classic dessert.  Use not-quite-fully-ripe Bosc Pears if at all possible.

4 Bosc pears, ripe but not mushy

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups red wine (I used Merlot)

3/4 cup sugar

1 lemon, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1-  Peel pears;  use a melon baller to remove the core from the blossom end, leave the stem on.  (I did not, I halved the pears and removed the cores.  I preferred halves to wholes.)

2-  In a medium saucepan. Bring water, wine, and sugar to a boil.  Turn heat to med-low and add the lemon slices, cinnamon stick, and pears.  Cover pan, simmer until pears are very tender, at least 20 minutes.

3- Remove pears to a bowl and continue to cook the sauce, over med-high heat until it reduces by half and becomes syrupy.  Strain syrup over pears and refrigerate overnight.

4- Serve chilled pears whole, with little of the syrup poured over them.

These would be excellent for the holiday table.

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Julia Child’s “Poulet au Porto” (Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Cream, and Mushrooms)

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I love it when I prepare a meal and people rave over the results.

Julia Child wrote , “It is the kind of dish to do when you are entertaining  a few good, food-loving friends whom you can receive in your kitchen.”

…and Julia should know!

I wasn’t prepared to photograph the ignited cognac, but trust me, it adds a bit of excitement to the room.

Poulet au Porto

(Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Cream, and Mushrooms)

PRINT RECIPE

Adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One”, by Julia Child

WINE SUGGESTIONS

Serve very good, chilled, white Burgundy such as a Meursault or Montrachet, or an excellent, chateau-bottled white Graves.

For 4 people

A 3- 4 lb., ready-to-cook, roasting or frying chicken

The original recipe calls for roasting the chicken according to the instructions in her book, but I really like to butterfly and pan roast my chickens.  I learned to do this from a Wolfgang Puck  recipe for “Pan Roasted Chicken with Port and Whole Grain Mustard”.   You may roast your chicken any way you choose, but I find butterflying and pan roasting gives me a crispy crust and a very moist chicken.  Plus, it cooks much faster!

I followed these instructions for my pan roasted chicken:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold the chicken over high heat. Add a few Tablespoons of clarified butter ( or oil and butter ) and swirl it in the skillet.  Carefully place the chicken skin side down in the skillet. Sear the chicken, undisturbed, while reducing the heat little by little to medium, until its skin has turned golden brown and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully turn the chicken skin side up.

Put the skillet into the oven and cook until the chicken is deep golden brown and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer, 20- 30 minutes, depending on its size. When the chicken is done, remove it to a carving board and let it rest at room temperature while completing the sauce.

1 lb. fresh mushrooms (I mixed white and crimini)

Meanwhile, trim and wash the mushrooms. Quarter them if large, leave them whole if small.

In a  2 1/2-quart enameled or stainless steel saucepan-

1/4 cup water

1/2 Tb butter

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

Bring the water to boil in the saucepan with the butter, lemon, and salt. Toss in the mushrooms, cover, and boil slowly for 8 minutes. Pour out the cooking liquid and reserve.

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 Tb cornstarch blended with 1 Tb of the cream

Salt and pepper

Pour the cream and the cornstarch mixture into the mushrooms. Simmer for 2 minutes. Correct seasoning, and set aside.

1/2 Tb minced shallots

1/3 cup medium-dry port

The reserved mushroom cooking liquid

The mushrooms in cream

Salt and pepper

Drops of lemon juice

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the roasting pan. Stir in the shallots and cook slowly for 1 minute. Add the port and the mushroom juice, and boil down rapidly, scraping up coagulated roasting juices, until liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the mushrooms and cream and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, allowing the liquid to thicken slightly. Correct seasoning and add lemon juice to taste.

A fireproof casserole or a chafing dish

1 Tb butter

1/8 tsp salt

Smear the inside of the casserole or chafing dish with butter. Rapidly carve the chicken into serving pieces. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and arrange in the casserole or chafing dish.

1/4 cognac  (I bought one of those tiny bottles at the liquor store)

Set over moderate heat or an alcohol flame until you hear the chicken begin to sizzle. Then pour the cognac over it. Avert your face, and ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole slowly until the flames have subsided. The pour in the mushroom mixture, tilting the casserole and basting the chicken. Cover and steep for 5 minutes without allowing the sauce to boil. Serve.

(*) Chicken may remain in its casserole over barely simmering water or in the turned-off hot oven with its door ajar, for 10 to 15 minutes, but the sooner it is served, the better it will be.

Julia Child  recommends serving this chicken with

“Pommes De Terre Sautees” (Potatoes Sauteed in Butter) and peas

and so I did!

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These are quite satisfying.  Cooking the potatoes in clarified butter made them extra flavorful!

I’m not sure I cut them up the the book advised, but I we all enjoyed them anyhow.

I will make these again and again.

 


Dessert was served hot out of the oven.  One of my favorite cakes.  You can get the recipe by clicking on the link below the photo.

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The Upside Down Pear Cake baked while we ate, and I pulled it out and served it nice and warm.

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Coeur a la Creme with Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce

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I’ve made these little heart shaped Coeur a la Creme desserts before, and this time I think I enjoyed them even more.  I changed up the Raspberry Sauce by eliminating the raspberry jam Ina Garten calls for in her recipe.  I just wanted to enjoy more of the pure taste of the raspberries without the over sweet taste of the jam.

I made 6 mini hearts and 1 large heart.

I’m told you can make these in colanders if you don’t have the molds, but my favorites are the mini coeur a la creme molds.  Just enough for a generous single serving per person and you don’t have to scoop into the larger heart and give each guest a scoop of dessert on a plate.  These make such a pretty presentation.

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Above: Coeur a la Creme Mold

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Cream and cheese mixture wrapped in cheese cloth.

Simply line your mold with cheesecloth, pour in the cream mixture, set on a plate and place in your fridge overnight.

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Pour a pool of raspberry sauce on a plate,  gently lift out your molded cream and carefully place it in the center.

In the past I’ve poured chocolate over the top and decorated with several fresh raspberries.

This dessert has the texture of mousse.  The flavor is reminiscent of cheesecake and vanilla bean ice cream.

A very elegant dessert, yet simple to make!

Coeur a la Creme with Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce
Adapted from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris”

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1  1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2  1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4  teaspoon grated lemon zest
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
fresh raspberries–I had to use frozen

Place the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the beater and bowl with a rubber spatula and change the beater for the whisk attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds and beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream.

Line a 7-inch sieve OR Coeur a la Creme molds with cheesecloth or paper towels so the ends drape over the sides and suspend it over a bowl, making sure that there is space between the bottom of the sieve and the bottom of the bowl for the liquid to drain. Pour the cream mixture into the cheesecloth, fold the ends over the top, and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, discard the liquid, unmold the cream onto a plate, and drizzle Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce around the base–I like to place the cream into a pool of the sauce. Serve with raspberries and extra sauce.

Raspberry and Grand Marnier (OR Cointreau) Sauce:

10 ounces frozen raspberries, defrosted
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)– I used Cointreau because that is what I had

Once the raspberries are defrosted, puree them in a blender or food processor. Add the sugar and blend until smooth. At this point, strain raspberries through a sieve/cheese cloth to remove the seeds.   Chill for at least 4 hours.

“Day of the Dead” festival in Seattle (2009)

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“The ”Day of the Dead” (El Día de los Muertos or All Souls’ Day) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans  living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration occurs on November 1st, and 2nd in connection with the Catholic  holiday of  All Saints Day which occurs on November 1st and All Soul’s Daywhich occurs on November 2nd. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.” (Wikipedia)

I am in love with this celebration.  I love the colors, the music, the dancing, the makeup, the food, the costumes, the decorations, the art–the ART !

As much as I whine about longing to live on a farm in the country, I feel blessed to live so close to Seattle.  I have learned more about different cultures by attending the free festivals, than I had ever known before.

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Many more photos plus a wonderful Youtube video behind the cut…

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Pressing Apples into Cider with Friends

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A few weeks ago I was hunting for a pumpkin or two to give to my son and his fiancee.  I ended up at a roadside produce stand, found the pumpkins I wanted, bought them, and loaded them into the trunk (don’t tell my chiropractor!).  Just as I was loading the pumpkins a gentleman approached me and said something along the lines of,  “Hi there, I think I know you.”

As a woman, my first thought was,  “Are you kidding me? Do you have to hit on me while I’m loading huge pumpkins into my trunk, and what is up with the “I think I know you”  line!”

I looked up and realized he was serious–especially when he asked, “Do you write a food blog?”  Followed by, “Angelnina?”

“Well, pleased to meet ya!”  I nearly shouted it–I was both relieved that he wasn’t hitting on me or asking for money–you never know in the Seattle area.

As it turns out, Wally  is a very nice man, and he should have his own food blog!  I can learn a lot from this guy.   After introducing me to his wife–via Facebook– they both invited Mark and I to press apples into cider at their home the following weekend.  We hit it off immediately.  His wife, Lucinda, and I have quite a lot in common.  I felt like I’d known her for years.  It is always nice to meet good people.

On our visit, we were greeted with hot bowls of Wally’s homemade Borscht, homemade yogurt, parsley from the garden, toasted homemade bread, AND beer–yes, you guessed it–Wally makes the beer too!   Normally I don’t drink beer, but I really wanted to sample his home brewed beer, and I have to admit, this was not the high school beer I had remembered–this beer had a hint of  herbal, floral, taste–great stuff!

Lucinda served us and amongst many wonderful talents, she  is also a very friendly hostess

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ABOVE: Wally’s Beer

Wally wasn’t wasting any time with pleasantries, and before my last bite of borscht was down, he announced “These apples will not peel themselves.” ,and with that he set 4 cutting boards, knives, and a huge box of apples.  We had a great time visiting and chopping.

Next, we went out to the cider press Wally built–yes, he made it.  He and Lucinda also raise chickens and mason bees.

When the apples were pressed we drank coffee, apple juice, and ate some pignolis I had packed up as a hostess gift.

Nothing is better than meeting new friends and enjoying great food and drink.

Chipotle Grilled Chicken With Avocado Sauce

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Fall weather makes me crave spicy foods!

I found a wonderful recipe for Baha Mexican grilled chipotle chicken.

The chipotles give the chicken a smoky and  “call the fire department” fiery flavor that makes this anything but a ho hum grilled chicken dish.

I use a  4 lb chicken, but the original recipe calls for 3 small chickens.  I prefer more heat–if you do not, use more chicken.

The avocado adds coolness to balance it out, so be sure to make the salsa to go with.

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You can cut up the chicken and serve it in a tortilla with the avocado salsa, or simply serve it as is–I ate it both ways.

We served our chicken with the avocado salsa, homemade pinto beans, and Spanish rice.

I really love this chicken!  It was nice and moist.  This will probably become part of my weekly menu.

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First you let it marinate in the sauce for hours (at least 2, but better overnight)

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Chipotle Grilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa

(Greatly) Adapted from “!Baja! Cooking on the Edge” by Deborah  M.  Schneider

SERVES 6

7 oz can chipotles in adobo
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1- 4 lb chicken, quartered

Avocado Salsa
3 ripe Haas avocados  pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Kosher salt
1 juice of one lime
1/4 cup finely diced white onion
3 fresh cilantro stems, stemmed and chopped  (I did not use)

In a food processor, puree the chipotles, garlic, oil, and salt. Wipe the chicken pieces with paper towels. Thoroughly coat the pieces on all sides with a layer of the chipotle paste.
Place in a non-reactive baking dish or in re-sealable bags and refrigerate for 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
Heat the grill to medium. With the lid open, grill the chicken on both sides until well marked – about 7 minutes per side. Turn the heat to low, close the lid, and cook the chicken, skin side up, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees. (Alternatively, bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.).
NOTE: we place a drip pan under the chicken to prevent flare-ups–we learned the hard way.
Serve with tortillas and salsa.
Avocado Salsa: Place the avocados in a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and lime juice; mix gently with the onion and cilantro (don’t mash; it should look diced).
Note: this salsa should be served within 3 hours. To help it keep its color, press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the avocado and refrigerate until needed.

ANGELNINA’S  NOTE: Original recipe calls for 3 small chickens, cut into halves or quarters.  I prefer it with one 4 lb chicken.  Obviously this adds to the heat, so if you don’t want it too spicy, use more chicken.