Saturday, January 31, 2015

Whitefish and Beets

Friday 30 January
Last Saturday we bought some giant red and little golden beets at Findlay market, and roasted them after Holt got his batch of granola out of the oven.  They didn't even make it into last night's leftover dinner, so tonight we made a richly-colored platter of them, dressed with oil, white balsamic, and grey fleur de sel.
The sweet beets called for something fishy but strong: smoked whitefish salad, served with the proper accompaniment, a pumpernickel bagel.  Perfect.

Land of a Thousand Leftovers

Thursday 29 January
There were so many tuppers in the refrigerator that you couldn't tell one from another.  So after a long day, we got them all out and made a sort of smorgasbord. 

Our main (and most recent leftover) was Saturday's Fleischnacka, heated in the liquid from sautéing mushrooms (from Jan. 20, a little wizened but okay) and a little broth, the sauce then thickened with cream; butternut squash (the last of the giant that was baked on Jan. 15), reheated and mashed with butter and ginger; and tiny roasted eggplants from Jan. 22.
You'd never do this deliberately, but it's not bad.

AAUP and a Steak

Wednesday 28 January
Barbara had an evening meeting with the Associates Council of the AAUP at Tangeman Center on campus.  Though thoughtfully chosen and abundant, it's still institutional food, but she was able to make a decent-enough meal out of Caesar salad, the grilled chicken off a creamed pasta dish, and the fruit off the dessert plate.
In the meantime, back at home, Holt grilled a strip steak and mashed up some leftover butternut squash with butter and triple-citrus marmelade.  He had the better meal, especially when you consider that he could pour himself a glass of red wine.  

Luckily, Barbara joined in on that when she got home.

Chilaquiles redux

Tuesday 27 January

We always get two meals out of this, which makes life simpler.  It's almost better when sliced and nuked on the second night.

Anniversary at Nicola's

Monday 26 January

We were looking for something novel for our 24th anniversary dinner.  We had loved Nicola's restaurant before, and now they were trying out new tasting menus.  So tonight we gave them a spin.  They were very nice about finding us a comfy banquette, and presented the wine list on an ipad.  But we made life easy by just ordering the five course menu with accompanying wines, only specifying a Cruasé Rosé Brut Casteggio, which they kindly substituted for the menu's prosecco.
Nicola's is famous for its beautiful bread basket, with varied vegetable puffs, ciabatta, and grissini (two of each type, so no ugly fights); it's a course in itself, but there was also a stuzzichino or amuse bouche, a puff of whipped brie and mascarpone with blood orange and crispy lemon, served on a slate.
Then came our first course: pork belly topped with granola for crunch, on a pillow of polenta, decorated with a slice of pear, a cube of gelée, and pumpernickel crisps.  We loved the mix of unctuous pork with soft and crisp textures.
Our fish course was subtler: panfried fluke with lemon butter on lentil purée, with more crisps and a flock of browned brussels sprouts.  It was served in a deep earthenware bowl, which made it hard to get at, but went well with its wine pairing, Fontezoppa Verdicchio di Matelica.

Oddly, pasta was next: mascarpone-stuffed agnolotti studded with cubes of roast chicken, in parsley sauce, topped with pickled onions.
At this point, our enthusiastic sommelier came out with a couple of wines for us to taste: a Luigi Baudana Langhe bianco "Dragon" 2012, and a pinot nero from the same Pavese area as Casteggio; we didn't get the exact name, perhaps (Carlo?) Casavecchia.  Both were excellent, and we were debating which we liked better when our meat course came: juicy salt-cured duck breast on a bed of wild rice and succulent mushrooms, accented with a scribble of lavender sauce.
That had its own wine too, a classic Retromarcia Chianti Monte Bernardi 2012.
And finally, for dessert, a cute little round of devil's food cake on a bed of chocolate dust, topped with vanilla and chocolate cream and crisp chocolate pearls, served with a pour of Vinsanto.
Nicola's offers high quality, dependability, and pleasant little surprises; we enjoyed puzzling out the chef's quirks, like combining smooth and crispy things (like crisps).  Service was swift, attentive, and good humored, and our server and sommelier couldn't have been nicer; they even comped our sparkler because it was our anniversary.  All that care for the guests, the interesting Italian wines you never see anywhere else, and of course the thoughtfully prepared food are all reasons why we love Nicola's.  So we shall return, even when it's not our anniversary.

Chilaquiles

Sunday 25 January
Our old standby for using up tortilla chips; part of the fun is tasting them to see whether they're still good.

We used roasted fresh poblanos from Jungle Jim's, and a new variation on canned tomatoes: Redgold diced tomatoes with chilpotle.   They added a nice note of spice, and didn't get the casserole too watery, the way fresh tomatoes tend to do.

Fleischschnaka

Saturday 24 January

We saw an episode of "Secrets of a Chef," and Holt was entranced by Hubert Keller's grandmother's recipe for Fleischschnaka ("meat snails").  It used both leftover stewed beef and bulk sausage, and as we just happened to have some of both, we thought we'd give it a try.
Since the recipe comes from Alsace (as does Keller), you can make it either in French or in German; Keller hasn't posted his version on the web yet.
Essentially, you whizz up about a half pound of stewed beef, mix in some sautéed onions and any needed seasonings (always including the magic allspice) and a half pound of bulk sausage, and spread it out on a sheet of pasta dough, which you roll up and slice into rounds.  Those get browned on both sides, then some stock (beef, though we used chicken) is added, the pan is covered so they simmer, and you serve them with the boiled-down pan sauce.
Complicated, though fun to make.  

There are several tastier and a myriad quicker ways to use up leftover stewmeat and bulk sausage, usually involving dried pasta; but this is one of those recipes (like kreplach, tortellini, empanadas) which use leftovers, flour, and water thriftily, but lavishly spend hours of (generally women's) labor.  But as long as Holt likes to do it, Barbara will happily go along.