Recipe: Chardonnay Broccoli Buds

Hey, James River Cellars’ Wine Club Members!  Are you looking for an interesting recipe that uses the Stainless-Steel Chardonnay that you got at tonight’s release party?  You’re in luck… I’ve got just the thing… Chardonnay Broccoli Buds.  It’s a recipe that can be either an appetizer or side dish (cold OR roasted).  YUM!

ChardonnayBroccoliBuds

I first had this recipe as a child, during Sunday picnics at summer camp with relatives and friends.  I had never had broccoli as a cold appetizer before and it was delicious… crisp, tangy, and flavorful.  I have made this recipe many times throughout my adulthood but it always seemed a bit too oily, so I decided to remake it.

Since I used an actual recipe to start, it’s only fair that I give you the new recipe as one with specific ingredients (but please realize that I’ll always alter things slightly when I remake a recipe, so even these are guidelines).

Start by mixing 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup oil (I used canola oil), 1/2 cup James River Cellars’ Chardonnay, 1/2 Tablespoon sugar, 1/2 Tablespoon dried dill, 1/3 Tablespoon accent, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt together in a large resealable bowl or resealable plastic bag.  Add 1 1/2 to 2 bags fresh broccoli florets and toss well.  Allow broccoli to marinate for 24-48 hours, re-tossing in the dressing occasionally.  Once the vinaigrette has thoroughly flavored the broccoli, they can be served cold (drained of any access vinaigrette) as seen in the left photo OR drained and roasted in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes as seen in the right photo.

I hope you and your family enjoy this side dish/appetizer as much as I always do… it reminds me of the magical summers I spent in PA as a child and it makes me happy.  I hope it becomes a recipe that makes you happy as well!

Enjoy… from my childhood and family to yours!

Recipe: Chardonnay Cristo Benedict

When I was in college, I did an internship at a local “big name” hotel chain, spending a few days in each department and then writing up my findings, coming up with ideas to make things work better (reinventing the wheel, if you will), and generally being “free labor” for whichever manager needed some extra hands.  While I wasn’t wild about some of it when I was there, I realize now that I learned alot of great skills… like cooking!

I spent about a week in the kitchen, helping out with chopping, cooking, breaking eggs, and learning how the chef ran his kitchen.  After a particularly busy morning, he gave me the task of learning how to make his Monte Cristo sandwich, which is kinda like a marriage between french toast and ham & cheese sandwich.  We’re playing with a variation on a theme, after the Croque Monsieur posting yesterday,  but I suddenly had a craving for something like this for my morning meal today.  I didn’t really want to deal with the possible mess of dunking an entire sandwich into an egg batter (I really do not like “ick”), so I went with the alternative plating this sandwich as an open-faced one…  Easy, peasy, right?

Thankfully, it was!

I started by making an egg mixture for the “french toast” portion of this sandwich.  In a small mixing bowl, I put some fat free egg substitutea glug or two of James River Cellars Chardonnay, two thumbs-worth of fat free sour creamsalt, pepper, and paprika.  I added the sour cream because usually there’s an addition of cream to an egg mixture.  It wasn’t going to be the same (hell, I was using wine in something usually reserved for breakfast) but this was my way of coming up with a new and different spin on an old favorite sandwich, like this or this.  

Chardonnay Cristo Benedict

Once my egg mixture was done, I took a piece of sourdough bread (remember the bread I used the other day for the Croque Monsieur?  Same stuff… still chewy and yummy.), cut it in half, and soaked the bread before pan frying in on both sides.  I removed it to a baking sheet (covered in foil cuz I hate cleaning those things.. duh!) and popped the deli turkey slices in the pan to brown on each side.  While I was frying the bread, I shredded some sharp cheddar cheese (again, the same cheese from the other day) and doused it with a small amount of the Chardonnay.  When I finished browning the turkey, I laid the turkey on the bread and then thoroughly drained the cheese before topping the sandwich.

While I washed up the dishes, I popped the baking sheet into a 375 degree oven for a few minutes until the cheese melted.  Re-using the saute pan, I fried an egg in a small pat of butter and cooked it quickly, over easy.  I could have used one or two poached eggs instead, but I didn’t want to dirty another pan.  I put the fried egg on top of the cooked sandwich and broke the yolk to simulate the “benedict” taste of this sandwich.
IMHO, the best part of making dinner at home is being able to play with recipes to make them my own.  Have fun!If you’d rather not use the egg, that’s perfectly fine… that’s what so fun about cooking at home and making your own meals.  Add, subtract, play, and enjoy!  I toyed with adding some cooked spinach to this sandwich… I could have swapped out the deli turkey for some deli ham… I could have added some grilled onions or changed the type of cheese.

Recipe: Chardonnay Croque Monsieur

I made a very “fancy” dinner last night… Croque Monsieur, which is really just a fancy French name for a Grilled Ham and Cheese.  Sounded impressive, yes?  It kinda was… cuz I added wine.  Wait… it gets better… I put it on the CHEESE!

Chardonnay Croque Monsieur

I started with some really yummy sourdough bread from the local grocery store.  I sliced it and popped it into a hot oven to dry the bread thoroughly.  As the bread was drying, I tossed a few tablespoons of Chardonnay with some tasty shredded cheese.  Note:  I used a sharp cheddar with a little mild cheddar thrown in, but I could have just as easily used gruyere or swiss cheese.  Since sharp cheddar is what I had in the fridge, sharp cheddar is what I used.  This is my favorite rule of thumb… use what you’ve already got in the fridge if at all possible.  I really don’t like to have to make a separate trip to the store for one item… I always come home with too many “extras”!  I also made sure that I had some deli sliced ham already in the fridge to be able to use… Check!
The biggest addition to this meal really is just a simple condiment.  I’m not sure what you’d call it, but I stirred together about half a ramekin of fat free sour cream a glob of dijon mustard some garlicsalt and pepper.  I used this flavored sour cream as the “glue” to keep all the layers together during the cooking process.  It was a really tasty addition.  I was making dinner for my husband and myself, so I used enough of all the ingredients to make four open-faced sandwiches (two for each of us).  If you’re making dinner for more people, you’d obviously want to have more ingredients on hand to feed everyone.

Once I had everything ready, I drained the cheese on some paper towels and blotted it to remove any excess moisture.  This is important because the excess liquid ends up making the cheese a little soupy instead of getting browned and toasty as it broils.

Assembling the individual Croque Monsieurs was quite easy.  I spread a thin layer of flavored sour cream on the dry toasts, topped it with ham (I used a thinner amount of ham for myself and a thicker layer for my husband… see?  Individualizing your meal is easy when YOU”RE the cook!), then spread another thin layer of the sour cream mixture.  Check out the photo of this in the collage I’ve included… even at this point, it’s looking delicious!  I piled on enough cheese to make a mound on each sandwich.  The broiler really did all the heavy lifting on this dish… bubbly and hot, these sandwiches were really decadent.

When I told a friend of mine what I was making, she let me know that she really prefers a Croque-Madame… and that is a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top.  I might have to try that one the next time this makes it into my dinner rotation.

Feel free to play around with your favorite cheeses and different deli ham… maybe even try a heavier bread… whatever you do, I hope you’ll try this recipe and see how it’s received in your family.  Tweaking recipes to fit individual tastes is really what makes cooking so much fun.

I may not be a chef… but my family will never starve.  Of this, I am certain!

On a side note:  my darling husband said that he couldn’t look at the name of this dish without being reminded of an episode of Friends, where Joey tries to learn how to speak French.  Apparently, in our house, this dish will always be known as “Joey’s Grilled Ham and Cheese”.  :/  Enjoy this YouTube link!

Recipe: Baked Spaghetti x two

535048_10151622969642953_1426933668_n(1)I have to confess that I rarely like to make two separate meals for my family.  I tend to stand by the idea that if I’ve taken the time to cook dinner, the least they can do is eat it, right?  I decided to take pity on my older son, D, who is not a fan of seafood and make two versions of this baked spaghetti.  While it wasn’t difficult to do, it was definitely made as a treat since D will be heading off to grad school soon and I won’t have the opportunity to cook for him for a bit.

I began dinner by cooking spaghetti – I used most of a package of thin spaghetti, cooked as the package directed, but could have just as easily used linguini or some other pasta shape.  Spaghetti just seemed “right” to me for this meal.

Then I started with the protein side of things.  I sauteed a package of chicken tenders in a large stock pot until they were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  After removing the chicken, I added a pound of medium-sized raw shrimp without the shells and sauteed them in the same stock pot until they, too, were nicely browned and thoroughly cooked.  After giving them each their own photo shoot, I popped them into separate casserole dishes and set about making the sauce.

This sauce was a fairly simple one to do.  I began by melting 2T butter in a saute’ pan and adding half an onion, finely diced.  I let the heat take over and turn the onions translucent before adding some flour, and James River Cellars Chardonnay to start the creative juices flowing on this sauce.  I added some skim milk, simply because I wanted the sauce to have a little more body than the leaner Chardonnay sauce, then added  1/2 c asiago cheese, and 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese.  Once the cheeses had melted into the sauce, I thinned it out with a little pasta water and some freshly ground pepper.  Throughout the process, I would taste the sauce to make sure things were blending nicely – this is where you should add or alter your recipe when you can.  Throwing salt on a finished product makes for a flatter taste in the meal, in my opinion.

Once the sauce was complete, I topped the two casserole dishes each with half the cooked pasta, and half the cooked sauce, then stirred them both to combine all the ingredients.  My final step was to bake the casseroles for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  I sprinkled a touch of cheese on the top, but that’s totally up to you.  I just like the toasty cheese look when it comes out of the oven.

As you can see by the photos above, incorporated into this collage, dinner looked similar but tasted different, depending on the meat that was included.  M was happy with his Baked Shrimp Spaghetti and D was thrilled that his Baked Chicken Spaghetti had no seafood.  It was a win-win over all…especially since I got to have a ramekin of each recipe!  YUM!

Recipe: Shrimp Puttanesca

I have to caveat this post by saying that this sauce is not a true Puttanesca… it has none of the tomatoes, olives, and capers one would expect in a traditional puttanesca sauce, should you place an order for this in a restaurant.  My darling husband isn’t a fan of olives and capers, but I was hungry for something along the same lines of a puttanesca sauce with shrimp, so this is the recipe that came about.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

I started with a frozen package of Extra Jumbo Shrimp from my local grocery store.  I love to pick up packages of shrimp any time they’re on sale, so this is always a “go to” for me… especially since my husband and I both love shrimp.  I thawed and shelled the shrimp while they were still partially frozen, so they were easy to peel.  I also put a pot of pasta on to cook… cook as much as you’d like for your meal.  We like either bowties, rotini, or ziti as any of these hold the sauce nicely and are easy to eat with a fork.  If you like spaghetti or linguini, this would be a great recipe to use as well.ShrimpPuttanesca

Once the pasta is almost cooked, I warmed up some olive oil and then sauteed a large amount of finely chopped garlic and shallots until softened and lightly browned.  Into the pan, I then added two anchovy fillets (I used the ones packed in oil, because that’s what I had in the cupboard – I’ll use anchovies packed in water for the next rendition) and allowed them to melt into a sauce.  SIDE NOTE:  Anchovies are fun to cook with because they really do melt into the sauce when exposed to heat and bring a salty back note to any sauce.  I find them fun to use, as long as my family isn’t aware that I’m using them… they’re a little finicky about fish in their sauces.  Once the base of the sauce was cooked and the anchovies were incorporated, I added the shrimp.  As you can see in the photo, I sliced the shrimp length-wise so they would curl up and look pretty in the dish.  This also allowed the shrimp to cook pretty quickly and pick up the sauce even better than if they were whole.

With the shrimp were in the pan and starting to cook, I added some James River Cellars’ Chardonnay to fill out the sauce.  If I were trying to make a meal without wine (why would anyone DO that??), I’d simply substitute chicken stock for the wine.  I allowed the wine to cook into the shrimp and add a lovely taste to the seafood before topping the entire dish with some chopped parsley.  If the sauce is still a little thick, you can add more wine OR you can add a little pasta water.   The pasta water will end up thickening the sauce as well, so adding both is not a bad idea either.

For plating purposes, I drained the pasta and then tossed it into the shrimp and sauce.  This dinner was a huge hit and will definitely be seen often in my “easy/go-to” line up of recipes.  Try it yourself and see if you don’t add it to your own family’s favorites!

If you’re thinking about making a Valentine’s dinner, this is wonderful for a seafood lover.  Just add some crusty bread and a decadent dessert, and your loved one will be putty in your hands.  Happy Valentine’s Day!