Friday, January 27, 2012

In Praise of Quiche

I've been making quiche on a fairly regular basis lately, it started out as a way to use up some leftover pastry and smoked salmon after Christmas and has evolved into a regular menu staple. I had forgotten what a lovely comfort food quiche can be and am now kicking myself for not making it more often in the past.

Quiche has been around for a long time, generally considered a French dish the earliest records for savoury custards are found in 14th Century England. The original quiche were savoury custards with the addition of bacon, cheese came along later and God only knows when the broccoli and asparagus started to show up. Quiche was so ubiquitous in the late '70s and early '80s that a tongue in cheek psycho babble book entitled Real men don't eat Quiche was a best seller in 1982-83, the premise being that quiche was wimpy and not masculine enough. Well I can tell you real men not only eat quiche, they make it.

Quiche is dead easy to make, and is a superb vessel for left over ham, chicken, shrimp, salmon whatever. You can either make a simple Pate' Brisee, or if you are lazy buy frozen deep dish pie shells from your grocer. Proof your crust by covering it with foil and weighting down the foil with dry beans, cook for 12 minutes in a 450 degree oven then remove and carefully take out the beans, they may be reused for the proofing process in the future. Reduce your oven to 325 degrees and prep the filling, I use 5 eggs, a cup and a half of warm milk, homo not skim, or even creamo. Beat the eggs and milk together with salt and pepper and add a cup or so of grated full flavoured cheese, gruyere, emmenthaler, aged cheddar are all good and whatever else you want, ham, bacon, shrimp, crab are all great, I usually add sauteed, not browned onions and something herbaceous like sage or dill depending on what else is in the mix, Place the pieshell on a baking sheet and fill it with the custard mix and then bake for 40 minutes, let it cool and serve warm or at room temperature with salad or roasted broccoli and dinner/lunch is served.

The beauty of quiche is that the egg, milk mix is the only constant, the other fillings are based on what you like and what you have on hand so it never gets boring and it's great for cleaning out the fridge. I'm surprised more restaurants don't feature a daily quiche at lunch, it's delicious and great for the food cost as the bits of whatever can be magically transformed into a saleable item, much like Seafood Pasta. Wine pairing is a snap as well, the rich custard cries out for fruit so a light red or white, something grenache or gamay for red and maybe a chenin blanc or unoaked chardonnay for white, but really anything that is softer and fruity will work.

So next time you're wondering what to do with that lefover chicken/ham/crab think about a quiche and I bet you'll be happy you did.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Gertrude Stein wine

Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who is notable for the quote in Everybody's Autobiography, speaking about the city of Oakland, that "there is no there there". The quote has been much discussed over the years as to its' meaning but I think I found the basis for it the other night over dinner.

Sunday was a hectic day, I worked very late Saturday night and as a result wife and daughter attended the Sunday Soccer Mass (0-2 if you're keeping score) and with a hectic week on the horizon I did a mad dash around in the afternoon grabbing provisions, including wine for Sunday dinner. The meal was simple roast chicken so almost anything would suffice wine wise but at the Mothership I was persuaded to purchase a newly listed Spanish red Laya 2009 . The wine seemed to fit into my wheelhouse, I'm a fan of Garnacha and Monastrell, and at $14 wasn't going to break the bank, so I grabbed it and popped the cork just before serving dinner .

The wine was stunningly indifferent, it wasn't bad, it was just blah. It was a Parker wine with lots of fruit and soft, soft tannins and it certainly wasn't offensive but it was the equivalent of drinking puppies, I mean puppies are cute and all, but after awhile you want to be left alone and the damn puppies just won't let that happen. The Laya was soft and warm and inoffensive, there was red fruit and a touch of leather but there certainly wasn't any Spain, I mean close your eyes and the wine could've been Australian, Chilean, South African anywhere..........there was no there there.

Much is made in the wine business about terroir, that character of a wine that ties it to it's place and it is a vital part of what makes wine drinking enjoyable. This wine had no terroir, no sense of place no there. It was well made, it was pleasant and if I never had it again I'd be fine with that .

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Feature - Get my Blog in your email

I finally figured out how to has a feature which allows you to "subscribe" to my blog via email.

On the right hand side of the blog, just below links and above followers, is a place for you to sign up to receive new posts from A Wine Guy's Blog.

Addresses are not shared, so if you want to stay current, or at least as current as I post, just sign up and you should receive new posts in your email.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The return of Pizza Red

Well if nothing else the blast of Arctic air, and the accompanying snowfall, have given me pause to blog.

It's been awhile since I made pizza and tried a new pizza red but Monday night was such an occasion . It didn't start out that way as Mondays are usually a soccer practice night which means daughter eats large at 5:30ish and we eat light around 8pm but the snow forced closure of the practice facility so I rethought dinner and decided to make pizza. I even got ambitious enough to make the dough from scratch as opposed to frozen dough from Calabria Bakery . For those who have never tried, pizza dough may be the easiest dough to make, just flour, water, salt and yeast provide all you need, though I add cornmeal, olive oil and basil to mine. Anyway with pizza as the main dish the decision became: What pizza red to enjoy ?.

I had a bottle of Portuguese red on hand that I've enjoyed with the braise in the past and decided to put it to the Pizza test and I'm happy to report that the wine passed with flying colours. The wine in question is Porca de Murca, a blended red made from indigenous grapes in the Douro valley of Portugal, primarily Tinto Roriz. The Douro is most famous for producing the sweet fortified Port wines but produces lots of table wine as well, Real Velha produces about 100,000 cases of Porca de Murca red annually.

The wine has a very dark colour in the glass and the nose is a tad dusty with lots of sweet berry fruit, in the mouth there are notes of blueberry and sour cherry and a touch of black pepper and a nice level of acidity which helps greatly with the cheese/tomato/salami combo of the pizza .

Overall this wine is a solid addition to the Pizza Red collection, and is also a good partner to the winter braise, there is an inherent fruity component to the wine which would be difficult if the braise involved too much sweet overtones but if the braise is a robust one then this wine is a solid, and very inexpensive companion . The Porca de Murca is actually on sale this month, down a buck to $10.99, but that doesn't warrant any bulk buying in my mind . However the wine's flexibility, it would also go nice with tomato based pastas and roast chicken, make it worthwhile to have a couple of bottles put aside for wintery nights.

For those who don't speak Portuguese "Porca de Murca" literally means "pig, or sow, of Murca", there is a statue dating back to the Iron Age of a wild pig in the village square of Murca, thought to honour a Celtic like divinity. It looks a lot like a cartoon hippopotamus to me

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In praise of Pork Tenderloin

The other day I was at Michael Ruhlman's site, viewing a thread about staple meals . It's a great read in that it shows the diversity of what home cooks make daily, and how we define comfort food along with numerous other insights.

The post took me back to a conversation I'd had at work recently with our very own Homesick Texan floor manager about pork tenderloin and its' diversity. I love all thinks porky, chops, roasts, charcuterie etc. in all manners of preparation but pork tenderloin may well be one of my favourite cuts because it is so simple, so affordable yet can make such a grand entrance. In these times of rapidly spiraling grocery prices the noble pork tenderloin can still regularly be had for around $4.50 a pound, and since there is little or no waste in the tenderloin that means protein for four can hit the table for significantly less than $10 for a premium cut. Just try doing that with beef or fish and you will quickly come to appreciate the value of pork tenderloin.

Pork tenderloin is a boneless cut taken from the inside of the loin, the yellow area in the photo above, and as such is very lean and tender but it does need a bit of trimming. When you look at the tenderloin you will see bits of fat, which may or may not be trimmed depending on your preference, but also some areas covered in a shiny membrane, known as silverskin, which may at first glance look like fat but must be trimmed away. The silverskin is a ligament like membrane that is very tough when cooked and takes no time to remove, I use a boning knife, because it bends with the tenderloin, and just slide the tip under the silverskin and trim it away. As you get experienced with trimming the silverskin you can generally remove it with minimal loss of meat, maybe half an ounce in total.

Once it's trimmed of silverskin your tenderloin is ready for prep, so what to do ? There are many ways to deal with pork tenderloin, from marinades to dry rubs, and many ways to cook it, grilled, pan seared, roasted, sliced in medallions, whole ...... whatever. Many years ago I read a statement by Julia Child that you should treat pork tenderloin the same as beef tenderloin, simply and with high heat, and so that's what I generally do.

My "go to" pork tenderloin prep calls for a trimmed loin, I then use the tip of my knife to make a dozen or so small cuts in the loin into which I put slivers of raw garlic. I then rub the loin with a mix of coarse salt, black pepper, dry mustard powder and fresh sage and let it come to room temperature while I preheat an oven to 375. When oven, and pork, are at the correct temperature I heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil and unsalted butter, once the butter froths I add the tenderloin and get a nice sear on all sides, about 3-4 minutes in total. When the tenderloin is seared I put the pan in the oven for about 15 minutes, I like my pork tenderloin with some pink in it so I generally check it around 13 minutes, we want the internal temperature between 135-140 degrees. Once the pork is done take it out and let it rest while you deglaze the pan over a medium high burner with white wine, or stock, then add a knob of butter to the pan jus stirring quickly and remove from the heat. Slice the pork diagonally into medallions, pour the "sauce" over and garnish with a bit more fresh sage and it's a pretty impressive plate that takes about 40 minutes from fridge to table.

Serve the tenderloin with any food friendly red with a reasonable fruit level, Rhone Valley wines or Spanish Garnachas or Tempranillos are nice, or even a dry style of Chenin Blanc and enjoy.

So there it is, my "go to" pork tenderloin recipe, use it, don't use it but there it is. Next time you're thinking about what you can put on the table in a hurry that will be delicious and impressive, think about pork tenderloin.