Alan had to go home, but the rest of us schlepped up to Vermont for more eating and occasional walks with the kids. The first night we had more steaks, which had marinated since before Christmas in a bit of soy and rice vinegar, then got a rub of coffee, garlic, pepper, salt, and grated dried Chinese mushrooms (the intensely chocolatey ones, which were the inspiration for the cappucino-mushroom soup that I’ll get to someday) and seared up just right in an iron pan. With various sides, including a 2001 Dead Arm, to my taste the most French of Aussie wines, except maybe for Grange, which is 3 times the price.
The next night we had carrot risotto, Mat marinated (sesame oil, soy sauce, tabasco, lemon) and grilled salmon and swordfish (amazing, especially the swordfish) asparagus, and Andrew’s salad. A Sine Qua Non pinot noir #6 took this already fantasic meal to a whole other level. I’m very glad that I have two more of them in store.
Mat & Emily, Andrew, and Alan joined us for Christmas dinner. We roasted a capon, stuffed with our version of her Mom’s stuffing: whole wheat bread, onion, celery, shiitake, Moroccan lemon, smoked pork broth, lots of herbs, and that which did not fit into the bird got well basted with fat and baked in a pan separately.
Along with the bird came roasted kabocha squash, gravy made from a purée of burdock and dried Chinese mushrooms whisked into a roux made from the hot bird fat, cranberry sauce (sweetened only with maple syrup) and kale. We began with yet another Pleiades, and finished with a 2002 Sirius. Dessert was a pretty perfect pear tart (the glaze was strawberry wine cooked down with orange whiskey and honey to a syrup) and vanilla ice cream. Fantastic.
As per Christine’s family tradition, we had pea soup for dinner. This one was pretty great, since it had layers of flavors due to its composition; the last of the frozen smoked rib-based soup from the summer, plus smoked pork broth from the huge hunk that ended up as pulled pork, plus a new batch that began with bacon and finished with Fleisher’s homemade kielbasa. All added together, and simmmered until the new peas were just right (and the older ones were a perfectly smooth velvet) this one was a real symphony of pork flavors suspended in a creamy substrate of peas. With crusty bread and creamy, funky cheese, it was a perfect beginning to a week of family and more or less constant eating.
Chris, Sirkka, and Nissa all came for dinner before their trip, and I had gone shopping for Christmas so we had lots of good stuff in the house. First, the last of the cauliflower soup, increased a bit with more milk and butter, then served in little cups and finished with pepper and a drop of truffle oil.
Then, big shrimp, cleaned but with the shells on, dredged in cumin, cinnamon, pepper, salt, curry, garlic, and oregano, then seared in an iron pan and finished with a bit of wine.
I wilted a big bunch of spinach with garlic and oil, mashed a pile of steamed sweet potatoes, and finally seared a big top sirloin steak that had a coffee, garlic, salt and pepper rub liberally worked into it. This meat (from Fleisher’s, of course) is really like land sushi; I just seared both sides for about 3 minutes each and then let it rest for 10 to heat through. Gorgeous.
We drank another new Pleiades (see what I mean?) and then a 2003 Cheze St.-Joseph Ro-Rée, which also represents a great mouthful of wine for the price.
As a sort of Hanukkah meal I made sweet potato latkes, pan-seared salmon, and kale. The latkes really worked; while much less fatty than traditional ones, they had a lot of flavor and covered the full spectrum of texture from crunchy outside to creamy farther in and still a bit al dente in the middle. The salmon got an apple cider/honey/soy reduction and we washed it down with another Pleiades.
This started off as a roasted cauliflower with a cheese and porcini enhanced béchamel poured on it, the product of a rainy day and some boring cheddar in the fridge. The next day, I threw it all in a pot, added some more mushrooms, buttermilk and water, and once it was totally soft stick blended the whole thing into this creamy goodness. Mushrooms and cauliflower really get along, and the combination of cheese, milk, and buttermilk really elevated the earthy flavors.
Upon return from Miami, I found some lamb chops in the freezer, and since I had eaten pretty badly on my trip got excited to make some home cooking. So parsnip and sweet potato purées, steamed kale with lemon and garlic, and the chops crusted with mustard and herbs. We drank one of the new Pleiades (XV) which just arrived, and it’s a particularly good one. It will be fascinating to see how it ages, but I doubt we’ll be able to keep it around long enough to find out. For the money, I think it’s the best wine made in America.