Turkey Day Prep: Zinful Cranberries

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This is a recipe I shared yesterday to my wine lifestyle blog #GirlsGoneWine that I love pulling out for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s one that I have been making for a few years. It’s fast, easy, and tastes so good!

Growing up, my family never ate any cranberry sauce that was homemade.  In the preparations for cannedcranberriesThanksgiving, someone was always assigned the task of bringing two cans of jellied and one of whole berry cranberry sauce.  You couldn’t try and pull a fast one by buying store brand.  It had to be Ocean Spray on Grandma’s Thanksgiving table!

When I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my own family I automatically followed the same routine until I became obsessed with the Food Network a few years back and made my first foray into making cranberry sauce from scratch.

For the first few years, I stuck with the basic “back of the package” recipe:

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 – 12 oz bag of whole fresh cranberries

Boil sugar and water, add cranberries and cook 10 minutes over a slow boil until berries have popped, refrigerate until time to serve.  *If you wanted it jellied you strained out the berry solids and skins using a mesh strainer before refrigerating.  BORING!

This year I put some time and creativity into the preparation and came up with a winner:

Zinful Cran-Blueberry Sauce

  • 1 & 1/3 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Zinfandel Wine (Best Quality you can afford – if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
  • 1 – 12 oz Package Ocean Spray Fresh Whole Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 1 Whole Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • Orange or Tangerine Zest

Bring sugar, wine and cinnamon stick to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes.  You may want to use a splatter shield to avoid splashing when cranberries pop. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.  Cool slightly then move sauce to serving dish.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours and serve cold.  Sauce will thicken up as it cools.  Garnish with a few cranberries, blueberries and curls of zest.

Don’t worry, for the holdouts who just can’t stand not seeing the canned Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, I still have the obligatory dish with the slices in the shape of the can. 😉  #CAGirlsGoneWine

Pairing Dessert with Wine

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It’s no secret that I love food and wine, but even I have to admit that sometimes the wine you drink with dinner may not be the same wine that you want to keep drinking when it comes time for dessert.

Generally, it’s not a bad idea to follow the rule: the darker the dessert the darker the wine.  If you don’t feel secure with a rule that is so non-specific, there are a few other taste guidelines according to the different dessert types:

  • Custard and Vanilla
  • Fruit and Spice
  • Caramels and Chocolate

Custard and Vanillacremebrulee

When your dessert is based around the light, mild, buttery flavors found in most custard based desserts you want your wines to have the same basic flavor profiles.  So, if you are serving a vanilla custard, pudding, flan, crème brûlée, tart or pie, you’ll want to serve a white wine like a late-harvest Riesling, or a sparkling wine like an Asti Spumanti or demi-sec Champagne.  This Vanilla Crème Brûlée from The New York Times is #FastAndEasy and needs only 5 ingredients!

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy or light cream, or half-and-half
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar, more for topping

Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a saucepan, combine cream, vanilla bean and salt and cook over low heat just until hot. Let sit for a few minutes, then discard vanilla bean. (If using vanilla extract, add it now.)

In a bowl, beat yolks and sugar together until light. Stir about a quarter of the cream into this mixture, then pour sugar-egg mixture into cream and stir. Pour into four 6-ounce ramekins and place ramekins in a baking dish; fill dish with boiling water halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until centers are barely set. Cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours and up to a couple of days.

When ready to serve, top each custard with about a teaspoon of sugar in a thin layer. Place ramekins in a broiler 2 to 3 inches from heat source. Turn on broiler. Cook until sugar melts and browns or even blackens a bit, about 5 minutes. Serve within two hours.

Most crème brûlée recipes need a torch, but this one is simpler & safer: it uses your oven’s broiler to get the crackly top.

**TIP: Make sure the custard sets for several hours in the refrigerator before brûléeing the top so you don’t end up with soupy custard.

vanillaspicedpoachedpearFruit and Spice

When your dessert is fruit based with a spicy profile, like those with apple, pear, pumpkin or cinnamon in them, you’ll want to lean toward white wines that have more character to them.   In this case you’ll want to consider Pink or Rosé Champagne, Sauternes, or late-harvest Gewirtztraminer.

Caramels and Chocolates

When your dessert is rich and full of any of the flavors across the chocolate spectrum turtlebrownies1(except white chocolate) or has the gooey richness of caramel’s toffee goodness, then the wines you’re looking for will be Red.  Late-harvest Pinot Noir, Banyuls, Grenache, Australian Shiraz, Port (the classic chocolate pairing), and Grappa all are excellent pairings for these rich dessert choices.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

 

 

Baltimore Style Crab Cakes

When I am in the mood for crab but don’t want the mess & hassle of cracking shells and digging the meat out, nothing fits the bill like a crab cake.  I’m not talking about a crab cake that’s mostly crappy breadcrumbs and other cheap fillers, I’m talking a cake filled with lush, sweet crab meat and little more.

FandW092018The September 2018 Food & Wine Magazine features their 40 “Best Ever Recipes,” which lured me in with a luscious chocolate cake on the cover, but they hooked me with this recipe for crab cakes, nine pages from the back of the magazine on page 95!

Andrew Zimmern’s Baltimore Style Crab Cakes

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (See note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
  • 20 saltine crackers, finely crushed (See note below)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (See note below)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce until smooth.

In a medium bowl, lightly toss the crab meat with the cracker crumbs. Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture.   In Andrew Zimmern’s words, if you don’t over mix, and don’t pack your mounds too tightly, you will experience “pure, unadulterated crab cake heaven.”  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Scoop the crab mixture into eight 1/3-cup mounds; lightly pack into 8 patties, about 1+1/2 inches thick. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the crab cakes and cook over moderately high heat until deeply golden and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the crab cakes to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

  • Tip 1:  If you prefer, you can substitute 1 1/2 tsp yellow or spicy mustard and omit the Dijon mustard and hot sauce
  • Tip 2:  You can substitute 1/2 cup Panko crumbs for the saltine crackers
  • Tip 3:  You can substitute any lightweight oil for the canola oil.  I prefer olive oil.
  • Tip 4:   If you plan to serve these as appetizers you can scoop them with a small cookie scoop, a soup spoon or melon baller – depending on whether you want them to be a 1 or 2 bite app.
  • MAKE AHEAD Crab cakes can be prepared thru Step 2 & refrigerated overnight

The recipe as written serves 4 people 2 patties each alongside a peppery arugula salad topped with diced mango, pineapple & cucumbers with a squeeze of lemon juice & a tablespoon of vinaigrette dressing.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

This recipe was originally published in 2012, and also appears on Andrew Zimmern’s website.  Food & Wine Magazine recommends pairing these crab cakes with a Muscadet#GirlsGoneWine  I’m not familiar with Muscadet, so I looked to my go to wine reference site, Wine Enthusiast, for an education on this brisk, lemony wine from the Loire Valley region of France.  Wine enthusiast says the flavor profile of Muscadet wine can vary from very neutral to tangy and saline.  Basic Muscadet wine is light in body and light in flavor, and may have a little spritz. Higher quality examples lean more towards a tangy saltiness and notes of flinty minerality, with a smooth texture and friendly, approachable nature.   As for specific recommendation, here’s a very affordable option:BougrierLesMartinieres

  • Bougrier Les Martinieres – This crisp, fruity white is an enjoyable accompaniment to shellfish and light appetizers. Its light sweetness adds richness to the light lemon, mineral and peach notes.  Total Wine $10.99

Lemon Pepper Shrimp

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Once school starts, week night sit down dinners together for most families become a memory.  This recipe requires few ingredients, can be made in under 30 minutes (while Mama is sipping her glass of wine), can be made ahead and reheated, and makes week night dinners together something that doesn’t have to stop as soon as summer is over!  This serves 4 but can easily be doubled to serve a larger family or guarantee leftovers. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Lemon Pepper Shrimp with Linguine

  • 1 – 8 ounce package linguine pasta
  • 1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 TBLS olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic minced (I use the pre-chopped jars which would equal 3 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 TBLS chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBLS chopped fresh basil
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Whole basil leaves for garnish

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil
  2. Add linguine and return to a boil
  3. Cook according to package directions for al dente pasta (usually 11 to 13 minutes)
  4. Drain the pasta and put into a large bowl
  5. Toss with 1 to 2 TBLS olive oil and set aside
  6. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and saute garlic about 1 minute
  7. Mix in chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, & pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is reduced by about 1/2
  8. Mix shrimp, butter, parsley, and basil into the saucepan
  9. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until shrimp is opaque
  10. Stir in the cooked linguine, and continue cooking 2 minutes, until well coatedWesterlySauvBlanc14

To serve, place a mound of pasta in the center of dish and divide the shrimp and sauce evenly between the plates. If desired sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese atop and garnish with leaves of basil.  This dish pairs nicely with chilled Sauvignon Blanc. #GirlsGoneWine

Start Your Meal Off Right

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When you’re relaxing before you’re ready to have dinner, but don’t want to sip on your wine without a little something to take the edge off of your hunger, these decidedly Southern, half moon shaped cheese biscuits are just the thing!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Southern Cheese Moons (Wine4Food)

  • 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cream together softened butter and finely shredded cheese, using the paddle on a stand mixer or a hand mixer.

Combine flour, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, mustard, and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk together well.

Slowly incorporate flour mixture and cheddar butter. Don’t over mix, just combine.

Transfer dough to parchment paper. Gently press into one ½-inch oval shape.

Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, press cutter in dough. Then, slice in half.

For any remaining dough, shape into ½-inch ovals.

Place the cut half moons onto a parchment paper or Silpat-lined baking sheet. The cheese biscuits should be a minimum of 2 inches apart.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Transfer to cooling rack.

Enjoy these biscuits with a bold Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah, Petite Syrah or Sangiovese. #GirlsGoneWine

Seared Scallops with Pan Sauce

Seared-Scallops-with-Pan-Sauce-2-113016

Scallops are one of the most delicious seafood dishes when prepared properly.

In a November 2016 posting, Mark Bittman of epicurious.com shared some of his tips and tricks for making a foolproof seared scallop dinner.   This #FastAndEasy recipe will make anyone you’re serving them to think you slaved all day!

Seared Scallops with Pan Sauce (Serves 4)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  1. Cut 2 tablespoons of the butter into pea-sized pieces, put it on a small plate, and stick it in the freezer. Heat a large skillet over medium-heat high for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the olive oil and wait for the butter to melt.
  2. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, add them to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper; work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the skillet. Cook, turning once, until they are well browned on both sides but not quite cooked through, 2 minutes per side (less if the scallops are under 1 inch across; more if they’re over). Transfer the scallops to a plate.
  3. Stir in the garlic, lemon juice, and wine and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet with a spatula. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the liquid in the skillet thickens, a minute or two, then whisk in the butter you chilled in the freezer, one bit at a time, to make a creamy sauce, adding another tablespoon or two of liquid if necessary.
  4. Return the scallops to the skillet and add the chives. Adjust the heat so the sauce bubbles gently and toss to coat the scallops with the sauce. To serve, transfer the scallops to a platter and spoon the sauce over all.

Variation:

  1. Seared Scallops With Cherry Tomatoes and Basil: Skip the lemon juice. Cut 1 pint cherry tomatoes in half. Add the tomatoes with the garlic and wine and cook until they wrinkle a bit and release their juice, 2 or 3 minutes. Use chopped fresh basil leaves instead of chives.

Cooks’ Notes

  1. Releasing From The Pan: The scallops will offer no resistance when they’re ready to turn. Press down gently while the scallops cook to encourage full contact with the pan, then listen for a hiss: That’s moisture heating and evaporating.
  2. Getting A Good Sear: The idea is to brown the scallops well on both sides without overcooking them, so keep the heat as high as you can without creating too much smoke.
  3. Building Sauce With Butter: After you add the liquid and deglaze the pan, the addition of butter develops fantastic creaminess and richness.
  4. Finishing The Dish: As soon as the scallops are cooked through completely and coated with the sauce, remove the pan from the heat; they will continue to cook. Nick-and-peek into one if you need to check for doneness.
Tips**
  • Make sure you pat the scallops dry with a paper towel.  Only a dry scallop will sear properly.  A perfectly seared scallop should be nicely browned on the outside and buttery in the middle.
  • A paring knife should slide in and out with almost no resistance, but as always, the best way to check it is to make a small slice into one and look (or taste).   The inside should remain translucent.   High-quality scallops are delicious raw and tend to dry out quickly: It’s better to undercook than overcook.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Fluffy Peach Cobbler with White Wine Whipped Cream

Peach Cobbler with Maple Cream Sauce

Summer fruit season is at it’s glorious peak and the produce department at my grocery store is overflowing with bins of fresh apricots, nectarines, plums, and luscious ripe peaches!  With this bounty of  rich, sweet fruit available, I love nothing more than to peel a pile and bake a juicy, lip-smacking cobbler.

Few things go as well together as a crisp white wine and stone fruits.  Wine Enthusiast recommends a Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Roussillon, France like: Gerard Bertrand Terroir Picpoul de Pinet 2016.  Total Wine or BevMo should be able to point you in the right direction for a wine that’s similar if they don’t carry this $18 bottle.

Another option is to enter the search term “Picpoul de Pinet” into your google search, hit enter, and then select [Shopping] beneath the search box after your selections come up. Locations where you can buy it will come up.

This recipe for peach cobbler combines the two flavors beautifully and, bonus, it doesn’t need to be baked in the oven, so no heating the house up!

Fluffy Peach Cobbler with White Wine Whipped Cream

  • 10 Ripe Peaches – peeled, pitted & sliced into quarters – It’s OK if they’re a little squishy.picpouldepinet
  • 2 Cups Dry White Wine (like a Picpoul de Pinet)
  • 1/2 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 3 tsp Cornstarch
  • 3 tsp Cold Water
  1. Set your electric Pressure Cooker (like your Instant Pot) to the Brown or Sauté setting.
  2. Combine wine, juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon in Instant Pot then add peaches.
  3. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened.
  4. Combine cornstarch and cold water.  Stir into peach mixture in Instant Pot.

Prepare Batter:

  • 4 TBLS Butter Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 Vanilla Bean, Scraped
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  1. In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until completely incorporated.
  2. Add heavy cream and vanilla bean.
  3. Fold in combined flour and baking soda a little at a time until ragged, sticky batter forms.
  4. Place spoonfuls of batter over peaches, but don’t cover top completely.  Push dough balls down into peaches.
  5. Secure lid and close pressure valve. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  6. When done, let pressure drop naturally for 5–10 minutes. Release remaining pressure, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Prepare Whipped Topping:

  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream, Chilled
  • 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Vanilla Bean, Scraped
  • 1 tsp White Wine, Chilled
  1. In mixing bowl, whip heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and white wine until light and fluffy.
  2. It should double in volume and clump into whisk. Don’t over whip, or it will turn to butter. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine has some of the best #CookingWithWine dessert recipes and is my go-to when I’m looking for something new & different to make for dessert!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat