Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cooking for Couples, Pt. 3: Logistics

In an attempt to figure out some logistics for a potential dinner club in the works, Shaddley and YogaMarketingBrownieGirl came by my house for dinner on Friday night. We discussed our ideas, concerns, and plans briefly during our meal before the night quickly devolved into one of those grand Dionysian affairs that we all know and love.

I had spent that day playing in the garden, harvesting some snow peas, beets, and fennel, as well as making some chicken stock from the chicken carcass from the Friday before. My house smelled wonderfully warming as the stock slowly simmered on the range for hours and hours. I planned on making a mushroom risotto with the stock, but had no idea what else to cook. When I finally made my way to Wheatsville to pick up a few items that I had neglected to purchase when I'd left work the night before, I found myself standing in front of the meat case engaged in a full on mental eye roll. Everything looked good, so what to get? After about ten minutes of picking up and inspecting individual cuts of delectable Niman Ranch meats, I settled on a small, tied, center-cut pork loin.

The fennel finally grew up!

Rock the funky beets...

Back in the kitchen, I had big plans for the beets and fennel that I'd picked that afternoon. The golden beets got roasted in duck fat with a few cloves of crushed garlic, the red ones cut into vibrant little matchsticks; the fennel got delicately shaved and set aside. These veggies were to be used to dress up a salad of freshly picked greens from the backyard. I've eaten more salad in the last two months than I have in the last five years, which is definitely a good thing. With the salad's accompanying components prepped, I carried on about my business.

The pork loin was seasoned with a generous amount of salt, and set aside to rest for about an hour. As a salted roast sits, the salt will draw out the juices, which then combine with the salt before being reabsorbed into the meat, resulting in a more flavorful roast, inside and out. This waiting period allowed me to sit down, drink a glass of wine, and ponder some of the great mysteries swirling in my head that evening. Life is beautiful. After this cool down period, I worked out the timing for the meal based on when my guests would be arriving from North Buda, and got to work rubbing and searing the roast before sticking it in the oven.

With my stock finished, and maintaining a nice temperature on the stove, I was ready to get into the risotto. I had picked up some king trumpet and maitake mushrooms when I was at the market, two mushroom varieties that I find to be deliciously meaty and flavorful. This risotto stemmed from the same recipe as the last batch that I'd made, the only variance was the the use of red wine instead of white. As the risotto got close to finishing, the mushrooms were sautèed in some bacon fat and butter, and placed aside to be added when the risotto had finished. Timing appeared to be on my side, as the North Buda All-Stars rolled up right when the loin had finished resting, and the rice had achieved the right amount of tooth. Providence.

Tossed salad...

I heart risotto.

As always with this pair, we drank. Shaddley had brought two bottles of Sur de los Andes Malbec Gran Reserva, which was a perfect compliment to the earthy flavors of the mushroom risotto. This malbec, like many others that I've fell in love with, was moderately jammy, with a nice spicy backbone, and soft, velvety tannins that didn't over power the subtle flavors of the meaty mushrooms. I would like to have some of this wine laying around to casually sip on during one of these beautiful winter days. Shaddley, make this happen!

Vino.

The all seeing eye.

Choose your own caption.

Flapjacks.

Anyway, when we finished the wine, beers were pulled from the cellar [box in my closet...], and it was time for a tour of my New Glarus cache. A more in depth review of these beers will be featured in the next installment of Tasting Notes, but I'll quickly cover the bases here. We started with the Organic Revolution, which is a simple golden ale produced with organic Wisconsin barley, and organic German Hallertau hops. Malty, yet balanced, this was a great beer to segue from wine to IPA. Up next we tried the Hop Hearty, which I recently reviewed, and it was well received by YogaMarketingBrownieGirl, who loves IPA's. After this delicious citrus bomb we moved on to the mutha of the New Glarus line: Wisconsin Belgian Red. This beer is amazing. Fashioned in the style of a Belgian sour red, with a pound of Door county cherries in every bottle, this beer will make your toes curl faster than a wicked witch's under a displaced Kansas home. More on this abomination later. Full, intoxicated, and becoming increasingly tired, we should have stopped there, but we persevered and drank an Apple Ale from the New Glarus Unplugged line. This beer is not at all like a cider, but rather a nice brown ale with a massive apple nose, and finish. It is almost reminiscent of kombucha; effervescent, fruity, and delicious. Rosy cheeked and thoroughly pushed to the limits of excess, my guests fled for the safety of their South Austin refuge. They think they're safe, but I shall strike again, and next time it may be fatal. There'll be nothing to stop me, this time...

3 comments:

amenity said...

Those beets are gorgeous! Can I be in the DINNER club, please?

Flapjacks said...

when are coming back? where are you anyway?

Shadd Scott said...

mmmm...duck fat.
Well done Flappy, delicious as usual.

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