Monday, August 15 –
This week was very exciting for me because I had the chance to cook for more people (our sommelier Leigh Olson and her husband who brought the wines to go with this dinner – her notes below!), who had never had my cooking before. The pressure was on! Trusting recipes that I didn’t create or modify (very much) is hard when you want to make sure to impress people…
I started with the fennel salad, figuring that it was the least time-sensitive dish, knowing that I could just throw it in the refrigerator until it was time to eat. So I washed and thinly sliced the fennel blubs, used 1.5 lemons for the juice, threw some parmesan on top and gently mixed it together by hand. It turned out crisp, bright, and not really liquorice-like at all. The combination of lemon, fennel, and cheese was interesting and delicious. It definitely complimented the rest of the plate.
Next was the rice, which was browned and then tossed with veggies and cilantro, and then finally simmering in broth to finish cooking. I didn’t turn the heat down far enough during the simmering so mine dried out pretty quickly. I threw some more broth on top, turned it down to the lowest setting on the burner, and let it finish cooking the rice. It turned out fluffy, a little dry, and the vegetables mixed in almost seamlessly in flavor. I would be interested to see how it would turn out with cooking the rice in the rice cooker and then blending in the sauteed veggies.
As the rice was simmering I made the “raw sauce” that went with the prawns. It smelled good as soon as I started blending everything together. The recipe didn’t specify what kind of wine vinegar, so I chose red wine vinegar (because that’s what I already had in my kitchen). Definitely the right choice! I could eat that sauce on fish, chicken, stir-fried veggies, and almost anything else that likes a tart, flavorful sauce. It stole the show of the entire dinner, that’s for sure. I think most people went back for seconds just so they could have more of the sauce!
The prawns turned out good, with that smoky charred flavor that you get from barbequing, which blended in well with the rice and the sauce. I will definitely make that dish again.
Finally, the papaya with port dish. As my Wonderful Boyfriend grilled the prawns I peeled, seeded, and sliced two different kinds of papaya. I set them in a dish with a glass of port next to it so that people could choose how much they wanted to pour on top. The flavors mingled so well that you almost couldn’t tell it was wine, it just deepened the flavor of the fruit. The fruit flesh that was pink tasted sweet like dessert and the fruit flesh that was yellow tasted more like mango but was still amazingly delicious. Next time I think I’ll just pour the port over the fruit and let it sit in the fridge for a while to soak up the flavor of it.
Things I have learned: Must turn the burner down to the absolute lowest setting to simmer rice on the stove. Cleaning and cutting papaya is tricky because it gets slippery very quickly; remember to peel it over the cutting board rather than the garbage and then just scoop the peels later. Fruit soak up wine to a certain degree, but for more flavor let them sit longer in the fridge to meld together. And finally there is a fine line between fully cooked shrimp/prawns and charred. Remember to tell helping cooks that when they are opaque they are done, and it is ok to cut one open to double check. This dish would have been excellent if they were a little less black.
Recommendations from our sommelier, Leigh Olson: Angolan cuisine, which has been significantly influenced by Portuguese colonialization, combines indigenous ingredients with Portuguese-inspired ingredients such as coriander, garlic and of course Port. The resulting meal was both delicate and commanding. Many of the ingredients showed their “greenness” in this meal so we turned to a Sauvignon Blanc. BUT this time it was from the Loire Valley in France and is called Sancerre.
This wine exhibits a nice bright balance with some flinty characteristics ~ which wine geeks attribute to the Kimmeridgian marl soil in the area ~ they call this terroir (more on this later). The brightness compliments the acids in the recipes and that flinty character works fabulously with the seafood.
- Every day, Easy Drinker | Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Domaine les Grand Groux
- Step it up | Domaine Daulny Sancerre
- Money is No Object | Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Etienne Henri
- If you can’t find one of these, ask your wine steward at your local grocer. They can be great resources. Just tell them the ingredients you are using and let them show you the wines!
Fun Facts: Sancerre is named after the region in which it is vinified ~ as are most wines in France. These areas in France are designated as Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). Look for this on the bottle.
Serving Temp: Mid 40’s – 50 degrees. No wine cooler, no problem. Store your Sancerre in the refrigerator and pull it out 45 minutes before serving.
Vessel of Choice: Riedel Vinum Burgundy/Pinot Noir Wine Glasses. No budget for specialized wine glasses, a general purpose wine glass will be perfect.
Grilled Prawns With Raw Sauce (Camaro Grelhado com Mohlo Cru)
- 1 lb prawns
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/2 cup green onion, including tops, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons water
Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients (except the prawns!) and grinding them into a paste. Put the prawns on the skewers and brush with sauce. Grill until done (they should lose their translucent color), about 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with extra sauce on the side.
Papaya With Port Wine
- 1 papaya
- 1 lime
- 4 tablespoons port wine or 4 tablespoons madeira wine
Slice the papaya into 12 slices. Slice the lime into quarters. Arrange 3 papaya slices on 4 plates and put a lime wedge on the side of each. Sprinkle port wine over the top of each plate, or serve it on the side.
Arroz Verde (Green Rice)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400g (just over a cup and a half) white rice
- 1 large onion, minced
- 1 medium green pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 50g chopped coriander leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 900ml (just over a cup and a half) chicken broth
Heat the olive oil in a deep pan, add the rice and stir to make sure every grain is coated with oil. Then add the onion, green pepper, garlic and coriander. Season with salt and pepper then stir to mix thoroughly and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken broth, stir to mix and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the rice is done.
- 60ml (about 4 tablespoons) lemon juice
- 4 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 50g grated parmesan cheese
Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, 2 tbsp water and a pinch of salt. Meanwhile trim the fennel and slice thinly. Reserve about 50g of the fronds, trim very finely and add to the dressing. Mix together the fennel and dressing in a bowl, sprinkle with the parmesan and serve.