Sunday, February 25, 2007

Braised Salmon & Maragaret Cho

I'm a very bad gay . . .

While the rest of the world was watching the Oscars tonight, I was braising Salmon filets in a decadent mixture of Pinot Noir, bacon, mushrooms and butter (God bless the French) accompanied with a side of Broccoli Rabe wilted and seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar. I think the salmon recipe came from the quarterly magazine the local wine & liquor superstore sends out to incent hopeless foodies like me to make sure I come in and stock up on alcohol I certainly don't need. Nevertheless, the dish was heavenly, but I'll have to rely on my co-workers to tell me how "Little Miss Sunshine" fared with the Academy.

I had planned to at least watch the red carpet coverage, but I have been trying to get around to trying this recipe for months. I figure I'll get the full run down of the fashion cheers/jeers by watching some E! later in the week.

I tried to re-claim a little of my homo-pride by taking in a few minutes of "Notorious C.H.O" on Logo after dinner - I figured you burn calories when you laugh, and nothing is funnier than listening to Margaret Cho talk about getting a colonic - or is there . . .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Walleye Wow!

I'm not a big fan of walleye. When I first arrived in Minnesota almost 5 years ago, it seemed like this state was obsessed with the stuff. Every restaurant from greasy spoons to white linen places offered the fish in some form. Coming from catfish country where I was raised, Walleye seemed to be a bland off-center departure from the type of every-man's fare I was used to so I've generally avoided the stuff unless it's been battered and fried to oblivion (thus closer to what my southern palate expects from a fish like that).

My eyes have been opened by the folks at Birchwood Cafe - an enchanting eclectic establishment buried in a neighborhood on the east side of town, a few blocks shy of the Mississippi River where they rely on organic ingredients, unusual grains, and crank out some incredible baked goods and desserts. The menu is perpetually changing chalk-board listing of entrees, salads, pizzas and other treats. That description cheapens the experience of eating there which is best captured in the invitation painted on the window proclaiming "Good Real Food".

This trip, I was intrigued by an entree of Pan-fried Canadian Walleye in browned butter. Trusting that if anyone could do walleye in a way that I could appreciate, it would be the Birchwood folks. Holy Crap! I scarfed it down too fast to stop to get a picture.

Two fillets of moist, delicately flavored walleye exploded with flavor as they were perfectly caramelized and the flesh was crisp on the outside and just done inside. I love perfectly browned butter as it is rich and deep at the same time and this combination perfectly accented the fish.

The dish was brought together by fried sage, and a pilaf of wild rice, a grain that looked like bulgar or maybe quinoa (I'm bad with my grains) and chunks of pineapple - who would have thunk. The pineapple with the browned butter gave me that rich sweet/savory mix I adore and lingers on my mind for hours afterward. I rounded out the meal with a Jamaican ginger beer and an way-too-sweet chocolate/almond layer cake stuffed with bananas swimming in almond liqueur. All-in-all, the great start to a weekend and an invite to get my buns back into Birchwood more often as well as opening my eyes to the possibilities for walleye.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hastening spring with tequila

On Tuesdays I visit my favorite bar, Jetset for some much needed chill time with my favorite set of alcoholics and talking heads. Susan, the bartender and owner makes perfectly balanced cocktails and runs a tight ship.

This week we finally broke the 3 weeks of deep freeze so I took the occassion to enjoy a margarita on the rocks with no salt. I think a drink like this hastens the coming of warmer days and more occasions to drink tequila.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Serious steak sandwich to ease work-day blues

Today was a filet mignon sandwich day. This is how to do lunch!

I went to Bacio for lunch with a group from work and enjoyed this medium-cooked beauty with some luke-warm fries (we had a party of 11, and I think they failed to get the timing right on delivery). The sandwich was perfectly cooked and topped with carmelized onions spiked with balsamic vinegar and a creamy spread that may or may not have had some sort of cheese in it. There is a decadence that comes with enjoying a Filet Mignon as a sandwich during the day that makes the afternoon much more palateble.

I'd like to attempt to recreate this at home when the spring grilling season hits (in Minnesota, that means June). The trick will be not over-cooking the steak (which is what I tend to do) and finding the perfect bread for the bun as the texture/chewiness has to blend perfectly with the juicy-tenderness of the meat and accentuate the grilled flavor. Using some good vidalia onions and carmelizing them with a slighly aged vinegar and going light on a scant amount of gorgonzola cheese would probably top it off just right. I'd skip the aioli spread as it just gets in the way.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Great cheeses

Today I discovered two interesting cheeses. The first was a blueberry studded crumbly wedge of white stilton with the consistency of a dense slice of cheesecake. My neighbors served it to us today with wine and crackers. It came from Trader Joe's so I will have to get some next time I go.

Also found a fab cranberry chipotle cheddar that went well with a homemade tortilla soup I made from a Rick Bayless recipe. The spicy Smokey sweet creamy cheese made the soup extra decadent. It was a Carr Valley Cheese from La Valle, Wisconsin - I picked it up at my local Lund's Grocery store, but it is not available on Carr Valley's website.

When does beer expire?

Of all the things in my refrigerator, the items that sit the longest are bottles of beer. They are usually left-overs from party where either I bought them for guests or some well-meaning soul brought them over to share but ended up drinking all my wine or more expensive stuff instead. Since there is a good beer pub a couple of blocks down the street (The Herkimer) I never see the reason to drink beer at home, thus it sits in a bin in my fridge - aging.

Dinner tonight was a Seattle Sutton Healthy Eating pre-made dinner of Turkey Meatloaf (coated in "ketchup") with mashed potatoes, creamed corn and purple cabbage. After salting the cabbage and putting some ancho chile powder on the creamed corn, I thought a beer would be appropriate.

I pulled out a Leinie's Amber Light - the neck label touted "2002 - celebrating 40 years"! Shocked that I've probably moved that bottle of beer 3 times and have had it for over 4 years, I took a sip - tasted wet laundry and poured it out. I opted instead for a bottle of apple cider that was part of a christmas gift from my boyfriend's stepfather - probably in 2002. Since I don't drink cider much, I couldn't tell if the age affected the flavor. It was pretty tasteless though, I have to admit.

I've got one last mystery beer left - a big threatening bottle of brew called "The Red McGregor". I'm saving that one for an appropriate lazy night at home. After that, I've gotta upgrade my home brew menu. Blue Moon anyone?