Blue Cheese Heaven

I get anxious when I start running low on blue cheese. Seriously, I start to fret. So when I was pilfering through my cheese drawer and saw only a small nubbin of Stilton remaining, off to Wegmans I went to get my blue fix. I feel relaxed and calm now. So happy to know that blue cheese heaven is just a few steps away …

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I went ahead and picked up three of my favorite blues:

Rogue River blue from Oregon: This is a smoky, tangy, aged dense blue. It’s very seasonal and currently in limited supply, so go find some! This slap-in-the-face blue cheese is tempered by a mild fruity sweetness as the wheels are wrapped in pear brandy-soaked grape leaves. Truly a MUST TRY cheese.
Point Reyes blue from California: This cheese is creamy and luscious and just smacks of that wonderful penicilliny, bluey goodness.
Traditional Stilton: The king of blue. No introduction needed.

Must. Go. Eat. Cheese.

Now.

 

On The Menu

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Saturday

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Sunday
  • Cauliflower soup: I know the recipe calls for truffle oil, but I tend to find it too aggressive, especially for this delicate dish. I think the soup is much better with a drizzle of excellent olive oil — olio nuevo if you can get your hands on it. I pre-purchase mine from McEvoy Ranch in California every year as this neon green, liquid delight is seasonal and sells out quickly. The soup is thick, velvety and flavorful on its own, but the vibrant oil really makes this first-course soup restaurant-worthy.
  • Roasted mushrooms with garlic and rosemary
  • Tuscan-style porterhouse steak with red wine-peppercorn jus: I am splurging on a beautifully crusty, dry-aged hunk of meat (bone-in, of course). It is Valentine’s Day after-all. Dibs on that bone!
  • Wine. We are opening something fabulous from our cellar. Most likely a Napa cab.

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Monday
  • Omelets with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and goat cheese
  • Green salad with walnuts and lemon-tarragon vinaigrette

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Tuesday
  • Pan-roasted halibut with herbed corona beans: I admit, I did splurge and order an $11 bag of dried heirloom beans online. I know, I know, ridiculous. I hear it’s worth it, however. My understanding is that my life will forever be changed once I taste the magic of super duper special beans. We shall see. I will not hold my breath.
  • Roasted root vegetables with cumin, paprika and cayenne

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Wednesday
  • Slow-cooker chicken cacciatore: a healthy, one-dish wonder. Well, here’s hoping anyway. I have not yet made chicken cacciatore in the slow-cooker. I will likely tweak this recipe as I go, but it’s a good start.

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Thursday
  • Leftover night

Boozy Chicken

A sip for you, a splash for the birdie, sip for you, splash for birdie … oh wait, that’s a good way to never get dinner on the table.

So you have a bunch of prunes. Now what? Simmer them in Armagnac (or Cognac if you prefer), toss them in a pot with chicken, splash with even more Armagnac and leave them to frolick.

Not only will the house smell marvelous, you will then get to tuck into a cozy meal with a sauce worthy of bread sopping or bowl-licking (I myself prefer the latter).

This dish makes a wonderful Sunday supper, but is also elegant enough for a dinner party feast. It’s delicious as leftovers too. The chicken dish is wine-friendly, so have fun with your pairings — just about any medium bodied red or white will do. We chose a Cartograph 2013 Floodgate Vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley in Northern California. I dig this wine. It’s the kind that lures you in as it’s a chameleon in the glass — fruity, chocolaty, mushroomy, leafy. Delightful!

 

 

Salmon with Lingonberry Sauce

 

This dish packs a wallop of flavor and is easy, healthy and quick enough to turn around after a long day seeing patients.

I paired the salmon with braised fennel and artichokes — a winning combination if you ask me. We opened a soft, silky merlot from one of our Sonoma County wine club wineries, Chateau St. Jean. If anyone can bring Merlot back into our good graces, it’s Chateau St. Jean. Although it perhaps didn’t pair overly well with the salmon, it’s definitely the type of wine I look forward to cracking open again. And again. And again. Cheers!

braised fennel

 

 

Cuban Supper Club

We just entered our 5th year of Supper Clubbing with the same three couples — a marvelous feat. We started the group in 2011 and despite moves, job changes and babies, the eight of us still manage to get together every other month or so for a themed dinner. I love this crowd and have enjoyed getting to know everyone through great food and wine over the years.

Saturday night was a Cuban-themed meal chosen by our lovely burb-dwelling hosts (it’s always an adventure for us city folk to cruise on through the suburbs). It’s like a different planet out there. So. Far. Away.

Appetizers:  fried plantains and crunchy ham and potato croquettes with a heavenly smoky aioli.

Main Dish: Ropa vieja (Cuban meat stew) over rice, black beans with bacon and green beans with bacon. The ropa vieja is a slow-cooker wonder. One of those dishes that makes me want to bust out my crock pot.

Dessert Cuban coconut rum flan. I was (scarily) assigned dessert for this particular evening, not my strong suit. In fact, this was the first time since the group’s inception that I have been charged with making dessert. I welcomed the challenge, however, as it pushed me out of my cooking comfort zone.

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Not too pretty to look at, I must say, but the men all went back for seconds and demolished the thing, so I will take that as a good sign. Perhaps I shall start making dessert more often …