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We cooked a bunch of food yesterday and invited some friends over to help us eat it. I roasted a large chicken from Whole Foods in a clay oven on a bed of onions and celery and Susan had the bright idea of slicing up some old potatoes and putting that in with the celery and onions. When the bird came out, all I had to do was put in on a separate platter and puree the cooking liquid+vegetables. The potatoes had roasted nicely even under the chicken, and when pureed, thickened the gravy to the perfect consistency. No roux needed, and because the potatoes had roasted, the gravy wasn't short on roasted flavor either. Susan acted like she expected this all along and, in fact, told me it was an old trick of her grandmother's. If any of my readers are from Kentucky, perhaps they can confirm knowledge of this among the elders in their area. At any rate, credit is definitely due for the wonderful idea.

We also had bell peppers stuffed with sausage and rice, which were very good, but worth mentioning because of the cooking liquid. Most of the time I've had stuffed peppers, the flavoring is exclusively inside, and they're steamed or whatever. I always feel like this makes the pepper irrelevant and just in the way. I made a little broth with garlic and sriracha chili sauce(mustard, fish sauce used sparingly would be good too), black pepper and thyme, and cooked this down a little, then placed the peppers, stuffed with a rotel tomato, rice, and spicy smoked sausage mixture in the reduced broth(about an inch's worth in a 10" pie pan, wrapped the whole thing well, and baked it. When the peppers were still kinda firm, I took them out and poured the broth in the peppers. This little variation made the whole thing juicy enough to eat, and since the peppers were still firm enough to slice and the peppers were stuffed tight, you could cut them and eat a slice of pepper with the rice mixture, sorta nacho style.

Accompanying this was mashed sweet potatoes(boiled) and a creole tomato and cucumber and basil salad from Thursday's Farmer's market. While we were at the farmer's market, we stopped into the wine tasting at the Cork and Bottle which was featuring Italian wines. They even had an actual Italian doing the tasting, who had about a 5 minute rapid-fire heavily accented spiel to accompany each of the wines. When you held out your glass, he would launch into the appropriate spiel about the grape varietals included, winemaking techniques used, location and size of the winemaking group, etc. Since he obviously served more than one person per 5 minutes, he would frequently switch in mid-stream to talk about whatever the person who happened to be making eye-contact at the time was drinking, only interrupting the stream to keep newcomers from wanting to taste the moscato first. It was definitely something to see. We brought both of the Italian whites home with us and had them with dinner, along with a Pinot I picked up at the Cellars at River Ridge tasting the previous week.

Here's the info on the wines we had:

  • La Cala 2002 Vermentino D.O.C. Sardogna - a really nice, light, citrusy white with a real clean taste. A favorite.
  • Fontarca 2001 Chardonnay D.O.C. Cortona - A bottle fermented nutty Chard that might benefit from blending of different levels of malolactic fermentation because it seemed a little flat to me.
  • Burgess 1998 Napa Zinfandel - A decent Zin made even better because Cork and Bottle had a couple bottles of this normally pricey Zin for $10
  • Montinore 2000 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - My favorite of the night. I've been on a Pinot kick lately for some reason, and I really like the body and balance of this one. It's great after dinner because the dark fruits and smoothness make me think of a liqueur somehow.
  • After dinner, the alcoholics in the house moved on to Moonstone hazelnut sake, but only after determining that it was the last remaining source of alcohol in the house. I'm not crazy about it, but it does indeed have alcohol in it.

    Mr. Gunn : 2:08 PM : Sunday, June 15, 2003 :

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