January 31, 2013

Home Cooking: Fried Chicken and Bubbly

After watching the Top Chef fried chicken challenge last week, and thinking how Rowdyfood would have kicked ass on that challenge, I got the itch to make some fried chicken. I've become a fan of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The key to this tasty fried chicken is the 12 hour, lemony- salt-water brine that gives the chicken a deep herbal-lemony-saltiness and it also produces really juicy meat. After the brine, the chicken gets a flour dusting before being dipped in buttermilk and a last flouring. The chicken is crunchy, juicy, and just damn good.
And as I am wont to do, I paired the tasty fried bird with a bubbly. Trust me, pairing fried chicken and sparkling wine is the way to go. I got this tasty Cab Franc-based Loire Valley bubbly from my buddies at Le Caveau in Chamblee. A most excellent $20 sparkling wine. 
One other point...deep frying in a wok is my new favorite deep-fry method. I got the idea from Kenji at Food Lab. A wok is a great choice for deep frying at home. The wider surface area provides room for the oil to splatter and expand without making a colossal mess, and risking a boil-over and burning your house down. If you've ever struggled with deep frying at home, as I once did, the wok is the answer.

January 26, 2013

From the Fertile Slopes of Mount Etna

I was recently turned on to the 2011 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso from the good folks at the Little Wine Shop in Avondale. I will be honest and admit, I have ignored Italian wines from most of my wine drinking days. I've spent so much time focusing on French wines, specifically Burgundy, that there was little energy or time left to study another region. Though, I have had some brilliant Barolo from friends who are kind enough to share.
 (Map courtesy of Cellar Tours)
That being said, the Terre Nere Etna Rosso from the volcanic soils around Mount Etna in Sicily is  an excellent wine. The terroir of Mount Etna produces wines from vines that have grown in volcanic soil for over 100 years. This Etna Rossa from Terre Nere, made from Nerello Mascalese, has an attractive, feminine texture; it's silky, yet it has plenty of focused fruit and energy that leaves a lasting impression on the palate. It is Pinot Noir-like, yet a singular wine unto itself. It costs around $20 which is a damn good price for what is in the bottle. I'm a big fan.

January 21, 2013

Recent Eats and Drinks

I've been busy lately; there hasn't been a lot of time for eating out, cooking, or other inspiring food and wine stuffs. However, some pics here of what has been going on. The King Cake above was made by good friends with Louisiana roots who now call Decatur home. It's become an annual tradition for them to hand-deliver one warm from the oven, and the cake above hit the spot this weekend.
I made cassoulet last weekend. Seems it's been so mild this winter my mind and body haven't been craving stews or one-pot comfort meals like cassoulet. Sans duck confit, this one was still good, warm weather be damned. I used Thomas Keller's knockoff recipe which is my go-to for an easy and relatively easy cassoulet.
A friend who is headed to the CIA to embark on a second career as a baker brought by this Tartine-style sourdough loaf hot from the oven. Easily one of the best breads I've had from a home kitchen.
I did open the 1999 Louis Jadot Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux Saint Jacques, a young, but very tasty Burgundy. I've tried to get the Burgduny monkey off my back lately, but I just can't. I love the stuff.
I also opened a couple of bottles of Dirty & Rowdy Family wines. These wines are special to me as I call the winemakers friends. You may remember the story of Hardy Wallace of Dirty South Wine, an ATLer who who left the south in 2009 to carve a place for himself in the California wine scene. You also may remember from many posts here over the years, Rowdy, maker of incredible cassoulet and spicy fried chicken. Together, they have launched Dirty & Rowdy Family wines. 2011 was their first vintage with five barrels total of Semilion and Mourvedre were made. More on these guys and their wines later, but these are fine and funky wines. Good luck finding them, though, as the wines are all sold out. There will be more wines produced in 2012, so be on the lookout.

January 12, 2013

Wines of Thierry Puzelat

I've become a fan over the past few years of French winemaker Thierry Puzelat. Puzelat, a proponent of natural winemaking, has been cranking out great wines from the Loire Valley for years. His wines are pure, show expressions of place, and are usually rather affordable by today's standards. Puzelat currently is the winemaker for Clos du Tue Boeuf in Cheverny, which he runs with his brother, Jean-Marie, but also makes wine in partnership with negociant, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme.
The La Butte from Clos du Tue Boeuf, pictured above, is one of my faves from the past couple of years, is a steal at $15 locally. I recently picked up a few bottles of his In Cot We Trust, made with Bonhomme, a Malbec from Loire Valley. You might not automatically think of Malbec when you think of the Loire Valley, it's more widely planted in South America now, but Malbec is one of the six grapes allowed in Bordeaux wine. Cot is the Loire Valley name for Malbec. This wine shows some of the dark purple color of Malbec, but it's loaded with the barnyardy character of Puzelat's Loire wines. It's earthy, funky, and raw. It tastes like the earth. A wine that has not been manipulated to be something other than what it is. But, there's also some big, dark fruit here that's rather appealing. It's an interesting and entirely drinkable wine that would work perfectly in colder weather along with some robust fare.

January 6, 2013

The Sazerac

The Sazerac. It's been hailed recently as the "quintessential southern cocktail." The Sazerac has its roots in the south; in pre-Civil War-New Orleans to be exact. History holds (or perhaps it's more drunken mythologizing at this point) the drink was invented in at the Sazerac House coffee shop in New Orleans in the mid-1800s. Originally made with a Cognac base, the modern Sazerac is a rye-based cocktail with a dash of Peychaud's bitters served in a chilled glass that's been coated with Absinthe. During the years that Absinthe was banned in the U.S., Herbsaint was used and has become a reliable substitute that is still used today.
During a recent evening in which we had dinner with friends to plot our upcoming trip to New Orleans, I decided to make Sazeracs for the first time. I followed the traditional recipe and used Herbsaint, which is a bit easier to find, although Absinthe is legal now and can be found around town.
The recipe I used is as follows:

The Sazerac
1 Sugar Cube
2 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 dash Bitters
Herbsaint (or Absinthe)
Lemon Peel for garnish

There's nothing too tricky to the Sazerac; think of an Old-Fashioned with the addition of the Herbsaint. The trick is in the preparation which involves rinsing a cold glass (preferably an Old-Fashioned glass) with Herbsaint to coat the glass before pouring any remaining liquor out. In another glass, muddle the sugar cube with a drop of water to soften. To this glass I added some ice cubes, then rye, then the two bitters. Then, strain the rye and bitters into the glass coated with Herbsaint. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. Now, start drinking.