March 2010 Archives

Easter Bunny In The Tummy

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Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

Image by GoodWineUnder20 via Flickr

By Deirdre Bourdet

I think rabbits are very, very tasty to eat.  I should disclose here that I had a pet rabbit as a young kid. Though soft, cute, and all the rest you would expect, my rabbit was a serious curmudgeon that hated to be picked up, petted, or otherwise distracted from his business of constant eating and pooping. Consequently, I feel no remorse in eating his brethren at every possible opportunity. And what better time than Easter?

The macabre appeal of an Easter bunny for dinner enchants far more people than I would ever have thought.  A few years ago I decided at the last minute to make an Easter rabbit, but incredibly, none of the local butchers had any unclaimed bunnies to offer in the last few days before the holiday. EVERY STORE had sold out. Clearly, my sick mind was not alone in craving some Easter bunny for dinner; it was just too slow to plan ahead to reserve one like everyone else.
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Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib with Roasted Beets

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Prime Rib Image #1.jpgServe with 2005 Arrowood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

We've taken the classic steak and red wine pairing and amplified it with a whole rib roast crusted in horseradish and thyme.  The richness in the prime rib complements the smooth tannins in our 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon while the baby beets bring out the subtle earthy aroma in the wine.

Serves 8 to 12

Irish Mouths Are Smiling Too

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irishsodabread.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Many holidays have their traditional foods, only eaten for the occasion.  Frequently such dishes are... shall we say... less than thrilling, which makes abstention the rest of the year pretty do-able.  But when something is truly fabulous--like champagne, or Easter ham, or Irish soda bread--why wait for the special occasion to enjoy it again? This St. Patrick's Day I faced my baking disability and associated fears head-on, and made soda bread from a recipe developed by Mrs. Mary O'Callaghan in County Clare, Ireland.

Miraculously it turned out great despite my usual compulsive meddling, and reminded me of how incredibly delicious this stuff is.  A few days after St. Patrick's Day, I tested the luck o'the Irish as a half portion, again with the lazy person modifications, and met with even better success because it didn't take as long to bake through (only 40 min).  I can only conclude that this bread recipe is fool-proof.

More Than A One-Tip Wonder

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Asparagus gets a bad rap.  Far too many people think of it as the limp, stringy, soggy, slimy, and stinky green-grey stripes garnishing a "fancy" continental cuisine plate of tastelessness.  But when it's not boiled or steamed beyond all recognition, asparagus has a sweet, unique flavor, a cheery spring color, and fantastic crunch that make it one of the most versatile vegetables out there.  "Continental" cuisine is the appropriate culinary tradition for asparagus only if it refers to Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas as well as Europe.  And at this time of year, the spiky green palisades are at the sweet peak of their season, waiting to be rediscovered.

Twice The Hen It Used To Be

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Brunch menus around the Napa Valley are gearing up for spring with a new twist on a breakfast favorite.  Potato hashes are as familiar and time-honored as buttermilk pancakes, but a new species of this staple brunch dish has invaded Napa this year: the chicken hash.

Much like caviar and smoked fish canapes, chicken hash brings together two of the most prized parts of the same animal: eggs and meat.  Unlike its fishy cousin, though, chicken hash also suits these frugal times and makes delicious use of an inexpensive and ubiquitous animal.  Who hasn't got eggs and a piece or two of leftover chicken in their fridge on any given week?  Shredding up those leftovers and mixing them with sautéed potatoes, garlic, and other pantry seasonings of your choice stretches them back into a full plate, and topping them with fried or poached eggs transforms the humble hodgpodge into a thrillingly rich and fabulous indulgence.  Toss in some leftover vegetables, sliced fresh asparagus, mushrooms, arugula, or whatever you've got to bulk up the nutritional value and the portion size, and you're very good to go.  Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, chicken hash rocks.

Pork and Greens

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By Deirdre Bourdet

My brother Andy does a killer pulled pork.  Every time he makes it is cause for celebration... and fevered, uncontrollable gorging by every family member and friend within driving distance.  My brother consistently stuffs himself to the point of needing Mylanta intervention, but thanks to my own iron will and samurai-like discipline, I limit my own consumption level to only slightly over the one-pound mark.  Smoky, succulent, and richly seasoned, it cries out to be stuffed into corn tortillas with mango salsa and cotija cheese... or piled onto little Hawaiian rolls with a dab of barbecue sauce... or shoveled directly from plate to mouth with the assistance of leafy green vegetables.

Dining in Santa Ynez

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Salmon special at Trattoria Grappolo

Image by greenlagirl via Flickr

By Robert P. Farmer

Trattoria Grappolo
Typically bustling with locals, this lively hotspot was opened by an inspired chef transplanted from the Calabria region of Italy. The roast fish and chicken specialties suit nicely after a day of wine tasting in the area. The pizzas from the wood-fired oven are also a popular draw. The wine list features greatest hits from the surrounding valley vineyards as well as selections from the chef's home country. When dinner's done, slip next door to the Maverick Saloon for some true local flavor.

Open for lunch:
Tues-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm;
Open for dinner:  Mon-Sun 5-10pm
3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez
(805) 688-6899

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