Featured

Standing Rib Roast (w/ wine pairings)

Hey all… Well first and foremost, I hope that everyone reading this is well, and that you’re loved ones are well. I know that these are crazy, scary times. For those reading this in the future, we’re smack dab in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the world is essentially upside down. Two days ago was Easter 2020, but it sure didn’t feel like it. While I’m very blessed to have my wife and three beautiful children at my side, I still missed spending the holiday with more of my family. But, it is what it is, and we all have to make the best of our situation and just be grateful when those near and dear to us have their health.

On a lighter note, holy crap I’m back! I know it’s been a lonnnnnggggg minute since I’ve posted anything on the blog. I’ve apologized for this before, and I’ll do so again, life just manages to get in the way. Between work and three crazy active amazing children, I just haven’t had time to cook, let alone blog. I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to change much in the near future once we hopefully get back to normal, or whatever our new normal will be, but for right now, with this partial quarantine in effect and all schools and sports closed, I find myself with some free time. Normally this time of year I’d be on a baseball diamond seven days a week coaching multiple teams!

So, onto the food… For Easter dinner this year I decided to make a Standing Rib Roast. I made it with a mustard, honey, garlic & herb crust, and honestly… It’s delicious. Below is my recipe, along with some wine pairings. I hope you give it a shot!!

Serves: 6-8 people

Ingredients (Roast):
7-8lb Beef Rib Roast
1tbsp Salt
1tbsp Ground Black Pepper

Ingredients (Crust):
1/2 cup Spicy Brown Mustard
1/3 cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
6 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
3tbsp Honey
1tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
1tsp Salt
1tsp Ground Black Pepper

OK, first of all, you’ll want to pull your rib roast out of the fridge two hours before you plan on cooking. You do this because you want to get as close to room temp as possible. If the center of the roast is too cold, it’s going to take forever to get to temp, meanwhile the outside of your roast is… roasting.

So let’s say two hours have passed and you’re ready to roll. Preheat your oven to 450F. Coat the outside of the roast with salt and pepper, then place bone side down (fat side up) in your baking pan. Cook for 20 minutes, and then remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

While resting combine all of your ingredients for the crust, and reduce the heat in your oven to 350F. Liberally brush the top and sides of the roast with the mustard mixture and place back in the oven. Periodically rotate the baking pan to ensure even cooking. As far as your remaining cook time, that depends on how you want it cooked. I prefer medium rare but the wife and kiddies typically prefer closer to medium, so I cooked it for 90 minutes which gave me a perfect medium rare in the middle, and medium closer to the outsides. If you’re in the same boat as me and you have an instant read thermometer, you’re looking at an internal temp in the center around 130F. If you want it on the rarer side go less time, cooked more, go longer. But in my world, the ideal cook time was 90 minutes.

Once the roast is cooked to whatever internal temperature you’re looking for, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest at room temp for 15-20 minutes before carving. If you start cutting it earlier all of the juices are going to run out. Once ready, cut the bones off the roast and then slice it up and serve with whatever side(s) you’ve chosen. For this meal, I did a crispy vegetable Israeli couscous that was fantastic! (don’t ask for the recipe, I didn’t write anything down… lol)

So now let’s talk wine. Obviously we’re dealing with big flavors and red meat, so we need some big ‘ole red wines. You can go Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache (Garnacha), Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, a full bodied red blend… Your choices are pretty wide open here. Below are a few wines that I would recommend from different regions and at varying moderate price points.

Mas de Daumas Gassac “Pont de Gassac” Rouge, Languedoc, France – The Guibert family purchased their land in the Gassac Valley of Southern France in the early-70’s knowing that they wanted to be farmers, but not knowing what to farm! After consulting with a number of terroir specialists, including the famed Emile Peynaud, the winery of Mas de Daumas Gassac was born. They are now universally regarded as the premier producer in the Languedoc. The “Pont de Gassac” is one of their entry level bottlings. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. It has lots of peppery herbs, smoke and tobacco characteristics, medium to full-bodied richness, sweet tannin and plenty of mid-palate depth. It’s a fresh, lively and nicely balanced wine to drink over the coming 6-7 years. A tremendous offering at this price point. (Retail $14-17, Practicing Organic) PP Score – 92pts

Exopto “Horizonte de Exopto”, Rioja, Spain – As has been the case in the past, Rioja tends to be a magnet for French vignerons, and it certainly got its hooks in Frenchman Tom Puyaubert. Exopto’s wines are definitely part of the new guard of Rioja, with zero American oak and more pronounced fruit and body. The “Horizonte de Exopto” is Thomas’s middle tier wine, a blend of 80% Tempranillo and then equal parts Garnacha and Graciano, raised in a combination of new and old French barrels. On the nose are aromas of cherry, blackberry, crushed black and pink peppercorn, pantry spice and a hint of game. The palate matches the aromatics, with lush fruit up front and firm assertive tannins leading to a long, lingering finish. This is an outstanding wine for the price. (Retail $17-20, Practicing Organic) PP Score – 93pts

Bedrock Wine Co. Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, California – Bedrock is the brain-child of Morgan Twain-Peterson, the Golden Child of California Zinfandel and field blends. The Old Vine Zinfandel is taken from prestigious sites like Bedrock Vineyard, Monte Rosso, Nervo Ranch, Sodini Ranch, Stampede Vineyard,  Casa Santinamaria Vineyard and more, with an average vine age of 85 to 129 years old. In the glass is a full bodied wine of ruby hue. On the nose are aromas of black cherry, bramble fruit, dried herbs, potpourri and pantry spice. On the palate are lush, ripe fruit notes of black cherry and overripe raspberry with nuances of dried herbs, and ground black pepper, leading into a long, lingering finish redolent with spice and subtle heat. One of my favorite affordable Zinfandels of all time… (Retail $25-30) PP Score – 94pts

So there you have it. My first post in forever which happens to be a Standing Rib Roast, and a few wines that I would recommend. I hope you try the recipe, and the wines, and I hope that you enjoy. The world might be a crazy place right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little happiness! Well, hopefully more posts coming somewhat soon. In the meantime, crack open a bottle of red, or white, or pink… sit back, relax, and enjoy your life and your loved ones!! Cheers!

Featured

Lemon Pepper Chicken with Thyme

Lemon Pepper Chicken

Who doesn’t love some roasted chicken once in a while? Here’s my recipe for lemon pepper chicken with thyme… Crazy easy to make, absolutely delicious, and as tender as rotisserie.

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite & size of chicken.

Ingredients:
1 Small to Medium Chicken, cut in half length-wise
1tbsp Olive Oil
4tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
3tbsp Lemon Juice
3tsp Salt, (1) 2tsp portion & (1) 1tsp portion
3tsp Ground Black Pepper, (1) 2tsp portion & (1) 1tsp portion
1tsp Garlic Powder
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

Ok, before I get into the directions let me mention a couple of things…

I’m a big fan of buying small chickens (or larger Cornish hens) and cutting them in half length-wise prior to cooking. I do this for two reasons. First, because when serving two people (me and the wifey) it’s easier to just place the entire half on a plate rather than carving (I loathe, LOATHE, carving). Secondly, I feel that it leaves me with a more moist end product. I will be giving the directions using this method. If you want to keep the chicken whole then simply don’t cut it in half and don’t worry about searing it off before roasting. Trust me though, doing it my way you get some seriously tender chicken breasts… absolutely no knives necessary!

Also, I prefer using an oven safe sauté pan with a cover when making this dish. It saves dishes and time. If you don’t have a large skillet or oven safe sauté pan simply transfer the chicken to a baking dish or dutch oven once seared off (assuming you’re cutting it in half).

Heat your oven to 350F.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven safe sauté pan or skillet at medium-high. Coat the cut side of the chicken with 1tsp of salt and 1tsp of pepper (combined, not 1tsp of each for both halves). Place the chicken cut side down in the sauté pan and sear until browned. The reason for doing this is to help retain juices in the chicken while roasting.

In a bowl combine the melted butter, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Brush the unseared skin side of the chicken with a 1/4 of the lemon butter mixture and add the sprigs of fresh time to the pan. Cover the sauté pan and then place it in the oven for 45 minutes, brushing with more lemon butter at 15 minute intervals, using an additional 1/4 each time.

After 45 minutes increase the oven temperature to 425F. Uncover and cook for an additional 50 minutes, brushing the chicken with the juices from the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes.

Allow to rest at least 5 minutes at room temperature before serving… And that’s it. Simple, delicious, tender, fall off the bone lemon pepper chicken. Serve it with your favorite side and have at it. Personally I did some whipped red bliss potatoes with butter, ricotta and thyme, as well as roasted sprouts and ‘shrooms. Do whatever you want, go crazy!

Enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Well hello everyone!! It’s been a long minute since you’ve heard from me… I apologize for the absence, but quite frankly, life is nuts. Between working, three very active children, and trying to carve away some time to spend with my beautiful wife, I’ve barely had time to cook, let along even think about blogging! Truthfully, I had no intention of even putting this up, but after I posted the picture on Facebook and Instagram, people started asking for my recipe… So here it is!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients (Meat Mixture)
2.5lbs Ground Beef 80/20
1.25lbs Ground Pork
1lb Ground Sweet Sausage
5 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1/2 Sweet Onion, chopped
2c Unseasoned Panko
3 Eggs
1/2c Grated Parmesan Cheese
2tbsp Salt
1tbsp Ground Black Pepper
1tbsp Garlic Powder
1lb Thick Cut Bacon

Ingredients (Glaze)
1.5c Ketchup
1/3c Light Brown Sugar
1/4c Soy Sauce
2tsp Ground Black Pepper
2tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flake

Preheat your oven to 500F.

In a large bowl combine the ingredients for the meat mixture, except for the bacon. Do not overwork the mixture or you risk getting a gummy texture. Just hand mix it until everything is pretty well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a greased 9.5×13″ baking dish and form into a loaf shape, gently smoothing out the outside. Once formed, diagonally lattice the bacon over the top, as you get towards the edges you’ll need to cut a couple of strips in half so it fits. Tuck any exposed edges under the loaf. Place in the oven at 500F and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the bacon starts to lightly crisp up (there’s a pic below to show you where you want it). Baste the meatloaf every 8-10 minutes with the rendered bacon fat in the bottom of the baking dish. This will help crisp the bacon faster, as well as keep the meatloaf moist.

While the meatloaf is baking combine the ingredients for the glaze. Feel free to adjust the quantities to taste. Some people prefer a sweeter glaze, some people want more salt, some want heat… Your call.

Once the bacon is starting to crisp up, remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the loaf. Using a baster I also removed any of the rendered bacon fat fluids from the bottom of the dish to keep the bottom of the loaf from being soggy, and to use in other ways (I used it to sear golden potato fondant rather than oil or butter… bacon fat potato fondant? heck yeah!).

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

After the meat has rested, evenly coat it with the glaze. Then place in the oven at 350F and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from the oven then let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

That’s it, you’re done. Super simple with a ton of flavor, and probably the moistest meatloaf you’ll have in your life! Enjoy!!

Traditional Meatloaf (w/ wine pairings)

Meatloaf

Recently a couple of readers reached out to ask for some more easy “comfort food” recipes, and it doesn’t get much easier, or more comforting, than meatloaf! Now one issue I always have with most online meatloaf recipes is that they’re too darn small. Who needs a 1 1/2-2lb meatloaf?!? So here’s a real meatloaf, one that’ll feed the whole family. Oh yeah, and some wine pairings… because who doesn’t love wine? Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients (Meat Mixture)
3lb 80/20 Ground Beef (don’t go leaner, you need fat to keep it moist)
1 1/4c Plain Panko
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Salt
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Garlic Powder
3tbsp Grated Parmesan

Ingredients (Saute – to be added to meat mixture)
1 Large Carrot, chopped
1 Celery Stalk, chopped
1 Red Onion, chopped
4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
2tbsp Olive Oil
1/2tsp Salt
1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/2c Chicken Stock (I use Low Sodium)

Ingredients (Glaze)
1/2c Ketchup
1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1tbsp Light Brown Sugar
1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper

Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a large bowl combine all of the “Meat Mixture” ingredients by hand, do not overwork or it will become gummy and dense. Set aside at room temperature.

From the “Saute” ingredients, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan at Medium. Add the chopped vegetables, salt and black pepper. Simmer, stirring periodically, until the vegetables become translucent, about five minutes. Add the chicken stock, simmer an additional two minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature. Once cool enough to touch by hand, add to the meat mixture and mix together by hand, once again don’t overwork it. Place the mixture in the fridge to cool, about 30 minutes.

Lightly grease a 9.5×13″ baking dish. Remove the meat mixture from the fridge, gently form into a loaf shape and place in the dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

While the meatloaf is in the oven combine the “Glaze” ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

After 30 minutes remove the meatloaf from the oven and evenly spread the glaze over the exterior. Place back in the oven for an additional 45 minutes at 350F. Remove from the oven and rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving. That’s it, you’re done. Serve it with your favorite side(s) and have a great family dinner! This last time we did garlic risotto and roasted carrots, it was delicious.

Ok, so let’s talk wine pairings. Now some might argue that Meatloaf originated from Eastern Europe, but in my not-so-humble opinion it’s about as American as Apple Pie! So let’s stick with some wines from the good ‘ole U S of A. Obviously we’re sticking with reds here, and we’re going to stay more towards the “full bodied” end of the spectrum. Here’s what I’m thinking…

Foxglove Zinfandel, Paso Robles, California – Foxglove is the second label of the famed Varner twins, who made their name as pioneers in the now infamous, and incredibly expensive, Santa Cruz Mountains. They created Foxglove to have a lineup of wines at a more affordable, everyday price point, as compared to their signature Varner wines that retailed at $40 and beyond. The 2014 Paso Robles Zinfandel sees minimal oak and is fruit forward, without being too ripe. Nuances of raspberry, tart cherry, dried herbs and spice play on the palate. A refreshing departure from overblown, high alcohol California Zins! PP Score: 90 (Retail $12-15)

Sean Minor Red Blend Cuvee Nicole Marie, North Coast, California – One of our favorite domestic producers here at Perfect Pairings at Home, Sean Minor never fails to over deliver for the price point. Their Nicole Marie red blend is interesting in the fact that it is Merlot-based, along with some Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel, whereas most “California blends” are either predominantly Cabernet or Zinfandel. The wine is deep ruby in color and displays aromas of ripe blueberry, dark cherry, cassis and vanilla. On the entry, flavors of blueberries and dark cherry combine with hints of oak spices which coat the palate. The soft tannins and sweet oak lead to a long and lingering finish. Exceptional for the price. PP Score: 92 (Retail $18-22)

Hardin Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California – Hardin is the brainchild of Douglas Polaner, visionary and owner of Polaner Selections, one of the top fine wine importers/distributors in the United States. His vision was to create a Napa Cabernet that drank like a $50 bottle, but cost around $30… and he succeeded! The first ever vintage of Hardin was 2003, with 170 cases made. Fast forward to 2015 and Doug has pushed the needle closer to 3,000, and while you would think that the quality would dilute with the increased production, the exact opposite has happened… the wine has gotten better and better every single year! The 2015 displays aromas of black cherry, cassis, dried herbs, rose petal and faint oak. Beautifully structured, with a moderately soft opening leading into an explosive mid-palate with notes of cassis, black fig, tobacco, black tea and ground peppercorn, framed by subtle acidity and an assertive tannic backbone, with a long, lingering, and slightly warm finish. Easily one of the best Napa Cabernets on the market at this price point! PP Score: 94 (Retail $25-32)

So there you have it. My comforting and family-sized friendly meatloaf, and some kickass, yet moderately affordable, domestic wines to go with it. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and I certainly hope you’ll try the recipe and possibly some of the wines! More content is on the way. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of California red, sit back, and relax… Life is short, you deserve to enjoy it!!

Rustic Pork Stew (w/ wine pairings)

Rustic Pork Stew

So, a couple of things before I get into the story and recipe…

First and foremost, it’s great to be back and putting up new content for you all! It’s been almost a year since my last post, which is far too long. Unfortunately with work, coaching, and three VERY active kids, time is a commodity that I don’t have. Heck, I barely even get a chance to cook anymore.

Second, I know the pic isn’t great. Listen, by now you know me. I’m not your typical food blogger where I’m cooking for the sake of the blog post. I’m cooking to feed my family and friends. I don’t have the time to stage the photo with the perfect lighting, and the perfect bowl or crock, and maybe a fancy linen napkin with a pretty spoon on it, and some herbs sprinkled around the counter, a glass of wine in the background… If I tried to do that my family would kill me. This pic was taken while seven very hungry people were sitting at the dining room table waiting to eat. All I had was enough time to snap a quick shot before I had a familial mutiny on my hands… So, the pic is what is is. But what really matters is the soup, and that my friends was pretty darn delicious!

So this past weekend we finally had a day as a family where we had nothing to do. No soccer, no baseball, no football, no wrestling, no dance, no chorus, no family parties, no classmate/teammate/friend birthday parties, no work obligations. NOTHING. You have no idea how rare that is for us. It may happen 15 days out of 365, and quite frankly that’s probably an exaggeration. Well anyway, the weather has finally taken a turn here along the Atlantic Coast, and it is just wet, windy and raw. When I asked my family what they wanted me to make for dinner on this rare free day, the word that jumped out of everyone’s mouths was “SOUP!”, and I was more than happy to oblige (honestly I was going to make soup regardless of their responses, but they don’t know that, LOL!).

Off to the store I ran (ok, drove, my running days are long gone). Normally I try to go in with an idea of what I want to make, in this case soup, but also with an open mind to let the ingredients talk to me while I’m in the store to lead me to the end product. What looks good, what’s on sale, what suddenly jumps out at me. Well, that was not the case on this day. I was craving beef stew, and in a big way… Until I saw that the cheapest beef they had was $7.99 per pound, and the beef I really wanted to use (short rib and shank) was $9.99 per pound. Ouch. I need five pounds of meat for the stew! Hmmm, maybe time to rethink this… I looked around and noticed that they had Pork Loin Roast Sirloin Portions on sale for a $1.49 per pound. ONE. FORTY. NINE. So let’s see, I could spend $40-50 for beef, or $7.50 for pork… Yeah, you guessed it, pork won!! I ended up feeding 8 people (four adults, a teenager, two very hungry pre-teens, and a toddler) for $22, and the meal was delicious. You just can’t beat that!

So here’s my Rustic Pork Stew recipe, and some wines to pair with it… Enjoy!

Serves: 6-8

Prep + Cook Time: About 6hrs*
*Note: You can cut down the simmer time on this if you really want to. I prefer my meat really tender and broken down in the stew, but I know some people like slightly firmer chunks of meat. Up to you.

Ingredients:
3tbsp Olive Oil
5lb Pork, cut to 1″ cubes*
*I used a Pork Loin Roast Sirloin Portion that does have bones. You could certainly use a pork roast that is boneless if you want. If you do use a bone-in portion, keep the bones after you’ve cut the meat off, you’ll be using them.
6 Large Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1 Large Sweet Onion, sliced
1c Cream Sherry
96oz Beef Stock
4c Water
28oz Canned Diced Tomato
6oz Tomato Paste
2lb Potatoes, large dice, keep skin on
1lb Carrots, large dice
1lb Parsnip, large dice
2 Bunches of Parsley, chopped
3tsp Salt
2tsp Ground Black Pepper

Use a large sauce pot, no less than 8 quarts.

Heat the olive oil on High, then add the cubed pork, along with one tsp each of salt and pepper. Sear until lightly browned on all sides, then use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the meat (leave the oil and rendered fat), set the meat aside at room temp. Add the pork bones, cook until browned. Reduce the heat to Medium, then add the garlic and onions, along with one tsp of salt. Cook until they start to sweat, 3-5 minutes. Increase the heat back to High, add the cream sherry, boil until reduced by half. Add the cooked pork cubes back to the pot, along with the beef stock, water, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to Medium-Low. Simmer uncovered for 2 1/2 hours, stirring periodically. Then add the potatoes, carrots and parsnips, along with one tsp each of salt and pepper, simmer an additional 2 hours, stirring periodically. Using tongs, fish around to find and remove the bones. Add the chopped parsley, simmer an additional 20 minutes.  That’s it, you’re done. Ladle into bowls, cut some nice crusty bread, and eat up!

Now let’s discuss wine pairings… We’re talking some pretty full flavors here in the stew, so you want a wine with some body and backbone, but you still don’t want anything TOO big and bold that will overwhelm it. With stews I tend to lean towards Italian wines like Chianti Classico, Barolo, Barbaresco, or wines from Etna. Also wines from Southern France work quite well, think appellations like Côtes-du-Rhône, Saint-Joseph, Languedoc, or Cahors. I’d recommend staying away from anything too dark or fruit forward, like California Cabs or Zins, or Argentine Malbecs. Here are a few recommendations…

Fattoria di Fèlsina Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy – Fèlsina is one of the great names of Tuscany, and their Chianti Classico never fails to impress at this price. On the nose are aromas of black cherry, dried herbs, leather and sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate the wine is simultaneously powerful, yet elegant, with flavors matching the aromas, yet further nuanced with hints of earth and subtle oak, framed by well integrated tannins giving structure and strength. PP Score: 92 (Retail $19-24)

Socrè Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy – Socrè is one of the best kept secrets of Piedmont, plain and simple. With three hectares in Roncaglie (right below the famed Langhe estate of Gaja), they have been making some of the purest expressions of Nebbiolo since 1869. The 2013 Barbaresco’s aromatics burst out of the glass, with hints of dark cherry, dried herbs, anise, rose petal and lavender. The wine has a bright, explosive opening, with expressions of red and black fruit, herbs, and leather, but then calms in the mid-palate, with nuances of crushed flower, earth and smoke, leading into a long and lingering finish. Unbelievable for the price. PP Score: 94 (Retail $33-37)

Domaine Vincent Paris Saint-Joseph Les Côtes, Rhone, France – Despite the relative youth of both Vincent himself (44) and his winery (est.1997), the wines of Monsieur Paris are widely regarded as some of the best of their respective appellations, and the 2015 Saint-Joseph Les Côtes is no exception. Made from Vincent’s younger Syrah vines (10-20 years), the wine is similarly youthful and energetic. Aromas of dark cherry, ripe raspberry, crushed flowers and cracked peppercorn waft from the glass. On the palate the wine is a beautiful balance of tart red fruit, earth tones, Asian spice and wild game, framed by moderate acidity and firm tannin. Still young and capable of being cellared, but showing well now. PP Score: 91 (Retail $23-28)

So there you have it, my absolutely delicious (and inexpensive!) Rustic Pork Stew and some equally delicious wines to enjoy it with. Thank you very much for the visit, and hopefully you’ll try the recipe. New content coming… well, at some point in the future (hopefully not another year!). In the meantime grab a steaming bowl of soup, pour a beautiful old world red, sit back, and relax. Life is short, you deserve to enjoy it!

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