Italian sausage

I love to have homemade Italian sausage in the freezer. We add it to spaghetti, meatballs, meatloaf, and many other things. If you have a Kitchenaid mixer, the meat grinder attachment works great for this type of thing. Additionally, the sausage doesn’t have to be stuffed into the casings, you can also just make ‘bulk’ sausage for use in other recipes. I would suggest that you zip lock them in 1 lb increments to be compatible with other recipes that call for Italian sausage.


Boeuf à la Bourguignonne

Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, Beef Bourguignon, beef burgundy, or just beef in wine sauce. For me, few dishes invoke thoughts of cool weather, friends and hearty meals like beef Bourguignon. Many credit Julia Child with bringing this dish to the forefront. As a result, Americans often envision this dish when they think of French cuisine. Several years ago, Jill and I had the opportunity to travel to France. Beginning in Paris, then on to Champagne, we further travelled South to Burgundy. We visited several chateaus and wineries in the famous region. Burgundy wines are highly regarded in the world of wine. With well known regions such as Chablis, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, and Beaujolais, the wines are very high quality and can be quite expensive. It is not unusual for some Burgundies to sell for hundreds of dollars per bottle. The primary red grape of Burgundy is the very well respected and not very forgiving Pinot Noir. One night, after a tough day of site seeing and winery hopping, we went to a Burgundian restaurant which was well known for their Boeuf à la Bourguignonne. It didn’t disappoint! Rich wine sauce, well seasoned, tender beef, and tasty vegetables. They served it in it’s own crock with a lid, very old school and very awesome.

This is an image of Jill and I in a cellar in Chambolle-Musigny:

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While I have made Beef Bourguignon using Pinot Noir (usually from California), I also like to experiment and use other red wines as well. The only basic rule of thumb is to use a wine which you would enjoy drinking. Northern California has tons of good wines, but one of my favorites is Zinfandel. In my opinion, it lends itself well to this dish. I also like to try and pair the same wine I use in making the meal to go along with it.

Below is my version of this classic stew. There are a multitude of ways to put this together and I have seen several and I enjoy them all. For mine, I do not use any stock, water or demi-glace, as I like to rely solely on the wine in combination with the beef for the rich sauce.


Chicken and Dumplings

I don’t think it would be possible for me to talk about chicken and dumplings without also talking about the Vineyard House. Also, considering that we’re in the Halloween season, I think this will be the appropriate discussion.

Growing up in the Sierra foothills I remember family trips to Coloma. Coloma is where gold was first discovered which sparked the gold rush. In the town of Coloma stands a cavernous mansion which was built in the 1870’s. The enormous house was the center of activity in Coloma for many years. The building was converted into a hotel and restaurant in the 1970’s. I have great memories of going to the restaurant with friends and family when I was younger. It was a very popular place in this area and the wait times to be seated were substantial. While waiting, the kids had a great time exploring the old grounds while parents threw back a few cocktails in the dank and scary basement which also doubled as the bar.

One of their specialities was their delicious chicken and dumplings which was in a rich chicken broth with fluffy parsley flavored dumplings.

Everything was served on mismatched dinnerware which added to the vintage ambience.

While at the dinner table, it was always fun to listen to the various accounts of the history of the property and by the end of the night, you would find yourself turning around and looking behind you as you were sure that Louisa was close behind. The story of the house and its original occupants is true and it went something like this:

The house and the grounds were a profitable winery business for several years at the turn of the century. As the story goes, Martin Allhoff, the property’s founder, and his wife Louisa, migrated from back east during the gold rush as he was determined to achieve the California dream he had heard so much about back home. Having the good sense to give up prospecting and start a wine making business was a stroke of genius. By all accounts, he made a quality product and was quite successful. However, it was short lived. Unfortunately, Martin did not do a good job of paying taxes and keeping up on the books. When the law caught up to him on a wine delivery in Virginia City, he felt that he had no future and committed suicide by cutting his own throat in an outhouse behind a building. His lifeless body was subsequently sent back to his grieving wife in Coloma and buried in the cemetery across the street from the house. Soon after, Robert Chalmers of Coloma began a relationship with Louisa and together, they continued the business. After a time, however, Robert started to show signs of mental illness and considering the lack of professional help at the time, his new wife Louisa had to make the painful decision to lock him in the old prison cell in the basement to keep him from hurting himself and others. Considering Robert’s mental condition, he began to suspect that Louisa had ulterior motives when she came to give him food and water. He believed that he was being slowly poisoned! As such, he refused to eat and painfully perished over time. Louisa passed on shortly after. Both Robert and Louisa are buried across the street from the old house in the Coloma Pioneer Cemetery. Tragically, the once admired house fell into disrepair for many years thereafter until it was later revived as a local landmark restaurant.

Sadly, the long history of trouble couldn’t be denied and even the successful restaurant fell victim and eventually closed. The Vineyard House is currently occupied by a private family which keeps very quiet. Many locals believe that the house is actually occupied by more than just the current owners of the property. It is said that the tragic events surrounding the Vineyard House have sentenced the tortured souls of Martin, Louisa, and Robert to forever wander the hallways and rooms of the grand old house in search of the California dream which was always just beyond their grasp.

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Cheesecake

CheesecakeThis recipe is my ‘go to’ recipe for cheesecake. I like simple food that’s easy to throw together and this one definitely meets the objective! I have to give credit where credit is due and this one is adapted from Martha Stewart. I like it because it is just simple and straightforward which allows you to modify or add other flavors or try different things reliably. I have made this cheesecake about 10 times now with various additions (in this photo, you can see that it is topped with lemon curd which is one of my favorites) and it is always good. The good news is that it has a consistently pleasant texture/taste and the simple crust is also flavorful.

 


Crêpe Suzette

Crêpe Suzette

Well, the story goes that in 1895 in the Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo a classic was born.. by mistake, or so the legend has it. According to Henri Charpentier, he was serving nobility at the restaurant table side with crepes which were pre-prepared in the back. While preparing an orange sauce, he added the liquor over the open flame and voila! We had orange crepe flambe  and everyone raved.

The dish was appropriately named after one of the dining guests “Suzette”.

I made a quick and easy version here at the beach house at The Sea Ranch which came out quite nice.


Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

After visiting my sister a few times back when she lived in San Diego California, I developed a love for fish tacos. This was way back.. before fish tacos had become more or less mainstream fare you can find at almost any Rubio’s street corner dive. I remember that my first impression was of strange surprise when I first learned of them. Fish tacos after all don’t sound inherently delicious when you are first introduced to them. That is until you take your first bite.

The crunchy fried fish, the tangy sauce, lime juice, and cabbage.

From that point on, I’ve been hooked. I like to bring a little more spice to my version by adding a little chipotle to the sauce.