Friday, December 29, 2017

New Years “Shellabtration”

                                      Herb roasted crab is our favorite way to celebrate

My husband and I were married on the millennium at midnight.  Every New Year’s Eve we celebrate our anniversary with a big fire in the fireplace and indulge with Dungeness crab at a candlelit table fireside.  I look forward to this dinner all year long.  A friend of mine (thanks, Rita!) gave me a great recipe for crab that has now become a standard in our home.   This divine rendition is roasted on high heat in the oven…and is absolute perfection for a cold winter’s night special "shellabration."

2 crabs (try for crabs >2 lbs each)
1/3 cup EVOO
4 cloves of garlic
Bunch of chopped thyme
1 tspn fennel seeds
1 tspn salt
1 tspn red pepper flakes

Place the crabs in huge pot of boiling water and when it returns to a boil cook for 3 minutes.  Remove the crabs and cool slightly.  Clean the crab and crack.  Preheat your oven to 550 degrees. 
In a food processor, add all the remaining ingredients.  Placed cleaned and cracked crab in a large roasting pan and cover well with the olive oil and herb mixture.  Roast for 5-8 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Serve with a loaf of scrumptious French bread, and a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay (we indulge with both by popping the cork of a great Champagne made from both of the grapes).

Happy shellabration…Happy 2018!

Friday, December 15, 2017

A White Christmas…with a White Burgundy

The Burgundy region of France is home to some of the most hedonistic wines on planet earth.  White Burgundies (as well as Red Burgundies) have long had a cult following.   As Burgundy produces only 2% of France’s total wine, the old adage of supply and demand can really wreak havoc on Burgundian prices.  If there’s one day during the year, however, that people should pull out their White Burgundy gems, it's Christmas.

White Burgundy is made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape.  Chardonnay actually originated in Burgundy.  DNA testing shows that Chardonnay is a mix between Pinot Noir (Burgundy’s red grape) and Gouais Blanc.  Somewhere, somehow, Pinot and Gouais crossed in the vineyard and Chardonnay was born as  their offspring.

Many wine connoisseurs believe that Burgundy’s whites are the pinnacle of any Chardonnay on the globe.  One author in a recent article went so far as to call Burgundian white as the “crack cocaine of all Chardonnay.”   While the analogy may be a turn-off, the point is well-taken in that white Burgundy can be addictive.   Once you’ve had it, you crave more.

So what makes Burgundy’s Chardonnay so very special?   It can be summed up in one word:  terroir.  While there is no literally translation for this French word, terroir refers to the many factors that can effect a wine (e.g. climate, topography, and soil). Burgundy’s mineral-laden soils exert a tremendous effect.  White Burgundies are known for their minerality, in the aromas as well as on the palate.

The best vineyards in all of Burgundy were mapped out centuries ago by monks who learned by trial and error which plots of consistently earth produced the best  Chardonnays for the church’s cellar.  Today, these very vineyards have been given Grand Cru status by the French government.  It’s these Grand Crus that have the real cult-following.  And, it’s your Grand Crus that should be brought out for a celebration such as Christmas dinner.

Here are five Grand Cru Burgundies that ought to knock off both Santa’s and Rudolph’s socks (listed in alpha order):

     ~ Comtes Lafon, Montrachet Grand Cru
     ~ Drouhin, Clos des Mouches Grand Cru
     ~ Louis Jadot, Les Demoiselles Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
     ~ Olivier Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
     ~ William Fevre, Valmur Chablis Grand Cru

If you have a desire to learn more about Burgundy’s Grand Cru Chardonnays, check out Wine-Knows 2019 trip to both Burgundy & Champagne:

Have a white and a very Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Seeing Red for the Holidaze

                                                     Holidaze at the Dunn household

There’s no better shade of red for this season than that of luscious Red Bell Pepper Soup.  Served in a clear glass bowl, it can be a wonderfully colorful first course for your holiday table.   It’s not only divinely delicious, but it’s healthy and low in calories.  Moreover, red bell peppers are plentiful this time of year. 


6 roasted bell peppers (do not use store bought, jarred peppers)
3 carrots, grated
4 shallots, chopped
1 pear diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
3 Tablespoons of butter
4 Cup of chicken stock
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper seeds
Salt and pepper to taste


Blacken peppers over an open flame or under the broiler (turning constantly to the other side once they are black).   Place in paper bag to steam off the skins.  Let them rest for 20-30 minutes to cool for handling.  Remove skin and seeds (do not rinse them under any water as this removes wonderful oils and flavors from the peppers).

Place carrots and shallots in a large skilled with butter and EVOO and cook for 10 minutes.   Add peeled and seeded peppers, along with the remainder of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Puree in blender.   Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with a drizzle of basil oil or fresh green herbs for holiday color.   (Serves 6-8)

Bon appetit.   Happy Holidaze.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Say Cheese for the Holidays

                                                   This Stilton tart is a holiday crowd pleaser
Let me start by saying it’s blue.  If you’re not a lover of blue cheese than read no further.  However, if you are enamored with the blues then look no further for a holiday splurge.  Stilton is the King of cheeses and this savory tart is very special.

Stilton comes from the area of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, England’s central region.  Unlike Roquefort and Gorgonzola which are both made from sheep’s milk, Stilton is 100% cow’s milk.  All three of these well-known blue cheeses, however, rely on the same organism to create their characteristic blue-green veining:  penicillium roqueforti.  Of all of the world’s blue cheeses, Stilton has the lowest water content, as well as the lowest salt.  On the other hand, Stilton also has the highest amount of fat and protein which means that it’s the richest and creamiest of all of the blues.  No wonder I love it so.

My favorite Stilton recipe is a scrumptious tarte that I was served at a smashing restaurant in Bath, England over 30 years ago.  I managed to get my hands on the recipe and it has been a standard ever since in my home, especially during the holiday season.   This Stilton tart, along with a simple green salad and a big red that can hold up to the cheese (think Cabernet or Amarone), could easily make sugar-plums dance in your head.  The recipe can easily be made the day before, and any left-overs can be frozen for another winter’s feast.  The dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

STILTON TOMATO TART (serves 10 as a first course)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Ingredients for Pastry Dough
1 cube of butter cut into small pieces
1.5 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk (+ another whole egg for sealing the crust AFTER the shell has baked)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Ingredients for Tart Filling
2 shallots
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
½ pound Stilton
2 eggs
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions for Pastry Dough

Put flour, salt and butter pieces into food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Process just until all ingredients are mixed.  With food processor running, add liquids (egg yolk, lemon and water) a little at a time.  Stop when pastry forms a ball.  Do not over process or dough will be tough.

Place formed dough on wax paper, flatten it, wrap it and chill for at least 20 minutes.   On a flour surface, roll to 1/8 inch thick.  Place on a 10 inch round flan ring or pie dish.  Crimp edge.  Prick bottom of shell with fork and chill for another 30 min in frig.
Line shell with wax paper and then add dried beans or dried rice and bake in lower third of preheated oven.  Carefully remove the beans or rice and wax paper (can be used in another dish).  Return shell to oven.  Bake for another 10 -15 minutes until it is lightly colored.

Remove and brush the shell with an egg wash made by lighting beating an egg with a tablespoon of water.  Bake the shell for 2 more minutes to set the glaze.  Cool shell on a rack.

Lower oven to 375 degrees.

Tart Assembly

Mince 2 shallots and sprinkle evenly over the bottom of the cooled shell.  Top shallots with an overlapping layer of tomatoes.  Crumble Stilton evenly over tomato layer.

In a bowl lightly wisk remaining 2 eggs, whipping cream, nutmeg, salt and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour custard into the shell and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly golden and the filling is just set. 

Bon Appetit!