A Hiatus.

A strange word, “hiatus.”  It’s derived from Latin and came into use in English in the mid-sixteenth century, when it originally was used to describe a physical gap or opening: from hiare, “gape.”  Early Latin uses are more literal, with the word meaning “to be greedy for,” “to be open-mouthed” (with astonishment), to “be wide open, to gape.”  Strange how the modern usage has devolved into an absence, so unlike earlier usage that seemed so active.

Your correspondent suffered a difficult fall the Sunday after Thanksgiving and suffered an injury to the right rotator cuff, calling for corrective surgery.  The  surgeon is one of the best in the mid-Atlantic for this sort of thing, a sports medicine practitioner and an expert in the shoulder.  He’s an Assistant Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he is a member of the prestigious American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, an educational association comprised of specialists in these complex joints. The group has just 350 members worldwide, and he is the only member of this elite group to practice in Northern Virginia.

In addition to his clinical practice, he is the team physician for the Potomac Nationals Baseball Team, an assistant team physician for the Washington Nationals Baseball team, and a founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Shoulder and Elbow Society. He also has a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine.  I think we’re in good hands.

We went under the knife today.  But the good doctor warned that during recovery we won’t have use of the right arm for about six weeks.  As a consequence with mobility impaired, we will be taking a break from this blog, and plan to resume posting in February or March.

Until then, auf Wiedersehen, au revoir, arrivederci.  See you soon.  And Happy New Year!

Recipe: Beet, Ginger & Coconut Milk Soup.

Beet Soup

We had occasion to put on a vegan dinner, or rather, a dinner for a dear friend who happens to be vegan — and allergic to dairy.  She had never been to Annefield, so we wanted to make a fine impression.

So for dinner we started with this Beet, Ginger and Coconut Soup, which is very simple to make (it seems most vegan things are), but very impressive — and fantastic with a crusty, crunchy French loaf and sparking wine.  We served it with a nonvintage Lamarca Prosecco.  This is delicious hot, but it could be served chilled, too.

Beets have turned into our “go to” vegetable for something showy and unexpected, like this Marinated Beet and Blackberry Salad we shared a few months ago.  A special challenge would be a dinner where beets figure in every course — now that’s something to think about.

Anyway, for our vegan menu we opted for foods with a “meaty” profile, so there were lots of mushrooms, along with tofu and eggplant.  And bread — bread with everything (gluten-free people, please stay away — this meal isn’t for you).  We started with a Vegetarian Faux Gras previously shared in these pages, and ended with another favorite, Grape Soup, but that recipe called for using gelatin, but we found a bottle of agar in the pantry that can be used in its place.  We made an evening of savoring the subtle interplay of vegetables and sauces, which call for the simplest of preparations for them to truly shine.


 

A Vegan Dinner at Annefield.

Passed

Vegetarian Faux Gras with French Bread

Beet, Ginger & Coconut Milk Soup

Lamarca Prosecco NV

Mixed Bitter Greens with Sauteed Mushrooms

Domaine Bellevue Touraine Sauvignon 2014

Tofu and Eggplant Pot Pies

Van Der Heyden Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Chilled Grape Soup with Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Warre’s Warrior  Porto


Beet, Ginger & Coconut Milk Soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 3 large red beets, roasted until tender (1 to 1 1/2 hours), peeled, then cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast them at 425ºF for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until tender; allow to cool, then peel and slice into 1/4 inch wedges (do the day before, then refrigerate, if you think of it).
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced beets and 4 cups of vegetable stock; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.
  5. Using a blender, puree the soup.  Add additional stock if necessary (if too thick).
  6. Stir in the coconut milk, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves six generously.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon by Candlelight.

Christmas Trees (2)

“I say there is no darkness but ignorance.”
― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

With Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving behind us, our thoughts turn to, well, Christmas.  Its unavoidable as people haul decorations out of storage, what with the giant inflatables that litter suburban lawns everywhere, strings of lights along the eaves, wreaths festooning doors, and the interminable Christmas carols being broadcast nonstop in that steady consistent effort surely intended to drive the listener insane.

But before becoming completely jaded, we paid a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon for the annual Holiday Party and Mount Vernon by Candlelight tour.  Having a house nearby on land once owned by George Washington, we joined as “Neighborhood Friends” so we could take advantage of things like the tour, and advance notice for purchasing tickets to the Spring and Fall Wine Festivals.  An invitation to participate as a winery is highly prized, by the way (which we had the pleasure of so doing a couple of years ago).   But we digress.

After wine and finger food in the Ford Center inside the gate at Mount Vernon, we were led in groups to the mansion, but were disappointed (but not surprised) that the only candles were in lanterns lining the walks to the entrance.  It was really, really dark.  Fake candles illuminated the interior  — if you can call it illumination — given that it is Mount Vernon, surely the risk of fire cannot be tolerated, so we’ll forgive this bit of false advertising.

Each room featured one to three interpreters who gave a glimpse and some insight in what it was like to celebrate Christmas in the early Republic, and with the Washingtons.  We especially enjoyed the actor portraying Martha seated in The New Room.  George and Martha, like many people of the time, chose to have their wedding on January 6.  It does make it easy to remember the date, and it being a time of frivolity and merry making, a fitting choice, even today.

The significance of Twelfth Night — in Catholic countries the next day is Epiphany, or Three King’s Day — seems to have been lost.  And it doesn’t help that there seems to be some confusion on when to start counting (on Christmas Day or the day after); some say Twelfth Night is January 5, other traditions hold that it is January 6.  Regardless, Epiphany is the traditional date the Magi showed up in Jerusalem to pay a call on the infant Jesus.

Now if you aren’t one of those Pagans who believe Christmas is over on the 25th, you probably delayed decorating until close to the date, but if you are one of those Pagans, you’ve no doubt had enough Christmas cheer and the stuff has got to go out, out, out of the house the day after Christmas, along with that dead tree (if you used a live one) the wrapping paper and that blasted tinsel that sticks to just about everything.

After the tour we dined at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant and discovered a lively bar scene there (who knew?).  A new neighborhood haunt!  The meal was surprisingly good, and you can make your reservation on OpenTable.

Mount Vernon
The Mansion. Interior photographs were forbidden.

Christmas Trees

Friendsgiving Weekend, 2015.

Group

Our favorite annual tradition — dinner with friends the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Usually we spend Thursday morning on the road on the way to Annefield, and this year was no different — except for what we served that Thanksgiving day — a roasted duck.

We’ve never prepared duck before, and looking over different recipes noticed that each had you turning the duck periodically while cooking. Why bother if you have a rotisserie?  And with the reverence held for duck fat, we chanced upon a preparation that called for using a rotisserie and roasting potatoes in the duck fat as it dripped underneath.  So with visions of Peking duck in shop windows in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Alea iacta est (“the die is cast”), and that was what we had for Thanksgiving dinner.

The afternoon started on a really festive note.  We joined our friends at Tranquil Hill in Halifax County for a decadent brunch of Eggs Benedict with Asparagus and these lovely rose-shaped muffins and decadent Bloody Mary’s.

In retrospect we’re feeling a bit spoiled at the moment, if exhausted from all the cleaning and putting away.

Tranquil Hill

Eggs

Roasted Duck with Roasted Potatoes.

Ingredients

  • One 5 or 6 pound duck
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • A handful of fresh thyme and rosemary
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered and salted
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Glaze

  • Juice of one lime
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Directions

  1. The day before roasting the duck, liberally sprinkle it inside and out with salt and pepper; place in a dish uncovered in the refrigerator.  (Note: all poultry benefits from this technique.)
  2. Remove the duck from the refrigerator about two hours before cooking to allow to come to room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Mount duck on the rotisserie skewer.  Juice the lime, and stuff the duck with the lime rinds, thyme and rosemary with the butter.  Close up the opening using small skewers.
  3. Roast on the rotisserie for about 45 minutes, with a tray underneath to catch the fat.  Add potatoes, and roast for an additional 45 minutes.  Stir the potatoes every 15 minutes or so.
  4. Brush the glaze on the duck a couple of times, and allow it to cook an additional five minutes.
  5. Allow the duck to rest about 15 minutes.  Add more glaze.  Slice and serve with the potatoes.

One duck will serve two people generously.


Red Pepper Shot

As a break from all this richness, the next night we made pizzas while finishing preparations for Saturday’s meal.

At the appointed hour we greeted our dozen guests with a bourbon cocktail called a Jackrabbit — squeeze a dozen lemons, add the juice and the rinds to a bottle of bourbon (we used Buffalo Trace) with a cup of sugar, and let rest refrigerated overnight.  We found it a bit too tart, and added a second bottle of bourbon the next day, which perfectly modulated the acid and the sugar.  For a festive touch, we served them in sterling silver Julep cups over ice.

A friend brought these wonderful spiced cashews and prosciutto cups for passing, and dinner, in due course, was (of course) wonderful.  We included a couple of reliable favorites (its less stressful to serve things you’ve already made) — a Slow Roasted Turkey, Creole Oyster Stuffing, a Marinated Beet and Berry Salad and a Pecan Chocolate Tart.  We made a slight variation on the stuffing, substituting ground bison for the ground beef, and using shallots rather than garlic (we forgot to buy garlic but had plenty of shallots — the result was divine).  This year we served on a mix of very old and new china, breaking out the 19th century Canton China for this special occasion.

Friendsgiving 2015.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup Shots with Spinach and Artichoke Phyllo Bites

Mont Marçal Brut Cava Reserva 2009

Marinated Beet and Berry Salad

Naje Riesling 2012

Slow Roasted Turkey

Oyster Stuffing

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Butter

Brussels Sprouts and Celery Salad with Schezuan Peppercorns

Green Bean Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

Dried Fruit Compote

Rolls with Herbed Butter

Domaine Lafage Nicolas Grenache Noir 2013

Lemon Meringue Pie

Pecan Chocolate Tart with Whipped Cream

Sweet Potato Pie

Ramos Pinto Collector Porto Reserva


 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Braised Leg of Lamb.

Smoke & Pickles

Our love affair with Louisville continues.  During on our recent trip to Kentucky, we became enamored of the cooking of Edward Lee, the owner of two restaurants there — 610 Magnolia and MilkWood.  Both restaurants meld Lee’s Korean heritage with Southern traditions, and the result is a fascinating riff that makes you think differently about Southern foodways.  Louisville’s food scene is not so deeply rooted in Southern culture as, say, New Orleans or Charleston.

Another factor affecting the food culture there is the existence of a culinary school at Sullivan University, which is turning out graduates who if they not able to find jobs in restaurants, open places of their own where they do as they please.  Mr Lee has stated that since Louisville is not so rooted in Southern traditions, people in Louisville are open to new interpretations of Southern classics.

This year Lee branched out of Louisville and teamed up with a local restaurant group and opened Succotash, a new restaurant in the Washington, DC-area at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  In a story in The Washington Post about the venture, Lee noted that Maryland has a similar mind-set as the people of Louisville (not being so rooted in Southern traditions), which has an appeal for him (“Edward Lee to open Southern-themed Succotach in National Harbor,” by Tim Carman (29 January 2015).

We chanced upon Lee’s first cookbook at Bourbon Barrel Foods in Louisville’s Crescent Hill neighborhood, and adapted a recipe of his for braised lamb, a technique we have not tried before.  Mr Lee suggests serving it with grits and a Red Cabbage-Bacon Kimchi, but it also works served over rice.  Adapted from Smoke & Pickles, by Edward Lee (New York: Artisan, 2013).

Braised Leg of Lamb.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 leg of lamb, about 3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup black bean paste
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock

Directions

  1. Make a rub by mixing the salt and pepper together in a small bowl, then rub all over the lamb and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the lamb and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Add all of the vegetables to the pot, tucking them around the meat.  After about 3 minutes, add the bourbon, ketchup, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, molasses, black bean paste, chocolate and chicken stock.  The liquid should completely cover the lamb.  If it doesn’t, add more stock or water.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Skim any foam that rises to the top.  Lower the heat, put a lid on the pot, and simmer gently for 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes.Check for doneness; the meat should pull easily from the bone, but not so tender as to turn to shreds.  Off heat and let the lamb rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board.  Slice the meat against the grain or pull it off in large chunks.  Serve over grits or rice, and ladle the braising liquid with the vegetables over the meat and serve.

Feeds 6 as a main course.  The heat from the jalapeño called for a wine with a little residual sugar, so we served this over rice with our slightly off-dry Annefield Vineyards White 2013.

Rubbed Lamb

Braising Lamb

A Hindu Wedding in New Jersey.

Saris

We’ve been invited to so many weddings this year!   They’ve been in all styles and iterations — formal events in churches, a touching, informal ceremony barefoot on the beach, and the latest was a Hindu extravaganza in Jersey City, New Jersey a few weeks ago.

After the brevity of the western ceremonies, you feel like you get your money’s worth with a Hindu wedding, which takes hours.   We aren’t complaining, mind you; each part of the ceremony is loaded with meaning.

The celebration begin with what is called a Baraat, or Groom’s Parade.  Traditionally the groom is joined by his friends as he travels to the home of the bride to claim her.  The customarily the groom rides on the back of a mare (and there are numerous stables that provide horses just for Hindu weddings).  If you groom really wants to show off, he arrives on the back of an elephant, but this being downtown Jersey City, one must improvise, so our groom chose . . . a white hover board — a brilliant solution.

Police were on hand to stop traffic so the parade could make its way from across the street to the entrance of the hotel, where the bride and her family waited on a balcony overlooking the parade, which included much dancing and drumming.  Finally the parents emerge, everyone exchanges gifts, then the groom is escorted to the Mandap (Wedding Altar) for the next ceremony.

The wedding was conducted in Sanskrit, and the officiant would pause periodically to explain in English what was taking place and what each ritual symbolized.  There’s really too much to go into detail here, from the arrival of the bride, exchanging garlands, giving away the bride, tying the knot, lighting a sacred fire, circling the fire, exchanging rings, nourishing the relationship (feeding each other sweets), the priest’s blessing, and more blessings, blessings everywhere for everyone.  Cue the flower petals, which are showered onto the happy couple as they exit.

Our favorite part of it all was when it was time for speeches at the Western-style reception.  After all the ceaseless ceremonies and prayers and blessings, the Father of the Bride (who customarily claims his moment and speaks a tad too long — after all, he’s usually footing the bill) offered the briefest and most eloquent speech imaginable.  He said simply, “I am so happy, I am without words,” and handed the microphone back to the disc jockey.  He is my hero.

FamilyGaneshaGroomsmenHoverboardMandapRanjanReceptionStill LifeThe Bride AwaitsWord Trade Center

 

Have a Chill Pill, Darling.

Mike & Sandy

So last week we partied like it was …. 1979!  Or 1969 — or 1999!  This year’s Harvest Party was an old-fashioned tea dance with a disc jockey from Official Entertainment out of Lynchburg spinning the best of the last four decades.

The spread came from The Drug Store Grill in Brookneal (in retrospect — how appropriate!).  The food did not disappoint, and our take-away sweet were “Chill Pills” (fab Jelly Belly jelly beans) filling prescription bottles.  Very, very cute, if a bit scandalous.  No one seemed put off, thankfully.

Kudos to the immensely talented and creative Cameron Anctil for putting on a fabulous party for us.  While her true calling is photography — check out Studio Luxe Photography  — we’re always thrilled that she’s willing to put on a spectacle for us.  Thank you.

Rob Pups Paul Mirror Lights DJ Chill Pills Centerpiece