Recipe: Slow Roasted Turkey Breast.

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Over the holidays if you aren’t a large group but want a bit of turkey, this is the recipe for you.  It’s great during the summer, too, when no one wants to slave over a hot stove — yet we have no problem being outside in the heat and humidity tending to a hot grill (go figure).

We chanced on this recipe by Andrew Schloss in The Washington Post last Thanksgiving and tried it for our intimate gathering prior to the more elaborate Friendsgiving feast hosted by friends of ours in Halifax county.  We did for a whole turkey this past Friendsgiving (plan way in advance — roasting an entire bird takes about 12 hours).  It’s a winner: the turkey is the most succulent imaginable, and the beauty of it is you place the turkey in the oven and forget about it.  No basting!  The temperature is so low, overcooking is impossible.  You bake the turkey for for 8 to 9 hours at a very low oven temperature, and there is no basting or fussing.  The only alteration we made to this recipe was the addition of bay leaves, which we habitually include in anything that would benefit from their aromatic lift.

Why not make this during the summer? Since it takes care of itself, you can devote your energies to other things, like roasting corn on the grill, or making salads to accompany it.  The oven temperature is so low you’ll barely notice it.  Even better is cooking it overnight — just put in the oven at bedtime and take it out in the morning.  If you like, take the drippings and make a gravy with a little chicken stock.  A perfect accompaniment is something with good acid and just a touch of residual sugar, like our 2013 Annefield Vineyards Viognier.

Slow Roasted Turkey Breast.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One 7- to 9-pound whole bone-in turkey breast, with skin
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

DirectionsIMG_4660

  1. Combine the spices (except the bay leaves), salt and pepper in a small bowl to create the rub.  Rub it all over the turkey breast.  Refrigerate the turkey, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours (keeping the breast uncovered causes it to dry out slightly, thereby drawing the salt and spice deep into the flesh).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
  3. While the oven pre-heats, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for one hour before roasting.
  4. Cut the onion into wedges (no need to peel), then arrange them to cover the bottom of the roasting pan.  Add the bay leaves.
  5. Place the turkey breast (breast side up) in the pan on top of the onion wedges and bay leaves.
  6. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the breast.
  7. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
  8. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 175°F.  Roast for 8 to 9 hours, or until the internal temperature measures 165 to 175°F.
  9. Let the turkey rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before carving, or tent loosely and carve several hours later.

Adapted from Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More, by Andrew Schloss (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013).

Paying Respects in Chase City.

Grave of Jacob and Aurelia Holt

With Sunday afternoon free, we made our way to Chase City over in Mecklenburg County to pay our respects to Jacob W. Holt (1811-1880).  The cemetery, which dates from 1869, is what one would expect – ancient and modern monuments in a bucolic setting, dotted with yews, magnolias and boxwood.  The scene was a bit disconcerting, because there were Confederate flags all over the place.  Then we remembered that last Friday was Lee-Jackson Day, a holiday in the Commonwealth of Virginia that honor the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.  No doubt the Sons of Confederate Veterans put the flags out for the occasion.

We also chanced upon the final resting place of Chief Justice Edward Wren Hudgins, his wife Lucy Morton Hudgins and their son Commander William Henry Hudgins, whose house and extensive gardens in Chase City is now the MacCallum More Museum and Gardens.  Notable landscape designer Charles Gillette consulted on the gardens, and the property is listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.IMG_5093

Readers of this space know that Mr Holt was the master house wright who built the house at Annefield for Hillery M.L. Goode in 1858.  While the bulk of his surviving buildings are in Warrenton, North Carolina, which was one of the wealthiest communities in that state before the War Between the States, but after the war he removed to the town of Christiansville, which was seeing an influx of new money by Northern investors (or, as one writer put it, “fell prey to carpetbaggers from the North”).  He died at his son’s house in nearby Keysville in Charlotte County, and is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Chase City.  Catherine W. Bishir’s biography of him on North Carolina Architects & Builders is a masterful summary of his career and significance.

When we first acquired Annefield we made a pilgrimage to Warrenton to see the houses Jacob Holt built there.  The goal was to measure the porches and columns of the surviving houses so that we could get ours right.  Everyone we met wanted to know where we were from — “Saxe.”  “Where?”  “Do you know Chase City?”  “Oh, yes!  I know where that is.”  It turns out there is a National Weather Service weather station there, and Chase City always appears on weather maps during local news broadcasts.

Chase City, which is just 16 miles down the road from Annefield, was named for Supreme Court Justice Salmon P. Chase in 1873.  The town has an interesting history; Northern investors chose to settle there because it was in the middle of the Virgilina Gold Vein, which runs roughly from Virgilina to Drakes Branch.  Gold, silver and tungsten mining brought wealth, the mines being reopened (they had closed during the California Gold Rush).  The town also brought tourists visiting for the curative waters of a nearby lithia spring, staying at the massive Mecklenburg Mineral Hotel (now lost; it burned in 1909).  Chase City was widely viewed as “the wealthiest Northern town in the South.”  Holt clearly had the good sense to “follow the money.”

There are a number of Holt-designed and Holt-attributed buildings in Mecklenburg County.  A gallery of Holt-built or attributed buildings follows below.  There are more — these are the buildings that are listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.  All images are courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.  For more on Chase City, see Chase City, by John Caknipe, Jr (Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC, 2008).

Shadow Lawn

Shadow Lawn

Sunnyside

Sunnyside

Eureka

Eureka

Long Grass

Long Grass

Boyd's Tavern

Boyd’s Tavern

 

Bottling Time.

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A New Year, a new vintage . . .

Winter in the winery is actually a busy time.  We met with our winemaker the other day to decide on blending, and to sample our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon that is still resting in barrel but being bottled this week — more on that below.

Our primary task was deciding what to do with the 2014 Pinot Gris, which was not in the best condition when it was picked.  In our climate it tends to fall apart as it ripens (we’re giving serious thought to pulling it out and planting something else).  We were able to save it, but the wine lacked quality to be bottled as a single varietal, so it is being blended with our very productive Vidal Blanc for this year’s off-dry White blend.  It was just a question of figuring the best proportions. Consulting with our winemakers, Ben Jordan and Michael Shaps, we decided on a blend of 53 percent Vidal Blanc, the balance being the Pinot Gris.

But we are most excited to sample our first single-varietal Vermentino, which was fermented in stainless steel (the Italian way), but stored in neutral oak barrels until it is bottled.  Rather than a winemaking decision, its a space issue.  Still, there may be some subtle affect from the contact with oak.  As we write this, we’re sipping the sample we took home with us — it has excellent fruit and body, bright acidity, and a very interesting touch of salinity in the finish — this is a characteristic of the grape.  It sounds a bit strange, but it is absolutely perfect with seafood.  It brings to mind dining alfresco by the sea.  Lovely.  Ben said,”We just let it do its own thing with no intervention.” We once joked with Frank Morgan of the blog Drink What YOU Like about putting it up against Barboursville Vineyards’ Reserve Vermentino, noting that the swimsuit competition is going to be tough.

The 2014 Chardonnay is still undergoing malolactic fermentation, and will remain in barrel until April.  It is not yet finished, but this wine also shows great promise.  Well rounded flavors and great balance; in a French style with a touch of oak.

The Vidal Blanc is playful, with a fun, tutti-frutti finish.  It will give great life to the White blend.  For the first time we will feature a dry Vidal Blanc in our product line, because we lost our Viognier to frost in 2014, and our red grapes refused to ripen (it was so wet and overcast at the end of the growing season), so we left them to the birds rather than have a less than stellar wine.  This was a major disappointment after the stellar 2013 vintage.  Let’s hope that this is a once in a decade event.  Ben expressed an interest in making a Vidal from a carefully controlled crop, limiting production to, say, three or four tons per acre.  This particular variety just goes gangbusters, and one does wonder what the fruit would be like if yield was carefully controlled.  That would be a very interesting experiment.

This brings us the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The fruit had such strength and finesse, we chose to keep it in barrel for 16 months to give it the dimension long contact with oak can infuse.  It is very bold, with excellent dark fruit; moody, brooding, complex.  We will leave it in bottle at least a year before release, though truthfully four or five years is more appropriate.  There isn’t much of it — just 100 cases — and wine club members have first dibs — so join a wine club if you want to be assured a case or two.  This is one to lay down for a while.
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A Memorable New Year’s Eve.

Illuminated stairs at 1508.

Ordinarily we dismiss New Year’s Eve as “amateur night,” stay home, and go to bed early.  But this year we ventured out in Washington for an oh-so-memorable dinner at 1508 in the historic Shaw neighborhood in the heart of the city.

We had our own New Year’s Eve dinner at Annefield several years ago, the first winter after we completed the renovation.  There was, however, a miscalculation — we learned that when you invite guests for New Year’s, they expect to stay until midnight, which wasn’t our plan.  Our plan was to simply have a splendid dinner, then send everyone on their merry way to see the New Year in at another party.  But this being Charlotte County, there was no place else to go.  So they stayed.  And stayed.  Turning out lights didn’t work, and no one budged, so the wine kept flowing (they were actually oblivious to the hints).  Each place setting had a brightly colored Christmas Cracker, and most of them contained some sort of noisemaker to deploy at midnight.

Lesson learned, though now when we want guests to take their leave, we break out the absinthe fountain, which makes for great theatre with the ice water trickling over sugar cubes perched on antique absinthe spoons and into the glasses.  A particular favorite of ours is by a Swiss producer, Kübler — delicious, fragrant and a potent 53% ABV.  The potency of the infamous “green fairy” makes everyone extremely sleepy, and nothing clears a room faster.

Anyway, Sidra Forman and John Cochran of 1508 always puts on a pleasurable event.  A few years ago we were at there for (and wrote about) a unique Jura wine pairing dinner that included Jura wines from the 1950s.  This year’s indulgent evening was the perfect ending to a fun-filled year.  Many thanks to Sidra and John (and their daughter, Martin Lane) for staging such a marvelous repast — the food, wine, service, pacing (and company) were just amazing.

Sidra posted the menu on her blog, Sidra’s Food, Flowers and Garden.  We’ve coped it below for you to savor. And with that, we raise our glass of absinthe and, with a wink, wish you and yours a happy and prosperous 2015!

PASSING

Blue Potato with Siberian Osetra Caviar and Caper, Cauliflower White Bean Puree with White Alba Truffle, Rockfish with Kohlrabi and Carrot, Long Island Duck with Cassis and Onion, Flatiron Steak and Watermelon Radish, Pork Loin with Apple and Sage

Bay Leaf Vodka Cocktail, 2013 Labbe Abymes Savoie

SEATED

Georges Bank Sea Scallop with Ginger Lemongrass Broth with Cilantro, Leeks and Red Lentils–– Buckwheat Bread

2010 Garofoli “Podium” Verdicchio Dei Castelli de Jesi

Black Rice Black Trumpet Mushroom Risotto with Celery Root Pureed/Fresh, Celery, Parsley and Chestnut–– Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

2013 St. Pauls St Magdalener Klassisch Alto Adige

Wood Grilled Chicken Thigh with Frisse, Kobocha and Shallot Dressing–– Cornmeal Cracker

2012 Cru Monplaisir Bordeaux Superieur

Appalachian Cheese with Whole Grain Cracker

Chocolate Cake with Gold Leaf, Beet Frozen Coconut and Cocoa Nibs

Tissot Cremant de Jura Rosé Extra Brut NV

Bites: Soft Gingerbread with Lemon and Coconut, Salty Rosemary Walnut Biscotti, Cardamom Pistachio Drops, Chocolate Hazelnut and Pumpkin Seed Brittle

TO GO

Gingersnaps with Gold

2015

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A Gift Sprouted in the Garden.

Rebar Tree
A few weeks ago during the closing hours of the last day of the Taste of SoVA promotion, some good friends from South Boston turned up who brought us this wonderful tree that we planted in the middle of the garden the next morning.

It reminds us of a story.  Years ago when we were looking to start a winery, we met the owner of what was then Stillhouse Winery (now Philip Carter Winery) who told us that if you have a winery, one thing you must know is how to weld. That advice still resonates with us, and skillful welding made this piece. I suppose we could festoon it with bottles periodically, or wrap it with lights, but for now we like the look of its bare branches in winter.  It’s a bottle tree.

The real story of bottle trees can be traced from the American South to Africa.  A blog post from Appalachian History gives the background:

Glass ‘bottle trees’ originated in ninth century Kongo during a period when Central African people believed that a genii or imp could be captured in a bottle. Legend had it that empty glass bottles placed outside, but near, the home could capture roving (usually evil) spirits at night, and the spirit would be destroyed the next day in the sunshine. One could then cork the bottles and throw them into the river to wash away the evil spirits.

 

Furthermore, the Kongo tree altar is a tradition of honoring deceased relatives with graveside memorials. The family will surround the grave with plates attached to sticks or trees. The plates are thought to resemble mushrooms, calling on a Kongo pun: matondo/tondo [the Kongo word for mushroom is similar to their word to love].

 

And so, trees and bottles eventually came together.

 

This practice was taken to Europe and North America by African slaves. Thomas Atwood, in History of the Island of Domi (1791), made particular note of the bottle tree as a protection of the home through an invocation of the dead. Atwood writes of the confidence of the blacks “in the power of the dead, of the sun and the moon—nay, even of sticks, stones and earth from graves hung in bottles in their gardens.”

 

While Europeans adapted the bottle tree idea into hollow glass spheres known as “witch balls,” the practice of hanging bottles in trees became widespread in the plantation regions of Southern states and from there migrated north and inland into Appalachia.

The center of the parterre needed a focal point, and this is perfect. Thank you.

Wishing You a Merry Christmas.

Christmas Tree

Many years ago when a sister of ours was in college during the late 1960s, summer breaks were not breaks, but an opportune time to earn a little money for tuition.  In that day and age, this mean’t secretarial jobs at various offices in downton Los Angeles or in Hollywood; Century City or Beverly Hills.  One such assignment took her to the office of some well-connected Hollywood type, who had prominently displayed on his “brag wall” among the obligatory grip-and-grin photos that validated his importance, a note from that legendary actor Cary Grant (1904-1986).

We saw Cary Grant once, and its kind of a funny story.  This was around 1984, shortly before he died.  While driving west on Melrose Avenue approaching Fairfax Avenue one afternoon, and being engaged in a very animated conversation, inadvertently rolled through a stop light.  A uniformed police officer was right behind us, and pulled us over.  In the middle of the stop and a good-natured lecture about safe driving (“If someone rolls into an intersection, let them go ahead and get hit first,” that sort of thing), the cop glanced up, his face brightened, and he yelled, “Hey, it’s Cary Grant!  Hello, Cary!!”  Mr Grant and his driver were across the street, going in the opposite direction.  Everyone stopped and waved, Mr Grant politely nodded, grinned, and was off with a brief wave of the hand.  We then got back to the business at hand, which resulted in a ticket following the lecture.

Anyway, Mr Grant’s note was a model of brevity on one of his personalized note cards.  My sister took it off the wall, made a photocopy, then returned it (he was — and is — a favorite actor of hers).  Since it was framed, contact with the glass plate was impossible so it’s a bit blurry, but a lovely thing to see nevertheless.

Our copy is squirreled away someplace, but it’s a thing of beauty that we’ve committed to memory.  We’ve always admired this perfectly crafted greeting, so in Mr Grant’s memory and in the spirit of the season, we’ll repeat it here.

To Jim Packel —

I don’t ordinarily send Christmas cards, but I wanted to wish you, and all you love, all the best this holiday season and in the New Year.

–Cary Grant

 Merry Christmas, everybody!

Recipe: Sally Lunn Buns

Sally Lunn Buns

On our last day in the city of Bath this past summer on the west coast of England we stopped at Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House for breakfast.  Bath is famous as the home of the Sally Lunn Bun, a mildly sweet and versatile bread that is served all manner of ways: slathered with clotted cream and jam at tea, or as the base of an egg dish.  We served them recently during a lavish brunch with Eggs Benedict.

Sally Lunn was actually a  Huguenot refugee named Solange Luyon who arrived in Bath in 1680 to escape persecution in France. She set up shop in a bakery on Lilliput Alley, and sold the baker’s loaves from a basket in the lanes around Bath Abbey.  The English butchered the pronunciation of her name and Solange became became known as Sally Lunn.

She brought with her to England a recipe for a rich brioche bun that quickly became a popular delicacy in Georgian England.  Soon customers came to the Lilliput Alley bakery specifically requesting the Sally Lunn bun.  Supposedly her original recipe was discovered in a secret compartment in the paneling of the Eating House (it being one of the oldest houses in Bath, the lowest floor level dates from 1137) , but variations of that recipe can be found just about anywhere.

Ingredients2014-08-02 08.45.29

  • 8 ounces whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

Instructions

Place in a microwave safe bowl or in a saucepan:

  • 8 ounces whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Heat the mixture until it is lukewarm, stirring to soften/melt the butter. Pour it into a mixing bowl, and let it cool until it’s below 120°F, about 15 minutes.

Add the following to the warm milk mixture:

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

Beat the mixture at medium speed for about 3 minutes, until everything is well combined.

Add an additional 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, and beat for about 3 minutes, to make a soft, cohesive dough.  Please note: this is a very sticky, wet dough.  It is too sticky to knead, so has to be beaten to develop the gluten.

Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until almost doubled in bulk.

Lightly grease the cups of two standard muffin pans, or use ramekins or some other round, bakeable dish or loaf pan of the desired size to make up 24 cups, total

Divide the dough among the vessels so each is a bit more than half full.  Cover the pans, and let the rolls rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until they’re noticeably puffy.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the rolls until they’re golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads at least 190°F, about 15 minutes.  If you’re making a loaf as well as rolls, bake the loaf for about 30 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 15 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove the rolls from the oven.  Turn the rolls out of the pan onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired.

Wrap completely cooled rolls airtight, and store at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Serve rolls with butter and jam, at breakfast or brunch; or as part of an afternoon “high tea.”

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2014-07-02 11.09.14

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