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"Only cook with wine you'd drink." Really?

I know this is a really old thread, but nobody seemed to mention the "elephant in the room" as far as I am concerned, which is sugar content.

Since Americans have an inordinate fondness for sweet beverages, many less expensive wines in the States are noticeably sweet. If you reduce them in cooking, they can add a distinct sweetness to the finished dish. This is fine in some recipes, and some traditional sauces like Marsala, Madeira, and Sherry are also sweet.

But, traditional recipes like Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq au Vin did not evolve with sweetness in mind, but rather expected wine to deliver wine flavored acidity to the dish.

So I try choose my wines to cook with that have an appropriate level of sweetness for my taste, and find that 2 Buck Chuck and Yellowtail are simply too sweet to cook with.

It is also important to avoid wines with extreme defects to cook with if the wine will be reduced. Defects like cork taint and Ethyl acetate (acetobacter spoilage -- smells like nail polish remover) get even nastier when reduced. Defects like oxidation don't usually cause a problem, since heating is a fast way to oxidize wine anyway, so if we have a little leftover wine that starts browning I usually am happy to cook with it rather than toss it out. I am betting that avoiding defective wine was one of the main points in Julia's advice to only cook with a "drinkable" wine, along with avoiding cooking (i.e., salted) wine.

Fortunately, modern industrial winemaking (cheap or jug wines) seldom have true defects nowadays, so, once you figure out how sweet you want your dish to be, you can usually use a very inexpensive wine and get good results for cooking. But always smell/taste it first to make sure before you waste your precious ingredients and time!

Apr 08, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

polenta - home made

My husband is the polenta maker. He mixes cold water and Bob's Polenta (or coarse grind corn meal) and a little salt in a slow cooker. Cover, set on high, come back and stir about every 15 minutes until it starts to thicken. Then turn to low and cook about 3 or 4 hours, stirring about once an hour. Finish with butter and Parmesan to taste. We do 2-3 cups of raw cornmeal at a time, I love the leftovers and it keep pretty well in the fridge.

This can be served soft the first meal, leftovers I pour in a glass loaf pan and refrigerate. This can be sliced and either pan fried or made into a casserole.

He likes the fact that he doesn't have to pay much attention to it and can do paper work while it cooks, but doesn't feel he can leave it unattended, although the originator of the idea, Anna Michelle Jordan leaves it slow cooking overnight with no attention, if I recall correctly. But no polenta volcanoes!

Apr 07, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Anyone been to Carneros Inn for lunch lately? [Napa]

We had late breakfast/early lunch there about 6 weeks ago (they don't serve breakfast all day so we had the breakfast menu, but could have waited 10 minutes for the lunch menu). I really like their breakfast, it's been a long time since I had lunch there. But they have many "plain" options, a friend of mine loves their hamburger. I "like" their lunch, but I "love" their breakfast, always have green eggs and ham. Good coffee and good Bloody Marys also.

Need suggestion for a week day lunch in southern Napa

It is pretty easy to get to the Oxbow Market from the south (take Imola exit, drive north on Soscol. Don't have to navigate the 1 way streets in downtown Napa, lots of food choices, lots of parking.

I like the Fremont Diner and also the Boon Fly Cafe at the Carneros Inn. Easy to get from if coming from the Golden Gate or Richmond Bridge, but probably farther than Napa if the come up from the East Bay.

Can you suggest easy dinners for a stressful month?

Every year I have a 2 month long grape harvest when I work 12-16 hours most days. Some tricks I have learned to eat as well as possible during this period:
Stock the freezer with quick thawing meats like boneless chicken thighs (single layer) and breasts (remove the supreme and consolidate for quick sautes) and good quality smoked sausage. Also artisanal bread, sliced and stored in a freezer bag so I can pull out just enough for dinner. Thaw on a rack in the toaster oven, or toast.
Stock the pantry with canned tuna, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, various kinds of potatoes and pasta.
Make use of the gas grill on the back porch.
Make use of the salad bar at the local expensive grocery to get prepped vegies (at ridiculous expense, but I hate discarding food that goes bad before I get to cooking it).
Keep the fridge stocked with eggs, long lasting vegies like cabbage, long lasting fruits like apples, and a good variety of cheeses, especially Parmesan.
Always cook enough for another meal 2-3 days later.
Use the pressure cooker, not only for beans and whole grains, but also simple stews and stews. I like Lorna Sass recipes best.

Most importantly, remember that I won't get scurvy, ricketts, or die of malnutrition if I don't eat a perfectly balanced meal 3 times a day every day. In other words, lower my standards and be gentle on myself. Good luck!

does freezing corned beef ruin it?

I cooked my last corned beef at a slow simmer for about 4 hours. So, give it some more time. I wouldn't think freezing it raw should hurt it.

Mar 20, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Authentic Cajun Cookbook

I really enjoy Eula Mae's Cajun Kitchen. She ran the commissary at Avery Island for years, and is a charming lady. I love, love, love her Jambalaya recipe, Sauce Piquante, and a cabbage/pork dish I can't remember the name of.

Mostly, I just enjoyed getting to know her a little bit reading her book.

Mar 18, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Picadillo: Capers or Raisins?

Picadillo is also made in most parts of Latin America. My "Mexican" version doesn't have olives or capers, and but does have raisins (I use Zante currants),chopped tomatoes, vinegar, sweet spices (cinnamon and cloves), and cumin. No chiles or anything picante. I usually add toasted slivered almonds at the end for a little texture. And I serve it with fresh corn tortillas and black beans and rice on the side, although it could also be a filling for chiles rellenos.

Mar 17, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

good, quick, simple recipes to use a jar of mayo

I have to ask why you want to use up a jar of mayo in the next 3 days? Just curious....

What kind of cabbage in moo shu pork?

I would go with regular white cabbage. I always have trouble with Napa cabbage being too "wet" for stir frying. I guess you could blanch it and dry it, but that seems like too much work. And I really like white cabbage.

But I am sure either would taste fine, go with what you like best.

Mar 06, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Can lemon zest be substituted for lemon juice?

It depends on if you want the flavor or the acidity. Peels have great lemon flavor, but no acidity, and a hint of bitterness.

Maybe you could make a little infusion of lemon zest and mild (like rice) vinegar to get the best of both?

Feb 05, 2015
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

"Crumbling" Gorgonzola dolce

How do you make Gorgonzola dolce crumble like other blue cheeses? I always lose patience and end up with big blobs. And that isn't so appealing from an appearance or flavor standpoint. Any tricks out there?

Jan 26, 2015
dkenworthy in Cheese

Steamer ideas?

We have an approximately 3 qt steamer from Farberware that fits on top of either a 2 or 4 quart Farberware pot.

But I have to confess I don't use it that often anymore. Since I am only cooking for 2, I tend to do dense vegetables (like broccoli) in a microwave proof bowl, using a perforated cover. I just wash the florets, drain briefly, place, covered, in the microwave. Usually about 3-5 minutes, depending on the amount of broccoli. Then I only have one thing to wash, and it can go in the dishwasher, whereas I tend to wash my pots by hand.

Bulky greens I usually saute some onions or garlic or shallots in a small amount of fat in a big pot, add the greens (washed and briefly drained but still moist), cover. Stir after the bottom starts wilting, then finish open to drive off any remaining moisture. If the greens are for a recipe, I eliminate the fat and the allium and just steam in the big pot, stir, and finish covered, then drain in a colander.

Jan 20, 2015
dkenworthy in Cookware

frozen turkey

Are you wedded to the idea of grinding it? I have a few recipes for pieced out turkey that I love from an ancient issue of Bon Appetit (?). One for the thigh where you make chunks and marinate in a dry Vietnamize style curry powder, skewer with pearl onions, brush with melted butter and grill. I also like to casserole roast the legs and thighs, mix with mole and and simmer until tender. I also love to put an herby whole wheat bread dressing under the breast skin and roast. Makes a pretty presentation and also great sandwiches. But I know you are tired of roast turkey.

If you want any recipes let me know and I will post them.

Can Dried Beans Go Bad?

I think it will, but the hard part is to decide how long when the beans are very old.

I would make them plain to make sure they get tender, then use them in recipes that call for canned beans, rather than waste other ingredients if they don't ever get tender.

Jan 02, 2015
dkenworthy in General Topics

Bowed bottom pot

I have a 5 quart All Clad pot (I think they called it a casserole when we bought it 20 years ago). It gets used about twice a week, often starting with browning something then adding other ingredients and cooking slow either in the oven or on the stove top. Think Jambalaya.

The bottom has become "bowed" and it is getting harder to brown evenly even on a (Wolfe) gas burner.

It there some way to pound it back down to a flat bottom?

Jan 01, 2015
dkenworthy in Cookware

Frozen blueberries in place of fresh?

We used to have a blueberry patch, and froze many 1 cup bags for using in the winter. In my experience, it is best to add them still frozen, which minimizes the amount of color "bleeding" into the batter. Usually limited to a very small zone right around the berry. But that can happen even with fresh berries. I don't make any changes to the flour in the batter.

Casual Italian Dinner Party Question

I would make 2 trays of lasagne. I think most kids like it, no? Maybe 2 kinds, a vegetarian and a meat version?

Spots for large group meals in Sonoma County?

A lot of the best places are on the small side, and will have a hard time with a party of 8 in the winter when their outside spaces may be unusable. Some casual places that will set up for that size party are Cafe Citti (Cal-Ital)and Palooza (Beer Pub casual)in Kenwood. Community Cafe (breakfast and lunch only) in Sonoma has a large table they will reserve if you call in advance. Rossi (the old Little Switzerland) is large and has mostly BBQ (they are still finding their sea legs, so can be a little inconsistent).

The Fig in Glen Ellen is remodeling in December, not sure of their reopening date, but they will take reservations for large parties, I think. Aventine will also take reservations, it is popular, but I was underwhelmed the only time we went there.

Wine with lamb curry?

I also find that Zin is a great match with cumin. So, it might work really well with curry, depending on what kind of curry.

Oct 27, 2014
dkenworthy in Wine

Brunch in Santa Rosa?

Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe is a nice breakfast/brunch place. They have mimosas and bellinis! Atmosphere is a little "coffee shop-y" but the food is really good.

Uses for fresh persimmons

Are they hachiya (astringent until goo-ey soft)or fuyu type (sweet when firm)? My MIL freezes the hachiya and scoops out the flesh like sorbet. Or uses it to make purée for cookies or puddings. She stores the puree in the freezer as well. I don't love this type of persimmon.

The fuyu type are great in salads. I have also subbed them for apples in cakes and other baked goods. Slice thin and dry until leathery for a great snack.

Oct 26, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Green Tomato Relish

I don't know if you like chutney, but the local paper had a recipe for Green Tomato Chutney several years ago. I try to make it every year now, and I have friends who insist it is the only acceptable Christmas gift.

To make 12 pints you need 12 pounds of green tomatoes. It is a little bit fussy, but really delicious. I can paraphrase the recipe if you like.

Oct 20, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Need recipe for "Santa Maria BBQ"

This is more or less what I do. Although I seldom have any ham to put in the beans and just call it good with the bacon. And I sometimes just use salt and pepper for the meat, or a Penzeys mix like Galena Street.

I am lucky enough to live close to Rancho Gordo and often get their pinquitos in the local markets. They are a really special bean, firm but creamy.

And I make enough of the fairly mild salsa to have it qualify as a vegetable, great for the beans and the meat as well.

Oct 09, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

"Fancy" Apple Crisp for Thanksgiving

To me, apple crisp is comfort food. My mother's recipe is the best (simply because it is what I grew up with). I don't really see any way to make if "fancy" and I wouldn't really want to try.

Although, I do sometimes add some chopped candied ginger to the fruit mix, which is delicious (but not really "fancy"). And doesn't make it look any different.

Oct 09, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

Does salsa freeze well?

I freeze any salsa that has cooked or roasted tomatoes or tomatillos as the base very successfully. I never freeze "relish" type salsa like pico de gallo or salsa crudo where the texture of the raw ingredients is important unless I am planning to cook with it. For instance, if I have a little pico de gallo left that I won't use the next day, I stick it in the freezer and throw it into my next batch of chili or beans or something that the flavors will complement.

Oct 07, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

To Keep Rick Bayless' Beans

I also freeze beans all the time. If they are very brothy, I put them in rubbermaid type containers. These I tend to thaw in the fridge and put into things like soup or chili.

I also drain most of the liquid from beans like garbanzos and freeze them in 1 quart ziploc bags to make things like hummus or add them to recipes that call for drained canned beans.

Cooked beans are like money in the bank, often much tastier than canned beans, and cheaper as well.

Oct 07, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

how to - hard scrambled eggs that aren't watery

I used to do the Julia Child very slow, very low heat style of scrambled eggs as I like them moist. Once married, my husband likes them on the dry side. My compromise is to use a non stick skillet, start with low heat, add a little butter, and crack the eggs straight into the pan (before the butter has completely melted). Once they have all been cracked, and I have washed my hands, I sprinkle them with salt and gently stir to break them up, and raise the heat to medium. Only stir occasionally. When they are almost "dry" I turn the burner off and add a little grated cheese and let it melt and finish the egg cooking with the residual heat. Voila, dry scrambled, no exuded water, and the cheese makes it seem moist enough for me to enjoy.

Also, no bowl or whisk to clean.

Sep 30, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking

If you have to prepare the ingredients in a pan, why would you put it all in a slow cooker? just leave it in the pan on low and cook it there. This recipe is duplicative and wastes time in prep and cleanup.

While I don't use a slow cooker very often, there are advantages over slow cooking on the stove top or oven. First and foremost, there is little to no attention required (like stirring to prevent beans from sticking). So I can brown my ingredients, get the slow cooker going, and leave the room or even the house.

Also, it doesn't heat up the kitchen as much as my gas stove, or worse, my gas oven.

I have found that few recipes in the slow cooker are really tasty without some browning of some ingredients first. Which is maybe why I don't use it that often!

Sep 23, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking


Cooks Illustrated had a delicious recipe called Pesto alla Trapanese that I loved. It only uses 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes, but I think it would freeze about as well as basil pesto.

To paraphrase, dry toast 1/4 cup slivered almonds and set aside to cool. In the meantime, put the stemmed cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, 1 small clove garlic, a chopped pepperoncini (or a small amount of vinegar and dried red pepper flakes), a little salt and the toasted almonds in a food processor.

Process until smooth, about 1 minute, then add 1/3 cup olive oil while the machine is running.

Toss with hot spaghetti (save some pasta cooking water to loosen it up if necessary) with Parmesan. This is enough for about 1 pound of pasta (dry).

Very summery flavors, we loved it as a main, or you could serve it as a side with meat.

Aug 29, 2014
dkenworthy in Home Cooking