Well Dined

13Nov/150

Sweet Potato and Chard Gratin

Well Dined | Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

Are you looking for a new side for your Thanksgiving dinner?  Maybe something a little more grownup and sophisticated?  This gratin with sweet potato, chard, Gruyere, fresh herbs, and lots of garlic may be perfect for you.  You could certainly make it for a non-holiday dinner as well, though it does take quite a bit of time with pre-cooking, layering, and baking.  Luckily, I was with my dear friend Melissa (Smells Like Brownies), who helped with the prep-work.

Well Dined | Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

Start with a big sweet potato (or two smaller ones) and a whole lot of chard (seriously - a lot)

Well Dined | Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

Peel the sweet potato and slice thinly, then set aside.

Well Dined | Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

Remove the stems from the chard, chop, and place in a big pot with some onion that has been sauteing in butter.  Look at those colors!  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; and cook until soft.  

25Feb/150

Volt – Valentine’s Day Menu

I know I've been really slow in posting, but that's been because of traveling and (drumroll please) buying a house! We are in the process of moving and decorating and all of that, so posting will still be delayed for a bit.  But then I expect to be back in full swing, and with a much better photo set-up.  So until then, here is a review of the Valentine's Day menu at Brian Voltaggio's Volt in Frederick, MD.

We've been wanting to try out Volt for years, in particular their Table 21 chef's table, but just never made it.  But we finally made a commitment and braved the icy conditions and  hour drive to come for Valentine's Day dinner.  We were a little disappointed to see that they did not offer valet, especially because of the weather, but we were able to find street parking 1 block away (free after 5 on Sat).  The decor is sophisticated and clean, and the staff are very professional.

For the holiday, they had a 7-course prix fixe menu with optional wine pairing (7 2oz pours).  The pacing was perfect, as was the amount of food - just enough to allow you to explore the flavors, but not enough to grow tired of the dish. I wasn't struggling to finish at the end like with some tasting menus.  I was driving, so my husband ordered the wine pairing and I had a sip with each course to test the pairing. They were all excellently paired, though my favorites were the whites in the beginning.

Amuse Bouche - oyster with salmon tartare, "tartar sauce", dill. Paired with Sparkling Rose.

Beets, burrata, celery, lemon - very nice, bright, fresh. Paired with Gruner Veltliner (Austria).

Black bass, sunchoke, apple, fennel - very interesting, German flavors I would normally pair with pork or chicken, perfectly cooked. Paired with Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre).

Lobster, celery root, abalone mushroom - lovely, perfectly cooked. Paired with Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast).

Foie Gras, truffles, arugula, salsify - a decadent mousse, the favorite course. Paired with Pinot Noir (Ladoix) - we were concerned when we saw this on the menu, because we thought the foie would be seared, and we prefer it with Sauternes.  But the light Pinot was actually perfect with the chilled mousse.

Beef short rib, coffee, chocolate, guajillo - described as a take on mole, each of our least favorite course, but still good (just not as good as the other courses). Paired with a Granche blend (Chateaneuf du Pape) - also our least favorite wine (but again, still good).

Dried cherry, elderflower vinegar, buttermilk - pretty cool, a cherry macaron frozen with liquid nitrogen and shattered with a St Germain gelee (yum) and a sweet buttermilk. Loved this. Paired with a Rose (CA).

Almond cake, banana, caramel, yogurt - wasn't impressed by this one. The cake was moist, and sitting on creme anglaise, but there wasn't a ton of flavor and I didn't think the caramelized banana frozen yogurt (good on its own) went with it very well. Paired with a Sauternes.

We were also each given a box of 4 chocolates (2 of which were awesome, 2 of which were okay) and I was given a rose.

I was very impressed by the food, the service, and the price - very reasonable.  I also really liked the atmosphere - old townhouse turned serene and modern inside.  I would love to come back and try Table 21 (but not when the weather is that bad - nightmare).

23Dec/140

Holiday Round-up

If you are starting to panic because Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) is closing in and you don't have a dinner plan yet, fear not - I have you covered!  I have a round-up of all of my holiday recipes, from protein to sides to dessert, and even breakfast!  So please enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Well Dined | Holiday Meal

Perfect Roasted Turkey, Apple Sausage Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Cider Gravy

Well Dined | Brined and Roasted Pork

Brined and Roasted Pork

Well Dined | Slow Cooked Cider Ham

Slow Cooked Cider Ham

Well Dined | Dr Pepper Glazed Ham with Prunes

Dr Pepper Glazed Ham with Prunes

Well Dined | Garlic and Herb Crusted Rib Roast with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus

Garlic and Herb Crusted Rib Roast with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus

12Dec/140

Bourbon Bacon Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter and Sage

Well Dined | Bourbon Bacon Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter and Sage

I know this photo is not great - it gets too dark for photos at 5 now, and I'm not profesh enough to make dinner in the middle of the day or make multiples of a dish for photo purposes, sorry!  But did you read that title description?  DID YOU?  Bourbon. Bacon. Sweet Potatoes. Brown Butter. Sage.  Need I say more to convince you to try this?

I haven't actually cooked with Bourbon a whole lot before, and now I am loving it.  It lends such rich, smoky, and sweet flavors to a dish - which go perfectly with bacon, by the way.  I mean, duh!  And the nutty brown butter and crispy, buttery fried sage?  Just awesome.  And super healthy sweet potatoes make up for all that fat and booze, right? Maybe? Just a little?  Plus - since sweet potatoes are more fibrous than starchy, you can whip them into fluffy perfection without worrying about them becoming gummy like regular potatoes.

Well Dined | Bourbon Bacon Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter and Sage

This would make a perfect Thanksgiving side, and if I were a better blogger I would have told you about them BEFORE the holiday.  But they also go really well with pork or chicken, and I have a recipe coming up for each that would be perfect, so I promise to make it up to you.

Bourbon Bacon Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter and Sage
adapted from How Sweet Eats
serves 8

4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
15-20 sage leaves
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp bourbon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Add the potato chunks to a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the potatoes to a boil and cook until they are fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the chopped bacon.  Cook the bacon until it is crispy and all of the fat has been cooked out.

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel to drain.  To the same skillet, add the butter to the bacon fat and heat it over medium heat.  When it has melted and starts to foam, add the sage leaves.  Cook until crispy - 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.  By this time, the butter should have browned (it will smell nutty) - remove from heat and reserve.

Drain the potatoes thoroughly and add them back to the pot.  Mash them with a fork or potato masher, then use a whisk or electric hand mixer to whip them.  Once whipped, add in the milk, the bourbon, and the brown butter bacon fat mixture.  Whip the potatoes again until everything is combined.  Taste the potatoes and add the salt and pepper, seasoning more or less if desired.

Spread the potatoes into a dish and top them with the crispy bacon.  Crumble the sage on top.

Alternatively (if you are not serving immediately), you can bake them for 25 to 30 minutes at 325 deg F, then remove them from the oven and crumble the sage over top.  If you are doing this method, it is best to only cook the bacon 3/4 of the way and let it finish crisping in the oven.

One Year Ago - Smoked Salmon Pizzette
Two Years Ago - Quinoa Mac and Cheese
Three Years Ago - Snickerdoodle Surprise Cookies

1Dec/140

Thanksgiving 2014

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

You know, I tried to be good and blog about Thanksgiving stuff before the holiday so that it might actually be useful to somebody.  I even made a few dishes in advance, but I didn't post about them in time.  Oh well!  Prepare for a lot of Thanksgiving type posts!

Anyway, we don't have any family where we live so we normally travel for Thanksgiving.  But this year we decided to switch it up and travel for Christmas, so we were on our own for Turkey Day.  We had originally planned to stay at the Inn at Little Washington (!!!), but Jasper got sick and we had to cancel.  So then I had to figure out what to make at the last minute for 2 people - initiate panic mode.  But I got my menu together on Monday, went to the grocery store on Tuesday (which was surprisingly not that crazy), and prepped on Wednesday.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

I tried to cut it down to just the basics - turkey (breast only), stuffing (half recipe), mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce (bought), and rolls (bought).  It was still way too much food for 2 people so there are lots of leftover sandwiches in my future.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 Turkey Breast

First up, the star - turkey.  There was no way I was going to roast a whole turkey for 2 people, so I bought a whole breast on the bone.  I definitely could have gone with a half breast, but now we have lots of sandwich meat!  And guys, I don't want to brag or anything, but I am SO GOOD at turkey.  Brined, air dried, stuffed with sage butter, rubbed with avocado oil, and started at a high temp - this baby was PERFECT.  It was juicy and tender with crispy skin and super crazy flavorful.  Love it.  It's also really easy to carve - you just cut along the breast bone until the meat is released, then turn it on its side and slice.

7Jul/142

Red, White, and Blue Sparkling Wine Gelatin Mold

Well Dined | Red, White, and Blue Sparkling Wine Gelatin Mold

I hope everyone had a fun holiday - we certainly did!  We grilled and played games (these ones to be precise) and watched Jaws (the original, duh).  My special contribution (because there always has to be one) was this gorgeous gelatin mold with champagne and fresh berries.  It is light, refreshing, not too strong, and totally gorgeous.  It looks really impressive, but it's actually pretty easy to make!

Well Dined | Red, White, and Blue Sparkling Wine Gelatin Mold

The base is sparkling wine (I used Prosecco), peach schnapps, plain gelatin, and a little sugar.  I'm trying to be really accurate in my title here, so I had to change it from "Champagne Jello Mold", which was my first instinct.  Jello isn't even a real word!  It's Jell-o, a brand name that got appropriated to mean all gelatin (like Popsicle or Coke, if you live in the south).

14Mar/140

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Well Dined | Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Happy Pi/Pie Day!  I know that most people are probably celebrating with desserts, but what about a savory pie?  Or rather a savory dish with pie in the name that isn't actually a pie?  Whatever, don't judge me.  It's time for another vegetarian lunch with Melissa from Smells Like Brownies.  Be sure to check out her delicious Pi Day Coconut Cream Pie, it is sooooooo good!

Well Dined | Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

This vegetarian version shepard's pie is packed with veggies, topped with creamy goat cheese, and perfect for St Paddy's Day (which is never St Patty's by the way).  I mean, just look  at that gorgeous green topping.

Well Dined | Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

The base is made with roasted beets, eggplant, sundried tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes simmered in vegetable stock with thyme, caraway seeds, and fennel seeds.  I was a little scared that the fennel and caraway would be really strong and take over, but they added just the right amount of depth and a real Irish flavor.

26Dec/130

Christmas 2013

Well Dined | Christmas Wreath

Merry Christmas, y'all!  We went on a bit of a crazy roadtrip (which I will tell you about later, because there are restaurants involved) and didn't get back til late on the 22nd, which left us in a bit of a scramble to get ready for Christmas.  We managed to get some outdoor decorations up (check out the wreath I made!), but no tree or anything indoors.

Well Dined | Christmas Dinner

We also spent all our holiday money on travel, so no presents this year.  But we did have a nice Christmas dinner (I mean, come on - how could I not, right?).  Honey Baked Ham (going store bought on the main let me focus on sides); Spinach and Gruyere Strata; Sweet Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions; and Bacon Popovers.

Well Dined | Cranberry Raisin Tart

And a Cranberry Raisin Tart with orange zest and spices for dessert.

Well Dined | Orange Cranberry Rolls

Oh yeah, and breakfast!  Can't forget Christmas morning sweets!  I made these Cranberry Orange Rolls by Smitten Kitchen - yum!

3Dec/130

Thanksgiving 2013

Well Dined | Thanksgiving

We alternate our Thanksgivings each year between our families in Texas and Oregon.  This year was an Oregon year!  (Read here for our last visit.)  My in-laws live in beautiful Bend, OR - which is such a nice town.  Check out the gorgeous mountain view from our hotel room!  We stay at the Oxford hotel when we visit, and I definitely recommend it.

Well Dined | FamilyWe hadn't seen most of the family in 2 years, and 3 years for sister Kailey!  So it was really nice to be all together again.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving

We had quite the spread, as usual.  We were so excited to see each other that we spent all of Wednesday talking and didn't get any prep work done!  So we didn't end up eating Thanksgiving dinner until actual dinner time, which was fine by us!

Well Dined | Thanksgiving

Here's Mom carving up that beautiful turkey!  They made sure to get one that was humanely raised.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving

I'd like to give a special shout-out to this gorgeous salad made by my Chef sister-in-law.  It was in keeping with her gluten- and dairy-free lifestyle and it was AWESOME.  It had two kinds of raw kale (massaged to remove bitterness), roasted beets, fennel, toasted walnuts, and pomegranate seeds.  I need to get the recipe from her for the yummy cashew dressing.

What was your favorite dish this year?  Leave a link or recipe in the comments!

15Jul/130

Red, White, and Blue Trifle

Well Dined | Red, White, and Blue Trifle

This is a classic desert that works really well for Independence Day (Anything with berries does, really).  It's quick to put together and very pretty, so keep it in mind for next year!

All you need is sponge cake, pound cake, or lady fingers; canned custard or pudding mix; whipped cream; and fruit.  Then layer them up however you want and let it sit together in the fridge for a few hours to meld.

Well Dined | Red, White, and Blue Trifle

I used lady fingers (brushed with Cointreau), vanilla pudding, whipped cream, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.  The amounts depend on your serving dish and your preferential ratio of fruit to cream.  I used 2 packs of lady fingers, 2 boxes of pudding, 1 can of whipped cream, 1 medium container of strawberries, and 1 pint each of blue berries and raspberries.  My layers were lady fingers, pudding, strawberries, whipped cream, lady fingers, pudding, whipped cream, blueberries and raspberries.  I probably could have used more berries.