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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Biella's Cider Dinner Cruise

On Thursday October 6th, I set sail toward good eats and of course delicious cider. Every once in a while in the lovely summer months in Minnesota, Biella of Excelsior hosts a dinner cruise on Lake Minnetonka. I was lucky enough to get on board when they paired with Crispin Cider for a five course feast with some great people and plenty to drink. 

First Course: Butternut Squash Bisque paired with Crispin Honey Crisp Cider
I happen to love butternut squash soup and have tried many different styles, it's safe to say I'm a bit of a critic when it comes to my favorites.  This soup was very good, they toned down the sweetness of the squash and played up some of the more savory flavors, it was quite a successful balancing act.  Having the soup paired with the Honey Crisp was spot on, the cider itself is not overly sweet and assisted in bringing out the natural sugars in the squash with its smooth honey finish. 
 
Second Course: Beet & Goat Cheese Bulls Blood Salad paired with Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear Cider
A very lovely and simple salad brought a bit of light refreshment after a richer first course. Paired with the Blackberry Pear Cider; the tartness of the blackberry, accompanied by the sweetness of the pear, worked well at celebrating the beets natural bitterness. 
Third Course: Fume Poached Mongchong, "Lemon Snapper," with Fox Barrel Pacific Pear Buerre Blanc. Paired with Fox Barrel Pacific Pear Cider 
How Biella's chefs managed to hot hold fish and have it turn out is beyond me, but they did it quite successfully. The Mongchong is a bit of a denser fish, paired with this slightly sweet and creamy sauce, it was delish. Having the nice, light, and beautifully aromatic Pear Cider to drink with the dish really set it off. 
Fourth Course: Blood Orange Sorbet, Palate Cleanser
The perfect breaking point in the meal to refresh and get ready for the next course, lamb! I think I even took a couple sips of my water with this course :)
Fifth Course: Lamb Ribeye, Potato Puree with a Cranberry Molasses Demi Glaze, paired with Crispin Lansdowne Cider
This was a great dish, fantastic flavor from the demi glaze and so so so well paired with the Lansdowne. This is a big cider, one of the only that I feel is best drank with food. The Lansdowne is made with an Irish stout ale yeast, the resulting flavor is big and meaty. It was to my great delight that this cider would be poured for me alongside a hearty plate of rich and flavorful lamb. Yum!
Dessert: Pumpkin Charlotte, paired with Crispin The Saint Cider 
Nothing better than a bit of sweet to end a meal, and my favorite Artisanal Cider too! I loved the crispy little cookie on top with the soft custard of the Charlotte.  
Hi honey!
Overall, we had a great time! Dinner was very satisfying and our hosts Biella and Crispin Cider were wonderful.  I can't wait until Crispin Cider hosts another Cider Dinner, I'll have to keep myself posted by checking their Facebook page and events page on their website.  

Check back for my upcoming Halloween post, we'll be making spooky jello shots! Then after the first week of November, I'll give you a preview and recipe breakdown of my Thanksgiving plans!

Thanks friends! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Dinner Celebration

In celebration of my birthday and my very first blog, I threw a dinner party at my house and invited my closest friends. We had a fantastic time cooking, drinking, and laughing. See evidence below:

More importantly we made some delicious drinks and even more scrumptious food. On the menu for the night was:
-Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear Cider Sangria
-Crispin Brut Cider Vinaigrette to pair with an Apple & Blue Cheese Salad
-Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Ravioli with a Crispin Original Sage Cream Sauce

Can I just. I started drooling just thinking about it again! Anyway, on to the stuff you really want, the recipes! 

Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear Cider Sangria (serves 6-8)
You will need:
- One 750 ml bottle of Red Wine (I chose a Shiraz, anything with red berry notes should go well)
-1 cup of Orange Juice 
-2 Tablespoons of any Berry/Spice Tea
-One Plum, one Pear, and one Orange  
-A pitcher large enough to hold 32 ounces  

Get started! Get your tea brewing as you prepare the other parts of the sangria. Take the 2 Tbs. of tea and steep in 2/3 cup of almost boiling water for 4-5 minutes. 

In the meantime, pour the wine, cider, and orange juice into the pitcher. When the tea is done steeping, strain the tea water into the pitcher using a fine mesh sieve. Time to cut the fruit, you can choose to do whatever you'd like with your fruit, this is how I cut mine ----->
Success! Your Sangria is ready to drink, just serve in a wine glass slightly less than half full with ice. You can absolutely make this ahead of time, no more than a couple hours though or you'll lose the effervescence from the pear cider. Plus, allowing it to rest for awhile will help the mix soak up all the flavor from the fruit and vice versa, yum!

Crispin Original Vinaigrette (makes about one cup dressing)
 You Will Need: 
-1/2 cup Crispin Brut Cider, reduced to 1/4 cup
-1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1/4 cup Champagne Vinegar
-Juice from half a lemon
-One large clove garlic, minced
-One tsp. Dijon Mustard 
-One tbsp. Honey (not pictured) 
-Salt and pepper to taste 




So while you're getting everything else going you want to cook down your cider. Place the 1/2 c. Crispin Brut into a small saucepan over low heat and let reduce (this should take about 15-20 min). 

In a small bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, combine the EVOO, champagne vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon, honey, s & p, and garlic. When your cider is reduced and slightly cooled, add it to the mixture. 

Grab a whisk and go to town, getting it really well blended is half the battle. If you have the equipment
you can also run it through the blender for 30 seconds or use an immersion blender to combine.

I made this dressing to go with this super easy and very tasty salad:
You Will Need:
-Spring Mixed Greens
-Crumbled Blue Cheese
-Half of a sweet Apple, thinly sliced 
-1/4 Red Onion, thinly sliced
-1/2 cup Candied Pecans, chopped
Just combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, layering greens and toppings to make sure there is some in every bite. Serve with Crispin Brut Vinaigrette and eat up!  

Crispin Original Sage Cream Sauce & Butternut Squash Ravioli (serves about 6) 
You Will Need:
-One package of Wonton Wrappers
-One Egg
-One 2-2 1/2 lb. Butternut Squash
-One Sweet White Onion, thinly sliced
-2 Tbs. Butter
-1 Tbs. Brown Sugar
-1/2 Tsp. ground Nutmeg
-5 Tbs. Olive Oil
-3 large cloves of Garlic, minced
-One pint Heavy Cream 
- 1/4 cup fresh Sage, coarsely chopped 
                                                                                    -1/3 cup Parmesean Cheese,finely grated
-1/2 cup Crispin Original Cider reduced to 1/4 cup -Salt and Pepper

Time to get cookin'! Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Halve your squash and scrape out the seeds and stringy flesh from the center. Halve each piece once more and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, loosely cover with aluminum foil, and place on the center rack in your oven.  


Cooking time is always going to based on the size of the squash, you'll be able to tell when it's done when a fork can easily pierce the flesh of the squash all the way through. Should take about 45-60 minutes. 
After you've got the squash in the oven, get started on caramelizing the onions. Chop both ends off your onion and remove the skin. Halve the onion and turn over on its flat side, cut into thin slices. It's not so important exactly what size the slices are, just that they are all uniform in size so they cook evenly. 
Once you have to onions ready to go, heat a large sized-heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat with the 2 Tbs. butter until melted. Add the onions to the pan along with the sugar and cook until reduced in size by half and the onions begin to turn brown. Set aside.


love.

Onions: check. Squash: check. Now it's time to put them together. Haul out your food processor and ready your olive oil, clove of minced garlic, and nutmeg.  

Begin by scrapping the squash from its skin and placing it in the processor (discard skin), pulse a few times to break it down a bit. Add the onions, garlic, and nutmeg.

Slowly add the olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, while pulsing for 30 second intervals. Only add as much oil as you need, you're looking for a texture that's similar to the consistency of hummus. Once you've reached the desired consistency season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. 
yeah buddy.
Assembly! Whip out a couple baking sheets/just flat surfaces and cover with parchment paper. Line surface with a single layer of wonton wrappers (not touching). Take the squash mixture by rounded tablespoon and place in the middle of each wrapper. Take the egg and beat lightly in a small dish. Using a pastry brush, apply a thin layer of egg all around the outsides of the wrappers (as pictured above). Quickly place another single wrapper on top of the one you just brushed and press gently but firmly all around the edges until you've created a tight seal. This step is important because your don't want your filling to ooze out or fill with water when cooking. 

When all of your raviolis are assembled, take a slightly damp towel and lay gently over the length of the surface so that all the raviolis are covered. Place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set up before cooking.  Be careful about having them in the fridge too long though because it's very easy for them to dry out (thus the damp towel). 
While the raviolis are in the fridge, let's start the sauce and the water for the pasta. Grab a large pot and fill with 2 quarts water, turn on high heat to bring water to a boil. 




Super. Sauce time. In a small pan heat the Crispin Original Cider over low heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. While that's cooking, in a large skillet heat 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat, add 2 cloves minced garlic and chopped fresh sage.
 

 Cook until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the heavy cream, parmesean cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Turn the heat to medium low and allow to cook for about ten minutes. When the cider has reduced, add to the cream mixture and continue to cook for about ten more minutes or until the sauce is obviously thicker. 


Once you have added the cider, start cooking your pasta (water should be ready by now). Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the pot to help it not stick. Ready a bowl with a light coating of oil as well for that same reason. 

Drop raviolis in and let them cook about 3-4 minutes, you can tell when they're done because they will float to the top of the pot and stay there. Gently lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon or spider skimmer, allow them to drip off for a second then transfer them to the oil-coated bowl. Give them a slight toss to move the oil around. You may have to work in a couple batches to make sure the raviolis aren't sticking. Once all your pasta is done transfer it to a serving dish and pour that delicious sauce on top. Voila! Ravioli  

For the final touches I added a bit of fresh sage, shaved parmesean and a pinch of ground nutmeg 
to the top of the dish. It looked simple but delicious! And it was! Just remember to serve up quick   before all your friends get to it, it won't last long after they've tried a couple bites. 
Overall it was a great party and one successful dinner. I have to thank all my lovely guests for their patience as I tried to cook quickly while taking pictures/notes/making drinks/chatting, but alas, I made you wait quite awhile. Sigh. At least it was worth it right? I mean, right?