lobster rolls and slow-fried french fries with old bay aioli

What a difference a year makes.  365 days ago (although it feels a little like a lifetime ago), I was told I had cancer.  Tears welled up in my eyes as my doctor explained it was likely lymphoma (it wasn’t) and for the most part, I held it together as I left the doctor’s office.  I made it as far as the parking garage before I began to unravel.  Thread by thread, I fell apart as I sat in my car, cried, and desperately tried to reach my husband on every phone number I knew for him.

I drove home, tears blinding my vision, and once there, I hugged my pup, called my family one by one, and waited for Ben who was racing to get home to me.  My mind was spinning with questions – will I die?  Will I ever be able to have children?  What will treatment be like?  Is this going to hurt?  How did this happen?  This can’t be right, can it?  I will never forget that day.

A cancer diagnosis is comparable to being on a speeding train.  Once you step on, you hold on for dear life and watch as appointments, strange faces, and vial after vial of blood pass you by.  Your vision is blurred from the speed with which you progress and your mind spins with the abundance of information and medical terminology being forced into your brain.

But each day you wake up, you find the strength for another day and you meet the newest challenge.  Beginning to lose your hair and taking control of the situation by buzzing it into a mohawk for the hell of it and then, down to nothing but your scalp.  Buying smaller belts and eventually, smaller clothes as your body whittles away (not complaining too much about that one) due to your complete inability to eat.  Summoning the strength to take a shower and then curling up in bed, still wet, exhausted and in pain.  Shivering to the point of convulsions through one of the mildest winters ever as you fight the cold sensitivity.  Crying (and throwing up) at the drop of a hat.  It is a battle and anyone who tells you different doesn’t know.  But I do, and I have the warrior scars to prove it.

But time heals all.  One year has passed.  Thanks to the glorious power of Mederma, the scars have lessened.  The hair is growing.   Color has returned to my skin.  My energy grows with each passing day.  And I can eat again.  I can look back and be grateful for the love I have in my life and for the very simple fact that I still have a life to live.  I plan to do so.  My gusto and zeal has only been fanned by the fire of the lessons learned this past year.

Life is short, friends, I can tell you that much!  The small stuff is certainly not worth stressing over – believe me, there are much bigger issues to deal with.  Instead, I’m focusing my attention and energy on the things that matter most, the things that make me happy.  And it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone here, but I like to cook.  I like to drink wine with my husband.  I like to entertain friends and laugh.  I like to gather around a table blessed full of food and be grateful for the family sitting around it looking back at me.  I’ll be doing much more celebrating in the days ahead.  A random Tuesday?  Why sure, that calls for a bottle of bubbly and our best glasses.  Take the china out of the cabinet and use it, even if it is only to eat take out fried chicken to go with that bubbly.  There’s never a better chance than right now.

 

lobster rolls with slow-fried french fries and old bay aioli

recipe:  jb’s pour house, bon appetit

 

Lobster Rolls:

1 carrot, diced

2 stalks celery

1 shallot, thinly sliced

4-5 sprigs of dill

2 lemons

1 c. white wine

4 c. water

4 – 4 oz. lobster tails

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 c. mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Hot dog buns

 

Combine carrot, 1 celery stalk (diced), shallot, and 1 sprig of dill in a large saucepan.  Cut 1 lemon in half, squeeze juice into saucepan and add juiced halves to the pot.  Add whine, water and Old Bay.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add lobster tails and return to a boil.  Boil lobsters for 1 minute per ounce.  Remove from heat and let sit for about 3 minutes.  Strain and let cool.

Once lobster has cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the shells.  Discard remaining solids.  Dice lobster into bite sized pieces.  Combine lobster, mayonnaise, and the juice of half a lemon.  Finely dice remaining celery stalk and add to the mixture.  Mince dill and add about 2 tsp. fresh dill to the mixture.  Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a microwave safe dish.  Brush the inside of hot dog buns with melted butter and broil until toasted to desired color.  Spoon about 1/3 c. lobster salad per roll.  Serve.

 

Slow-Fried French Fries

2 lb. russet potatoes

Canola oil

Salt

 

Peel  potatoes and cut into long french fry sticks.  I’d recommend using thicker cuts than what I show in the photo – about 3/8″ by 3/8″.  Rinse and shake of excess water.  Place in a large, deep stockpot and cover with oil (you will likely use all of a large bottle of oil plus some).

Place the pot over medium heat and cook for 45 minutes, occasionally scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula.  Be careful not to do this too often, or you will break your potatoes into many small pieces as I did.  Increase heat to medium high and cook until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to paper towel lined plate to drain.  Season to taste.

 

Old Bay Aioli

1 egg yolk

1/4 – 1/2 c. canola or olive oil

1/2 c. canola oil

1/2 – 1 lemon

2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

 

Use a food processor or blender for  the best results.  Combine egg yolk and the juice of 1/2 lemon.  With the motor running, slowly stream in canola oil (you can use olive oil for a stronger taste).  The mixture will begin to thicken.  Stop motor, scrape down sides and add Old Bay seasoning.  Depending on thickness, continue to stream in oil until desired consistency is reached.  Taste and depending on preferences, add more lemon juice, oil, or seasoning.  Serve with fries.

 

Carpe diem!

– j

 

All contents and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

refreshment

The Wine:   Domaine Tempier – Bandol Rosé 2007

The Grapes:  Primarily Mouvedre, with Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan

The Region:   Bandol, Provence:  Southern France

Pairs Well With:  Most fish, shellfish, salads, aioli

Stay Away From:  Extremely tart flavors (citrus, etc), robust red meat, raw oysters

You Will Like It If:  You want to try a complex, age-worthy rosé, and you’re willing to pay for it

Stay Away If:  You’re a rosé fan looking for a delicious everyday sipper

Cellar Potential:  Best now – 2015+

I was seated next to three middle-aged women, and I knew these had to be the cruelest people alive.

It had been raining for a solid month in the Midwest, and our small city seemed closer akin to Venice than any of its landlocked brethren.  A walk/paddle out to my local bike trails found the paved surfaces underwater, and the dirt trails were a sloppy muddy disaster.  The scene was disheartening, as my last serious ride (a month ago before the rain) had resulted in one of my signature spectacular crashes.  All wounds mended, I was eager to get back in the saddle, as it were, to try and shake the memory of gravity’s attempt on my life.  Having been off the bike for several weeks, the experience had grown in my mind into something sinister, and I was haunted by nightmares of savage bicycles hunting me in the darkness.  But without an outdoor option, I was forced inside to exercise my demons.

The Devil named it Spin-Class, a one-hour session at our local fitness center, where acts of unspeakable torture occur on an almost daily basis.  Oh these classes look innocent to the bystander.  Happy throngs of smiling faces pedal in unison with guidance from an instructor at the head of the group.  The music is loud and the atmosphere looks fun.  What could be so terrible? 

But that vision is a deception.  The instructors are evil and the students, I can only assume, are dedicated masochists.  I ventured into this particular class, thinking it would be a good way to do some pedaling in until the waters receded.  Having done a few fitness classes before, I figured I would be ready for anything.   I would soon see I was in way over my head.

The crowd was light, only these few smiling middle-aged ladies meandered through the door as class-time approached.  Conversation was happy and light, focusing on such domestic issues as new babies, new cars, new houses.    The instructor, a deceptively petite lady of maybe 35, was similarly conversational.

But as class started, I quickly realized that these creatures, both instructor and students, were a cruel bunch.  After about 30 seconds of pedaling, I was breathing hard and working up a good sweat.  After five minutes, I was somewhere between exhaustion and death.  Using what little energy that remained to me, I forced a leftward glance, hoping to commiserate with my fellow victims.   I was greeted by smiling faces, bouncing slightly as their pedals moved at speeds far beyond what I thought their bikes could take.  Obviously alone in my fate, my glance returned grimly to the floor.

And the instructor, my last hope for salvation, was merciless.  If at five minutes my energy was gone, at about seven minutes she broke what was left of my spirit.  As my mind pondered at what point I would pass out and/or throw up (it was previously inconceivable such things could happen in unison), I heard her mutter something about finishing a “good warm up,” and now it was time to sprint.  Her pedals started flying (somehow) even faster, and I realized dizzily she was just getting started.

The sprint, which left me barely conscious, folded into a series of superhuman exercises I felt lucky to survive.  Somewhere near the middle of the session, I was sure I could endure no more.  Every sinew of my lower body was screaming in agony.  My bones seamed strained and my muscles refused my brain’s commands.  Passers-by seemed concerned by the strange, twitchy creature flailing about like a lunatic in a fruitless attempt to keep up.  

But every time I reached some new plateau of anguish, the instructor, in a scarily chipper voice, would chirp out some new insanity we were expected to commence.  Through all this, the crazies next to me (I refuse to call them students as they were obviously not of this world) would call out more aggressive exercises they wanted to try.

When by some grace of God the class was over, I peeled myself from my seat and stumbled off in search of water.   My fellow students were unfazed, and conversations about patio furniture and basement remodels picked up where they left off.  I watched in horror as the instructor hopped off her bike and summoned the rest of the students to something called a “body sculpting” exercise session upstairs. 

Having no interest in further torture, I watched the class trot away and staggered toward my car (ignoring concerned glances from several weight lifters).  Eventually I headed home in search of repose.

Now this is a wine blog, and I think it’s important to note that most of the time I try to bring life experiences to bear on what I find so fascinating about wine.  People are maybe left thinking I take wine too seriously if everything in life reminds me of wine.  For me, it’s really the other way around – wine tends to offer a bit of a microcosm of what I find so fascinating about life.  Ironically, though, my Spin-Class experience offers no such metaphor.  Instead, I find it ironic that J and I tried the 2007 Tempier Rosé on the same day I cheated death in Spin-Class, which left me desperately in need of refreshment.

Wine isn’t typically something one drinks to recuperate from strenuous physical exercise, and it is the last beverage I would want following athletic events.  But when I found J had put the Tempier in the fridge, I was unable to turn it down.

There are a couple of reasons I was drawn to the Tempier.  First, dry rosé itself (into which category this Tempier falls) is the most underappreciated wine category.  Underutilized might be a better word for it, as I know many a dedicated oenophile who claims to be one of the few enlightened souls who enjoys rosé.  But I have seen several wine vendors beat their chests over the selection of top quality rosé, only to find sale tags on most of those wines a few months later.  Even those who claim to appreciate these wines don’t seem to buy very many.

And that’s a shame, because if the wine world has a true refresher, it is dry rosé.  Made all over the world in colors ranging from deep pink to light salmon, in flavors that touch on fruit, herbs, resin and spice, it’s a versatile style that never lacks for tasty refreshing appeal.  And it’s cheap.  One can generally find great rosé ranging from $10-$20 or less.

Among rosés, Domaine Tempier is world renowned.  While most rosé is typically described as simple and refreshing, Tempier’s stands alone as a wine of character and complexity.  The wine relies primarily on Mouvedre and a smattering of other red grapes, whose skins are allowed to soak in with the fermenting grape must for a short period after crush, endowing the wine with a pale salmon hue.  Those grapes were hand harvested from vines averaging about 20 years old, in clay/limestone southern French vineyards methodically pruned to preserve concentration.

The result, as in the case of the 2007 Tempier, is a rosé of uncommon depth and character.  It is almost savage in its savory flavors.  While on the pale side for rosé (a Bandol hallmark), it’s a wine of balanced concentration.  On the nose, notes of cherry and strawberry are paired against spice, hay, and herbs.  A pleasant acidity asserts itself on the midpalate, where flavors dance around black tea and berries.  On the exceptionally long finish, the flavors turn more complex, with the herb and black tea nuances cut by the sharp acids. 

Through all this, the wine is certainly not over the top.  At its heart, this is still a rosé, and those looking for extreme density should probably just stick to reds.  But as rosés go, this does bring more intensity than most.

Tempier rosé is dense and balanced enough that it is thought to age exceptionally well.  While rosé is said to be best in its infancy, I have heard rumors of recent tastings featuring Bandol rosé from the 1980s still showing great.  Truth be told, I have my doubts they could hold out that long, but I have to admit I found the 2007 (which might typically be over the hill for rosé) to be a bit young and unyielding.  The flavors were complex, but they felt a bit closed off, as if there would be more to offer in 2-3 years.

One main drawback is its price.  Tempier’s renown has not done any favors for the consumer’s bottom line, and I regularly see Tempier’s rosé commanding $40 or more a bottle.  And that’s if you can find it.  Southern France isn’t exactly a premier wine region in the US Market (I was in a large, reputable shop in Kansas City that had never heard of Bandol – I cried a little bit), and those retailers that do carry Tempier see it snatched up quickly. 

One final note on Tempier, the winery produces red and white wines in addition to its rosé, and some of the single-vineyard reds are among the best wines in the world.   The estate is operated by the famous Peyraud family, whose ancestry is connected to the Tempiers, which pioneered Bandol as a formal winegrowing region.  Lulu Peyraud (formerly Lulu Tempier) is a famous chef and hostess, known to present guests with plenty of dry rosé as they arrive.  If I could have one meal, it might be a simple aioli with Lulu Peyraud.

– b

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to RedditAdd to StumbleUponAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Twitter

fried green beans with meyer lemon aioli

I hated vegetables as a kid.  In fact, it was only recently, now that I’m nearly 30 years old, that I finally admitted to my parents what my secret strategies had been.  I’d chew and chew until whatever offending vile veggie had been pulverized to the point that I could discreetly place the cud inside my cheek and excuse myself to the bathroom to flush the fowl pulp to the sewers.  A dinner roll or baked potato also were excellent hiding places – eat out the center, place as many vegetables as possible into the cavity, pinch closed, sigh loudly, and declare “I’m full.”  Unluckily for my sisters and me, the family dog wasn’t too keen on the veggies either – she was much more interested in our steak – so she failed as yet another method of dodging out on my daily dose of vitamins.

Time changes many things – but a delicate batter fried golden brown and a rich homemade mayonnaise spiked with the herbal-honeyed juice of a meyer lemon don’t hurt, either.  I admit, I’m late to jump on the fried green bean bandwagon.  It never really tripped my trigger.  But then, I stumbled across this recipe, saw the meyer lemon, and figured it was about time I try this on for size.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for aioli.

With this admission comes a huge mea culpa to my grandma.  For years she sang the praises of french fries with mayonnaise, to which I wrinkled up my nose (yes, I’m getting real wrinkles there now) and declared it disgusting.  Grandma, I’m sorry.  You were so, so right.  However, I must insist that it be real mayonnaise, not the store-bought brand.  A food processor, an egg, vinegar and some oil and ooh baby, we’re in business.  And when you throw meyer lemon zest and juice into the mix, those veggies aren’t looking so bad after all!

fried green beans with meyer lemon aioli

recipe:  adapted from Loretta Keller of San Francisco’s Coco500

1 large egg yolk (Can use pasterized if you are sensitive about eating raw eggs.  I’m not.  Bring it, Rocky!)

1 Tbsp. champagne or white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

1 c. canola oil (maximum – you may not need this full amount)

2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced

Salt, to taste

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 c. cold club soda

1 c. rice flour

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 lb. green beans, trimmed

Canola oil

 

In a small food processor, combine egg yolk, champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, and garlic clove.  Pulse until combined and garlic is finely chopped.  With the food processor running, slowly stream in canola oil.  Continue to pour very slowly until mixture has thickened and tripled to quadrupled in volume.  Add Meyer lemon zest and juice.  Process until fully combined.  Season to taste with salt.  Add cayenne and set aside.  If making ahead, refrigerate and let come to room temperature for about 20 minutes prior to serving.

Fill a large stockpot or wok halfway with oil.  Place on medium high heat until temperature reaches 350 degrees.  Combine club soda and rice flour in a medium mixing bowl.  Once flour is fully incorporated, add balsamic vinegar and mix well.  Add green beans, about one handful at a time, and toss with hands or tongs until beans are fully coated.  Using tongs, place about 8-10 green beans in hot oil.  Fry about 4 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet and season to taste.  Repeat with remaining green beans.

Serve immediately with Meyer lemon aioli.

Sometimes, you want a little extra crunch.  While I preferred the recipe in its original form above, b preferred the extra crispy version.  To do this, after dipping the beans in the rice flour/club soda batter, dredge in panko and repeat as directed above.  Crunch away!

 

Hope this has taught your kids a few new tricks on how to hide their veggies and has provided you with a new way to enjoy them!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to RedditAdd to StumbleUponAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Twitter