Friday, August 15, 2008

Belgian Drafts: Lindeman's Pomme Lambic

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Originally uploaded by nikoretro
Every once in a while I have a flash of culinary inspiration. I tasted this apple lambic for the first time a few weeks ago and knew instantly that my husband would enjoy this sweet-tart Belgian beer. He loves anything with a sour apple flavor and this delicious lambic is like a Jolly Rancher for adults.

With it's fresh Granny Smith tartness, I knew it would also be ace for cooking with. My first thought went to salmon since we could use to work more fish into our diet. Then (**inspired!**) I thought this could make a gorgeously tangy broth to steam mussels and clams in. A nip of curry powder for some savory spice and voila! How's that for a slice of steamed gold?

This is what I did:

1 whole fresh salmon fillet equaling 1lb+
1lb fresh, cleaned mussels
1lb fresh, cleaned little neck clams
1 apple, sliced (I used one Granny Smith and one red delicious and had slices left over, but it was wonderfully colorful)
3-4oz apple juice
3-4oz Lindeman's Pomme (apple) Lambic
approx. 1-2 tsp curry powder to taste
pinch of kosher salt
heavy tin foil or 1 large foil baking bag (these work perfectly)
crusty bread for happy broth dipping

Preheat the oven to 450. Skin the salmon if necessary (you may be able to sweet talk the guy behind the fish counter to do it for you if you think you'd muck it up), and cut the fish cross ways into 3-4 oz pieces. You should be able to get 4 to 6 portions out of one side of salmon. Sprinkle a little curry powder on the fish and set aside. Thoroughly rinse the clams and mussels and discard any shellfish with cracked shells or don't close when tapped on. The rule with shellfish: closed shell when alive; open shell when cooked. Your tummy will thank you for obeying that little tip.

Create a large bag with heavy duty foil by folding a lagre sheet in half and folding the sides over at least 3 times leaving one side open. Or just open a foil baking bag for no fuss steaming. Place the baking bag on a baking sheet with a 1/4 inch lip to catch any drips that may occur while cooking. Dust the inside of the baking bag with a little pinch of four to keep things from sticking to the top or bottom of the bag. Sprinkle a little curry powder in the bottom of the bag. Slice the apple(s) and place one slice on top of each piece of fish, then arrange the rest on the bottom of the bag. Distribute the shellfish around the bottom as flat as possible so you have room for the salmon. Fold a lip at the bottom of the open end of the bag to catch the liquid you are about to pour in and add the apple juice and lambic (I used a shot glass to measure 1oz at a time until it looked like there was enough liquid covering the bottom). Then arrange the salmon on top of the shellfish. Fold to close up the open end of the bag and pop the whole shebang into the oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Don't be afraid to peek in the bag after 15 minutes to check the progress. The shellfish may not be completely ready when the fish is. If all the shells have not opened yet, set the fish aside and pour the contents of the bag into a large covered skillet or pot. Bring sauce to a boil and cover for a moment or two. Uncover and stir the shells around to coat everything in the broth and to check that all the shells are completely open. Discard the few shells that do not open. Turn off stove and sprinkle a pinch of salt in the broth if needed and pour the shellfish into a big serving bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt over the fish and spoon a little broth over each piece. I cooked up a little rice pilaf to go on the plate with the fish but almost any starch can suffice. Scoop shellfish and sauce into bowls, grab a hunk of bread and dig in. Oh, and don't forget to pour yourself a glass of the Pomme Lambic to wash it all down with.

My husband gave me a little nose wrinkle when I told him I was making mussels. He doesn't like them much unless they're in certain sauces, and he couldn't quite wrap his head around how mussels would taste in an apple curry broth. However, he didn't seem to have much trouble wrapping his mouth around it once the food hit the plate.

I have a feeling I will write a little series on the many fruits of Lindeman's lambics. Now that I have tried the pomme, I'm anxious to try the rest, which include: Framboise (raspberry), Kriek (cherry), Pêche (peach), and Cassis (black currant).

But I have gone on far too long to talk more about lambic right now. If you discover a lambic in your local liquor outlet, try it out. If you like a fizzy, fruity alcoholic beverage that's not quite beer and not quite wine, lambics could become a new obsession.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bubbly Bits: Cristalino Cava

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Originally uploaded by nikoretro
I love bubby! French to American, brut to demi-sec, I love it all. Not that every bottle of bubbly out there is wonderful, but there are oh so many that are. Unfortunately, I don't have the budget that affords Champagne every night of the week so I'm always on the hunt for great sparklers under $10. This is one of them.

Cristalino is a Spanish Cava by Jaume Serra. Cava's can be pink or white and come from the Penedès region of Catalonia (Spain). The rocky Penedès lie about 40 km south of Barcelona where only certain grape varieties are grown to make Cava. The Denominación de Origen laws require Cava's to be made from a blend of the following grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Trepat, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Subirat.

Cristalino Brut Rosé is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepat, made traditionally with the secondary fermentation in the bottle. The classic Cristalino Brut is made from 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel-lo. Both are crisp, clean, fruity and delicious; perfect for your wedding toast or for serving lots of guests on a little budget. They are true crowd pleaser's. And though lovely on their own, you don't feel bad about using the Brut for Mimosas or Champagne cocktails.

So the next time you need a little sparkle in your life, give this beauty a try. It's perfect for those everyday special occasions.

Cristalino Cava Brut: The fine foam supports aromas of fresh bread crust and apple skin which give way to crisp McIntosh apple and light toasty flavors on the palate. Crisp acidity and subtle minerality make this a refreshing summer sparkler.

Cristalino Brut Rosé: Juicy watermelon and fresh berry flavors burst through the bubbles on your palate. The deep pink color suggests it spent some time with the skins which adds a little tannin that allows this sparkler to stand up to many foods. Try it with salmon dishes or Old Bay laced Maryland crab cakes.