Breaking bread together has long been considered the best way to get to know another person. Sitting down at the table and partaking in even a simple meal allows us to transition from strangers to friends and even family. As we sit at the table, we eat and we share stories and experiences.
We exchange ideas and opinions. We listen and we learn about each other. By the end of the meal we are united.
This weekend my table got much, much larger when two families became one. The “We Do” weekend brought my three, plus one significant other, together with three of his five, three spouses and three grandchildren. A table for four has become a table for 17 with two simple words — “I do.”
Over the past four years we have woven our families together while preparing and sharing meals. There is always a task for every pair of hands and young and old work together to put food on the table. Classic barbecues in the summer and warm, cozy meals in the winter have created relationships and wonderful memories.
This weekend, the “We Do” weekend, we chose fondue as the celebratory meal. Warm cheese fondue with chunks of baguette, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and tart apple slices. Lean steak and jumbo shrimp fondue cooked in hot peanut oil, served with several different savory sauces. Finally, a large green salad to balance out the richness of the meal.
There is plenty of work to be done to prepare for a fondue feast — baguettes need cutting, vegetables need steaming and blocks of cheese needs grating. The youngest members of our new clan are in charge of grating the cheese — three grandchildren with three cheese graters work side by side at the kitchen counter. Adults cut up raw steak and baguettes, and the in-betweens peel shrimp and slice apples. The cheese fondue is made on the stove, the mountain of grated cheese is slowly added a handful at a time to warm wine until the cheese has melted into a warm gooey concoction.
It is important to keep the heat low and stir constantly so the cheese does not stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. Once the cheese is completely melted it is poured into a prepared ceramic fondue pot and set on the table with all the ingredients for dipping. Sharp metal fondue forks are distributed and the feasting begins. At first some jostling and good natured teasing goes on as the members of this new family jockey for position around the table.
Then there is a companionable silence as everyone fills their plates and mouths with what we have created together. Once the initial rush is over, the stories begin and the laughter follows. Food is passed around the table and there are seconds and thirds, and the laughter goes on into the night. A table for four has turned into a family of 17. Our fabric has been woven together and will get tighter and stronger with every meal we share.
So, head up to the attic or down to the basement and locate the fondue pot you got as a wedding present way back when. Dust it off and call your family together for a fun and festive bonding experience over a pot of melted cheese.
½ pound imported Swiss cheese, shredded
½ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch
In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic then discard.
Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, and nutmeg.
Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French bread. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy.
Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarm firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thefarmhousekitchen.com.
I have been active in the culinary industry since the early ’70s. Most of my career has been devoted to operating The Clipper Inn in Clayton, a community on the St. Lawrence with a proud river heritage. The restaurant has always been a seasonal business, which leaves time for other interests in the off season.
In some of my earlier years, an attraction to warm winters in south Florida drove me to Key West, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. Each trip involved working in restaurants to learn from successful restaurant operators. Interspersed with trips to south Florida were shorter trips to Europe to experience the culinary scene in other parts of the world and to see the sights, so to speak. [Read more…]
Chicken orecchiette is one of those dishes we love to serve for every reason. It’s a signature entrée that provides guests with a full dining experience each time they order it.
For us, opening a new restaurant in the north country has been a process of both trial and error and slow and steady growth. This dish has illustrated that on many levels. It also has shown the success of what we have worked hard to create in the heart of Massena.
As many permanent menu items begin, it started as a featured special. When Chef Michael Austin first prepared it for us, we knew it was a winner from the very first bite. It had such a unique depth of flavor and captured everything people love about a great pasta dish. The chicken was beautifully marinated and grilled to perfection, and the sauce was perfect — not too heavy and not too light. It is ideal for those times when you’d love the richness of an Alfredo sauce, but don’t want its heavy feel.
The chiffonade of fresh spinach atop the chicken is the fun part of this dish that stands out. It may seem like something insignificant when up against stronger ingredients such as sundried tomatoes and roasted red peppers, but it really does complete the dish.
Fresh spinach has such a unique flavor and texture. The bite and flavor give just a subtle hint of something different. The sundried tomato butter lends a balanced richness that satisfies without overpowering. It’s not a heavy sauce, but the richness and depth of flavors will impress with that in mind. The roasted red peppers and shallots come into play, too, lending a delicious sweetness.
Chicken orecchiette is surely one of our family favorites. We hope it becomes a favorite for your family, too.
[For the recipe and instructions for Vino Vidi Vici’s famous chicken orecchiette, please subscribe or purchase a copy of NNY Living at your local Big M Supermarket, at the Watertown Daily Times, Carthage Tribune or Lowville Journal offices and the Samaritan Medical Center Gift Shop.]
-Crista and Tarek Makdouli own and operate Vino Vidi Vici in Massena, serving upscale casual Italian fare. Visit them at 160 Harte Haven Plaza or online at www.VinoVV.com. Call 769-5050 for delivery or reservations.
Red wine braised short ribs have become indispensable in my collection of hearty winter fare. It amazes me how popular they have become in the culinary world, taking a once undesirable cut of meat and transforming it into a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy.
There are several techniques to go about cooking them, which I have learned in my 13 years as a culinary professional. They all use a basic slow-cooking practice and my favorite is the sous-vide method.
A French term for “under vacuum,” it cooks food in airtight sealed bags in a water bath at a controlled temperature. You control the temperature using a thermal immersion circulator, which has become readily available and known to the public in recent years thanks to numerous cooking networks and reality television shows that glorify chefs. [Read more…]
By Rebekah Alford
Executive chef and partner, Rainbow Shores, Pulaski
The classic opera cake is a work in six acts. Three thin layers of almond cake, each soaked in potent coffee syrup, a layer of espresso-flavored butter cream, a layer of ganache and a topping of chocolate glaze. Traditionally, white lettering “opera” decorates the top with gold leaf ornaments. The French patisserie house Dalloyau popularized this elaborate French dessert. [Read more…]
By Matthew Hudson
Executive chef, Hilton Garden Inn, Watertown
There is such an array of flavors that can complement a scallop. It seems every time I visit my local market, it inspires me to create something new. Walking down the aisles slowly and looking up and down at the different ingredients that one could use to infuse the flavor of the scallops.
Once-scoffed-at peasant dish now has ‘very elegant reputation’
By Geoff Puccia
Club chef for the Italian American Civic Association
Everyone has a top-five list comprised of the best meals that they have ever eaten. This list changes over the course of one’s life, but like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron sitting comfortably in the top five of all-time home run leaders, there will always be one or two dishes that will endure the test of time on your list.
I have had osso bucco on many occasions both locally and during my travels, each having its own unique twist to the classic preparation, but it wasn’t until I encountered this dish in its native region that it had an enduring effect on me.
Jump lump cakes with shaved fennel slaw an all-occasion treat
By Brian and Jenny Walker
Chef / proprietors 1844 House, Potsdam
Everyone can appreciate a great crab cake. I am sure we have all had our fair share of good, bad and the ugly when it comes to sampling the many different versions that are available. From region to region the differences are vast. This dish dates back to America’s colonial days and is thought to have been introduced by English settlers.
To create a wonderful crab cake, you must start with the freshest and best quality ingredients. It is absolutely vital to get the main ingredient right. The quality of the crab meat will either make or break this dish. So, know your grades. Commercial crabmeat is generally separated into four grades. Jumbo lump, back fin or lump, special and claw. Jumbo lump crab meat is what you are looking for in this dish and can be found in most higher end supermarkets. [Read more…]
Panettone a treat for the holidays that will stir the senses, delight the taste buds
Executive chef and owner, Cavallario’s Cucina
We all share the familiarity of different types of sweet yeast-leavened breads. Some are filled with dried fruits, such as the hot cross bun, served during the Easter season, and we are all too well aware of the sweet indulgence of yeast bread that is filled with the aromatic spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, topped with a delightful sugar glaze, better known as the classic cinnamon bun.
For the people of Italy, the Christmas bread known as the Panettone is a familiarity they share. This bread, which is also referred to as a cake, contains candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raisins and has a fluffy texture.