Monday, April 22, 2013

A Dinner Menu to Pair with Manhattans ?

I love food, cooking,wine and spirits (preferably brown); but as an empty-nester and someone who has to constantly battle with weight, I tend to eat pretty much the same things over and over. It's a real bummer, but boredom does result in fewer calories. I get to indulge in both cooking and eating when  I prepare a dinner to pair with a wine region or varietal that we are studying; or when there is a special occasion.

Today is one of those special occasions: my baby boy is coming over for dinner to celebrate his 40th birthday. So, since we are both bourbon lovers, I decided to make the Manhattan the flavor theme for the dinner.

Manhattans were on my mind, since on April 7, my  company Taste and Compare Academy of Wine,Spirits and Food, presented a workshop on the Manhattan. Spirits expert Hoke Harden and master bartender Nathan Gerdes did a fantastic job showing how to combine different whiskeys and different vermouths to create variations on this classic cocktail.

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Contrary to popular belief, spirits can be paired throughout the meal, and the menu I have chosen is Manhattan friendly throughout.  Here is the menu, Manhattan included :

Classic Manhattan with Old Forester "Signature" Bourbon, paired with Carpano Antica Vermouth and Angostora Bitters.

According to the information provided by Hoke and Nathan, "Old Forester Signature 100 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon is one of the most iconic and traditional of bourbons. It  hearkens back to the traditional 1800s style of bourbon, and was the first bourbon to be marketed in labeled, sealed and signed bottles for authenticity. This is a “rye heavy” bourbon at a full 100 Proof, so it has a strong, sweet-corn entry with tangy, spicy, leathery and pepper notes enhanced by the increased level of alcohol. It finishes with surprising length and delicacy for a 100 Proof whiskey, with little burn and a lingering warmth to signal its passage."

The Carpano Antica is " rich,viscous, and plump in flavor, with a prominent expression of vanilla roundness which enhances the vanilla and caramel of the whiskey".   Yum.

The traditional blend is 2 oz whiskey to 1/2 oz of vermouth, 1-2 dashes of bitters (Angostura is the most frequently used) stirred with ice, served on the rocks, or strained into a manhattan glass and served straight up. Traditional garnishes include a maraschino cherry and/or a twist of citrus.  I was given a jar of kirsch marinated wild cherries for Christmas, and I think that is what I will use tonight.



 Spinach, Bacon, Toasted Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing. 

You will need:


1/4 pound bacon diced
1/3 cup toasted  chopped pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
5 ounces baby spinach
1 ounce goat cheese
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove to paper towels, keep about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and discard the rest.
When you are ready to serve the salad, heat the bacon fat in the skillet until hot, whisk in the vinegar and olive oil until emulsified, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss the spinach with the pecans, goat cheese, and warm bacon dressing. Serve immediately.


Since we are  following our Manhattan theme, I decided on  a quick and easy Paula Dean recipe:

 Bourbon  Glazed Pork Chops served with Pommes Dauphinoise and Oven Roasted Aspragus


2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon
2 center cut bone in pork chops (about 1 pound)
1 clove garlic, minced
kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the mustard, brown sugar and bourbon.
Salt and pepper the chops and rub with the minced garlic.
Brush with half of the glaze.
Grill the chops over medium heat to 145 degrees internal temperature (about 10 min per side for 1 1/2 inch chops)
Remove from the grill, brush with the remaining glaze, and allow 3-5 min resting time before serving.

I'm serving the chops with Pommes Dauphinoise and Oven Roasted Asparagus. The potatoes can be prepped and pre-cooked in advance, and finished in the oven along with the asparagus while the chops are on the grill- and miraculously, if all goes as planned, will finish at the same time. All can stay in a warm oven while you are eating the salad, and come to the table together.

Pommes Dauphinoise


1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
1 clove of garlic, crushed or thinly sliced
5 oz cream
5 oz whole milk
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
3 ounces gruyere, grated
kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the potatoes and thinly slice using a mandolin. Do NOT rinse! (you want the starch to help thicken the sauce)
In a saucepan large enough to hold the milk, cream and potatoes, heat the liquids with the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 2 minutes.
Slide in the potatoes gently and simmer until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart.
Strain in a colander, gently, reserving the cream. Remove the thyme and bay leaf.
Butter a gratin pan.
Add half of the potatoes, 2/3 of the cheese, and the second half of the potatoes.
Top with the remaining cheese, and pour in the milk mixture (check for salt and pepper and add more if needed) just to the top of the potatoes.
At this point you can cover and refrigerate until needed.
To finish, place the gratin in a 400 degree oven for 15 min. The gratin should be nicely browned and bubbly.  Allow to sit 10 min before serving


Oven Roasted Asparagus


Snap the tough ends off of the asparagus stalks and peel the bottom half  if thick.
Toss with olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, and 2 tbs of minced shallots per pound of asparagus.
Place on a baking sheet or pan large enough for the asparagus to sit in one layer
Roast in a 400 degree oven until tender and lightly browned.
Sprinkle with salt and a bit of lemon before serving. Optional: garnish with shaved parmesan.
I always make extra. Leftovers are lovely.

Dessert? Bourbon baked apples.

Core and peel the top 1/3 of  2-3 tart baking apples and put them in a pan (a bread loaf pan works well)
Stuff with brown sugar and butter
Pour 1 cup of apple cider and 1/3 cup of bourbon into the pan
Bake until tender, basting with the sauce.
Serve warm .


If you would like to see the  tasting notes for all of the whiskeys and vermouths and how they combined into different versions of the Manhattan, click  here.