Surviving Winter

A frozen blanket has sent us all scrambling for snow boots, warm fires, and comfort food this winter.  I keep expecting to see our "normal" temps return, only to see another "Winter Weather Advisory" come crawling through my feed.  Aside from our one pipe bursting episode, I have really enjoyed a proper winter this year.  Give me a snowy and cold winter instead of unending gray and gross any day.

Otis and I walked the Mount last week on one of our snow days and it was magical.  We have had a pretty severe case of cabin fever going so it came just in time.  The snow and blue skies were stunning.  And that was before the ice hit on Wednesday, throwing the city into a panic and the trees looking like they were in a snow globe, all glittery and brilliant in the sun.

Our mode of survival has been to entertain and cook as much as possible.  I was tallying up this morning and we have hosted 7 events in 7 weeks here and only two of those have not involved an overnight stay.  We have had the very best time for each event, laughing long into the night in front of the fire with our best and dearest, but we are tired and have agreed to take a break for awhile.

Last night was the final event for awhile and we went out on a bang.  A BFF's birthday arrived and we pulled out the stops for some fun and celebration.  

The event was originally going to be held at a friend's cabin in the hills, so the table inspiration was "mountain chic" with comfort food, minimal clean tablescape lines, and understated linens.  The weather prevented us from travelling, so I just stuck with that here at the house.  

Birthday Dinner

Hors d’oeuvres
Gravlax, Melba Rounds, Mustard Dill Sauce
French 75’s & Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner

Spicy Mussels with Fennel and White Wine
Haras Sauvignon Blanc, Chile

Lobster Bisque with Sherry
Shebang White Blend, Sonoma Valley

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Arugula, and Hazelnuts
Hecula Monastrell, Spain

Ground Pork Sliders with Bourbon Mustard Glaze, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Bearboat Syrah, Russian River Valley

Grass fed Ribeye with Tobacco Onions, Burgundy Mushrooms, Grilled Asparagus
Revelry "The Reveler" Bordeaux style blend Columbia Valley, WA

Mini Chocolate Hazelnut Tarts with Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Veuve Cliquot, France 

 The highlights of the dinner were the Lobster Bisque and the Pork Slider courses.   We did the Lobster Bisque for her last year and it was requested again this year.  This recipe is a home run.  Lobster meat is a huge extravagance, but this bisque does absolutely everything you want it to do.  

Lobster Bisque
adapted from

1.5 lbs lobster meat, cut into small chunks
4 tablespoons minced shallots
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup white wine
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 teaspoon paprika
2 cup hot water
2 teaspoon lobster base
6 ounces tomato paste
4 bay leaves
4 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons butter

In a saute pan heat a little oil over med-high heat and saute shallots and garlic for one minute.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Add the worcestershire, tabasco, and thyme and saute for another minute.  Add the sherry.  Add the paprika, hot water and lobster base and combine well.  Stir in tomato paste and add the bay leaves.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Whisk in heavy cream and the butter and bring to a boil.  Add the lobster and simmer until cooked through.  Serve with crusty garlic bread.

The pork sliders were an inspired dish.  I have developed a Bourbon Mustard Glaze this winter that I just want to put on everything.  Or just put a straw in and drink it.  It started over pork tenderloin and then I wanted something crunchy in there too and I thought a pork burger would be ideal with a crunchy slaw.  I was going to do an apple and fennel slaw, but already had fennel showing up for the menu.  I decided on endive to maintain a bitter crunch with the sweet.  This was what transpired; Umami.  It did not suck.

Pork Sliders with Bourbon Mustard Glaze & Apple Endive Slaw on a Pretzel Bun
Jennifer Brian Cheek

1 lb ground pork (local preferred)
Salt and Pepper

Form pork into patties, either 6 small for slider size or 3 larger burger size.  Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper.  Cook on a stove top griddle to medium well.  Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Bourbon Mustard Glaze

1 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 Tbs spicy brown mustard
3 Tbs brown sugar
1/3 cup bourbon
4 Tbs butter

Place all ingredients except butter into a 2 quart sauce pan.  Whisk and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium high and continue to boil until mixture has reduced by at least half and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat, whisk in butter.  Top sliders with 1 Tbs each and place the remaining glaze in a side dish for extra sauce tableside.

Apple Endive Slaw

1 sweet, crisp apple (such as a Fuji, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady) cored, seeded, and julienned
1 small head Belgian Endive, end removed, cut in a chiffonade (or 1/4" coins)
1/4 cup diced celery
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbs olive oil 

Place vinegar. lemon juice, and sugar in a bowl.  Allow to sit until sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.  Whisk constantly, add olive oil in a slow stream.  Toss all ingredients in the dressing.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble sliders on a pretzel bun.  Secure with a steak knife or toothpick for serving.

At Christmas this year, our camera came up missing at an event and the boy and I were heartbroken about it.  Photography has become a really important creative outlet to me this year in particular and I am always excited about learning more and taking more pics.  With the camera gone, I felt like a part of me went with it.  Our amazing friends and family all pitched in and funded a new camera for us.  The gesture was beyond generous and my creative soul was saved, yet again, by those nearest to my heart.  The new camera is in a different stratosphere from our old one.  Digital technology has come a long way in just a few short years, to say the least.  I look forward to sharing more work with you this year from the gift my loves have given back to me.

Winter is marching on, I promise, friends.  Spring is going to show up one day soon.  Until then, go make a mug of coffee or tea, cook some comfort food, plant some bulbs near a window, and know that greener (and warmer) days are close.

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