“Irregular Verb” Chicken Soup & 2019 Sunset Meadow Vidal Blanc

I saw this recipe described as “Southern Italian Chicken Soup” and re-named it.  Normally I take a pass on soup recipes… but this intrigued me.  Southern Italian?  Like Sicily or Apulia?  No!  Southern, like south of the Mason Dixon Line!  Mind you, I grew up with chicken soup being referred to as “Jewish penicillin”!  This recipe was worth a look-see.  Definitely an irregular verb by any standard reference point chicken soup recipe… whether it be the foundation of matzah ball soup, or in tortellini en brodo.  The sub-text: “This simple pasta dish gets some savory Southern flare with the addition of okra and black-eyed peas.  In just under an hour, this succulent soup comes together for a flavorful autumn or winter favorite.”  OK.  I’m game… although my timeline for prep and cooking always goes beyond the suggested times noted.

And for wine I took a similar departure from the familiar and chose a wine from Sunset Meadow Vineyards: the Vidal Blanc ’19.  Located in Goshen, CT this winery sits on a soft hillside surrounded by their estate vineyards (some 50 acres worth). I love the place.  A very hospitable tasting room, and more to the point, I enjoy dipping my toe into varietals that carry a “northeast” mindset – like Vidal Blanc and Cayuga White. I usually hit the winery once a year to lay in a mixed-case of their white wines.  For those of us who are used to the European vinifera varietals, it’s a great change of pace.  Further, the wine has a spirit of irreverence that seemed in tune with a cockamamie chicken soup recipe.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Vidal Blanc ’19 (Goshen, CT)
Vidal Blanc is a cross breed of Ugni Blanc and Seibel that develop high sugars enabling the grapes to ripen fully in cooler climates. The 2019 offers clean fresh fruit flavors, soft and bright on a medium-bodied chassis, the wine finishes perfectly dry with good acidity to cleanse the palate.

“IRREGULAR VERB” CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
1 large onion, diced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
1 can (15.5oz) diced tomatoes
1 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
4 skinned and boneless chicken breasts
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 cups sliced fresh okra
1 can (15.5 oz) black-eyed peas, drained & rinsed
1 package (9 0z) refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
fresh shaved, or grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size.  Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.  Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!

2. In a Dutch oven, sauté onion, celery, carrots & garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender.

3. Stir in broth, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning & crushed red pepper flakes and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, pound chicken breasts to an even width.  Cut into 1” pieces, season with salt & pepper.  Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick skillet and lightly brown the chicken pieces over medium high heat. About 5 minutes on each side.

5. Add okra, black-eyed peas & chicken to the Dutch oven.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until the okra is tender. 

6. Add the tortellini, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes.

7. Serve with parmesan.

n.b. I love this dish!  Unlike irregular verbs… of which there are far too many, and forever vexed me in the attempt to learn French.  My first working name for this dish was “Curve Ball” Chicken Soup.  Either name is better than “Southern Italian Chicken Soup.” I will definitely add this recipe to my cool weather dinning rotation. 

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Connecticut’s Sunset Meadow Vineyards

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Lawn Signs

Periodically I do a 6-7 mile loop walking thru Woodbury.  Just about half that distance is on Main St. (Route 6), but most is off the main drag. {Sidebar 1:  it is a stretch to consider any road in Woodbury as truly a main drag}. And on my walks I encounter any number of signs stuck in the ground fronting homes, churches (we have 4 in Woodbury!) & places of business.

Many signs give thanks to the essential workers… giving well-deserved thumbs up to everyone in the chain of keeping our lives together. And then there are many signs with this signature: “Hate Has No Home Here.”

We are also in a Presidential election cycle, so there are lawn signs supporting specific Presidential candidates, and other aspirants in this election year.

My observations:

1. Only a few folks put out lawn signs. Although there are more “Thank you” & “Hate Has No Home Here” signs out there than signs of political endorsement.

2. Several examples where signs in a location only offer down ticket candidates, and there is no association with the Presidential head liner.  Why is that? {Sidebar 2: I can remember the day when signs would not only note the candidate’s name, but also his/her party affiliation. I rarely see that today.}

3. There were a few locations where there were signs for both “Hate Has No Home Here”, and a sign for support for a specific Presidential  candidate.

Question:  On the locations that had both Hate Has No Home Here and a sign offering support for a Presidential candidate – who would you guess that candidate to be?

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Slow Cooker Jambalaya & 2017 Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours

Jambalaya is a dish with West African & French Provençal roots and tinged with a Spanish influence. The dish typically consists mainly of “meat” and vegetables mixed with rice.  It’s nearly impossible to exaggerate how great this recipe is, and more critically, the ease of its assembly. This dish is as close to “idiot proof” as it gets.  It’s trickier to make a decent peanut butter & jelly sandwich!  I am confident that there are other ways to make Jambalaya without using a slow cooker.  But why?  Why add complications to your life on a “football Sunday” when the path to culinary happiness is a straight line from “put everything into the slow cooker before game time, turn it on and forget it ‘til the last 15 minutes when it’s time to add the final ingredient and cook the rice”.  Dinner served at half time of the second game!!

For wine I was looking for something that offered good fruit flavor, brightness on palate, nicely textured, but not “voluminous”.  A wine that has a clean finish and that would encourage the next forkful of Jambalaya. I found it in a modest Syrah produced by Andrew Murray Vineyards.  A Cru Beaujolais would also do well here (e.g. Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent), as would a Rhône Blanc.

Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours ’17 (Santa Ynez Valley, CA)
The 2017 Syrah Tous Les Jours is supple, fruity and delicious, not to mention an incredible value. Dark cherry, plum, lavender and spice are all pushed forward. There is so much to like about the Tous Les Jours, including its modest price. Once again, the Tous Les Jours over delivers big time. 90pts Wine Advocate

{for the wine video, click on this link http://summerofjim.com/?p=110336}

Ingredients
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into fork-sized chunks
1 lb andouille sausage cut into 1” slices
1 large onion chopped
1 red bell pepper sliced
2 stalks celery thinly sliced
2 cups chicken broth
½ tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb shrimp

Directions
1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size.  Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.  Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!

2. Add all the ingredients (except for the shrimp) into the slow cooker and stir.

3. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.

4. Swim 3500 yds & walk 7 miles (or watch the football game)

5. In the last 15 minutes of cooking add in the shrimp

6. Serve over rice.

n.b. With regards to the rice:  classically, recipes call for rice to be cooked with the ingredients, unlike Gumbo and Étouffée which is served over rice. That said, I loved this atypical approach for Jambalaya. Next, the shrimp: the bigger the better.  Also, I don’t peel and devein shrimp before cooking.  It’s an excuse for me to plunge my fingers into the food. 

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