Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Success! Making a Blackberry Wine Reduction and Frying Okra

As promised, I am back today with pictures and recipes from last night's kitchen adventures. I made two great dishes from the food that J and L gave us over the weekend, and I've chronicled them below:

1. Grilled Filet Mignon wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, topped with gorgonzola cheese, blackberries, and a blackberry-wine reduction (the above picture doesn't do it justice!)

Okay, so first of all, I can take no glory on the actual grilling of the steaks--that was done by my husband, which he claims it is the easy part. AND it was nice to be able to focus in the kitchen instead of running in and out of the house to flip or check on the steaks. By the way, we don't use a gas grill--it's strictly charcoal for us.

I did a little research yesterday on wine and port sauces to figure out what would work best in paring the steaks with with the sweet blackberry wine that J and L brought us. I settled on a recipe that had three basic ingredients: port (in my case blackberry wine), vinegar, and mustard. Then I added a few other ingredients for extra flavor--onions, butter, and basil. It ended up being really good, not too sweet and not too acidic either--the wine and vinegar really balanced each other out. I added the gorgonzola cheese, as blue cheeses seem to go well both with fruit and with steak, and it really brought the dish together. I added the bacon for an additional smoky flavor, but it also really brings out the flavor of the steak --and it is another food that goes well with blue cheeses. And well, I love bacon with just about everything (even chocolate)! The blackberries were mostly for garnish, but also tasted good!

2. Corn and Tomatoes with fresh basil and cream, topped with Fried Okra

I found a recipe on epircurious.com called "Cajun Corn and Tomatoes with Fried Okra" and modified it (I also can't quite figure out what was "Cajun" about it). I changed the amounts of corn and tomatoes (based on what I had, it could be modified again, of course, dependent upon what you have in your own kitchen) and I changed the batter for the fried okra (I tried the way they suggested and it didn't work well at all).

This was actually my first experience cooking okra. I know it is commonly associated with the deep south, or the coastal south, but I know of folks in the mountains who also grow it in their gardens and either put it in soups or pickle it. It originated in Africa and was brought over during the slave trade in the eighteenth century. Apparently, Thomas Jefferson noted it was "well established in Virginia" around 1781 (my source for that was wikipedia, not always reliable, but it seems likely to me in this case). I have acquired more of a taste for okra in the last few years, so I am going to continue trying out different recipes with it--I want to try a beer batter for frying it (and also my fry daddy), and I also plan on making a "real" Cajun dish--i.e. gumbo or something of that sort, sometime this fall.

Lastly, Thanks to J and L for supplying the food for this amazing meal. I only wish they had been there last night to eat it with my husband and me! I will certainly be cooking up some fresh veggies and meat for them the next time they come to visit in Lexington!

Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola Cheese and a Blackberry-Wine Reduction
(Serves 2 to 4)

2 6-ounce filet mignon or beef tenderloin steaks
4 slices applewood smoked bacon

For the reduction:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
½ cup blackberry wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil
½ tablespoon butter

For Garnish:
¼ cup gorgonzola cheese
Fresh blackberries (optional)

To prepare steaks:
Wrap the sides of each steak with two slices of bacon. Secure bacon with toothpicks.

To make the reduction:
Whisk together the blackberry wine, balsamic vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until golden in color. Slowly pour the wine mixture down the site of the skillet with onions. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until reduced to around ¼ cup. Add the basil and butter. Continue cooking until mixture is reduced to 2 or 3 tablespoons.

Meanwhile, prepare grill (medium-high heat). Grill steaks to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Top each steak with 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) gorgonzola cheese, one tablespoon (or so) blackberry-wine reduction, and garnish with a few blackberries.

If you are not into grilling or just don’t feel like making the effort to light charcoal and sit around and wait, you can also sauté the filets like this: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and cracked pepper. Sauté steaks until medium-rare, about 4 minutes per side. (If you chose this method, you can leave any remaining drippings in the pan and continue with the reduction sauce in this skillet, just add the onions right in after you take the steaks off and continue with this recipe.)

Corn and Tomatoes with Fried Okra

(Serves 4)

1 yellow onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus additional for frying the okra
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels including the pulp scraped from the cobs (cut from about 2 ears of corn)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 pound okra, rinsed well and patted dry
cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat; add the onion, sauté, stirring occasionally, until it is golden. Add corn, tomatoes, basil, cream, and water, and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep the mixture warm, covered.

Cut the okra into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Whisk together the egg and milk in a medium blow. Add okra, folding to coat. In a separate bowl, toss the okra with the cornmeal. In a deep skillet heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil over moderately high heat until it is hot (but not smoking) and in it fry the okra in batches for 2 to 4 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the okra with a slotted spoon as it is fried onto paper towels to drain.

Serve the corn mixture topped with the fried okra.


Unknown said...

YUM! Just now checking out your blog- it's delicious! Can't wait to find more recipes on here!

Love to the cook,

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