What We’re Cooking Now: Dinner With The Rocca’s

Dr. Mary Rocca and her hubby, Dr. Eric Grigsby, of Rocca Family Vineyards , were in town last week for a brief visit and we couldn’t let them get out of Big D without a small gathering with some of our favorite wine loving friends, The Winspear’s and The Stodghill’s. 

You remember, we just did a fantastic harvest dinner with their wine at Parigi in October, now we had a chance to break bread (and even better, drink wine) at our place. 

Over stunningly elegant, balanced and velvety 2001 Rocca Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon and smoky, spicy and approachable 2007 Rocca Grigsby Vineyard Syrah we feasted on a meal in tribute to Mary’s Northern Californian and Eric’s Southern roots.  

My dear friend, Chef Andrew Ormsby of Andrew Ormsby Catering, makes a Thai inspired butternut squash soup that I have adapted a bit to suit my tastes.  It is very rich so we just served it in a mini martini glasses along side a rocket and spinach salad with dried cherries and goat cheese. 

For the main course we made a hearty beef tenderloin cooked to Gary perfection and rubbed with lots of garlic, course ground pepper, salt and rosemary from our garden.  I also did a maple-bourbon glazed Coho salmon.  I had done bourbon scallops a few weeks ago for Gary and his new partners and it was amazing; but I wanted something a bit bolder, not as delicate to balance with the big Cab I knew we would be drinking.  Wow….what a combo!  We paired these with simply blanched green beans, creamy mashed potatoes and Gary’s sinful baked beans filled with Shiner Bock beer, molasses and lots of bacon.  The soup and salmon are perfect for the season and sure to please your table.  Gary’s beans are perfect morning, noon and night in any season….


Thai Infused Butternut Squash Soup
This is my version of what Chef Andrew created.  His will appeal to a broad audience, and is so sinfully creamy.  Mine has a bit more kick, a few less calories, with all Thai inspired flavors.    
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive oil, I just like the neutral flavor of grapeseed oil)
1 large yellow onion – chopped
2 large cloves of garlic – minced
2 ribs celery – diced
2 carrots – diced
2 large butternut squash – peeled, seeds removed and chopped into small cubes (I hate to deal with butternut squash…just hate it…so I use 3-4 bags of chopped frozen butternut squash.  There are a few organic varieties they have at New Flower and Central Market that work great as they were simply blanched and frozen.)
1 tablespoon dried Italian spices
1 bunch cilantro – chopped
2 tablespoons Asian chile-garlic sauce (this is a lot…and it is hot..but I like a lot…adjust amount to your taste)
4 cups chicken stock + 1/2 cup if needed (feel free to use low sodium, but then be prepared to season well)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use Bragg Liquid Aminos…best one out there without all the stuff in most soy sauces…this one is just soy beans)
2 cans lite coconut milk
1 1/2 cup heavy cream (I have also used fat free half and half and it works just as well without compromising on the flavor)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot or dutch oven saute the onions, celery, carrots and garlic in the 2 tablespoons oil until soft, about 10 minutes.  If the mix gets too dry add in a touch of chicken stock instead of additional fat.  Once soft add in the butternut squash, dried herbs, cilantro and chile sauce.  If you are using frozen the squash will melt in pretty easily; if using fresh cook until it starts to soften.  Add in chicken stock, soy sauce and season with pepper to taste.  Add in coconut milk and bring to a soft boil, stirring to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom.  After the soup has reduced a bit (maybe by 1/3 cup-1/2 cup) turn the heat off and let cool.  Once cool puree in blender in batches, until smooth, to your taste.  I like a little texture so I don’t go completely smooth, but the flavor won’t change no matter how smooth it is.  Once fully pureed pour back in the pot and stir in the cream or half and half.  Bring back up to a low boil, adjust the seasonings and simmer until ready to serve, whisking together occasionally.  Whisk well prior to serving to ensure all flavors are fully incorporated. 

Maple-Bourbon Salmon
The better the salmon, the better this tastes.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce (Bragg’s or low sodium)
2 tablespoons Italian parsley – finely chopped
3 tablespoons chives – finely chopped
3/4 cup good maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup bourbon (I use Knob Creek, but whatever you have in the house will work)
zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
1 1/2 pounds Coho or other wild salmon filets – cut into 4 oz serving portions

Whisk the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Place the salmon in a large plastic bag that can be sealed well; pour 3/4 of the marinade on top of the salmon and seal the bag.  Place in a baking dish (in case the bag breaks) and into the refrigerator for at least an hour…the longer the time to marinade the better, but not over about 3 hours, as you don’t want the lemon to cook the fish.  Turn your oven onto broil and remove the salmon from the marinade and place in the baking dish.  Broil for about 5-6 minutes…it doesn’t need that long as salmon is best when cooked medium rare, and broiling will allow for a few extra minutes of cooking when it comes out of the oven.  Top with the extra marinade when serving if desired. 

Gary’s Baked Beans
Probably Gary’s favorite thing in the world to make…and what seems to be the favorite item on any menu we serve for everyone who has had them.  They originated from a cook book from Grady Spears, which Gary has tricked up a bit.  It is sometimes funny to have baked beans on a dinner party menu that isn’t on the 4th of July, but they are sure to please. 
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 red onions – chopped
6 jalapeno peppers – seeded- and minced
2 pounds bacon – chopped
1 can Shiner Bock beer (we also used a Sam Smith Nut Brown Ale once and it added an additional layer of richness….or you can just use a can of Budweiser…just no lite beer)
1 cup good barbeque sauce (we use Stubb’s)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
4 cans Pinto beans (you can use your own beans that you cook all day…but this is so much easier)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a medium size cast iron dutch oven (or baking dish).  In a large skillet over medium heat cook the bacon until all fat has rendered and bacon is fully cooked.  Drain off the fat and wrap the bacon in paper towels to absorb any remaining fat and set aside.  Wipe clean the skillet and add the butter and oil.  Over medium heat add the garlic, onion and jalapeno and saute until the onion is slightly softened.  Add the bacon and cook together for about 10-15 minutes until the veggies are fully softened and the flavors have melded together.  Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  The bacon is salty, but this is the seasoning for the whole dish. 
While this is cooking stir the beer, barbeque sauce, molasses and brown sugar together in a large bowl.  Stir in the beans.  Stir in the bacon mixture.  Adjust your seasonings and pour into the dutch oven.  Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until browned and bubbly on top.  No need to cover while in the oven.  If you are making ahead of time they can easily be reheated, but cover with a lid or foil.


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