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Culinary Corner Week of February 20-25

Hello! We are mostly through February and I am so ready for spring. We have a few events planned this week for you and I really hope you attend all of them.

Scenes from last year's crawfish boil

On Tuesday we will be celebrating Mardi Gras. In the Centennial room, there will be a good old-fashioned Crawfish Boil. The rituals of the crawfish boil trace their roots to the Atchafalaya swamp in western Louisiana and the people who settled there: the Acadians, or Cajuns, who migrated from French Canada and the French-speaking African-Caribbeans, or Creoles, from Haiti and other islands.

Each spring, floodwaters force the crawfish to leave their burrows, and Cajuns and Creoles alike gathered them in huge quantities to consume at crawfish boils, big parties where people came together around a huge pot. The traditional season for crawfish coincides with Lent—the 40-day period before Easter, generally from March to April, when Catholics refrain from eating meat—although nowadays, thanks to crawfish farming, it really lasts from January to August. Our crawfish will be seasoned with pepper, onion, garlic and other spices, then cooked with corn, potatoes and Andouille sausage.

The trick to enjoying a good crawfish boil is to get plenty of everything, don’t wear your best clothes, and don’t be shy. Crawfish meat is mostly concentrated in the tail, but there is plenty of zest all over. Take a crawfish in both hands, and twist to remove the head. Now, the head has lots of flavor, so you want to suck out the juices before proceeding. Take the remaining part-the tail and peel away the shell. The rich nugget of spicy meat is your reward, enjoy it. If it seems too hot, take a bite of French bread, and a swig of beer before proceeding to do it again. We are also serving Red Beans and Rice, hot Beignets, and crusty bread with butter. There will be plenty of colorful beads, Hurricanes, and Zydeco music, and I encourage you to go and have a great time. Nudity (partial or otherwise) is discouraged….

On Thursday, we will be having the Sip and Savor at 2 pm event followed closely by The Social at 3. Both events will be in the Centennial Room this week.

The theme is Greek wines and foods for both, we will be tasting some fabulous varietals, and we will have a feast of lamb meatballs, spanakopita, grilled flatbreads, mezzes, and lots of fun. If you miss the wine tasting, you can still attend the party afterwards, and vice versa.

This week by popular demand The Highlander returns-- our house brewed Stout. Dark-roasted malts and Horizon hops come together for this one, and the bitterness is fairly low. If your only experience with stout is Guinness, I encourage you to try this one. The Irish style of Stout is a lot drier and higher in alcohol than ours.

The Soup this week is Three Onion. Yellow and red onions are caramelized with leeks as the base of this soup with beef broth, sherry, and fresh thyme finishing. Think of it as a French onion, but without the bread and cheese.

We have grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers this week, seasoned steak grilled-to-order and served with blue cheese cream.

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The Cheese is Roth Buttermilk Blue cheese. Now this is sort of what it sounds like, the Buttermilk adds a certain piquancy to the flavor, but the cheesemaker also uses a higher proportion of cream, which leads to a smoother and richer cheese. Try this one, It is all around good and we are serving it with Dates and crusty French Bread. Roth is based out of Wisconsin, and has been making quality award winning dairy products for generations. Check them out at

At Dinner this week, Try the Broiled Sole, toped with lemon butter, steamed broccolini, and potato gnocchi. If you’ve never had broccolini, it is that long-stemmed broccoli with the really mild flavor. This vegetable, a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, was invented by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan in 1993. It was introduced in the USA under the name Asparation in 1996 but was marketed as broccolini from 1998. The name was intended to liken the vegetable to the much more respectable asparagus because it has a tender edible stem as well as florets. However, with broccoli an established vegetable, the current name (implying “little broccoli”) seems more apt-- it really doesn't taste like asparagus at all but if you like broccoli you will be pleased.

We have Country-Fried Steak this week, with creamy gravy, buttered corn, and mashed potatoes. Just as it sounds, this is basically a piece of pounded beef tenderloin, breaded and fried. Traditionally, this is made with cube steak, but of course at Vi we have to do everything extra fancy so we use beef tenderloin. The tenderloin is a cut of beef running parallel to the back of the animal along the back of the ribs. It carries no weight, so there is very little connective tissue or collagen, making it very tender, but also mild in flavor. There are two tenderloins in each animal, each about 4-6 pounds-and it is the most expensive beef primal cut you can buy. The center of the loin yields about 5-7 steaks that we call Filet Mignons, but the end pieces are just as tender if not so round and picturesque. With the price we pay for beef, we don’t like to waste anything, the tail piece is used for this dish, the odd cuts are used for the appetizer this week, even the fat is rendered with garlic and herbs to brush on steaks as they come off the grill. Try this dish with a good home brewed Stout.

Here's a fun one: we are serving Marry Me Chicken. Now the origins of this dish are somewhat murky… As the story goes, an editor at Glamour magazine gave this recipe to one of her staffers to cook for her boyfriend, and the result was an engagement ring. The recipe was published, and many readers chimed in to confirm the magical powers of this simple chicken dish with promises of marriage from their prospective others. I have very serious doubts as to the authenticity of any of this, but you all know that I never let the truth stop me from a good story, and the recipe sounds pretty good. A boneless chicken breast is crusted with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, pan-fried, then served with a creamy sun-dried tomato sauce and pasta. Not too different from a Chicken Alfredo really, but it’s fun to try new things. If anyone gets engaged because of this dish, I do expect an invitation to the wedding.

We have Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers this week, using Impossible Meat, cooked rice and lots of marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. Just because you are trying plant based foods doesn’t mean you can’ eat heartily, and I recommend this with Chianti.

Speaking of hearty dishes we have Pasta Bolognese. Now a Bolognese sauce is basically a meat ragout, traditionally made with veal. Ours is stewed with tomatoes, onions and garlic, and then finished with a touch of cream. The cream helps temper some of the acidity of the tomatoes and makes the dish very rich. This is spooned over penne pasta with grilled ciabatta bread and shaved Parmesan cheese.

For specials this week, we have Roast Duck, Bacon wrapped shrimp, Jambalaya, Swordfish Niçoise, Pork Chops, Fried Chicken, Seafood Moqueca, and Carved Ribeye.

At lunch look for Carved Tri Tip, Pan-Seared Salmon, Chicken Pot Pie, Tacos, Beef Souvlaki, and Carved Turkey.

I hope to see all of you on Monday at the Culinary Corner meeting, on Tuesday at the Mardi Gras party and on Thursday at the wine tasting and or The Social party afterwards. It sounds like a fun week, and I hope you all enjoy yourselves.

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