We had the best time last night on a mini-adventure.
If you ever find yourself in Oklahoma on the Turner Turnpike (I-44) traveling between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, make sure you get off in Stroud and visit Territory Cellars. (I think there are other wineries in town as well as the famous Rock Cafe.) Last week, I was alerted to a special dinner they were having featuring a guest chef and northern Italian cuisine. Sign us up.
As we arrived, we were greeted by Joe, one of the winery’s owners. His first comments were that the guest chef was in the hospital, but that their own chef, Chef Jennifer, would be carrying on with the dinner and cooking demonstrations. I applaud Chef Jennifer because my impression was that she had only found out that night that she would be demonstrating the recipes for us. She did an amazing job stepping in and cooking another chef’s menu.
But, back to Joe, a down-to-earth regular guy who offered few apologies to the potential dinner disaster and kept telling us how informal they all were. He poured us his wine to taste and we settled on a dry red to start. Since we got there early, we were able to nab one of the few tables for two, grabbing one up front. We sat down and enjoyed our wine and our appetizers (bruschetta and fresh fruit) as we watched everyone scurry around. (I think we even heard a VERY last minute discussion about what wines they would pair with each course.)
Again, I would like to say that Chef Jennifer and the staff did a great job stepping in at the last minute. I got the impression that this was a community affair with lots of friends and family coming in to help make the evening a success. The chef didn’t seem like she was totally pleased with the quality of some of the ingredients that had been purchased for her—white fish instead of swordfish, red onions instead of scallions, and store-brand olive oil; however, she did pull it all together perfectly and she demonstrated everything very well.
The first course was Pesci Spiedini on rosemary skewers served with roasted corn. I am not a huge seafood eater, but I have to say that the fish was awesome—even if it wasn’t swordfish. An interesting note was that she included quartered peaches on the skewer.
Porchetta with Salsa Verde with sides of roasted asparagus tips and Fagioli con Puttanesca came our way next. The pork was tender and had an interesting flavor as they set the meat on cedar planks before they cooked it. But the Salsa Verde—let me tell you—it was so great that I may replace the pesto in my repertoire with this recipe. I can imagine smearing this sauce on homemade pizza crust and topping it with a little feta or cojita.
For dessert, we were served Panna Cotta with grilled balsamic peaches. Again—incredible! I have to say that I have always thought Panna Cotta was a bit simple and pedestrian in taste, but topping it with the balsamic glazed peaches took it to a new level.
Chef Jennifer gave a great tip here: take 1/4 cup regular balsamic vinegar and add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Reduce this by half and you will have a glaze that tastes like 100 year old balsamic.
Even though it was obvious that “Plan B” was in effect, I would definitely go back for another winery event.
Since we were provided with the recipes as Chef Jennifer was demonstrating, I wanted to share the fantastic Salsa Verde recipe:
1 c. fresh basil
1 c. fresh parsley
1 c. fresh mint
2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1 T. capers
2 cloves garlic
1 t. black pepper
Blend until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.