While I usually recoil at the idea of cooking for any major event, the brother of a friend decided to get married in Wine Country. Having recently visited Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma, I had the perfect place in mind when my friend called asking for suggestions to get him and his fiance on the road to wedding planning. Though they ended up holding the wedding elsewhere due to scheduling issues, Cline also has a gorgeous villa on site to rent. When I informed them that the kitchen was amazing, they decided it was the perfect place to stay for the weekend and for their rehearsal dinner.
"Maybe you could cook for it?" my friend suggested.
Wheels turning in my head and given complete creative license by the bride and groom, I began to visualize this perfect event.
Relying on what I could find this week at the local farms, I eventually created the menu which we paired with Cline's spectacular and affordable wines.
Like most events, the planning and preparation was as fun as the event itself. Spending an entire morning visiting farm after farm to buy (in some cases picking myself) fruits and veggies at their peak was as close as I will get right now to gathering until I have my own garden.
Erickson Ranch in Suisun was my first stop for their local grapes to make a Harvest sauce for the Sage and Proscuitto Wrapped Chicken (See recipe below).
But I also left with ten pounds of multi-colored potatoes,
Email me for the recipe.) and topped with Wild Salmon I hot-smoked that afternoon.
The next stop not only garnered me ridiculous tomatoes, but a new farmer friend to boot. Brad at Wild Boar Farms not only shared his treasured Armenian cucumbers with me as a snack but taught me, as we walked up and down harvesting tomatoes in his fields, what a Green Zebra cherry tomato should look like when ripe (more amber on the ends than green should you be tomato harvesting any time soon). I also learned that I would be serving the same tomatoes at my dinner that Alice Waters' and her team serve at the legendary Chez Panisse. Wow! One taste of their perfectly ripe, sweet and perfectly acidic juiciness and I knew why.
Sadly the guests could not see the finished product on the platter since the main part of dinner was served by candlelight only. However, most of them had walked by the kitchen at some point and took pictures of the tomatoes in their natural state with the urge to everyone else to "come look at these tomatoes...they're beautiful." Even still, this simple platter of tomatoes drizzled with olive oil from a man in my town name Ennio and topped off with torn purple basil was the one dish that we were afraid was going to spark a fork fight at the otherwise civilized dinner.
Brazelton Ranch for peaches that became part of "Peaches and Cream".
Finally that afternoon, I went with my youngest son to our favorite little oasis just outside of our town, Gibson Canyon Farm.
WWOOF volunteers is slowly growing into it's own and provided me with Lemon Cucumbers for Lime Cucumber Water (part of a flavored water selection) and long, red Carmine peppers which were graciously picked by Sue, the owner and a volunteer while I waited and my son pet the tiny bunnies. These were pickled for our Rosemary White Bean Hummus crostini and roasted alongside the potatoes.
The white bean crostini rounded out a trio of crostini which also included housemade fig and onion jam on top of Point Reyes blue cheese, and Preserved Meyer Lemon & Black Olive tapenade with Sonoma goat cheese. These were all part of the poolside Welcome Bar that greeted the guests upon their return from the rehearsal.
A beautiful dream setting that was merely a wine tasting adventure for my husband and I on a weekend away in April became a beautiful setting for someone else's Big Event weekend.
Making sure candles were lit and glasses were full.
(Okay, not in this photo because guests had wine glasses in hand at the Welcome Bar.)
By the end of the night, toasts were made both by the guests as we were finishing service
24 x 24 event they sponsor each month.
So thanks for indulging me with this post. I will return to making Everyday Meals from Seasonal Produce and What I Have on Hand tomorrow, but just for one day I got the privilege and pleasure of creating an Over-the-Top meal using my same cooking philosophy.
Sage and Proscuitto Wrapped Chicken with Harvest Sauce
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut horizontally into two thin cutlets each
6-8 large sage leaves (enough for each cutlet)
3 slices proscuitto, cut in half lenghtwise on the diagonal
Salt & cracked black pepper
Olive oil for sauteing
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock, preferable homemade
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lb local organic grapes, seedless or seeded (they will be strained out)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Pat chicken breasts dry. Place a sage leaf in the middle of each chicken breast and wrap with a slice of proscuitto - starting with narrow end of triangle on the back then wrap around. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Saute chicken proscuitto side down for 2-3 minutes or until brown. Flip over a cook the other side until the surface is opaque. Place chicken in a shallow pan and drizzle with 1/4 chicken stock. Cover with foil and bake while making the stock.
Saute the shallots and garlic for a minute. Add remaining stock and wine along with the remaining ingredients. Cook on medium high until the grapes are soft enough to mash slightly and the sauce has reduced by half. Mash the grapes and cook for another minute to reduce a bit more. Strain into a bowl then pour the strained sauce back into the pan. Reduce for another 3-4 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Remove chicken from oven and place on a platter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.
Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes