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A Warming Winter Dinner Party :: A 360 Epicurean Experience

Wheelock Maidique Kitchen Design & Cabinetry - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

Wheelock Maidique Kitchen Design & Cabinetry - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

What do you get when you get a local kitchen designer, a top caterer/chef and a well respected sommelier? You have the ingredients for a Warming Winter Dinner Party, an Epicurean 360 Experience. 

In a modestly sized store-front kitchen showroom, Chuck Wheelock of Wheelock Maidique Kitchen Design and Cabinetry in tony Old Greenwich, Connecticut, opened his shop after hours with Chef Silvia Baldini owner of  Strawberry and Sage, who partnered with Analiese Paik, Owner and Editor of the Fairfield Green Food Guide and Sommelier Rob Petz, manager of Old Greenwich Fine Wines to host A Warming Winter Dinner Party - A lovely evening that included culinary instruction, ingredient education and sourcing, wine pairing and serving, information cookware and tools, and kitchen setup. This was a wonderful event where small business owners and the community came together. Wheelock Maidique will be hosting more events similar in nature in the months to come. Is this something that might be feasible in your community?

A Warming Winter Dinner Party Tasting Menu:

Braised Chicken with Farro, Saffron Onions and Date Chutney Tagine
Roasted Cumin Scented Root Vegetables
Caramelized Citrus and Preserved Plum Rice Pudding

Wine Tasting Menu by Old Greenwich Fine Wines:

Jean Paul Brun Beaujolais Blanc
The Prisoner Wine Company Blindfold White Blend
Domaine Roger Perrin Cuvee Vielles Vignes Cotes du Rhone
Saint Cosme Chateauneuf-du-Paper

(Recipes at the end)

Garrison Gunther, owner Cook & Craft; Rob Petz, Manager Old Greenwich Fine Wine and Cheese; Chuck Wheelock, owner/designer Wheelock Maidique

Garrison Gunther, owner Cook & Craft; Rob Petz, Manager Old Greenwich Fine Wine and Cheese; Chuck Wheelock, owner/designer Wheelock Maidique

Silvia Baldini, Chef, Strawberry and Sage; Analiese Paik, Owner/Editor, Fairfield Green Food Guide; Jennifer Young, Wheelock Maidique

Silvia Baldini, Chef, Strawberry and Sage; Analiese Paik, Owner/Editor, Fairfield Green Food Guide; Jennifer Young, Wheelock Maidique

Guests learned to prepare restaurant-quality dishes that can be made ahead of time, utilizing local, farm-grown fresh root vegetables,  sustainably raised meats, ancient grains, and organic fruit.  Chef Baldini shared professional culinary tips and demonstrated how to prepare each dish using various cookware and tools (from local Old Greenwich kitchen boutique Cook and Craft) and fresh herbs right from Wheelock Maidique’s Chef’s EcoWall Garden.  Analiese Paik talked about the importance of sourcing high-quality, sustainable ingredients, and shared local food resources including retailers, farms, and artisan food producers. The tasting menu was expertly paired with sustainable wines as we learned a little about the wines and the sustainable winegrowing and winery practices that contribute to their quality and flavor. 

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

A Warming Winter Dinner Party - Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

Warming Winter Dinner: Braised Chicken with Farro, Saffron Onions, Farrotto and Date Chutney Tagine Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

Warming Winter Dinner: Braised Chicken with Farro, Saffron Onions, Farrotto and Date Chutney Tagine
Image via Jessica Gordon Ryan

Braised Chicken with Farro, Saffron Onions, Farrotto
and Date Chutney Tagine

Chicken serves 4 to 6

The chicken was prepared in a Tagine, a clay North African cooking vessel that's a cross between a slow-cooker and a Dutch Oven. It's completely unique in its shape, round and wide on the bottom with a tall, narrow cone-shaped lid. The shape of this dish, that transfers beautifully from stovetop to oven, results in the most incredible tender, moist dishes - from couscous to Moroccan stews. Requiring just a small amount of water, as the temperature rises, the water in the base evaporates and forms a thick condensation in the cone which then trickles back down into the dish. The chicken was immensely tender and incredibly flavorful. If you do not have a Tagine, a slow-cooker or Dutch Oven will also work well.

Marinade
2 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chili flakes or harissa
2 teaspoons paprika
6 chicken thighs
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup sliced fennel
2 bay leaves
1 can tomatoes chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cups chopped parsley
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Saffron Onion
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups sliced onions (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 bay leaf
fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Date Relish 1/2 cup
Dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons super-good extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Analiese talked to us about Einkorn (Farro), emmer and spelt - three ancient grains with a great deal of nutritional value. The farro was used in Chef Silvia Baldini's farrotto which was incredibly flavorful, smooth and nutty. If you like risotto, this is a recipe you should try.

Farrotto
2 1/2 cups Farro
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
1/cup parmigiano
3 tablespoons of butter to finish
4 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Marinate chicken 24 hours in advance
Toast the cumin seeds and the coriander seeds in a small fry pan for a few minutes until the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Grind them. In a small bowl, combine the ground spices with the garlic, thyme, parsley, crumbled chili or harissa, and paprika.
Place the chicken in a large bowl or zip lock bag and sprinkle over the spice mixture and toss the chicken and spices together.

Preheat Oven 350F
Brown the chicken with a little olive oil in a large frying pan. Then remove from pan, season with salt and pepper and set in oven proof large Tagine, crock pot or what ever you use to slow cook . Pour off most of the fat from the frying pan and add the onions, fennel and bay leaves. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized. Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes, stirring and scraping
with a wooden spoon. Add the sherry vinegar, white wine. Turn the heat up to high and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Add the fennel mixture to the chicken. Cover well and cook in the oven for at least 1½ hour to 2½ hours. Make sure there is enough liquid to cook for a long time.

NOTE: Sometimes chef Silvia doesn't brown the chicken - she still finds taste to be great.

While the chicken is cooking make the saffron onions. Put Saffron in a bowl with a cup of hot water and steep for 30 minutes. Add the onion to a hot pan with olive oil and butter and sauté the onions slowly with a bay leaf for 10 minutes until soft. Add the saffron with the water to the onions and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Season well. Make the date chutney. Chop the dates and mix will the olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, parsley and salt and pepper. If you want you can add a small amount of minced garlic. Make the Farrotto. In heavy bottom pan add the butter and olive oil. Sauté the onions for 10 minutes. Add the farro a toast for 5 minutes. Don’t burn. Add the stock and bay leaf and cook on low heat, mixing once in while until the farro is soft but still has a bite. It could take 25 to 40 minutes. Add extra liquid if you need. Water is fine. Finish with the parmesan the butter and season well. You can make this one day ahead. (Couscous, orzo, rice are great too.)
Serve all with parsley and cilantro and good bread.

Preserved Lemons
4 lemons
4 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
Juice of 4 additional lemons, or more to taste

Wash and scrub the lemons. The classic Moroccan way is to cut each lemon in quarters but not right through, so that the pieces are still attached at the stem end, and to stuff each with a tablespoon of salt and a sprinkle of sugar and squeeze it closed. Put them in a sterilized preserving jar, pressing them down so that they are squashed together, and close the jar. Leave for 3 to 4 days, by which time the lemons will have disgorged some of their juices and the skins will have softened a little. Open the jar and press the lemons down as much as you can, then add fresh lemon juice to cover them entirely. Close the jar and leave in a cool place for at least a month. The longer they are left, the better the flavor. Add herbs or hot peppers for a different flavor.


Thai red rice and Chinese Forbidden rice were incorporated into Chef Silvia's rice pudding with preserved plum dessert. This was perhaps the best rice pudding I have ever had. I loved the texture of these rices, and the lemon and plums lent themselves perfectly to this dish.

Caramelized Citrus and Preserved Plum Rice Pudding
Serves 4 to 6
2½ cups sushi rice or round rice (not Arborio)
1 cup red rice
1 cup black rice
½ cup sugar for sushi rice
4 ½ cups of milk
2 lemons, zest for white rice, juice reserved for cooking black and red rice
2 oranges, zest for white rice, juice reserved for cooking black and red rice
3 teaspoon cardamom powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 eggs yolks
1 cup of pitted prunes
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tablespoons of rum
½ a cup of sugar
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder

Bring the milk to a boil with the sugar, the orange and lemon zest, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sushi rice, 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder and salt. Slow cook for about one hour until the rice is soft and the milk is almost all absorbed but creamy.
Cool for a while then add the 3 eggs yolks. Meanwhile boil 2 cups of water with the juice of the lemons and oranges, and the cardamom powder. Add the black and red rice. Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, drain and set aside to cool.
Cook the prunes with the juice of the lemons, oranges, rum, sugar and cardamom for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
To serve spoon some of the white pudding in a cup, add some of the black and red rice and top with a plum and some of the plum juices. Chef Baldini always triples the recipe and makes it ahead of time. If the rice gets too dry after being in the fridge add some warm milk or cream to it and stir.

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