Games and gaming culture are nearly as big in this house as food and wine. Being able to combine those passions makes a pretty special day. Each of the last two years, the Monday Night Gamers have come over on Sunday to celebrate the season premier of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” with a day full of eating, drinking, and gaming (we discussed previous editions here and here). This year was no different.
LUNCH: Asparagus and Fennel Pasta Salad with Chilled Roasted Shrimp
One of the MNGers is allergic to shellfish, so when he told us that he was having lunch with his family (it being Easter and all), we knew the direction of lunch. We wanted it to be light, knowing that we would be eating a fair amount during the day. We brainstormed up a simple yet tasty pasta salad.
1.5 lbs ditalini
1 lb asparagus, diced
2 medium fennel bulbs, diced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbl celery seed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbl Old Bay
We roasted the shrimp the day before in order to chill them overnight. I used about ¼ of the Old Bay I’d normally use when roasting them because all I wanted was to give them a little flavor, enough to complement the pasta, not dominate it. These were 31-40 count shrimp, so they didn’t take as long to roast as the 21-25 count we normally get. They roasted nicely at 400F in about 11 minutes.
We cooked the pasta while cutting the fennel and asparagus. We diced the vegetables quite small, then gave them a quick sauté in about a tablespoon of the oil, softening them from raw but leaving a firm texture to them. Once the pasta was done, we mixed it right in with the sauté and the remainder of the oil and spices. We mixed the oil in a little at a time, just to make sure we weren’t overdoing it. We put it in a bowl to chill and served it about 2 hours later.
We debated either cutting up the shrimp and mixing it in or keeping it whole and laying it on top. We finally settled on leaving it whole because we thought the presentation would be better. We gave the MNGers their first taste of Premier Cru White Burgundy by serving 2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Combes. The apple and pear notes of the Burgundy went extremely well with the flavor of the fennel, leading us to consider some kind of fennel/apple dish in the future. I love good White Burgundy, but just can’t bring myself to spend that much regularly on white wine—but that’s an exploration for another day.
SNACK: Coconut cream cake
Playing games for several hours gives a brother and appetite, so while playing the board game Catacombs, we had cake and coffee. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the beautiful cake that Keith, one of the MNGers, made. It was beautifully creamy and nicely sweet and went perfectly with a rich cup of coffee, giving us the fuel to get through until dinner time.
DINNER: Grilled rib-eyes, Smoked Gouda Risotto, and Grilled Leeks
Our first plan was bison rib-eyes, which had caught my eye at the butcher counter at the new Whole Foods in town, but when I went to get them, they didn’t have any. We’ll get them eventually (and provide a full report). The manager was nice enough to give us a deal on the regular prime beef for our disappointment. I didn’t do anything special with the steaks, because I believe that good beef doesn’t need too much done to it. I dusted them with a little Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning and a light coat of olive oil about 3 hours before grilling them.
Because it was sitting beside a good steak, we wanted the risotto to have a big wow factor. We modified our normal risotto recipe by substituting a half pound of smoked gouda for the parmigiano reggiano. We obviously left out the shrimp here, as well as passing on the paprika. Because we wanted it extra cheesy and creamy, we added 3 ounces of Marscapone as well. We liked the texture so much that Marscapone will probably end up as part of our normal risotto recipe. We were going to put mushrooms in the risotto, but since Keith isn’t a fan, we simply sauteed them in a little of the wine we were going to drink and served them on the side. They were extremely good with both the risotto and the beef.
There was a little panic about half an hour before dinner time as we had forgotten to clean the 3 pounds of leeks. Fortunately, everyone pitched in, and we got them cleaned, sliced, and roasted in no time.
I wanted a wine that would have the tannic profile to stand up to the steaks and cheese, but also have an elegance that would marry well with the asparagus and leek. Enter 2005 Quilceda Creek Red Wine Columbia Valley, a blend of 84% Cab, 9% Cab Franc, and 7% Merlot. Black fruits blended with graphite and cedar on the nose. Full-bodied, with rich, ripe, fruits and a huge backbone, it was a great pairing.
DESSERT: Thomas Keller’s Dark Chocolate O-O’s
Keith had given us the Bouchon Bakery cookbook for Christmas last year, and this was the second time we tried Keller’s take on Ho-Ho’s. They’re worth a full report themselves, so we’ll save that for another day. I will, however, give you the picture of deliciousness.
Day of Thrones has become a tradition that I suspect will outlive the HBO series. Given its popularity, we’ll have many more years before we have to decide exactly what to do once the series is over. Until then, this annual festival of food and games will continue.