“OPA!” Greek Wine Dinner menu is here!

There’s so much going on at the Bistro this month it may seem hard to catch your breath. And indeed, the menu we’ve got planned for the “OPA!” Greek Wine Dinner on Wednesday, April 27, may just take away what breath you have left! Plan to be here for this culinary visit to the Greek Isles:

First Course
Lamb Keftede with Tzatziki Sauce
Wine: Santorini ’06

Second Course
Sea Bass in the Style of Corfu
with Artichokes, Lemon, Potatoes, Greek Olives, Oregano, Rosemary,
and Garlic
Wine: Moschofilero ’09

Third Course
Greek Village Salad with Pita Bread
Wine: Merlot Xinomavro ’09

Fourth Course
Chicken and Spinach Spanakopita with Dill-Lemon Beurre Blanc
Wine: Naoussa ’04

Fifth Course
Shrimp Santorini: Shrimp, Tomatoes, Feta Cheese, Orzo, and Ouzo
Wine: Nemea ’05

Sixth Course
Phyllo Nests with Fresh Berries and Honey-Infused Crème Fraîche
Caramelized Pistachio, Walnut, and Almond Tartlet
Wine: Metaxa Brandy

The “OPA!” dinner is $65 per person plus tax and gratuity. Doesn’t just reading about it make you feel like doing Zorba’s dance? Call 216.481.9635 to reserve your spot. We won’t be smashing any plates at the Bistro, but this Greek feast will be plate-smashing good!

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Behind the Dish: Shrimp Étouffée

The master chef who provided Julia with the recipe for today’s Julia Project dish is one likely familiar to many: Emeril Lagasse, the Cajun/Creole chef whose presence on TV is ubiquitous. (You can see him preparing the dish at the video linked here.)

Shrimp Étouffé calls for, first, a butter-and-flour roux, to which are added chopped onions, bell peppers and celery, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cayenne pepper and, of course, “Essence” (a combination of paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried oregano and dried thyme). Then shrimp stock is added and the whole combination is boiled, then simmered. Raw shrimp is seasoned with more of the Essence and added them to the pot and cooked through. With a little parsley added, the finished dish is served on steamed white rice and garnished with green onion. BAM!

Behind the Dish: Lamb Moussaka

Tonight’s Julia Project dish, Lamb Moussaka, is familiar to most modern diners. If you know anything about Greek cuisine, you’ve probably heard of moussaka, and you may well have enjoyed it as part of your family’s cooking or at a Greek or other restaurant. The dish, which usually is made in the form of a kind of “lasagna” that layers slices of eggplant with ground lamb in a tomato sauce, originated in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, which makes it rather interesting that a recipe for it was included in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1.

Julia’s instructions for how to structure and serve the completed dish are quite a bit different from how it’s normally done today; they’re much more classically French. Her original recipe uses a charlotte mold, which she instructs the cook to line with the skins of the cooked eggplant portion of the dish and then fill with a combination of the eggplant, mushrooms, lamb and sauce, resulting in a “shiny, dark purple cylinder surrounded with a deep red tomato sauce.” Wow! Her completed entree, brought to the table whole at a dinner party, must have looked rather like a purple Bundt cake. For our purposes, however, we used the more conventional rectangular pan and “layered” method of preparation commonly seen today. We’re also providing it with our own version of a “French twist.” And we’re proud to add that the vegetables are all organic, from Jim Darr’s Old Plank Farm in Windsor, Ohio — pesticide and herbicide free.

We’ve been prepping our moussaka since yesterday, because it is quite a bit labor-intensive. One of the steps requires slicing up the eggplant, sprinkling the slices with salt and letting them sit out for a half hour to “sweat out” the excess water (eggplant holds a lot of water) before cooking it. This process makes the eggplant more permeable to the olive oil in which it bakes before it’s layered, but it also requires a lot of room to lay out all the slices when you’re making as much moussaka as we are! With the limited space available to us in the Bistro kitchens, we had to do it in stages.

The recipe also calls for minced mushrooms, shallots or onions, the ground lamb (already cooked before being placed in the dish — which is probably why Julia describes it as a way to use “leftovers”), salt and pepper, thyme, garlic and rosemary, tomato paste, eggs, and a brown sauce. Rather than the brown sauce, however, we’re topping our moussaka layers with a classic béchamel, or white sauce, made with milk, flour and butter. Also, our bottom layer is sliced fried Yukon Gold potatoes — another item not in Julia’s original recipe. And, we added oregano and cinnamon, two other spices Julia’s version omits, but that are very much components of a classic moussaka.

The ingredients are layered and baked up to make a hearty, heartwarming dish, which we will top with an arrabiata pepper sauce. It will be accompanied by a classic Greek side salad featuring cucumbers, kalamata olives, our rooftop tomatoes and basil, red onion, orange and red peppers, and feta cheese, dressed in a Greek vinaigrette.

Sounds like a great fall dish? We thought so!

Behind the Dish: Chile Glazed Country Ribs with Black Beans and Rice

The Julia Project travels south of the border for its flavors tonight, with a recipe developed and shared with Julia by Rick Bayless, who with his wife Deann runs the award-winning Frontera Grill and Topolobompo restaurants in Chicago. Rick became a student of cooking Mexican style and came up with this recipe that combines country-style pork ribs (which have lots of meat per rib and a great texture) with a marinade made of roasted ancho and grajillo chili peppers. The marinade also includes garlic, meat or poultry broth, cider vinegar, cumin seeds, ground cloves, peppercorns, oregano, cinnamon, salt and sugar. After marinating in the roasted chili pepper mixture, the ribs are baked in foil with water, basted with their cooking juices and the leftover marinade, until crispy on the outside and full of flavor on the inside. (You can see Rick preparing the recipe in a video linked here.)

We’ll be serving them with black beans and rice for a meal that is sure to wake up tastebuds longing for a meaty pork rib with a spicy tang. Come join us!

The tuna’s in tune

JuliaProject917If you order the Julia dish tonight, be prepared for a combination of perfectly matched Mediterranean flavors to come your way. The tuna is nicely seared and just a bit rare on the inside, sitting on a bed of Israeli couscous just swimming in buttery, lemony flavor. The grape tomatoes we added to the couscous complement the tomato flavor of the ratatouille sauce, full of tender vegetable chunks. Throughout it all are the flavors of the kalamata olives (pitted this time), capers, garlic, onion, rooftop thyme and oregano. A spicy, citrusy treat for your palate!

More “behind the dish”…

Details on the Bistro’s take on tonight’s tuna: This is going to be a dish with a real Mediterranean accent. The olives will be kalamatas, and capers will be added to the recipe’s thyme, oregano and lemons to flavor it up even more. Accompaniments will be ratatouille and Israeli couscous.