Last-Minute Help for the Thanksgiving Meal

Roasted Turkey on Harvest TableWe don’t need to tell you that tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.

Are you ready for the big feast?

Just in case some part of your planning slipped through the cracks, we at Vinesse Today are here to help.

Below, you’ll find links for the Butterball Turkey hotline, unique Turkey Day recipes that incorporate bacon, tasty side dish recipes, an alternative to pumpkin pie, gluten-free dessert recipes and more.

All in all, it’s one more reason to give thanks — that help is available, if you need it.

One more thing before we get to the list: From all of us at Vinesse to you and yours… Happy Thanksgiving!

  • If everything really is better with bacon, why should that concept not extend to the Thanksgiving meal? Food and Wine magazine offers a wide range of recipes that embrace pork, from pancetta-wrapped roasted turkey to bacon-shallot gravy.

http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/thanksgiving-better-with-bacon#!slide=2?xid=DISH111714BaconEnrichedThanksgiving

  • Have a question about preparing your holiday turkey? The Butterball team is here to help, and can be reached by phone, via online chat, or through email. Just keep in mind that many other people may be seeking help, so it’s best to inquire early.

http://www.butterball.com/contact-us

  • No Thanksgiving feast is complete without an array of tasty sides. Betty Crocker offers a number of suggestions, both classic and creative — from the famous green bean casserole to granola streusel-topped sweet potatoes.

http://www.bettycrocker.com/Menus-Holidays-Parties/MHPLibrary/Holidays/Must-Make-Sides-for-Thanksgiving

  • Tired of the same old pumpkin pie for dessert, but don’t want to dump the pumpkin altogether? Food and Wine offers a tasty recipe for Pumpkin Tiramisu, served with coffee-dipped ladyfingers.

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/pumpkin-tiramisu?xid=DAILY111614ViewRecipe

  • The chefs at Kendall-Jackson have come up with a dish that incorporates two traditional Thanksgiving ingredients: pumpkin and cornbread. Check out the K-J recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread.

http://blog.kj.com/pumpkincornbread/

  • More and more Americans are embracing gluten-free diets, either by choice or out of necessity. The good news is you need not sacrifice good taste for healthy decisions, as these gluten-free Thanksgiving desserts from Food and Wine deliciously demonstrate.

http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/gluten-free-desserts-for-thanksgiving#!slide=2?xid=DISH111614GlutenFreeDesserts

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Posted in Wine Buzz

A Chardonnay-Friendly Soup to Kick Off the Big Meal

butternut squash soupLooking to lend a special touch to your Thanksgiving meal this week?

Consider kicking off the big feast with this hearty soup, which matches beautifully with rich, buttery Chardonnay — the same wine you may want to serve with the turkey main course.

This recipe yields 6 servings.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Ingredients

  • A 2- or 3-lb. butternut squash, peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Cut squash into 1-inch chunks.
  1. In a large pot, melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent (about 8 minutes).
  1. Add squash and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender (about 15 to 20 minutes).
  1. Remove squash chunks with a slotted spoon, place in a blender, and puree.
  1. Return blended squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

The Chardonnay Style for Turkey Day

Wine_WhiteThere are several varieties of wine that are immediately identifiable when you swirl, sniff and taste them.

Chardonnay is not among them. More than any other “major” variety, Chardonnay assumes the personality of the winemaker.

During the 1980s, California Chardonnay became known for its rich, buttery and oak-tinged style. It was a style that drew big numbers and rave reviews from influential wine critics, so it made good business sense for Golden State vintners to follow the herd.

Those California “butter bombs” were quite distinct from their French counterparts. White Burgundy, as Chardonnay was and is known there, has long had a more demure persona, defined by traits that have been described as “minerally” and “steely.” If California Chardonnay was Robin Williams, White Burgundy was Clint Eastwood.

In recent years, the “California style” of Chardonnay has evolved. Far fewer winemakers are embracing the “butter bomb” style (achieved through a process known as malolactic fermentation), and the majority are emulating the French style or one that falls somewhere in between.

This has transformed the majority of California Chardonnay bottlings from rich sipping wines into ones that are more balanced and food friendly.

At least once each year, however, there is a place at the dinner table for those rich, buttery Chardonnays that used to be so ubiquitous in the United States: Thanksgiving Day. If, that is, you have the traditional turkey feast with all the trimmings.

Turkey. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes with creamy gravy. Rolls slathered with melting butter. Those are the ingredients of a meal that cries out for “traditional” California Chardonnay. The aromas, textures and flavors mesh like an orchestra whose musicians have been playing together for years — a symphony for the senses.

With meals that aren’t as rich — rotisserie chicken, halibut, pork chops — the “lighter,” more fruitful style of Chardonnay is an ideal pairing partner. But on “Turkey Day,” it’s the perfect time to give thanks for those rich renditions made famous by California vintners of the 1980s.

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Posted in In the Cellar

Wine Suggestions for Turkey Day… Even If You’re Not Serving Turkey

The Thanksgiving feast has been called the most difficult food-and-wine pairing meal of the year.

In a way, that’s true. But if you look at it in another way, the exact opposite is the case.

What you first need to decide is what kind of meal it’s going to be — formal, served in multiple courses, or casual, served buffet or family style.

Traditional thanksgiving turkey dinnerIf you take the formal approach, the wine pairing is a snap; you simply match the wine to the course being served, following the guidelines outlined in previous “Food and Wine Pairing” posts.

But formal isn’t as much fun — or manageable — as casual. The price you pay for fun, however, is a more challenging wine pairing situation.

That said, we always enjoy a challenge, so let’s take the casual approach. This involves a two-part pairing process.

First, you need a wine that matches nicely with the main course, whether it’s turkey, ham or (less traditional but yummy) lamb. Second, you need a few wines that will mesh with all the other flavors on the table, from sweet potatoes to cranberry sauce, and from green bean casserole to maple-glazed carrots.

First things first. Here are wine pairing ideas for main course dishes:

  • With ham — Beaujolais Nouveau (the first wine of the vintage from France, made with Gamay grapes), a fruit-forward California Zinfandel, or sparkling wine.

Secondly, we need some wines that taste good with all of those side dishes. Here, it’s not a matter of selecting a specific wine for a specific dish, but rather a range of wines for all of the dishes.

That means wines that are either slightly sweet or at least have a good deal of fruitfulness in their flavor spectrum.

Among those we’ve found that work particularly well are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc and, among reds, Gamay or Australian Shiraz.

There are dozens of flavors among the dishes on a typical Turkey Day plate. You need at least a few different wines to satisfy the various palates partaking of those dishes.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

Red Wine and Music: A Global Perspective

JamboreeStageThe first three letters of Greg Trooper’s last name provide a clue as to what he does for a living.

That’s T-R-O as in troubadour — a singer/songwriter extraordinaire who glides under the radar of most people, but has a loyal following of fans who covet his music as much as wine collectors covet those so-called “cult wines.”

I first became familiar with Trooper through another singer-songwriter, Tom Russell. Russell has sung Trooper songs in concert, and the two have been songwriting collaborators.

During our recent “pre-wedding honeymoon” in Europe, Michelle and I had an opportunity to see Trooper in concert at a legendary venue in Barcelona called the Jamboree Club. The club specializes in jazz — its performance alumni including Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Ornette Coleman, Stephane Grapelli, Tom Harrell and Kenny Garrett, among many others — but also hosts musicians from other genres on occasion.

Trooper would fit into the broad “Americana” genre, although he has described his style as “loud folk.”

Trooper played two sets that night in Barcelona, and our bargain-priced, 20-euro tickets entitled us to see both. Of course, anytime I hear someone utter the word “wine,” my ears perk up, so I paid close attention to Trooper’s introduction of a song titled, “Ireland.”

TrooperUpCloseHe talked about touring Europe, and never knowing how much English the people in any given audience may speak. He then forged ahead with his story.

“The one thing I’ve noticed about Europe is that there are different kinds of countries,” he said. “You have your wine countries — France, Spain, Italy. And then you have your beer countries — Germany, Belgium.”

He talked a little bit about the wine and beer he’d had on previous tours, calling it some of the best he’d ever tasted.

“And then there’s a third Europe,” he added. “And I think you know what I’m talking about.”

He paused, then said: “Ireland.”

The English-speaking people in the audience laughed loudly, and several could be seen leaning in toward their neighbors, translating what Trooper had said. Just as the first wave of laughter died down, another came up. Now everyone was in on the joke, and all seemed to agree that Ireland is a “different” kind of place.

Not a wine country. Not a beer country. But a place that’s… unique.

Having never been to Ireland, I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. But it made me want to find out, and Michelle and I have now added Ireland to our list of “must-see” destinations.

One of the cool things about following under-the-radar artists is the opportunity to speak with them. You’ll never find Mick Fleetwood or Stevie Nicks mixing with fans during intermission at a Fleetwood Mac concert, but singer-songwriters like Trooper are more than happy to make themselves available, and to sign their CDs.

During intermission at the Jamboree Club, we asked him whether we had earned the prize for “greatest distance traveled to see the show,” having come from America’s West Coast. He laughed, and seemed almost relieved to encounter English-speaking people.

DrinksWe bought two CDs on his recommendation: “Upside-Down Town,” released in 2010, and his latest, “Incident on Willow Street,” which came out last year. He autographed each, personalizing them with our names and the phrase, “In Barcelona!”

We then let him have his space, so other fans could make their purchases, and grabbed drinks and a snack for the second set. A Spanish Cava from Cordorniu was my choice, and it paired perfectly with the tumbler of nuts, the ambiance of an historic music venue, and the music of an American troubadour performing far from home.

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Bottlings from three European “wine countries” — Italy, France and Spain — are among the selections featured in today’s Cyber Circle offering of “International Reds” from Vinesse.

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log

Merlot Mate: A Different Take on Mashed Potatoes

SONY DSCWant to add a little sizzle to your Thanksgiving mashed potatoes?

Try this recipe, which yields about 8 servings, and pour a glass of fruit-forward Merlot or Zinfandel to sip with each bite during the meal.

MASHED POTATOES WITH ROASTED GARLIC

Ingredients

  • 1 pound whole garlic heads
  • 1/2 cup pure olive oil
  • Gray sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, or more to taste
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation

  1. Start with the roasted garlic, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  1. Peel the outermost layers of skin off the heads of garlic. Cut off the top one-third of the heads to open the cloves.
  1. Heat olive oil in a large oven-safe saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, cut sides up, and saute for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Transfer pan to oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  1. Pop garlic cloves from their skins and place cloves in a blender, along with any olive oil left in the pan. Puree until smooth, with a paste-like consistency.
  1. Cube the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with salted cold water, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  1. The next day, add some more salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until tender (about 10 minutes).
  1. Drain well, place potato cubes in a food mill, and grind to remove skins.
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until the butter stops foaming and turns light brown.
  1. Add garlic paste and cook quickly.
  1. Add the cream, then season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
  1. Reduce the heat to low and fold in potatoes with a wooded spoon or large whisk.
  1. Add the remaining butter by tablespoons, stirring after each addition.
  1. Stir in the extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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merlot

For a nice selection of Merlot bottlings to serve with this tasty recipe, check out today’s Cyber Circle offering from Vinesse.

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5 Tips for a Tantalizing Tapas Experience

Yolanda (left) and Maria made our first authentic tapas expedition an experience to remember.

Yolanda (left) and Maria made our first authentic tapas expedition an experience to remember.

“Life is short. Eat dessert first.”

I’ve heard that observation credited to everyone from Mark Twain to Katherine Hepburn. A little research reveals that it more likely originated with a little-known writer named Ernestine Ulmer, who actually put it slightly differently: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

Regardless of its origin, my fiancée, Michelle, and I embraced the concept recently when we decided to take our honeymoon before our wedding ceremony. I had a whole bunch of miles on American Airlines about to expire, so we decided to use them rather than lose them, and took a two-week vacation — my first-ever no-work period of that extended length — to Europe.

I’ll be sharing some of our wine adventures here in the weeks to come, beginning with our first evening across the pond.

Today’s topic: tapas.

And what better place to experience those Spanish delicacies than in Barcelona, the first stop on our vacation?

We arrived in Spain around 8 a.m. and, of course, were beat from the long, little-sleep flight. We had booked a hotel right along the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, Las Ramblas, and an airport express bus took us to within a block of it in just 20 minutes.

We dropped off our bags and took a stroll on Las Ramblas, window shopping and occasionally stopping for coffee or gelato. At 2 p.m., we returned to the hotel, checked in and crashed. Our plan: Catch a nap, then get up, have dinner, and return to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

We had been told that the best way to see Barcelona was to “start walking and get lost” — easy to do on the narrow, cobblestone, pedestrian-only streets that zigzag through the city.

We strolled past clothing stores, gift shops, bars and bakeries — lots of bakeries. Then we saw it: a tapas restaurant called Txapela. The bar seating looked inviting, and a large sign by the entrance, describing the various dishes in English, made us feel comfortable enough to go in.

We grabbed bar seats right next to the kitchen and, for the next two hours, got our vacation off to a fabulous start.

Our server’s name was Maria, and we soon learned that she wasn’t from Spain, but rather from Peru. The manager on duty, Yolanda, also had moved to Spain from Peru.

They provided us with paper placemats that mirrored that large exterior sign, with one exception: The verbiage was entirely in Spanish. I quickly discovered how little of the Spanish I’d learned in high school had been retained, and when it came time to place another order, I’d go outside to look at that sign and verify what we’d be getting.

On my third trip outside, Yolanda figured out what I’d been doing. She came up to us and said, “Don’t worry — I’ll explain.”

We told her that we were checking the sign not so much to see what we were ordering, but rather to avoid getting something we didn’t want. Neither Michelle nor I like real spicy food (we prefer to taste the food rather than the spice), and Michelle does not like sardines.

“No spice and no sardines,” Yolanda said. “Okay.”

From that point on, we trusted our palates to Yolanda and Maria, and we were not disappointed. Dish after dish was perfectly prepared and amazingly flavorful. We washed it all down with a bottle of rosé-style Spanish wine — specifically, the Rosado Lagrima from Castillo Monjardin. It was fruitful, refreshing and the perfect complement to the smorgasbord of flavors that were coming out of the kitchen on those small plates.

In a word, our evening at Txapela was amazing. It was unlike anything we’d ever experienced in the United States which, when you think about it, is the point of taking a vacation in a distant land, right?

Here are a few things we learned on our tapas adventure — tips you can use the next time you visit a tapas restaurant/bar, either here in the States or in Spain:

  1. Communicate with your servers.

Tell them what you really like, and what you really don’t like. They will help you navigate what likely will be a massive menu, tailoring selections to your preferences.

  1. Sit near the kitchen.

It’s fun to watch the various tapas being prepared, and when they’re finished and placed on a tray, you’ll get first shot at them — at their absolute peak of freshness.

  1. Treat your servers with respect.

Say please (or “por favor”) and thank you (or “gracias”). Smile. Engage them in conversation. In too many instances, diners treat servers like servants. If you treat them more like friends, they’ll treat you the same way. Michelle and I will be talking about Maria and Yolanda for years to come.

  1. Try the specials.
The highlight of our meal was the day’s special — a very simple preparation of lamb served on toast. We had seconds.

The highlight of our meal was the day’s special — a very simple preparation of lamb served on toast. We had seconds.

Most tapas restaurants/bars prepare a few dishes that aren’t found on the menu. If a server suggests something, and it doesn’t stretch your dietary limits or preferences, try it. That’s what we did with a simple preparation of lamb on toast. The toast was lightly buttered, and the lamb was lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic salt — nothing else. We devoured it, and when Maria returned to take our next order, we told her we’d like two more servings of lamb. She smiled and said, “Not two. Four.” We didn’t know what she meant until she brought out our servings, along with two more — one for her, and one for Yolanda. They loved the lamb, too, and had decided to have a little snack with us.

  1. Tip.
We concluded our visit to Txapela with glasses of Spanish Cava, compliments of the house.

We concluded our visit to Txapela with glasses of Spanish Cava, compliments of the house.

We had been told that tipping was neither necessary nor expected in Spain. If we absolutely wanted to leave a tip, we were advised, we should simply “round up.” So, if our bill came to 24 euros, as an example, we could leave 25 — and the server would be very grateful. Well, after the experience we’d had at Txapela, thanks to Maria and Yolanda, we didn’t feel right leaving 35 euros for a 33-euro bill. So, after asking for the check, I handed Maria 45 euros and put up my hand, signifying that no change was necessary. Her face lit up immediately, and she then put up her hand, telling us not to leave. She took our bill and money to the cash register, then returned with a bottle of Cava — Spanish sparkling wine. She poured two glasses, placed them in front of us, put her index finger up to her lips as if to say, “Shhhhh…” and winked. That was her “gracias” to us.

It was an unforgettable way to begin an unforgettable vacation.

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spanishIf you can’t get to Spain anytime soon, you can still experience the flavors of Spain by making your own tapas and serving them with the wines featured in today’s Cyber Circle offering from Vinesse.

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

Grilled turkey on wooden plate for christmas and thanks givingEvery year, around this time, I see it.

The first time I saw it, if I’m remembering correctly, it arrived on my fax machine.

The next time, it came in via email.

And this year, it showed up — where else? — on Facebook. (It’s too long for Twitter.)

You may have seen it as well. At least among wine lovers, it has become a “holiday classic” of sorts. I find it a great way to get in the spirit for the holiday season ahead, which officially begins (at least in my household) with Thanksgiving.

The author is unknown, and I suspect the wording has been amended at least a few times as it has been handed down, much like the lyrics to an old folk song. It’s called, “How to Cook a Turkey.”

Step 1 — Buy a turkey.

Step 2 — Have a glass of wine.

Step 3 — Stuff turkey.

Step 4 — Have a glass of wine.

Step 5 — Put turkey in oven.

Step 6 — Relax and have a glass of wine.

Step 7 — Turk the bastey.

Step 8 — Wine of glass another get.

Step 9 — Hunt for meat thermometer.

Step 10 — Glass yourself another pour of wine.

Step 11 — Bake the wine for four hours.

Step 12 — Take the oven out of the turkey.

Step 13 — Tet the sable.

Step 14 — Grab another wottle of bine.

Step 15 — Turk the carvey!

We’ll have a few more Turkey Day tips — real ones! — in the days leading up to November 27. Meanwhile… Happy Monday!

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Posted in Editor's Journal

Try This Easy-to-Prepare, Cab-Friendly Dish

braciola di suino con insalataIn yesterday’s blog, we shared a recipe for Onion and Gruyere Tarts — perfect for a cold pre-winter day, and also perfect with Cabernet Sauvignon.

But as a few blog followers pointed out, that recipe really requires two days because it calls for a key ingredient — the onions — to be refrigerated. And in my experience, refrigerating overnight yields the best results.

So what about Saturday? What can we eat with a good Cabernet while those onions are chillin’?

Here’s what: a yummy Roast Pork Loin… and this recipe makes enough for 15 to 18 servings. Best of all, it can be assembled all at one time.

P.S.: In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, this dish also pairs nicely with Sangiovese.

PORK LOIN ROAST

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic-pepper blend
  • 2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1 boneless rolled pork loin roast (about 5 pounds)

For the Basting Sauce:

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Preparation

  1. Combine the garlic salt, garlic-pepper and lemon-pepper. Rub over roast.
  1. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until a thermometer reads 145 degrees.
  1. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the basting sauce ingredients.
  1. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  1. Brush over roast occasionally while baking.
  1. Let roast stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Enjoy! And try to stay warm!

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

Cabernet-Friendly Fare for a Chilly Weekend

Assiette de tarte aux poireauxAs if we needed a reason to break out a great bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mother Nature provided it this week with her very early “preview” of the winter season ahead.

That “chill” in the air — okay, it’s a lot more than just a chill in many parts of the country — reminds us that the changing of the season brings with it a change in the way we eat. We tend to eat heartier fare — casseroles, stews, roasts — as well as heartier wines.

And no wine is heartier than Cabernet Sauvignon, which is being spotlighted in a Vinesse Cyber Circle offer this week. Cabernet is rich and robust — just like the cuisine to which we’re now transitioning… whether we had planned to or not.

CabIn case you’re planning to “hunker down” this weekend, here’s a recipe you may want to try — the first part on Saturday, and the rest on Sunday. Yes, it pairs absolutely perfectly with Cabernet Sauvignon.

ONION AND GRUYERE TARTS

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 10-inch pre-baked tart shell
  • ½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 heaping tablespoon smoked onions (from above), chopped
  • 4 whole large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Pinch of fresh ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Using a home-style smoker, place the onion slices on the smoker rack and smoke them for 2 hours.
  1. Wrap the smoked onions in aluminum foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the onion slices are tender.
  1. Chop the onions and refrigerate.
  1. When ready to prepare dish, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  1. Whisk together the eggs, milk and cream. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Add the smoked onions.
  1. Spread the cheese evenly on the bottom of the tart shell, and pour the custard mix over the cheese.
  1. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and the tart filling has puffed up some.

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Tomorrow: Another Cabernet Sauvignon-friendly recipe.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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