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Spacer issue nine, volume six  

Winter Basket

In case you haven't noticed, something is happening out there. Trio of PenguinsIt sneaks up on you this time every year, I certainly know it sneaks up on me. Of course I am speaking of the holidays, that joyous time of year. We may each of us celebrate them in different ways, but we all share a common responsibility; with celebrations come gifts and that of course is where we can help. Our Winter Basket is a good place to start, with all the goodies that are sure to please everyone on your list, from Hot Chocolate to DreidelEggnog Snowballs to our famous Caramels with fleur de sel. Other wintry items include our Snowy Trees with powdered sugar on their boughs, large and small Polar Bears, Penguins in Knit Caps and two sizes of Snowmen in top hats. For Hanukkah we have a chocolate Dreidel in dark, milk and white. We celebrate Christmas with a wide selection of hand decorated Santa Clauses and St. Nicks ranging from those that are simply standing to others driving cars and holding deer. We have Santa's boots that can be ordered filled with chocolates or empty for you to fill with Red Boxesother treasures. Now those are our special items for the holidays, but one shouldn't forget our more traditional items such as our delicious boxed Chocolates, Caramels with fleur de sel, Hot Chocolate, English Toffee, etc. We wish you and your family a warm and wonderful holiday season.

John and Tracy Wood Anderson


When one thinks of the Holidays the first thing that comes to mind are celebrations and the favored wine of celebration is of course Sparkling. Well, l for this month's tasting we went right to the source and decided to pair our chocolates with a Schramsberg Brut Rose. you would have to have been living under a rock for the past 30-plus years to not have at least some knowledge of the brand. They burst on the scene when Nixon took their wines on his historic trip to China and their superb quality has allowed them to never look back. While they make an incredible range of sparkling wines from Tete de Cuvee to Cremant we (again) chose the 2006 Brut Rose ($41). Overall a really beautiful wine with apple, pear and vanilla in the nose, cassis and fresh berries on the palate. As for chocolates, the Amaretto Almond, Fresh Mint, Wild Cherry, Praline Noisette, Honey and Dark Raspberry were particularly strong matches. The Bananas Foster, Chambord, Thai Ginger, Mocha Cream and Praline Cream were almost as strong. A general note about champagnes (sparkling wines) and Roses in particular, they are often the easiest and best match for chocolates, as indeed for any food. ( We even drink it with Mexican food.)



Serves 8

Here is a little something that can be put together the night before and enjoyed the next day, in fact it's better. I say spicy in the title, and I mean it - both ways. This strata has an exotic blend of spices in the filling as well as a little heat by way of a Moroccan chile paste called Harissa. I must admit, this is not a throw it together in 10 minutes kind of dish, but all the effort is made the day before, so somehow it doesn't seem so difficult. Also, the flavors might challenge those picky eaters who prefer subtlety, but you never know! I hope you try it.

For the Lamb:
1 lb. ground lamb

4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground anise seed or fennel seed
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I prefer Aleppo)

1 red onion, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 28-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon ground allspice
2 Tablespoons + 2 Teaspoons Harissa (or chinese chile paste if you can't find Harissa)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

Spicy Lamb

In a small bowl, combine the cardamom, coriander, cumin, anise seed and salt. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the lamb, 1 Tablespoon of the above spice mix and the red pepper flakes. Keep the rest of the spice mix for the yogurt sauce. Mix well (this makes a good sausage all on it's own if you add a little sauteed shallot, bread crumbs and a dash of soda water). Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add the olive oil, then the diced onion. Season with a little salt and saute until it starts to brown. Add the lamb and saute, breaking up the meat as you go, until browned and cooked through. Add the tomatoes, allspice and Harissa. Stir until some of the tomato liquid has reduced - a minute or so. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the cocoa powder (this will thicken it slightly). Stir in the mint and set aside to cool.

For the Yogurt Sauce:
4 cups plain, unsweetened yogurt
2 Tablespoons of the above spice mix
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint

For the Bread Layers:
16 slices french bread
1/3 cup butter, melted
6 eggs
1 cup of the yogurt sauce
1 cup whole milk or half & half
1 teaspoon garlic salt
a few grindings of black pepper
1 lb. yogurt cheese, or Monterey Jack, grated
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay out the bread slices on a baking sheet and brush evenly with the melted butter on both sides. Bake until starting to brown. Butter a large rectangular casserole dish (somewhere around 12"X18'). Place a single layer of bread on the bottom of the baking dish, cutting if necessary to fit all the way to the edges. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the 1 cup yogurt sauce, milk, garlic salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined. Pour half of this mixture over the bread. Turn the bread over, to make sure it is well coated with egg mixture. Let it soak in a little while, then sprinkle with 4 oz's. of the grated cheese. Stir 8 oz's. of the cheese into the lamb mixture, then spread this evenly over the bread. Sprinkle with the remaining 4 oz's. yogurt cheese. Place the remaining bread slices over this, then pour the rest of the egg mixture over the bread, picking up each slice to make sure that they are well coated. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate over-night, or you can proceed after the bread has absorbed all the egg mixture. (If you are waiting until the next day, don't forget to refrigerate the reserve yogurt sauce too.)
To finish, spread 1 cup of the yogurt sauce over the bread, then sprinkle with the 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour, or until puffed and golden. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving up. Serve with the remaining yogurt sauce on the side, and if you are really tricky, garnish with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. Whew! I hope I didn't leave anything out!

© 2009 Woodhouse Chocolate LOCATION
1367 Main Street
St. Helena, Ca 94574
telephone 800-966-3468
email info@woodhousechocolate.com