Central Valley

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Central Valley: Entertaining

Stress-free Hosting

It’s a party, so have fun. Allie Quady Shaylor shows you how.

Allie Quady Shaylor was raised at her parents’ winery in Madera. During the 1990s, her father, Andy Quady, became known as the Muscat King after persuading Central Valley growers to grow Muscat for his dessert wines, Elysium and Essensia, in addition to grape varieties traditionally used to make Port. 

The Quadys also produce Vya Vermouth in both sweet and dry versions. Shaylor is helping the family leap into the cocktail world, crisscrossing the country to promote their tasty wares.  She also has two Quady cocktail recipe books, free online.

“The dessert wine category is shrinking but the apéritif category is getting bigger,” she says.  ”That’s our unique spot, making aromatic, intensely flavored wines. We want to let people know how many uses there are for our wines.” 

Quady’s key trick: “Emphasize flavor, by putting more wine and less alcohol in your cocktails. It’s nice to savor your drink and be able to have another.”


Recreate the Region

The Menu

Caramelized endive and gruyère cheese
Rye bread, gouda and olives
Meatballs and cream sauce
Cucumber salad
Seasonal vegetable tempura and spicy sauce 
Gravlax or smoked salmon and mustard dill sauce

The Décor

“We love to break out the nice glasses and flatware, but we’re really focused on the food and wine,” Quady says. “Plus, along with good music and good company, that’s honestly all we need.” 

The Playlist

Classic jazz for classic cocktails: Art Blakey’s Serious Business, Charles Mingus’ Mingus Mingus Mingus or change it up with Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage.

The Drinks

Extra-dry martinis made with Vya Vermouth garnished with olives, and paired with gravlax. And 50:50 Manhattans: equal parts whiskey and vermouth, paired with the meatballs. 


Quady Family Danish Gravlax

3+ pounds fresh salmon filet with skin (You want to end up with two pieces similar in size; center cut works best but any two matching      pieces will work.)
1 large bunch dill (if not pungent, chop coarsely to release flavor)
¼ cup salt (coarse—kosher or any type salt crystals)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons peppercorns, crushed (white preferred but black is fine)

Place half the fish, skin side down, in a glass, enamel or stainless steel dish. Dish needs to be deep enough to hold both layers of the fish and platter to cover fish inside the bowl. Wash, shake dry the dill bunch and place on the fish. In small bowl combine the salt, sugar and crushed peppercorns. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the dill. Top with other half of fish, skin side up. Cover with aluminum foil. 

Set a platter atop aluminum-foil covered fish filets and pile the platter with weights—three to four cans of food work well. Refrigerate 48 hours or up to three days, turning fish every 12 hours and basting with the liquid marinade that accumulates. 

Separate the halves to baste salmon inside and turn the salmon over and replace platter and weights each time. When finished, remove the fish from marinade and separate halves.

Scrape away the dill and seasonings and patdry with paper towels then place skin side down on carving board. Slice salmon halves thinly on the diagonal, detaching from the skin. Serve with mustard-dill sauce, lemon wedges, small toasts or thin rye bread and a lettuce salad. Serves 8–10.


Mustard-Dill Sauce

4 tablespoons mustard, whole-grain
1 teaspoon mustard, powdered
2-3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar (white preferred but regular wine vinegar is fine)
⅓ cup oil (vegetable or light olive oil)
3 tablespoons dill, fresh, chopped                       

In small deep bow or electric hand blender mix two mustards, sugar and vinegar to paste. With wire whisk slowly beat in the oil until the mixture forms a thick, mayonnaise-like emulsion. Stir in the chopped dill. Refrigerate in small jar until ready to use. Shake vigorously or beat with whisk before serving. You can make this several days ahead. Makes about 1/2 cup.      


Pickled Cucumber Salad

2 each cucumbers, large
1 tablespoon salt
¾ cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons dill, fresh chopped

Scrub cucumbers and dry. Score lengthwise with a fork. Cut them into thinnest possible slices. Arrange in thin layer in shallow glass dish. Sprinkle with salt. Place weights on top to press out excess water and bitterness. Leave at room temperature for a few hours or overnight in refrigerator. Remove plates and drain cucumbers of all liquid. Wash slightly to remove excess salt, pat dry and return to dish.

For vinaigrette: In small bowl, beat together vinegar, sugar salt and pepper. Pour vinaigrette over cucumbers and strew with chopped dill. Chill for two or three hours up to overnight. Just before serving, drain away nearly all the liquid. Serves 4 as salad or more if accompaniment to gravlax.


Meatballs in Sour Cream Sauce               

6 tablespoons butter
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds ground elk, buffalo, or beef (if using beef, increase seasonings)
1 pound pork, lean ground
1 cup bread crumbs, soft fresh white, pulverized in a blender
1 each egg, lightly beaten
½ cup milk    
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme (dried), crumbled
1 tablespoon salt    
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat in heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet. Add onions and garlic, cook for about five minutes until soft and translucent but not browned. Scrape contents of skillet into deep bowl. Add ground meat, pork, breadcrumbs, egg, milk, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper to the bowl. Knead vigorously with both hands to incorporate all ingredients. Beat mixture with wooden spoon until smooth. To shape meatballs pinch off about 1 tablespoon of mixture and roll between hands into ball about 1 inch in diameter.

In skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter with oil and brown the meatballs, 10 or 12 at a time. Turn balls frequently and regulate heat so they color evenly without burning.

With slotted spoon transfer to plate when brown and add more meatballs. When all meatballs are browned, pour off remaining fat in skillet.

Add chicken stock to skillet and bring to boil over high heat, scraping in any browned bits from meatballs. Return all meatballs to the skillet with any liquid accumulated around them on the plate. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes or until no trace of pink when pierced with knife. With slotted spoon remove meatballs to heated bowl and cover to keep warm.

For sour cream sauce, beat sour cream, flour and mustard together with a wire whisk in a bowl until well blended. Add the sour cream mixture to liquid remaining in skillet. Whisking constantly, cook over low heat for four to five minutes until sauce is smooth and lightly thickened. Taste for seasonings. Pour meatballs and sauce into heated chafing dish and stir. Place toothpicks or small forks with chafing dish for guests to serve themselves. Makes about 4 dozen 1-inch meatballs.

Virginie Boone

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