Monday, January 5, 2015

Rancho Winslow Xmas Feast 2014

A Glutton's Xmas Repast

Mini tart teasers

Nancy's cheese tart

For a small group of us non-Winslowians, Xmas dinner at Rancho Winslow is a time-honored tradition. Here lately it’s been built around a slab of prime rib, because it tastes damn good and everyone loves it, and it’s a lot easier to prepare than the somewhat complicated Thanksgiving feast, a couple of weeks earlier. This 2014 Xmas meal was sure to impress, however, because number one Winslow daughter Havalah was bringing along her friend Michael McNeilly, who also happens to be the new Executive Chef at the Domain Fleming’s Steakhouse. Michael was determined to get all Chefirrific on our ass, so who were we to argue? Who doesn’t love getting impressed by a really good chef?

Frenched lamb loins

The cast of characters included many from the recent Thanksgiving feast, with a couple of newbies thrown in for measure. CBoy and Princess Di were there holding court at the Rancho, with grandma Nancy Barnes, Havalah and daughter Violet, Chef Michael McNeilly and his daughter Victoria, Christian Broome, number two Winslow daughter Sarah and her travel buddy, golfer dude Kevin Ostrowski, Jeff and Gina Barnes (who got there early evening, fresh off the highway, to bat cleanup on the leftovers), Robert “Empty Leg” Abraham (who was back in his gluttonous groove), Grover and Jill Swift, entrepreneur Russell Evans, architect David Sargert, and me.

Chef, slicing prime rib


We started with ales and sparkling wine, with little mini puff pastry tart shells filled with fresh buffalo mozzarella and diced heirloom tomato, drizzled with some herbed olive oil. Nancy had brought along her cheese tart, which, if I recall properly, was made up of cream cheese, grated cheese, garlic, spices, and parmesan, with a layer of artichoke hearts on the bottom. Occasionally a teaser lamb chop would drift through the room, catching everyone’s attention.

The 13-bone roasted prime rib from Johnny G’s Butcher Block was beefy and excellent, cooked medium-rare, and sliced by Michael into 16 hefty portions. Chef had made a delicious, moist turkey ballotine stuffed with jalapeno cranberry stuffing made with sourdough baguette, with a sauce of reduced chicken glace and Damian cranberries. That dish was for the non-meat eaters but there was more than enough for everyone to get a slice.


Mushrooms reducing for sauce

Cloud-like gnocchi


Chef had also brought along 7 racks of Frenched lamb ribs that he seasoned and roasted to rare-medium rare and then sliced into individual chops, served with a mint jelly glaze. Those little beauties were crazy-good, tender little meat lollipops. I threw together a mushroom sauce with crimini and regular mushrooms, shitake, oyster, and porcini, with shallot, garlic, red wine, beef stock, demi-glace, and black pepper that came out rich, woodsy, and umami-laden. It was a nice drape for the meat, or, we also had a horseradish sauce of sour cream and cream cheese, garlic, scallion, horseradish, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, and white pepper. 

Lamb chops with mint jelly glaze

Turkey ballotine top, root vegetables bottom

Ballotine cross-section

Chef whipped up a batch of ethereally light gnocchi, which he blanched-off, and then fried in olive oil, before tossing with roasted corn, chanterelle mushrooms, and herbs. Those babies elicited some serious grunts of pleasure when fork met the plate. Chef also had a big platter of yummy roasted winter root vegetables dressed with Meyer lemon olive oil.

Di's Brussel sprout salad

Caprese salad

Nancy's 5-Cup Salad

There was a bowl of Di’s famous Brussel sprout salad, Chef had composed a Salade Caprese with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, dressed with pomegranate balsamic reduction and extra-virgin olive oil, and Nancy made a “5-Cup Salad”/ambrosia, of coconut, pineapple, whipped cream, mandarin orange, and marshmallow. Di had assembled a big fruit salad with pineapple, blackberries, apple, and strawberry.

There were yeast rolls and softened herbed butter to go with all of the above, and we finished with rum and Nancy’s amazingly moist chocolate cherry cake, and Russell’s sinfully rich pecan pie. Chef teased us with cellphone photos of his charcuterie, which he says is his real specialty. We were all double-stuffed, and the preserved meats and sausages
still looked tempting.


Fresh fruit salad

The boys, L to R....Christian, Russell, Dave, and Robert (note his expression at being asked to stop loading his plate for half a second). Di directs spawn on right.

Chef received a tumultuous refrain of hip-hip-hoorays from the crowd for his magnificent performance, we all popped open a couple of belt holes on our buckles, and went into a collective sloth-like collapse of wretched overindulgence, our own little Christmas gift to ourselves. I think we all deserved it. I know we all loved it. And golfer extraordinaire Kevin did a number on all of the dishes and policed the kitchen, which Princessa Di absolutely LOVED.

Kevin single-handedly whipped that kitchen's ass. 

Mick Vann ©

Go taste Michael’s delicious food at the Domain Fleming’s Steakhouse:

For  David Sargert’s Flickr fotos of some of his past projects:

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