Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders & Savory Pumpkin Sage Waffles with Brown Butter Maple Syrup

Recommended Pairing: Cast Wines N/V Blanc de Noirs



Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders & Savory Pumpkin Sage Waffles with Brown Butter Maple Syrup



For the waffles:

2 cups all purpose flour

2.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 eggs

1.5 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

For the fried chicken:

1.5-2 lbs chicken breast tenders

1.5 cups buttermilk

1.5 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the brown butter maple syrup:

1 stick butter (salted or unsalted, your preference)

1 cup real maple syrup

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of salt


1. Sift together all dry ingredients for the waffles and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, buttermilk and pumpkin puree until smooth and completely incorporated. Whisk all of the dry ingredients into wet ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time until completely smooth. Set aside to rest while waffle iron heats. About 15 minutes.

2. Scoop 1/4-1/3 cup of batter into the center of your waffle iron and cook about 1.5-2 minutes until golden. Waffle irons vary, so gauge your time accordingly. As waffles finish, place them on a rimmed baking sheet in a 200F oven to keep warm and continue to crisp slightly.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pot, melt butter over medium-low heat until milk solids begin to brown and the butter gives off a nutty aroma. Carefully add maple syrup and whisk well to completely incorporate. Add salt and nutmeg. Remove from heat until ready to serve.

4. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot with about 3” of canola oil (use any oil you prefer to fry with). While oil heats, mix flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Create a dredging station with chicken in one dish, flour mixture in another dish, and finally the buttermilk in a third dish.

5. Place each chicken tender (only a few at a time) into dry ingredients and coat completely. Shake off excess flour, dip into buttermilk, allow excess liquid to drip off, place chicken back into dry ingredients to coat completely (this is adequate for a light crispy coating. If you like extra crunch, repeat the process one more time).

6. Fry chicken tenders in batches of no more than 6 to keep the oil hot. Fry for 6 minutes, flipping half way through, until completely crisp and golden. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess grease. Place fried chicken tenders into oven with waffles until all chicken is cooked and you are ready to serve.

7. Warm the syrup before pouring over the chicken & waffles. Enjoy!

Piggy Pasta

Recommended Pairing: Cast Wines 2017 Grey Palm Zinfandel





Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: six servings


1 package of bucatini pasta (linguine is a close 2nd)

1-lb bulk spicy italian sausage (use sweet italian if you are sensitive to heat)

1/2-lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1-cup dry white wine

1-cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)

fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish


1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rapid boil.

2. Heat a heavy-bottomed 12”-skillet (use the largest straight-sided skillet you own). Add Italian sausage and cook over medium-low heat until sausage is cooked and fat is well rendered.

3. Add shallot and quartered mushrooms to pan with sausage and cook in rendered fat, until mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes.

4. Add pasta to boiling water. Be aware of directed cooking time on package, as you will want to remove pasta 2 minutes shy of package instructions.

5. While pasta cooks, add garlic to sausage & mushrooms and sauté just until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes.

6. Reserve 1-cup of the starchy pasta water just before draining pasta. Once drained (do not rinse!), add pasta to the pan with the sausage and mushrooms. Add 1/2 of the reserved pasta water, toss to combine and continue to cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

7. Add cheese and stir thoroughly. Add salt + pepper to taste. **If your pasta seems very dry (which should not be the case) add a little more of the starchy pasta water until it has reached your desired moisture level.

8. Garnish with parsley, more cheese and optional red chili flakes.

9. Enjoy!

Calabrian Clams

Recommended Pairing: Cast Wines 2019 Barrel-Aged Sauvignon Blanc




Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Servings: two generous appetizer servings


2 lbs littleneck clams (1 lb per person)

5 oz diced pancetta

2 cloves garlic, grated

1-2 tablespoons calabrian chili paste (depending on heat preference)

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) peas

1 lemon, halved


1. Place clams in a bowl and submerge completely with cool water. Let sit for 20-minutes (1-hour max) to allow clams to filter out any sand. This process is called “purging” and you’ll thank yourself later for not skipping this step. Remove from water, drain and rinse well just before cooking.

2. **Important: Examine your clams and discard any that are open and won’t close with a few taps to the shell.

3. Heat a 6-8 quart heavy-bottomed pot and add pancetta. Cook pancetta over medium-low heat until fat is well rendered and meat has crisped nicely.

4. Add grated garlic and Calabrian chili paste. Stir to quickly cook, just until garlic becomes fragrant. Add white wine, stir well, and let simmer for 3-4 minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off.

5. Add peas and clams to pot, stir once and cover tightly with lid. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, then uncover and stir clams again.

6. As the clams begin to open, use long tongs to remove open clams and place in serving bowl. This process will go quickly. If you have a few stragglers, give them a few more minutes and stirs. If a clam does not open after 10-minutes of cooking, discard it.

7. Pour broth over clams and squeeze one half of the lemon over top.

8. Garnish with remaining lemon cut into wedges and some (optional) flat leaf parsley for more color.

9. Serve clams on their own or with some crusty bread to soak up the broth. Enjoy!

French Cassoulet

Recommended Pairing: Cast Wines 2016 Estate Petite Sirah





duck confit – 6 legs (if you plan to make your own, see previous recipe for duck confit, “cassoulet: part one”)

For the beans:

1.5 lbs dried cassoulet beans, such as Tarbais or cannellini – Locals: Rancho Gordo Heirloom Tarbais Cassoulet Beans were excellent!

1/2 lb slab pancetta (ask your local Italian deli!)

2 slices thick cut bacon

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

1 cup crushed tomatoes, canned=OK

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 onion, halved

4 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley

4 sprigs thyme

1 head garlic, halved

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Pork Ragout:

1.5 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1“ cubes

3 tablespoons rendered duck fat or olive oil

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2” chunks

1 onion, quartered

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 bay leaf


1.5 lbs Toulouse sausage (garlic, white wine, pepper, nutmeg, allspice) – Locals: Avi de Seghesio from Journeyman was the perfect sausage here!

1 lb cooked garlic sausage (we used Evergood)

1 clove garlic, cut in half

2.5 cups breadcrumbs

1/4 cup rendered duck fat or butter

reserved ragout and bean cooking liquid

duck skins, removed from confit right after cooking


Two days ahead:

1. Cure duck, if making your own duck confit (see Duck Confit recipe in previous post)

2. Soak beans overnight

3. Rinse beans in colander, careful to remove any pebbles or debris (unlikely, but possible). Place in a large bowl and cover with water by 2”. Refrigerate overnight.

The Day before:

Beans + Duck

1. If making your own duck confit, begin the cooking process (see recipe here).

2. Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot. Cover with water by 2” and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, drain and rinse beans. (This process helps to eliminate foamy scum that can be a byproduct of the cooking process).

3. Return beans to pot and add chicken stock, water, tomato, vinegar, garlic, onion, cloves (pierced into onion), salt, pepper, nutmeg, and bouquet garni (parsley, thyme + bay leaves tied into a bundle). Stir and cook over medium heat for 1.5 hours, periodically scraping any gray scum off of the top.

4. Remove beans from heat and let cool completely, 2 hours. Discard bouquet garni, onion and garlic. Remove any obvious chunks of pancetta and bacon fat, leaving the meaty bits in with the beans.

5. Meanwhile, heat another large, heavy-bottomed pot with 3 tablespoons of duck fat or olive oil. Season cubed pork shoulder with salt and pepper and brown in batches until golden. Add onion, garlic cloves and carrots to pot and sear in fat with pork, 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, water, tomato and bay leaf. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 3 hours, until pork is tender and liquid is reduced.

6. Meanwhile, if making your own duck confit, carefully remove skin from duck legs and lay on a plate in a single layer. Refrigerate overnight. Pick duck meat off of the bones leaving nice, bite-sized pieces.

7. Remove cubed pork shoulder from cooking liquid. Place duck and pork on top of beans, cover and refrigerate overnight.

8. Strain pork cooking liquid and save in refrigerator for baking cassoulet the following day.

The big day:

1. Remove pot of beans and meat from refrigerator and let come to room temperature, 1-2 hours.

2. Heat oven to 375F.

3. Meanwhile, lay reserved chilled duck skin into a cold 9” cast iron or non-stick skillet, and slowly warm over low-medium heat to gently render fat. Gently cook skin, flipping occasionally until completely crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Remove skin to drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

4. In the same pan, add your Toulouse-style sausage (prick the skin prior to cooking to keep them from bursting). Cook over medium-low heat until golden, about 12 minutes. Remove to cutting board to cool.

5. Meanwhile, add the final 1/4 cup of duck fat or butter to same pan used for sausage and duck fat. Add breadcrumbs and cook over low heat, stirring frequently until toasted and golden, 6-8 minutes. Remove breadcrumbs and set aside.

6. Gather your cooking vessel (I used a large, heavy bottomed soup pot). Rub the entire interior surface of cooking vessel with a halved clove of garlic.

7. Slice pre-cooked garlic sausages into 1/4” coins and layer on the bottom of the cooking vessel. Slice Toulouse-style sausages into 1” chunks and add to pot atop garlic sausage. Using your hands, gather the meat from the top of the bean pot and evenly scatter duck and pork shoulder over sausages. Scoop beans on top of meat in an even layer. Moisten with reserved ragout broth until liquid reaches the top of the beans.

8. Place 1/2 cup of toasted breadcrumbs into small food processor. Add crispy duck skin, broken into smaller pieces. Pulse until a uniform, sand-like mixture is achieved, about 6 pulses. Cover beans with a smooth, even layer of plain toasted breadcrumbs and finish with the final layer of duck fat breadcrumbs.

**Processing duck skin is optional. You can also crumble duck fat on top of cassoulet when you are finished cooking it.

9. Cook cassoulet, uncovered for 30 minutes until a golden crust forms. Remove pot and gently scrape breadcrumbs up with a spoon. Press them back down into a smooth layer, allowing them to absorb a little liquid. Bake until another crust forms, 25-30 minutes and repeat the process. Repeat 2 more times, for a total of 4 crust scrapings. **If at any point the cassoulet seems dry, add more liquid, even if you have to use plain chicken stock.

10. Remove from oven, let stand 20 minutes. Serve + Enjoy!

Gougères with Meyer Lemon + Tarragon Chèvre

Recommended Pairing: Cast Wines 2018 Quail Hill Chardonnay



Estero Gold ‘Gougères’

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes (per batch) yield: 36 Gougères


For the Gougères:

1 cup water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 large eggs – room temperature

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

pinch of ground nutmeg

3-oz (1 generous cup) finely shredded Estero Gold Reserve* (can substitute gruyere or a quality aged parmesan)


For the Gougères:

1. Heat oven to 425F. Line three rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium non-stick saucepan, bring water, butter, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper to a gentle boil. Add flour and stir to quickly combine (mixture will form a pasty ball very quickly). Continue cooking mixture over medium heat, stirring rapidly and working the mixture against the sides of the pan, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to food processor.

3. Process for about 30-seconds to allow the mixture to cool slightly. Continue processing and add eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated.

4. Add grated cheese and pulse 5-6 times until fully incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to scrape sides and bottom of bowl if necessary.

5. Transfer mixture to a piping bag or a large zip-top bag with 3/4″ cut off of one bottom corner. Pipe 1-tablespoon sized balls, 2-inches apart (12/sheet). Using a wet finger, gently push down any peaks in pastry so that balls are nicely rounded.

6. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325F and bake an additional 12 minutes, until golden. Remove and let cool on a wire rack. If you do not have three baking sheets, reuse the parchment and same baking sheet, allowing it to cool off slightly while the oven comes back up to 425F for the next sheet of gougères to bake.



5-oz chèvre, or soft goat’s milk cheese

4-oz mascarpone or cream cheese

2 teaspoons meyer lemon zest

3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

salt + pepper, to taste 

1 teaspoon meyer lemon juice

2 tablespoons heavy cream or half+half


1. Place chèvre/goat cheese, mascarpone, heavy cream, meyer lemon zest, lemon juice and chopped tarragon into a medium bowl. Mix well. Season to taste with salt + pepper.

2. If you plan to use a piping bag to fill the gougères, you will want to allow the cheese mixture to come to room temperature so it can be piped with ease. Otherwise, use a serrated knife to carefully slice the puffs in half crosswise and spoon 3-4 teaspoons of cheese mix into each, depending on preference. You do not want to over fill the gougères, but you do not want to skimp either… or else your friends won’t come over anymore.

Applewood Smoked Bacon + Date Jam

Recommended Pairing: Cast Wines 2017 Watson Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel





10-12 slices thick-cut bacon

1 cup chopped shallot – onion works as well

1 large clove garlic, grated

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 + 1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme + 3 thyme sprigs

pepper to taste


1. Slice bacon crosswise into 1/4″ lardon and cook over low heat in a large skillet. Cook until bacon is crisp and fat is rendered, 10-15 minutes. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat. Add shallots and thyme sprigs. Cook over medium heat until shallots begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add dates and stir to incorporate with the shallots. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 

3. Add vinegar and deglaze any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let simmer about 1 minute. Add water, soy sauce and freshly ground pepper to taste. Let cook over medium-low heat until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the mixture begins to gently sizzle.

4. Remove from heat and stir in remaining chopped fresh thyme. Let mixture cool for 20 minutes. (If you plan to serve on homemade crostini, now is a good time to pop those baddies in the oven!)

5. Transfer mixture to food processor and process until it forms a nice, spreadable paste, about 20 pulses.

6. Let meld at least 2 hours, or overnight for optimum deliciousness.

7. Enjoy!