Sunday, June 03, 2007
The Wine and the Lamb Shall Lay Down Together
I went to a wine tasting/food pairing last night (Saturday), at A Southern Season. The 5 wines were all Gewurztraminers - and they paired them with Executive Chef Patrick Cowden's rifs on Southeast Asian flavors. It was excellent. The first and fifth wines were the best. The first one had a pear presence and was very balanced. It was the driest ( Technically speaking, a "dry" wine is one in which there is no perceptible taste of sweetness) of the five and came from the Alsace region of France. It was paired with sliced smoked salmon drizzled with a creamy coconut green curry sauce. The wine was very pleasant and drinkable on its own - but really got better with the salmon. The oil of the salmon helped "round" it out. The next three wines (Kellerei Kaltern, Hirschholf Kabinett, and Bookwalter)were also good - but not my favorites. The second wine was paired with a Sesame Udon and Soba noodle dish tossed with snow pea tips and pooled on a papaya guava chili sauce. The 3rd wine was aligned with Teriyaki Chicken on steamed jasmine rice. It paired well enough, but wasn't spectacular. It was the 4th dish that stole the show! (and the wine came in 3rd) The taste was a black eyed pea sweet potato cake with a lime chili chutney mouse on top. Now I don't know if that string of words means anything to you - but let me describe. Black eyed peas are really beans (you know, like a kidney bean - or black bean). They're very "southern". These were fresh black eyed peas - hulled that morning. Then there were sweet potatoes. The potatoes were roasted - but not till they were mushy (which is the way they're normally cooked.) They were al dente (which in Italian means "to the tooth"). It means there's just a little bit of firmness or bite there. The the sweet potatoes were put through a ricer (it grinds things up - but they retain some texture - unlike smooth mashed potatoes when they're whipped). The sweet potato mixture with nuggets of potato and then the peas mixed in was the base. Mixed in there too were sauteed onions and garlic. It was seasoned with cardamom, cloves, salt, pepper - and one other ingredient I couldn't identify. This mixture was shaped into a small patty - about the size of a small biscuit (like a cracker, not a cookie type biscuit) and fried until the outside was crispy. These little cakes/biscuits were then topped with the lime chili chutney mouse. It was an apricot chutney - but obviously no texture (ie: lumps) because of the mousse rendition. Finally there was a spring of cilantro embedded in the mousse. As I said, this was the best item of the night. I am going to try and recreate it here at home. The final wine, was also from the Alsace region. It was made by very fine/well known/award wining vinters, Leonard and Olivier Humbrecht. It is a very expensive wine - (okay - well it depends on who you're talking to, of course) at $108.00/bottle. It was the sweetest of all five offerings. But you could tell this wine was in a different class than the others. It was so smooth (like God going down your throat in silk pajamas). I smelled a lot of cantaloupe bouquet in this - but it was much more complex to drink. What was most interesting is it was paired with a Hoisin stir-fried beef dish with shitake mushrooms and bok choi sitting on fried bean thread noodles. (They look like strings of styrofoam - and have the same texture.) Now Hoisin is very salty - but when paired with this wine - the salt was diminished. Also a caramelized flavor came forward from the beef. It was an amazing transformation. My friend bought 3 bottles of the first wine, the Domaine Moltes Gewurztraminer Reserve - and I am committed to cooking a meal to compliment it. I think I'm going to do some type of spicy pork dish - with roasted pears, fresh peas, and baby carrots. (real baby carrots - not just ones trimmed down to LOOK like carrot nubs.) I also think a Parmigiano Reggiano or a Pecorino Romano sliced really thin with some spicy olives would be a nice starter. Then I had company for dinner tonight. Among the guests (it was one of my church dinner groups) were Wesley2005 and SweetBriar. I was only responsible for the appetizer and main dish. For the appetizer I had some klamata olives and some others with pickling seasonings and red pepper flakes. Plus I made Mitter Humas. I just improvised by mashing chickpeas and then blending them with a finely chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (chipotle's are the name for fully ripe red jalapeno peppers that have been smoked.), sesame seeds (because I didn't have an tahini paste), cumin, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and fresh minced Italian parsley into a paste. It was YUMMY! For the main course I made a boneless leg of lamb in a dish called Lamb Klephtiko. I ground together bay leaves, cinnamon, oregano, and curry leaves. Then slivered 8 garlic cloves, and cut 1 inch slits on the inside of the meat (where the bone was) and in each slit I put a little bit of the powered mixture and a garlic slice. Next I rolled the leg of lamb back up. This sounds easy but wasn't really. The lamb came in this string & rubber mesh "tube" thing (it looked like a fishing net, but it was cylindrical). I had to take this off so I could unroll the meat and do the slit thing. Trying to replace this took ONE HOUR (because I am so coordinated!) (also? I'm sure it's not meant to be done manually) - I bet the sock thing is attached the end of a "force tube" and the rolled lamb goes down the shoot and into this thing so it comes out looking like a rolled roast. It might have been fun to see if I'd been video taped, but trust me, I said lots of cuss words that would never be allowed on TV. The next step was much easier. It's wrapped in parchment paper (with the slides folded in - like a package). This way, as it cooks, the steam is captured and that's what really cooks the meat, because the oven temperature is set at 200 degrees! For 4 hours. (oh, on a roasting rack, with water in the bottom of the pan.) It was wonderful, if I do say so myself. And the guests all agreed too! I served a Morro Bay Cabernet to go along. It is a very reasonably priced wine - but it had just the right berry and pepper tones to match the lamb. One of the guests brought boiled New Potatoes and May Peas (separately! a big deal here in the south where they're normally cook and serve in the same bowl. *shudder*) Another guest brought a great summer salad. It had pears and apples, cranberries and Parmesan cheese with Romain lettuce and a homemade poppyseed dressing. For dessert we had a blueberry pie. It was pie crust with a thin layer of cream cheese, then mashed blueberries topped with fresh whole blueberries. Very light and refreshing! x~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~x It is late - I am going to bed. I'm sure there are a million typos and grammar mistakes in this. Too bad! (well, really, I apologize, but you know, grumpy here, isn't good at that).