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I read all these threads about these fabulous dinners people have at home, with photogenic, obviously labor-intensive food, and legendary bottles.   I can't speak for anybody else on this board, bu

If I'm not enjoying wine when I'm seventy, then my nieces and nephews are going to be stuck with a shitload of wine they won't know what to do with.   Or my next wife, who by then should be almost

Whaddya mean? That's more than half the meals I serve. Tossed with great care, I might add.

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Yes. This is what happens when you go to visit a friend in Ridgewood for the first time, and presumably because she is vegan she neglects to mention she lives five minutes from Morscher's. It didn't occur to me until I got there.

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Leftover braised veal Porterhouse-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-shank with preserved Meyer lemons.  Sautéed chard on the side.

Leftover wine, too.

1996 Château de la Roche aux Moines (Nicholas Joly) Clos de la Culée de Serrant

Probably Tuesday to Friday is one day more than Joly expects when he says he likes his wine to open in the bottle after opening over a few days.  But I did vacuum-seal it (if you believe in that technology).

It's certainly darkened to amber since Tuesday.  It tastes fine.  A little less lively, with -- I have to say it -- not a lot of compensating added nuttiness or anything.

So to me, it's still good -- very very good -- but nevertheless a little worse.

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I hate to say this, but I'm coming to believe that I know how to cook.


But the thing is, I made up the shad preparation myself.

Here's the thing (you all know most of this, so bear with me until I get to the new part).  Shad is, to me, the best-tasting fish there is.  I'm not sure there's even anything close.  But the problem -- aside from its short season (which to me is a feature rather than a bug) -- is that shad is EXTREMELY boney.  That's probably the reason this supremely delicious fish still exists in the world.  It's a major pain for humans to eat it.

How do you deal with that?  One way -- the way I usually employ -- is to pan-sear the shad the way it obviously is meant to be cooked and try to eat around the bones.  But even when the shad was professionally "filleted" (as the shad my wimpy self buys always has been), this is not fully satisfactory.  There are always a multitude of small bones left -- and you simply can't eat around all of them.  So your dinner is punctuated by intermittent sessions of pulling tiny but sharp bones out of the fish either on your plate or in your mouth.

Another way to deal with this problem is to smoke the shad and then pull it off the bones to make exceedingly delicious fish cakes.  You can already see what's wrong with that method, from my perspective at least.

A third way to deal with it is to deep-fry the shad into tempura.  This melts the bones.  And it's really good.  But I was already frying the shad roe component of this meal according to the time-honored standard shad roe recipe (in bacon grease, no less!), and I didn't want the shad to be fried as well.

The fourth way to deal with the boniness is to bake the shad low and slow (like 6 hours at 250F).  This also melts the bones.  The problem here is that after all that low-temp baking the shad -- a mushy fish to begin with -- becomes super-hyper-über-mushy.

I was considering how to counteract that, and it occurred to me:  why not go all Sainte-Menehould and broil the shad at high heat topped with bread crumbs at the end?  (You might ask:  how is that so different from frying it?  My answer is:  stop asking so many questions.)  So, 15 minutes before the 6-hour mark, I brushed the shad with mustard, topped it with bread crumbs, and broiled it for the remaining 15 minutes at 500F.

It worked!  A delicious crust ensued.  I can honestly say this is the best shad I've ever had.  At home (cooked by me or my sainted wife, an amazingly good cook), at a restaurant, anywhere.

You slow-bake some potatoes along with the shad under the universal recipe for baked shad.  These also benefited from that last-minute broiling.  There were some raw pea shoots on the plate.  And both the shad and the roe involved bacon (there were also capers on the roe, etc. -- but let's not get bogged down).

Riesling would obviously be good with all this.  But you know me:  if any dish could go with a Beaujolais, at Chez Sneak it will.  Except, this wasn't a Beaujolais:  it was a Loire Gamay.  On the theory, I guess, that they have European shad in the Loire.  (I've never eaten European shad -- but it can't be as good as American.  Because nothing could.)

2019 Les Vins Contés (Olivier Lemasson) Le P'tit Rouge

Olivier Lemasson really has it going on.  He produces natural wines in the Loire that are bright, vibrant, and focused.

This is his glou glou young-vines Gamay.  It doesn't even hint at aspiring to profundity of any kind.  It aspires to pure unmitigated enjoyability.

And, at least in 2019, reaches it!

Maybe this lacks the last ounce of sparkle of a first-rate Beaujolais.  But there's delicious cherry/berry fruit, and tons of fun.  For shad and roe pulled out of the water yesterday, nothing could be better.


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The question each early Spring (since I've been single) is:  am I going to get sick of having shad and/or shad roe for dinner twice each week until the season ends?

The answer every year so far has been:  no.

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I had considered that my leftover beef cheek goulash would improve over time.  What I hadn't thought of was that the accompanying Hungarian style cabbage salad would improve even more.

And I managed to pull myself out of my Goulash Rioja Rut, too.

2017 Elian da Ros le vin est une fête

What do they have in the Côtes du Marmandais -- just southeast of Bordeaux -- that they hardly have anywhere else?  The Arbouriou grape.

This natural blend is 40% that obscure grape and 40% and 20%, respectively, the rather less obscure Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

It's hard to get a real fix on Arbouriou.  It's a little spicy, a little citrusy (a red!), and mainly it's kind of dark.  So let's say it provides some grip (this is actually pretty grippy for a self-described natural party wine).  The Cab Franc, with its overtones of bell pepper, is the reason I selected this wine tonight.  Merlot just plays well with anything (I'll bet it would be good with goulash on its own, actually).

As I drink it down, it's the Cab Franc that seems to me to be coming to the fore.  Which is absolutely fine with me.

This wine won't change your life or anything.  But it's nice to have something that isn't quite what you've tasted before.  And it's nice to drink things that are enjoyable.  I don't like to call wines life-affirming -- that introduces overtones of sanctimonious smugness that I want to see driven out of winemanship -- but, well, you know.

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I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with this dish.

I mean, I looked at various similar recipes for pointers (which led me to discover the Secret Ingredient that brought this dish together).  But essentially I made it up myself.

Nettle tagliolini with smoked shad roe, cured tuna heart, chrysanthemum leaves, and lots of other stuff -- including the Secret Ingredient (wait for it), horseradish!  (I guess this week culminates in the beginning of a big period for My People to eat fish products with horseradish, so I shouldn't be so surprised.)  Also lots of tarragon, in case you're wondering.

I thought for about 10 seconds before I concluded that a Soave would be good with this.  Too easy?  Maybe:  but it was good with this.

2017 Balestri Valda Sengialta

When I was initially becoming aware of wine almost 50 years ago, Soave was near the lowest of the low.  (Which meant that OF COURSE I drank a lot of it -- my cohorts will remember Soave Bolla -- between bad Portuguese rosés and the first good kind of wine I actually ever appreciated, my lifetime favorite Beaujolais, which I guess I still love the way I still love the Dolls.)  But in recent decades, as in so many other regions, the Soave wine industry recovered.  The median Soave is now objectively quite good:  a wine you can easily enjoy (I find it to be an excellent wine to recommend to people who aren't familiar with wine) without feeling guilty about it in the morning.

And it fills a niche.  Soave is round and full for a white -- but not as prepossessing as even a low-level Burgundy Chardonnay, say, is.  So you can toss it back with a dish like mine tonight -- one where you need a full-flavored wine, but don't want anything that even hints at Grandness -- and it's like perfect.

Actually, that last paragraph is a little misleading.  What makes Soave special is that it's kind of light-bodied, but (in the decently good versions, like this one) nevertheless kind of oleaginous (which can be good in a wine, if not in people).

It's funny:  if I described this wine, it would sound like a Chenin Blanc -- but it doesn't taste anything like one.  Melon and orange at the front, a taste of honey (not nearly as much as in CB, though), no real minerals.  Instead, the finish is herby.

So yeah, this was an easy pairing.  But a very good one.

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One of the best dishes I've ever had was the Bigoli con l'Anatra at the Antica Bottega del Vino in Verona.  So you can bet that when they (strangely) opened a branch in Manhattan, I hightailed it over.  It wasn't the same, of course -- and I don't think that's completely attributable to the difference between being on the Via Scudo di Francia and being on East 59th Street.  The kitchen magic just wasn't there (like eating at the Verona branch of Peter Luger's would be).

When I started paying closer attention to putting food on my table during Quarantine, it occurred to me that this was a dish I could try at home.  BUT, bigoli was absent from our shores (or stores) as part of the Mysterious Pasta Shortage Of 2020.  After my friend J read me whining about my inability to find any bigoli, she located a stash at a store in LA that shipped East.  Thanks, J!

I'm not gonna claim that my Bigoli con l'Anatra was as good as the Bottega's in Verona.  Hell, it probably wasn't even as good as the Bottega's in Manhattan.  But I made it -- and that provides its own kind of magic.  (Also, the leftovers are going to be off the charts.)

Sautéed baby broccoli rabe on the side.

Has anybody ever drunk anything other than a Valpolicella with this dish?  (Other than a Bardolino, I mean.)

2015 Ca' La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore "Casal Vegri"

Another wine that isn't particularly distinctive, but rather highly typical -- and excellent of its type.  This producer claims to use its best grapes in this Classico Superiore rather than saving them for Amarone as everyone else in the Veneto does.  Maybe so:  you can't argue with the results.  The wine drips seriousness of purpose and integrity.

The nose is dry.  The fruit on the tongue less so.  The cherry is sour.  The berries aren't.  There's a ton of herbs -- I'm going to pretend I can distinguish juniper -- on the moderately long finish.

As you've been able to tell by now from these posts, I'm a proponent of "drink from where you're eating" (if only because it simplifies things).  But this dish and this wine literally tasted like they were made for each other.  The wine complemented the food perfectly.

I'ma try something else with the leftovers if just for shits and giggles.  (A Venetian Merlot or Pino Nero would be really good:  too bad I don't have any.)  But it won't go as well as this did.

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Just to show how gross I am, every recipe you can find for this dish -- and every version I've eaten -- has you taking the skin off the braised duck legs from the sauce before you pull them.  And discarding it.  WHEN I'M DEAD MAYBE I'LL DO THAT.

I can't believe anyone wouldn't have been as delighted as I was to come across shards of delicious duck skin in this sugo.

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As I enter a period of Manic Seder Preparation (a lot of work for a meal for one!), I'm grateful for leftovers that require no cooking beyond reheating.

Beef cheek goulash, which just gets better and better with refrigerator time.  Hungarian cabbage salad, which attains heavenly depths of flavor with refrigerator time.  And, because it was the last one in a container that was taking up refrigerator space that I'm going to need to store brisket and matzoh ball soup, a horseradish dill pickle.

Why didn't I think of this pairing before?

1998 Chateau Musar

To be sure, this is a case of elevating a midweek leftover dinner with a grand wine.  But shit, the goulash really is approaching the stratosphere as its flavors blend and deepen.  It deserves a grand wine (especially one like this that's pretty full flavored rather than being reserved like a normal old wine).

Really good pairing.  The fruit is SPICY.  The herby aftertaste is SOUR.  It went with the goulash hand in glove.

If any of you have any bottles from this vintage, I wouldn't hold them a lot longer.

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