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Tonight's goal was to get the last of the (market-bought) garlic scape pesto out of my fridge before the spring allia start in earnest.  Mission accomplished.

Pesto-crusted baked cod, over trofie with more pesto.  For once I cooked the pasta correctly -- meaning that to my taste it was much too al dente (I like labskaus, a dish invented, one theory holds, to be eaten by sailors whose teeth were rotted away by scurvy).

On the side, wilted wild arugula with some, what were they, oh yeah, RAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMPPPPPPPPPSSSSSSSSSSS.

I decided to forget geographic determinism and just drink the Touraine Sauvignon Blanc this meal obviously wanted.

2020 Domaine Ricard Pierre à Feu

This is made from grapes grown in silex.  Winemaker Vincent Ricard jokes that he called it Pierre à Feu (which means flint) because "Silex" was already taken.  (Ricard was, in fact, a Dagueneau protegé.)

I think Vincent Ricard has to be one of the best makers of inexpensive non-natural wines in the Loire.  His several cuvées are distinct -- and, usually, very good.  This one is his sharpest:  the flavors cut.  There's the usual SB grapefruit and lemon-lime, but not too much grass.  You would not necessarily think this is the same grape they use in New Zealand.

I'm not trying to dump on richer styles of Sauvignon Blanc.  But this is well worth attentive drinking.  It has incredible focus for a (relatively) inexpensive wine; its specific flavors ring out, each distinct from the others.  Of course, no matter what science says, there are a lot of flinty minerals in there:  you can taste the flint.  This wine is both interesting and refreshing.  And it lasts and lasts and lasts.

Yet more proof that Eric Asimov's dictum that $20 is the sweet spot where wines begin to get interesting before becoming intolerably expensive is right on point.

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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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1 hour ago, Sneakeater said:

For once I cooked the pasta correctly -- meaning that to my taste it was much too al dente

I mean, the whole point of eating at home is that I get to have things the way I like them.

Not the way these restaurants, with chefs and shit, want to make me eat them.

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4 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

I mean, the whole point of eating at home is that I get to have things the way I like them.

Not the way these restaurants, with chefs and shit, want to make me eat them.

I remember "back in the day" taking people to Lupa, and they would say the pasta wasn't cooked enough. (well, maybe sometimes it wasn't?)  And I'd wonder, because the pasta was cooked (to my taste) just right.

 

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Wild Copper River King salmon with potatoes and horseradish-tarragon sauce.

This is an old George Lang recipe, from Hungary.  People with sense and good taste would probably say it's wasteful to cook wild salmon with so much seasoning, but I'm here to tell you that the fish is so fucking flavorful that it showed through the horseradish and the tarragon and the paprika and whathaveyou.

I modified the recipe to account for what was in my fridge.  Among other things, that meant swapping in RAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMPPPPPPSSSSSSSSS for the shallots the recipe called for (I don't kid myself that the two allia have anything like similar flavor profiles -- but I know which one I prefer).  Also, in recognition that this recipe came from 1971, I cut down the cooking time for the salmon by A LOT.  Nouvelle cuisine happened in the interim.

I expected this to be good -- but perhaps not quite as good as it turned out to be.

On the side, a salad of wild arugula and RAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMPPPPPPPPP leaves with pickled beets.  (There was a logic behind this -- but it's too stupid to say out loud.)

It seemed to me that the perfect pairing would be a Grüner Veltliner.  Although I'm sure I have some somewhere, I couldn't find any.  So I went with something I could find, despite my misgivings that it could be too light.

2019 Weingut Ratzenberger Bacharacher Rivaner

Rivaner is an old name for Müller-Thurgau, from the days when it was thought that the grape was a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner.  Now we know that the non-Riesling parent is an otherwise unknown grape called Madelaine Royale.  But Müller-Thurgau -- mostly known as the grape used in Liebfraumilch -- has such a bad rep that Weingut Ratzenberger clings to the old name anyway.

Although I certainly drank my share of Blue Nun in high school, I didn't know what to expect from this.  I was wrong to worry about its lightness:  it actually has some richness.  And Weingut Ratzenberger is a good producer; they (really he) wouldn't make a weak, inattentively made wine if you put a gun to his head.

If Grüner is a Mitteleuropean Sauvignon Blanc, this is a Mitteleuropean Chenin Blanc.  It has that same honeyed finish (although @small h can stop worrying:  it isn't sweet like Liebfraumilch at all).  It isn't quite as oily as Chenin Blanc in the mouth -- but it isn't the watery quaffer I expected by a long shot.  Pears and stone fruit up front.  And very fragrant.  After the honey, the very close is kind of peppery:  a nice effect that I wasn't expecting and that increased the wine's appropriateness with the food.

In the end, in fact, a quite fine pairing for that fish dish.  I take no credit for it.  I just pulled it out out of desperation.

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I am a person of low tastes.  I looked forward to this dinner all day.

Two sausages -- one beef/pork, the other salt and pepper (which I believe is all pork) -- each on baguette with sweet Bavarian mustard and (duh) RAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMPPPPPPPSSSSSS.  On the side, I made some more mustardy -- and this time chivey -- potato salad, and more of that wild arugula and RAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMPPPPPPPPP leave salad, this time dressed (OVERdressed:  I was cooking at home for myself) with a Luberon vinaigrette and garnished with chive blossoms.

Look, I like what I like.

Not much agonizing over the wine pairing.

2017 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) La Souteronne

Before you get too surprised that Gamay grows in the Northern Rhone, recall that the Northern Rhone isn't that far from Beaujolais (with the fortunate city of Lyon reposing in the middle).

And -- I'm pretty sure I've said this before -- this tastes like a Gamay from the Northern Rhone.  All that pork fat they have in the soil there that leaches up into their Syrah also finds its way into this Gamay.  So as perfect as Beaujolais is with sausages, this is even more perfect.

I don't need to be praising Hervé Souhaut, do I?  Or, at least, he doesn't need me to be praising him.

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You know, the GAP Greenmarket ramp vendor seems kind of shocked by how many RAAAAAAAMMMMMMPPPPPSSSSSSS I go through each week.

But I feel like I'm holding myself back.

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I wish Radicle Wine in Fort Greene carried this wine.  Cuz it would be beyond great with a Garbage Plate at their new Brooklyn Hots Rochester-style eatery next door.

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Baked halibut with a tarragon/RAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMPPPPPPPPPPP cream sauce.

(Yes, it's Alaskan Fish Week here at Chez Sneak.  No, I didin't get them direct from Alaska; I got them at my neighborhood monger.  The Alaskan fish they get just seems nicer than what comes to me in the post.)

What's interesting here is that this dish tasted nothing like the wild salmon with horseradish-tarragon cream sauce (with RAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMPPPPPPSSSSSSS) I made a couple of nights ago.  I mean, I get it:  French is different from Hungarian.  But it's interesting (and lucky if you're trying to keep your fridge fairly clear) how different similar ingredient combinations can be made to taste.

On the side, some blanched chrysanthemum leaves dressed with sesame oil and sprinkled with benne seeds.  (Yeah I'm going for that Franco-Japanese feel like at L'Abeille.)  Some -- most -- would have considered this overdressed.  They are more than welcome never to eat here.  Well maybe if they promise to do the dishes.

I know there's never One True Pairing.  But it was pretty clear what kind of wine would be best with this.

2018 Domaine Baudry Chinon Blanc "Domaine"

It's actually kind of confusing that this is made from Chenin Blanc and called a Chinon Blanc.  But I guess it would be even more confusing if it were made from some other grape.

This is a classy wine.  It does that Chenin Blanc heavy-yet-light thing (falling in this case on the heavy side).  Indeed, what's interesting here is that the wine is a little bit round and heavy yet finishes with a bracing acid kick.  Before that there are citrus and green apples -- and of course that Chenin Blanc taste of honey (tasting much sweeter than wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine).  Lotsa herbs, too.  Yeah this just LOVES tarragon.

Snobs stuck in the '90s might say that Chenin Blanc is what Chardonnay would be if Chardonnay were interesting.  I like Chardonnay better myself.  I think I'd say that Chenin Blanc is what Soave would be if it were profound.

Whatever.  Chenin Blanc is great to drink.  And it just loves food.

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It occurs to me that the combination of apples and honey makes this like the ideal Rosh Hashana wine.  I don't know why I never thought of that.

Oh well. Next year.  If I live so long.

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As soon as I spotted a very nice-looking lamb neck at my butcher, visions of a Navarin started dancing in my head.

I mainly followed Jacques Pepin's NYT recipe.  I like Jacques's recipes for The Times cuz they tend to be easier than all others.  You might accuse Jacques of dumbing down his recipes in the Times for lazy and even incompetent American cooks.  I'm one of them, however, and I appreciate it.

I did make some changes, of course.  Being a gross American rather than a refined Frenchman, I upped the herb Q.  And I replaced the allia Jacques called for with RAAAAAMMMMMMMPPPPPPPSSSSSSS and spring garlic.  And I did not heed Jacques's odd belief that you can make a Navarin without turnips (although I put in some potatoes as well -- because potatoes!  soaking up lamb fat!)

One thing I followed was Jacques's Americanized directive that you use frozen peas (and, I added, green beans).  Using frozen vegetables did not fill my heart with springlike exultation.  But I don't see any fresh ones locally yet.  And, as I usually figure about anything, if it's good enough for @joethefoodieit's good enough for me.

Now the astonishing thing about this was that it ended up looking -- and even better tasting -- like a Navarin a conventionally endowed cook would make.  That doesn't always (or, let's be honest, often) happen the first time I try to make something.

Also, this was like a perfect dish to make while working long into the night.  There are several cooking steps, calling for welcome work breaks.  But the penultimate step is of flexible duration (as long as it's longer than 20 minutes), so it doesn't matter if the work takes (much) longer than you expect (as work tends to do).  The last step, in contrast, takes five minutes:  just enough time to set the table and open the wine while you're finishing things off once work is done.

This dish virtually screams for a Beaujolais -- making for one of those happy occasions when what I should drink is the same as what I always want to drink.  My favorite house Beaujolais is this producer's Fleurie.  But he also makes a Morgon (in fact, that's where his family's original holding was), and it seemed to me that that most Rhone-like of Beaujolais crus would be the absolute perfect match for a Navarin.

2016 Domaine de Robert (Patrick Brunet) Morgon "Côte de Py"

While my heart continues to belong to 2014, 2016 might be the objectively best of the great string of Beaujolais vintages that characterized the mid-to-late 2010s.  It combines 2015's heft (popular with some) with 2014's highly focused delicacy (popular with me).

Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent are the two biggest, most ageworthy Beaujolais crus. But while Moulins tend to age into Burgundiness (Burgunditude?) (the French in their strange foreign language call it something like Pinoté), Morgons tend to become Rhone-like with age.  Less restrained (although I like the restraint) (which is why a cru like Fleurie is my personal favorite),* more round, more friendly.  In any event, Morgons are so ageworthy that I almost wonder if I am drinking this bottle too soon.

Whatever.  It's pretty great right now.  It's amazing that a big(gish:  this is still Beaujolais), somewhat developed wine can still taste so grapey.  And this replaces the minerality of the more standard Beaujolais flavor profile with baskets of herbs.

One thing I'll tell you:  this was a great pairing for the Navarin.  The leftover portions of Navarin I eat over the next week or two will continue to get better with refrigerator age.  But I doubt I'll ever beat this wine pairing.
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* It might seem strange to call such an immediate, fruity wine as Beaujolais "restrained".  But it is precisely that restraint -- that tension -- that makes Beaujolais my personal favorite red and maybe my favorite wine.  (Similar to the reasons why Poulenc is probably my personal favorite composer.)

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One thing I'd like to publicly contest.  I see some recipes floating around that call for boneless legs of lamb in this dish.  WHY would you use something off the bone, if braising the meat on the bone can only lead to a richer gravy?  I guaranty you my lamb neck made for a better Navarin than their more expensive cut.

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I'm reading some reviews of this wine -- this very vintage -- talking about how it tastes on "Day 2".

It's very hard for me to imagine having any of this left over.

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4 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

One thing I followed was Jacques's Americanized directive that you use frozen peas (and, I added, green beans).  Using frozen vegetables did not fill my heart with springlike exultation.  But I don't see any fresh ones locally yet.  And, as I usually figure about anything, if it's good enough for @joethefoodieit's good enough for me.

Awwww....but indeed, frozen peas are a mainstay for me (green beans a relatively newer one). And probably in many a pro kitchen...I'm partial to Bird Eye frozen baby peas (might as well go to the guy who started it all (from Cobble Hill!!)), but will settle for high-quality organic ones, if I must.

4 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

  I see some recipes floating around that call for boneless legs of lamb in this dish.  WHY would you use something off the bone, if braising the meat on the bone can only lead to a richer gravy? 

Just more about the laziness to use boneless leg?  I also like lamb shoulder for stews, and shoulder chops for quick delicious lamb!

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