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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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The Greenmarket fishmonger had skate this morning!  So I immediately pivoted to making another Sambal Stingray tonight.

The problem is, the Greenmarket fishmonger only sells skate fillets.  And, as I should have anticipated but didn't, for this particular dish fillets don't cut it.

First, it's hard to make them so that the Sambal cooks through without overcooking the thin fillets.

But worse, it's very hard for the fillets to keep their shape through this rather intense grilling, without their cartilage structure. 

So this was a mess.  A tasty mess, yes.   But still a mess.

I decided to replicate my last meal of this down to the side.  So more Chili- and Cinnamon-Roasted Squash.  This time with a more appropriate squash variety:  Brulée, the single person's Butternut.

Sometime this afternoon, I fixated on the idea of having a Cuba Libre with this instead of the Riesling I was planning to pour.

Cuba Libre

You know, it really does work.  The lime adds a citrus note that the Sambal loves.  Coke (Mexican, natch) is just one of the best drinks there is.  And the Rum . . . well, the Rum helped me not to mind how much of a mess the skate was.

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Elicoidali with dandelion greens, bacon, and egg.

I will admit freely that this was an Alison Roman recipe.  She doesn't specify dandelion greens (or elicoidali for that matter -- a great tubular pasta for holding sauce).*  But dandelion greens were the bitter green I had** -- and they and eggs are A Thing in the Piemonte, where I like to pretend I'm cooking from.

Which made me think that the wine to drink with this would be an Arneis from Roero:  while I don't love it in all situations, it's great with eggs (and duh it's from the Piemonte).  But even though I know I have a decent stash, I couldn't get to it.

So I thought about another mountain wine with a big mouthfeel, some acid, and strange fruit at the start.

2015 Domaine Finot Verdesse

Verdesse is a white grape indigenous to Isère.

It's just as I described it above.  Stone fruit, a little citrus, at the start.  A thick mouthfeel (coming, unfortunately, from lots of alcohol).  Some salinity at the finish.

Not necessarily to be drunk young (as this bottle showed).

You know, this really was what that pasta wanted.

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* She does specify a high-quality bacon that will render a lot of fat (to be used in cooking everything else in the dish) (that's the kind of thinking I like).  I got some cheek bacon -- not guanciale, cuz it's smoked.  Boy is it good.  (Most of the other bacon I'm using this week is regular bacon:  you don't always need this much fat.)

** "Ironically", I had what looked like a huge bunch.  So I came up with all these ways I was going to use them, which all seemed kind of good to me.  But it turns out that I didn't have nearly as much as I thought.  So I'm going to have to buy more next week!

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It seemed the better part of valor this particular year of my life to spend my Birthday chilling in.

For one thing, I could have exactly what I like -- and the service would be no worse than it used to be in Before Times.

Venison medallions with Cumberland sauce (I didn't make the Cumberland sauce:  Wilkin & Sons did).  Roasted chestnuts.  Sautéed Caraflex cabbage with bacon (another dish that is cooked entirely in bacon grease:  my kind of cooking!).

As you know, I am a strong proponent of sous viding venison.  It's the only thing I sous vide; essentially I have a circulator only for cooking venison.

I usually go the standard 129º for two hours.  But Iately I've read some hunter-internet food writers saying that they like to sous vide their venison for 12 hours.  The claim is that the longer cooking melts even more sinew, while the absolute temperature control (set at a low termperature) means the meat doesn't get mushy.  I was skeptical.  Then I saw that the Joule app recommends 24 hours.  I figured OK -- and, in for a penny in for a pound, I'll follow the Joule app.  I mean, that way I don't even have to set it -- I just have to push a button.

I think I prefer 2 hours.  I think the meat did get a little mushy.  Not to the point of unpalatability or anything -- just not as good.

A slice of (storebought) Blackout Cake (from some Brooklyn nouveau bakery) for dessert.

As you also know, I am also a strong proponent of Barolo with venison.  But I wasn't seeing Barolo with that sweet-tart fruit sauce.

Then it hit me:  a key component of Cumberland sauce is Port.  What about a dry red made in the same place, by the same people, from the same grapes?

2015 Quinta do Crasto Douro Superior

The name of this wine is sort of a come-on.  It isn't "Superior" the way, say, a Valpolicello "Superiore" is:  it isn't better than the run of Douros, from more carefully chosen grapes grown in a better terroir.  It's "Superior" because the grapes are grown in a newly developed area that is upriver from the traditional established Douro growing area.  So, if anything, you'd expect it to be a little worse than Douro simpliciter.

Quinta do Crasto's plain old Douro is pretty great, so I'm not making any comparisons.  But this wine is pretty great, too.  It is in no way anybody's red-haired stepchild.

Indeed, since the "Superior" Douros of necessity sell for less than the regular ones, you can make a case that this is better -- or at least a better value.  Because this is better than any $25 wine can be expected to be.

First thing you taste are blackberries.  They're very there -- but not in any jammy way.  Then we move into suavity.  Suave herbs, suave chocolate, even some suave tobacco.  Quinta do Crasto is one of those excellent mainstream producers that make you realize that we'd be missing out if the Natural movement were to totally eradicate them.

Now I'm not going to say that this worked as a pairng because the wine tasted like dry Port:  it didn't.  I am going to say that this wine wasn't fighting with the Cumberland sauce the way a Barolo would have.

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Oh by the way, if you come into any current vintage of this wine, for God's sake give it a few years before you drink it.  Don't let its comparatively low price fool you into thinking it's for early drinking.  It very clearly benefits from some development.

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