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The Rest of Us (cont.)


Sneakeater

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Posted (edited)

Some big changes coming this year, and I need luck very badly.

The traditional Italian lucky New Year's dish is Cotechino with lentils.  The lentils -- I can't see this for the life of me -- are supposed to remind you of coins, which the lentils' consumption would guaranty your getting a lot of in the coming year.  (I guess the Cotechino is supposed to insure you'll get gobs of globs of rendered pork fat.  Who doesn't want THAT?)  But there are other such traditions elsewhere in the world.

In the American South, they think that other beans look like coins.  Originally Sea Island Red Peas, then other Cow Peas, then Black-Eyed Peas when the field peas became too scarce.  I don't see how these resemble coins either.

In any event, I MUCH prefer Sea Island Red Peas to lentils, so I swapped them in.  I flavored them mostly how I would Italian lentils, though.  The only thing that resembled coins in this dish, as far as I could see, were the carrots I cut into rounds instead of mincing -- precisely so that there'd be some coin referent I could recognize as such.

In the American South, they also eat collard greens on New Year's, cuz the greens resemble folding money and so insure your receipt of those larger denominations.  That resemblance I could see.  I could use some more folding money, so I made (reheated, actually) some collard greens, too.  It's ironic that I ate a leftover so old it would give @bloviatrix the heebie-jeebies in order to get myself luck.  I guess I'll need some luck to survive the collard greens.

It's traditional in at least some parts of Italy to have the Cotechino and lentils on a bed of mashed potatoes.  So there we go.  Designer Potatoes, of course:  hybrids especially suited to mashing.

Three flavors of Mostarda.  It's this very dish, to my mind, that makes you see what a genius condiment Mostarda is:  so much better with this rich deeply flavored sausage than plain mustard would be.

There seems to be a split among the Italians, BTW, about the advisability of pouring the Cotechino juice into the lentils to finish them.  One side says the Cotechino is heavy enough already without having it muck up the accompanying lentils.  The other side says, RENDERED PORK FAT!  I think we all know each other well enough for you to know which side I come out on.

Everyone agrees, though, that you want a Nebbiolo with all this.

2010 Roagna Langhe Rosso

Is Luca Roagna my very favorite producer in this favorite region?  Most likely.

The wines are hyper-trad, Natural in the way that LdH is Natural.  And they have something of the purity of LdHs, the feeling that this is as pure an expression of this kind of wine as you could get.

This does what a Nebbiolo does:  medium weight with power (warmth without weight, as they used to say about synthetic fabrics).  A lot of fruit (still!) but very dark.  The tar-and-roses thing, of course (there are so many roses it's almost like June in the Botanic Garden).  Nebbiolo is one of the few grapes that even I could call in a blind tasting.

This wine clearly has some years ahead of it -- but it's in a particularly appealing place now.  A great way to start out what I pray will be a very successful year. 

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Posted (edited)

To really seal the deal, it is traditional in Italy to have some lentils just as the New Year begins, so they're the first thing you ingest in the new year.

So I made sure keep some Red Peas heating.  Some collard greens, too:  I want that folding money.  I had them at the crack of Midnight.

I hope this works.

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Actually, I said dark fruit, but there are a lot of red (not black) cherries in this.

It's closer to the Burgundy than to the Bordeaux side of Nebbiolo Langhe.  But POWERFUL.

It just DOES what Nebbiolo does.

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Grilled lamb leg steak with (bottled) mint sauce.  Blistered frozen green beans with whatever herbs seemed closest to rotting in my refrigerator.  More of that dilled Persian rice (I'm getting better at making it seem kind of Persian style) (if I had the first version of my rice cooker model, which had a "scortched rice" setting, it would be easy) (but I gladly traded it for the "oatmeal" setting).

This is the kind of meal that is almost no work to prepare (the hardest part is remembering to start marinating the meat a day in advance).  But it's SO delicious!

In order to make sure there was no step I was omitting in my plans for cooking the lamb, I looked around for recipes.  And the first one that popped up was Kathy Chan's!  She just said to do what I was planning to do anyway.  But it's always nice to reconnect with people -- even if it's in such an indirect mediated way that they don't know you're reconnecting.

The pairing showed that, as my Mother used to insist about my marriage prospects, there's a lid for every pot.

2007 Clos de los Siete

This was, I think, one of œnologist Michel Rolland's first projects in Argentina.

Rolland is one of the people most responsible for foisting the Spoofed International Style of wine on the world.  Just what I don't like.  But there's some food this kind of wine just goes with.  And tonight's dinner is one prime example.

This is almost half Malbec, more than a quarter Merlot, and the remaining quarter or so equally split between Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

It's big and alcoholic, as is Rolland's wont (although if you age it enough -- this bottle was older than last night's Nebbiolo -- the bigness calms down some).  And it has Rolland's characteristic smoothness, almost to the point of blandness.

But there's lots of brambly fruit, and smokiness that comes from both the overdone oaking this wine receives and the Syrah in the cépage.  Lots of tannin, too -- although at this point in this bottle's development, the tannins are  pretty well resolved.

I say this a lot, but while this isn't the kind of wine I'd want to drink much of, with the right food pairing -- like tonight's dinner -- it's just what I want.

@voyager might repeat her question of why I bought this in the first place.  I'll tell you what:  I don't know what the current release of this wine goes for, but this bottle, upon release, cost me something like $16.  For $16, I felt I could satisfy my curiosity.

And whatever I might think of Michel Rolland's style, it's admirable to craft a $16 bottle that ages this well.  This is still well within its window.

Edited by Sneakeater
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One thing this dinner has me thinking is that the hipster artisanal movement has really improved the quality of the meat we have ready access to.

25 years ago, I don't think a middle-class schmo like me could have gotten meat this good.  But the move (in certain quarters) to small-farm producers has really improved the quality of what's around and buyable (if you live in the right neighborhood).

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Penne with butter, sage, and permesan (which literally is all it is).

Another award-winning cabbage preparation on the side:  Verza Stufata (that's braised Savoy cabbage to you).  Even I was a little taken aback when the main recipe I followed had you start by browning some pancetta in lard.  But if there's anyone in the world who's not gonna disobey such an instruction, it's me.  And this dish gives me a chance to boast about how good my meat stock is.

This is a knee-jerk, but when I think of sage, I think of wines from the Piemonte.  (I guess the same should go for Savoy cabbage, now that I think of it.)  They could be red:  I was very close to opening a Barbera or an Alta Piemonte blend.  But I was feeling a white.  And, although I had bought it with the intent of setting it aside to age, I had a wine I knew would be perfect.

2018 Nebraie Bertumè

This is a Timorasso, a grape that almost went extinct but was revived to considerable success in the 1990s.

Why was I sure this wine would be a perfect pairing?  Because it's round and medium weight to stand up to the creamy flavorful sauce, but a with a huge acid kick at the end to cut the butter and cheese.  Because it's very herby.

And yeah, it worked like that.  If you're (or I'm) ever having pumpkin ravioli with butter sage sauce, let's reach for this instead of the Soave I'd usually knee-jerk to for that.

And let's not forget:  this is delicious!  It's really just dripping with flavor.  Put this one on your Italian white list, @Diancecht!

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The other half of my roast pheasant with duxelles and its attendant roast vegetables.

For tonight's cabbage preparation, we go to France:  butter-braised.

I didn't feel like opening another Grand Old Burgundy.  So I decided to go to the New World.

2012 The Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir "Solomon Hills Vineyard"

Adam Tomach is one of the California Good Guys.  He started Au Bon Climat with Jim Clendenen (and then left because nobody could work with Jim Clendenen).  He then started his own venture, which indeed sources some grapes in the Ojai Valley but mostly makes wine from Central Coast grapes; this vineyard's in the Santa Maria Valley.

A comment you often hear about this 2012 Solomon Hills is that it doesn't taste like Pinot Noir.  I thought that had to be pointmaking.  But now that I've drunk this, I have to agree:  it doesn't taste like Pinot Noir.  This vineyard is now planted entirely to Syrah, and I have to say, this Pinot Noir tastes more like Syrah than like Pinot Noir.  In particular, it's very smokey -- and Tolmach doesn't use new oak.  Since we know that grapes don't imbibe flavor from the soil (no matter how much we'd like to believe they do), this becomes another Mystery Of Terroir.  But whatevs:  this tasty wine doesn't taste like Pinot Noir.  You'd never ever call it in a blind tasting.

Which means that it wasn't ideal as a pairing with the pheasant -- although I'm enjoying drinking it down after dinner.

The winery's website says this bottle is at its peak.  I think it might have just past that:  I'd put it into what they euphemistically call the "mature" stage, one stage away from the "past" stage (just like myself).  If you have any, I'd urge you to drink it soon.

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Merguez on a roll two ways.

On a Portuguese roll with a lovely Harissa sauce I worked up (if I may say so myself) and some dried tomatoes.

On a mini-hero roll with some Comeback Sauce.

In this case, the trad combination worked best.

Some minted peas on the side.  And that dilled Persian rice.

I was casting around for a wine to pair with this.  The knee jerks would be a Rioja or a Rhône.  But then I remembered I had this Canary Islands wine I wanted to try and thought, why not?  It was only later that it occurred to me that the Canary Islands are off the coast of Morocco, so this works in my usual overly literal way.

2018 Patricia Perdomo El Cantaro

Patricia Perdomo is a newish winemaker clearly walking in the footsteps of Envínate (good footsteps!).

Like Envínate's signature wines, this is a Vidueño:  a co-fermented field blend of local red and white grapes (a very old way of making Canary Islands wine that is now new again).  This light but flavor-foward wine was just the thing with these spicy sausages with spicy condiments.

Like Envínate's, this is very much a Natural wine.  I was led to expect some Bret, but I'm not tasting it.  It's very crushable, as we used to say five years ago:  just right with sausage sandwiches on a Thursday.

My only criticism is that it might be a bit too light, cutting into its thrust.  But I guess that's what we risk with a red/white coferment.

This isn't shockingly good or anything (Evnínate's equivalent wines are much better).  But I'd drink it again.

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Putting on my Bonne Femme capot, instead of throwing out the carcass of my late pheasant (I'm not at a point where I'm gonna start making stock), I decided to use it (and the leftover juices) as the basis of a ragu.  Mainly my thought was that the bones and cartilage would give up their brothy goodness to the sauce; I wasn't anticipating that there'd be much meat (I did reserve the giblets for this, though).  But I was surprised at how much meat there was to be pulled off those bones at the end.

On pappardelle.

Carlo Mirarchi isn't going to retire his Aged Pheasant Spaccatelli out of fear of competition or anything, but this was quite good.

The plan was that this ragu would be cozily cooking away as I worked with a snowstorm out the window.  Well THAT didn't happen.

On the side -- also cooking away as I worked -- Marcella Hazan's Venetian Smothered Cabbage.

In the ragu and in the glass, an obvious choice.

2006 La Colombina Rosso di Montalcino

This wine wasn't meant to age.  But it's aged very nicely.

There's nothing particularly special about it.  It's a good Rosso di Montalcino is all.  It was a little too much of a muchness when young (that characteristic is why Montalcinos are worse than the other Tuscan Sangiovese-based reds).  Now it's very friendly.  The fruit is still there -- but it doesn't punch you in the face.

I think this had secondaries of mint and licorice from the start.  But they weren't so nicely integrated back then.

As I said, not great or anything (I chose it cuz I wouldn't feel bad putting some in the ragu).  But I'd be lying if I denied it was very pleasurable.

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For dessert, Somebody Else's Holiday again:  a King Cake (not made by me).

YUM-fucking-O!

Since I'll be the only person eating this cake, I'm sure to get the King .. . . eventually.  I didn't tonight.

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