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The Rest of Us (cont.)


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Cheeseburger with an alpine-style cheese, mushrooms (Chantarelles -- or Citronellas, as the counterperson called them as she rang them up -- yo), PA Dutch onion relish, and brown sauce.  (I know this seems repetitive of last night's dinner.  But holiday conventions impose limitations.)

A grilled ear of corn.  (That's something I'm HAPPY to repeat.)  In order to finish up my garlic chives, I made another garlic chive butter to slather on the corn.  (The dinner I have planned for tomorrow -- if I have room left after Carnival -- wouldn't accommodate such frippery.)

Fried okra and green tomatoes.  (Doing some research before this first attempt ever at making fried green tomatoes, I was pleasantly shocked to learn that this dish was probably introduced to the U.S. -- as it turns out, it really originated in the Midwest, not the South -- by Jews.)

My overly literal geographic specificity went off the charts tonight.

2006 Caves Cooperatives de Donnas "Donnas"

So I used an alpine style cheese.  Originally, I was gonna use Gruyere, until I realized I had this old chunk of something more obscure and unfortunately less melty sitting around waiting to start rotting.  Now the Vallée d'Aoste borders on Switzerland, and isn't even that far from Gruyere.

And, of course, Nebbiolo loves mushrooms.  And for all its seeming lightness, it has plenty of tannins to bond with the fat in a burger.  And a soft red like this one is perfect for the whole gestalt (Merlot would be the classic pairing for Swiss cheese and mushrooms).

Caves Cooperatives de Donnas is one of those Italian coops that unexpectedly make some of the finest wine in their appellation.  (The Produttori del Barbaresco are everybody's key example.)  This wine is kind of inarguable.

It's mostly Picotendro (a grape that you and I would call Nebbiolo) with some Freisa and a very local grape called Neyret (which doesn't have some other name that you and I would know better).  It would be a prototypical Atlo Piemonte, if it weren't so Alto that it's no longer Piemonte.  Meaning it's a very soft Nebbiolo, both on account of the softening blending grapes and the higher altitude reached in what are more hills than foothills.

Most people would say you shouldn't keep a wine like this for as long as I did.  Most people are wrong.

This still has a good deal of cherry/cranberry fruit.  But it also has an extremely integration, where the primary flavors flow into the secondaries -- some smoke, some herbs, some forest -- with no perceptible break.  And where the whole thing goes down rico suave.  You don't get that without years in the cellar.

Even a $20 wine can benefit from that -- if, like this one, it's got the stuff.

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See, my original plan was to make some roasted okra and tomato to have with the burger.

But then, today, it occurred to me that fried okra would go better with a burger than roasted.  But what about the tomato?  I had planned to use a tomato up tonight.  I don't want any of my gorgeous tomatoes bought for this week to go bad and get wasted.

Then it hit me:  FRIED GREEN TOMATO!  Not just a dish, but a famous one!

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What you might not know, though, is that fried okra and fried green tomatoes are made differently.

They both are coated with cornmeal.

But fried okra is made in what I've come to think of this Summer as the Ligurian manner:*  you just dredge it in cornmeal and throw it into the oil (in Liguria it would just be flour you dredge it in).

Fried green tomatoes, OTOH, get a batter:  you dredge them in flour, then dip them in an egg/buttermilk mixture, then coat them with cornmeal.  (Which means I got to make myself some Special Treat Fritters, an artifact of my childhood.)


* The Ligurian manner arose because Ligurian fishermen would get home from fishing quite late.  They were hungry.  Their wives were hungry.  Their children were hungry.

So their wives developed a cooking method for the day's catch with as few steps as possible, to get dinner right on the table.

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Too much eating at the West Indian Day Parade yesterday so . . . Labor Day Dinner today!  (It only benefited from the extra day's marinating.)

An entirely Upstate dinner.

Binghamton Spiedies (using the historically accurate lamb). Syracuse Salt Potatoes (OK they don't toss them with tarragon and marjoram in Syracuse) (at least they didn't in the '70s -- now that everybody's a fucking foodie they probably do).  A grilled ear of corn.

As far as I can tell, there are no Upstate green vegetable preparations.  The braised greens they eat in Utica contain as much salumi as greens.  I did have a tomato, though.

Syracuse Salt Potatoes are really good, BTW.  It has to be like 50 years since I've had any.

We've already established what the wine pairing is for this.

2006 Stone Hill Winery Norton

This isn't a case of "what grows together goes together".  Spiedies are beyond the imaginings of Virginia (where the Norton grape originated) and Missouri (where this wine comes from).  And Norton isn't a labrusca grape as grows Upstate.

The pairing just works.  The pissy acidic wine complements the Spiedie marinade (as close as I could come to replicating bottled Italian dressing).  And the wine actually tastes kind of good with charred lamb (people scoffed when Sam Sifton recommended putting sugar into the marinade; but aside from counteracting the vinegar, it so nicely promotes caramelization -- i.e., char -- that you can see exactly what it brings to the table here).

Ecclesiastes was right!

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Spaghetti alla Norma.  (Yes, in view of the waning of the tomato season -- soon I'll be switching to Cathy Chan's tomatoless family eggplant dish to close out the eggplant season -- I went back to Spaghetti from Penne.  TBH, I prefer Spaghetti.)

Something else I went back to:  I found a recipe this year that has you skip the couple-of-hours' salting of the eggplant before frying -- and I'm always one to skip a step if there's any justification for it.  But for this near-the-last iteration of the year, I went back to salting.  I can now say there's no doubting that salting materially improves the final result.

On the side, sautéed Spigarello with blistered pepper and a good deal of garlic.  When cooking for oneself, one can overcook one's vegetables to one's liking with impunity.

One thing I didn't change is the wine pairing.  I'm convinced I've found THE BEST wine for Pasta alla Norma, and I'm sticking with it.

2021 Mortellito Tuttu Rosso

Mainly Nero d'Avola cofermented with some Grillo, Frappato, Insolia, Catarrato, and Perricone.  You just look at that cepáge and you think, this has GOT to be great with Pasta alla Norma.  And it is!

Bright fresh fruit.  Some salt on the finish to make nice with the Ricotta Salata.

I have to say that Mortellito wines have been my discovery of the Summer.  (The white blend is even better than this red-white field blend.)

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The last of my carnitas.

Eating them tonight proved two things about confit theory.

First, it is absolutely true that meat encased in rendered fat lasts, if not forever, a long time.

Second, in terms of flavor and texture, the meat so encased gets better and better.  Tonight's leftover pork bits -- shoulder, belly, heart, kidneys, tongue -- were crazy good.

I had them over rice, topped with radish, cilantro, and what you'd have to call deconstructed salsa verde.  And of course a squeeze of lime.

On the side, Guiso de Flor de Calabaza.  An excellent dish -- and not too hard to make.

My best pairing with this had been a Côtes du Rhône.  So back to the Rhône we go.

2015 Domaine Jaume Côtes du Rhône "Génération"

My tendency to (over)age "generous" wines might have slightly got the better of me this time.  This tasted maybe a year or two past its prime.  But it was still plenty good.

It's a GSM blend from the northern part of the Southern Rhône.  I kind of expected more Syrah -- one reason I held it this long -- but, as a famous rock band now in the news almost once said, you don't always get what you expect.

So this tastes like a fairly nice Southern Rhône.  The Grenache exuberance (which I personally find a little wearing, like a big dog that licks you too much) has been tamed.  The only fly in the ointment is this slight bitter aftertaste that I'm pretty sure wouldn't have been there a year or two ago.

And this kind of wine remains a very good pairing for carnitas.  Keep that in mind.

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26 minutes ago, Sneakeater said:

On the side, Guiso de Flor de Calabaza.  An excellent dish -- and not too hard to make.

I made a lot of new things this Summer.

Not new in that I've never eaten them, but new in that I've never cooked them (or even thought to cook them).

On the whole, they turned out very well.

But if you'd have told me that my favorite would be a salad of all things, I'd have said you're crazy.

But it is:  the Ligurian tomato salad Cundigiun.  The thought that I can conjure up a good approximation of this -- and that it's just fucking delicious -- is amazing to me.

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