August 23, 2011

Smoked Brisket and Spanish Mencia

I have probably mentioned before that my dear husband is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Actually, make that minus the potatoes. He loves meat. And lucky for me, he also likes to experiment with preparing meats in all kinds of different ways. Be it that he makes his own deer jerky (not that I would ever eat Bambi... but I hear it's rather tasty...), to his latest passion of smoking all kinds of meats and fish. Smoking, as in curing meats by exposure to smoke that is...

So the other day, he smoked a beef brisket. At first he treated it with his secret spice rub, and then smoked it for about six hours over charcoal and wood chips. Low and slow is key here, he told me conspiratorially. Whatever... as long as it tastes good in the end. And that it did! It was delicious, and we ate it with barbecue sauce and potato salad to make it a complete meal. I would be amiss if I did not point out the lovely pink smoke ring around the slices of brisket in the picture. Please make sure to take note of it... (There, I said it...)

The way I make my potato salad is basically a classic recipe. Sometimes I make changes such as chopping up some pickles instead of using prepared relish or using red or yellow onions instead of scallions. Often I also substitute red bell pepper for the celery. It has the same fresh crunch, but I prefer the flavor and it adds a nice bright color.

I decided to pair this meal with the 2006 Flavium Mencia Crianza produced by Vinos de Arganza from the Bierzo region in Spain. Mencia is a lesser known red grape variety that produces a light, yet very fragrant and aromatic wine. I got some floral notes and blackberry on the nose and the flavor is remarkably well-balanced and smooth. Together with the food, it impressed even more. It had a nice interplay with the spices on the beef brisket. What a great find, and for a very fair price.

August 17, 2011

BLT Salad with OPG, um, Oregon Pinot Gris

Who needs more recipes for their bumper crop of tomatoes? As a matter of fact, I do! So I decided to make this BLT salad. The ingredients and dressing seem a little bit heavy for a salad, but it is oh so good! Of course I used tomatoes from our garden again, and for the salad greens, I had baby arugula, which has a nice peppery flavor.

My favorite ingredient of the salad was probably the croutons, and you are hearing this from someone who usually picks the stale croutons off her salad at restaurants... But these were of course freshly homemade croutons, created from some day-old baguette. Very delicious and satisfying.

For my wine pairing I chose a 2007 Eola Hills Oregon Pinot Gris. Yep, this is not a typo, the vintage was 2007 and it was on sale at a local wine shop, probably to make room for more recent vintages. As a matter of fact, the most current vintage for this wine on the winery's web site is the 2009. So 2007 is rather old for a white wine, to put it bluntly. White wines are usually consumed young, with many of the ones from 2010 having come to the shelves over the last couple of months.

I knew it was a little bit of a gamble when I purchased this bottle, and I wondered if Pinot Gris actually had the potential to age well. There are other white varietals which are known to age well, such as Riesling. As white wines age, they lose some of their fresh fruit flavors, and develop more minerality. What's minerality? I think I would describe it as the taste you get when you put pebbles in your mouth. Oh come on, we were all kids at some point, right?

But to get back to the Eola Hills Pinot Gris, it still showed nice fruit flavors of pear and apple, and finished with some of that just described pleasant minerality. It definitely excelled when paired with food. A very nice wine, which reminded me a little bit of wines from Germany, where in fact Grauburgunder, the German name for Pinot Gris, is gaining popularity. In combination with the BLT Salad, this was a wonderful summer dinner.

August 8, 2011

Mexican Pork Tinga with Enamore

One of the world cuisines I know next to nothing about is Mexican cooking. I like spicy food, and I always like to learn new things, so what else would I do than experiment with a recipe for Mexican food? I found this recipe for a pork tinga, which is sort of a stew. The ingredients were easy to find and the directions are fairly simple. (Unlike the ones for a classic mole... but one day...!)

Let me tell you, the chipotles in adobo definitely pack a punch in the spicy department! I can definitely see the purpose of the avocado and cheese, which cool things down a bit. So which wine would go with spicy food like this? Most people would probably reach for a cold beer... That's not my thing though, and I was thinking about a red wine with a touch of sweetness instead.

I decided on the 2008 Allegrini & Renacer Enamore from Argentina. This wine is a red blend from mostly Malbec grapes, however, there is something very special about it. It is made from partially dried grapes, very much in the style of an Italian Amarone, at a considerably lower price though. As a matter of fact, this wine is a collaboration between Argentine and Italian winemakers.

The Enamore tastes of dark berries, cherries and vanilla. Being made from partially dried grapes, one might expect a somewhat raisin-y taste, and in fact there is just a touch of sweetness, but definitely NOT reminiscent of a dessert wine such as a port. It is one of my favorite red wines, and it paired surprisingly well with the spicy pork tinga! What was important to me was that the wine would not intensify the spiciness of the food. In my opinion, the "heat factor" of the dish stayed the same, and so did the fruitiness of the wine. So overall, the two were great complements to each other, with the wine adding another flavor note to the entire meal.

August 4, 2011

Zucchini Gorgonzola Spaghetti and Sauvignon Blanc

More zucchini from the garden... means that I needed to make more pasta sauce. This time the pasta was spaghetti, and I bought a beautiful wedge of gorgonzola cheese, which is an Italian blue cheese. I would make a white cheese sauce. I started by browning some bacon bits and onions, and then added the zucchini. For liquid, I used chicken stock. During the last few minutes, I added the gorgonzola cheese and some chopped parsley. Very little salt was necessary, as both the gorgonzola and the bacon are already salty.

I decided to pair this dish with a white wine and chose the 2010 Valdivieso Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Sauvignon Blancs are among my favorite white wines. While there are great fruity ones from California, the ones from Chile are usually a much better value, often costing only about half as much, while being just as good.

This wine has refreshing flavors of citrus and passionfruit. I guess I did go against conventional wisdom by pairing a blue cheese based dish with a white wine, however, I thought it really worked. The acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc was able to cut through the richness and saltiness of the gorgonzola and the bacon. Overall, the Valdivieso SB is a great food wine at a fair price, and it was a great combination! (And another good use of all that zucchini...)