September 12, 2011

Polenta with Roasted Vegetables and Cabernet

When thinking of red wine for dinner, people often think of pairing red meat with it. So I was intrigued to find a vegetarian recipe that suggested a Cabernet Sauvignon as the pairing partner. The dish is again from Jill Silverman Hough's cookbook 100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes. The recipe is called Spinach and Parmesan Polenta with Grilled Vegetable Ragout and you can find all the main ingredients at your local farmers market at this time of the year.

The grill master of the house wasn't around that day, so I decided to oven-roast the vegetables for the ragout. It still tasted delicious. This was also the first time I ever cooked polenta, which is an Italian side dish made from cornmeal. It sort of reminded me of grits, and I am not exactly sure if I got the consistency right, but it tasted very good!

The recipe advises that polenta sets up and becomes firm soon after it is cooked, which is why I transferred any leftovers to a shallow dish while it was still warm and spread it out so that it was about a half inch thick in the dish. The next day I was able to cut the polenta into squares and pan-fried those squares in some butter. I served some sunny-side up eggs over the polenta and had a fantastic brunch dish!

Honestly, the next time I cook polenta, I think I will make it ahead of time, let it set up, and pan-fry it in butter again. I preferred it that way, and it also looked more appetizing with the nice crunchy outside.

The recipe suggests a Cabernet Sauvignon as the pairing wine, and I happened to have the 2008 Beringer Vineyards Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from California in the house. I found this to be a solid CS with dark fruit and cassis flavors and just enough oak to still be a pleasant and food-friendly wine. It definitely delivered for the price around $10. I was also very pleased by the combination with the hearty vegetable dish. Definitely proof that a vegetarian dish can be hearty and filling comfort food!

September 5, 2011

Chicken Soup with a German Spätlese

When we had the arrival of lots of rain and wind in the weather forecast the other day, namely in the shape of the remnants of Hurricane Irene, I decided to put on a slow-cooker meal. Something similar to a chicken soup seemed just enough comforting to me, being faced with the possibilities of doom and destruction. I decided to try this recipe again, which I remembered as one of the best things I got out of being a Weight Watchers member for a while a few years ago. It ended up being one of the more lasting things of the program as well... Ahem. But anyway... It was just as delicious as I remembered it.

Just to let you know, I added more chicken stock to make an actual soup, and also more jalapeños from our garden, some of which had already started to turn to a red color. That way, the dish had a good kick to it.

For my wine pairing, I had to consider that the meat was chicken, the main vegetable was sweet corn, and there was also a good amount of spiciness in the dish. I decided to go with a white wine, and a off-dry one, meaning slightly sweet, at that. I was more than excited to find the 2009 Schweinhardt Scheurebe Spätlese from the Nahe region in Germany at my local Total Wine store the other day. Usually, the German wines one can find here in the United States are all made from the Riesling grape. Save for the occasional Gewürztraminer. Which is nothing bad unto itself, just that it is a little boring. Plus, it does not do justice to all the other wonderful grape varieties grown in Germany.

The Scheurebe varietal happens to be one of my absolute favorite white wine grapes. It has this wonderful aroma of black currant and grapefruit, which sounds like a strange mix, but is absolutely stunning and seductive. It is often done in the Spätlese style, which literally means "late harvest", and for label-reading purposes often describes a little bit of a sweeter style of wine.

It was a wonderful wine to pair with the spiciness of the jalapeño. Oh, and by the way, we survived the hurricane completely unscathed. And well-fed...