Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Curried Duck with Ginger and Mango, Seared Duck Liver with Plum, Turnip Puree, Duck Gizzard and Heart Salad Paired with 2007 Mayo Viognier

2007 Mayo Viognier with Duck Three Ways-2

This meal is all about making the most of the rest of the duck.  Recently I wrote about a duck breast pairing “Glazed Duck Breast Quinoa, Cipollini Onions, Black Trumpet Mushrooms Paired with 2006 ZD Carneros Pinot Noir.”  The pairing under consideration in this post is a result of the rest of the duck.  I had carcasses (including legs and thighs intact) and all the other bits and pieces so decided to use every quacking piece.

My results were mixed.  As I have always promised, I will share the good and the bad – even when the “bad” is my own doing.  So lets get on with the blow-by-blow.

The Food

With all the bits and pieces of duck, I decided on a three course meal.  To start, a salad of sautéed duck hearts and gizzards over mixed greens with a plum vinaigrette.  This was followed by seared duck liver over sliced plum and a plum caramel sauce.  And finally, curried duck with ginger and mango accompanied by a puree of turnips.

Sautee of Duck Hearts and Gizzards

The salad was very tasty, but the texture was horrible.  I was not able to get the gizzards soft enough – no, they were just plain chewy.  So we pushed aside gizzards and enjoyed the hearts, greens and plum vinaigrette.  I will include the preparation instructions when I get it right.  If you can make gizzards sufficiently tender, you have a winner.


The seared liver was very nice, and the caramel plum sauce and bed of sliced plums added a bit of sweet contrast with the plum flavors swimming in unison with the seared liver.  Unfortunately, you will have to take my word for it; Chef Sue is not a fan of liver and politely declined my offering.

Roasting Duck-1

The curried duck with ginger and mango was really all I needed.  The rest of the meal was just taking up space.  This was seriously good, and perfect use of the unused duck.  The dominant flavors came from the mildly gamey duck, curry spices, coconut milk, slight hints of ginger, and sweet fruity mango.  Surprisingly, the flavors were well balanced.

Finally, the turnips.  Just stinking awful.  I have prepared turnips plenty of times.  These were fibrous and nearly inedible.  This was a real disappointment because I enjoy turnips.  I can’t say for certain, but I believe it was the turnip and not the cook.  But in the end, I was enjoying the duck and the wine sufficiently to completely forget about the turnip abomination (as a matter of fact, I almost forgot to write about it).

The Wine

The 2007 Mayo Family Winery Russian River Valley, Saralee’s Vineyard Viognier comes from our membership in the Mayo Family Winery wine club – a recent delivery.

2007 Mayo Viognier

I found the description on the back label of the bottle entertaining, and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

“Consider this wine a real showoff…with a secret.  It’s the aroma that makes the statement.  The wine is explosive and exotic.  Perfumed aromas of honeysuckle, ripe apricot and sweet summer peaches will knock your socks off as this is not a typical, cloying Viognier with a simple sweet greeting.  Once on your palate, you’ll love its fresh, crisp structure not usually found in Russian River Valley Viognier.  Balanced on its well-structured frame is an array of peach, lemony and floral flavors that finish forever.”

I may not be quite as energetic as this description, but I honestly cannot disagree with it – this is a wonderfully intense wine that leaves you with thoughts of “wow, where did that come from?”  The parts that stood out for me were certainly the apricot and peach aromas, a well balanced sweetness, nice crisp acidity, and the peach flavor taking center stage.  This is a great wine for food.  The sweetness, acidity and pleasing peach – apricot flavors will stand up to demanding and highly spiced foods such as Indian and Thai.  At $35, this is a fairly priced wine.

The Pairing

This was a roll your eyes back in the head palate dislocating intense experience.  No kidding.  Forget about the salad (tasty, but lets just give it an honorable mention).  Forget about the seared duck liver with plum caramel sauce (super tasty and the sweetness melded perfectly with the wine) - just a warm-up band for the main event.  The curried duck came out of its corner punching with big flavors of duck, coconut, and curry supported by a ring crew of sweet ginger and mango.  This is a heavy weight contender.  They Mayo Viognier is no light weight and returned the punches with matched intensity.  Oddly, after the first punches were thrown, they both decided to dance and sing rather than fight.  The fruits fused.  The sweet notes sang in harmony, and the acidity of the wine balanced the spice of the curry. 

2007 Mayo Viognier with Duck Three Ways-1

Final Words

This was a prize fight match contrived by Don King, fought by the iconic heavyweights, and concluded with a Broadway musical.  This was not my plan, but I liked it!


Plum Seared Duck Liver


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 sliced plums
  • 3 duck livers


Over medium heat add butter and sugar to a sauté pan and heat until caramel forms. Add basalmic vinegar and plums. Cook until beginning to thicken. Remove from heat and leave at the ready for plating with the duck liver.

Heat pan over high heat, and add livers seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Place plums on plates, top with seared liver and drizzle caramel around plate.

Curried Duck with Ginger and Mango

Roasting Duck


  • Six legs and thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 large mango cubed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Garnish with Fresh cilantro


1. Season duck legs and thighs with salt and pepper.

2. After taking the breasts off your ducks and using them in another recipe (see Glazed Duck Breast Quinoa, Cipollini Onions, Black Trumpet Mushrooms Paired with 2006 ZD Carneros Pinot Noir) season the balance of the duck with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan and into a preheated oven (350).  Remove from oven when internal temp reaches 160.  Alternatively, oil a sauté pan over high heat, add duck and brown on both sides.  Either way, the legs and thighs need to end up in the sauté pan.

3. Blend one onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, vinegar, cayenne, turmeric, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup water in a blender until smooth.

4. Add one onion and a large pinch of salt to the sauté pan with the duck drippings on medium heat . Sauté until soft. Add the product of your blender sidetrack and cook for two minutes.

Curried Duck

5. Add coconut milk and 2 cups water, and bring to a simmer. Add mango, brown sugar, and duck. Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low and simmer for one hour turning the duck every 15 minutes. Turn duck again, and let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

6. Plate with fresh cilantro as garnish and serve.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food is not the Only Thing that Pairs Well with Wine

Tomorrow evening is another episode in what has become a somewhat regular event over the last few years – cigar and Port night.  On roughly a six month schedule, a number of us that golf together regularly get together for a cigar and Port night.  Although this blog is principally about pairing food and wine, I am taking the liberty of stretching a bit.  Cigars and Port are a natural combination.

The photo is the lineup for tomorrow’s event and includes:

  • 2007 M. Chapoutier Banyuls
  • 2004 Late Bottled Vintage Quinta Da Gaivosa
  • 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Fonseca
  • 2003 Quinta De Ventozelo
  • 1997 Rozés

Vintage Port

Vintage Port is at the top of the pile as far as price, aging potential, and prestige are concerned. It’s made only from the best grapes of a single vintage, and only in years that have been “declared” vintage-worthy, which usually happens just a few times a decade. However, the decision on whether to declare a vintage is made in the spring of the second year following the harvest by each individual Port House (referred to as a 'shipper').  Because of the reputations at stake, these decisions are not taken lightly.

Vintage Ports are made similarly to other Ports, fortified with spirits to arrest fermentation and preserve residual sugar.  Because the Vintage Ports are so young upon release (after two years of aging in the Port House), they are usually tucked away in cellars for many years until they mellow and mature into their potential - generally another ten to thirty years of aging in the bottle before reaching what is considered a proper drinking age.  The helpful staff at my favorite wine and liquor store (Schneider’s of Capitol Hill) assisted in selecting vintages that are drinking well now, although a bit young.

While it is by far the most renowned type of port, from a volume and revenue standpoint, Vintage Port actually makes up only a small percentage of the production of most shippers. Since they are aged in barrels for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby color and fresh fruit flavors.

“Late-Bottled Vintage” or “LBV” Ports aren’t bottled until up to four to six years from the vintage date. This means they spend about twice as long in wood as Vintage Ports, and so they’re usually more accessible at an early age. LBVs were originally intended to offer an experience comparable to Vintage Port but at a much lower cost and without the extensive cellaring.

Tomorrow we will enjoy these Ports paired with our favorite cigars.  I will admit it is true that a cigar deadens some of your capacity to taste, but the combination of a bold, fruity Port with a fine cigar is a true pleasure.  The flavors of the Port and the cigar blend in a way that makes you want neither the cigar nor the Port to end.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Thai Chicken in a Peanut, Coconut, Red Curry Sauce Paired with 2008 Koonowla Riesling

Thai Chicken Peanut Coconut Red Curry-2

Last week I was craving Thai chicken in a peanut, coconut, red curry sauce.  After a bit of research and a pair of attempts, I have satisfied the craving.  Selecting a wine for the pairing was quite easy although many people seem to have challenges pairing wine with Thai food, or more generally with Asian food.

As a final introductory comment, I want to tell you that the recipe (included at the end) is ridiculously easy, and this is literally a 30 minute prep – including the time to pour your self a glass of wine to quench your thirst while slaving away in the kitchen.  When you are craving flavor and don’t have much time or energy, I would put this recipe at the top of your list.

The Food

Following my normal routine for preparing a recipe, I started by considering what other people are doing.  I looked at half a dozen recipes to provide a foundation, then selected the flavors I wanted to emphasize.  In this case I wanted clearly be able to distinguish the peanut, coconut, curry, and balance this with a moderate level of heat (picante).  The recipe is quite successful in forming this balance that allows each of the flavors to shine through.

Thai Chicken Peanut Coconut Red Curry

This dish would go equally well over rice, but I had not prepared rice noodles before and wanted to give it a go.  I’m glad I did – the rice noodles added a wonderful texture to the dish.  Another great thing about this dish is that it is equally good, if not better, the next day.  I ate some for breakfast this morning (hey, it beats the hell out of oatmeal), and found the noodles held up well, and the flavors seemed to be completely saturated.  Oh, and I finished off the leftovers at lunch.  I just can’t get enough of this stuff!  Yum!

Thai Chicken Peanut Coconut Red Curry-1

The Wine

I decided to take two approaches to wine pairing.  During a test run of the recipe I went the sweet, big fruit, low acidity route, and on round two with a less fruity, dry Riesling with ample acidity.

Chateau Saint Michelle and Koonowla

The first round wine was the 2009 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Harvest Select Riesling.  As I said, this wine is sweet, big fruit flavors of peach and apricot, and relatively low acidity.  This wine is a hoot to drink particularly if you are in the mood for something sweet.  At $10 per bottle, this wine is an exceptional value.

2009 Chateau Saint Michelle Riesling-2

The second wine, a 2008 Koonowla Clare Valley Reisling (Australia) filled the role of less sweet and high acidity with less dominant fruit.  We really enjoyed this wine as well.  Mild sweetness is well balanced with fresh citrus flavors and strong acidity.  This is a great food wine and a good value at $20 per bottle.

2008 Koonowla Clare Valley Riesling-2

The Pairing

This pairing is the most complicated I have done yet.  Not because it is impossible to pair wine with Thai Food as some people would leave you to believe, but because we had the same recipe two nights in a row paired with different wines.  To complicate things even more, for the second round of pairing, Golf Buddy Steve and Formerly of Austin Dawn brought another bottle of the 2009 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Harvest Select Riesling.

So here is the blow-by-blow.  The first attempt with the 2009 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Harvest Select Riesling went exceptionally well.  The sweetness cut through the heat and spice of the curry and chili paste and danced a minuet with the coconut milk.  The bold peach and apricot flavors also played very nicely with our Thai Delight.  Overall, this was an excellent pairing.  With a bit more acidity in the wine, it would have been ideal.

For round two we started with the 2008 Koonowla Clare Valley Reisling.  The combination of citrus flavors and high acidity (and a little help from the mild sweetness) was perfect for the Thai chicken recipe.  The acidity balanced the heat and spice splendidly and the sweet citrus complimented the coconut and peanut flavors with nothing but refined manners.  Chef Sue then commented that she thought the 2009 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Harvest Select Riesling from the prior evening was a better pair because of the sweetness; she did not see the acidity argument as compelling as I did.  So sure enough, we broke open the bottle of 2009 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Harvest Select Riesling brought by Golf Buddy Steve.  We all did some side by side tasting, assessing it alongside the food and came to the conclusion they both worked extremely well for two very different reasons.

This was a nice discovery and a good example of why general guidelines for wine and food pairing can be misleading.  In this case, it would be perfectly reasonable to suggest pairing a Riesling with Thai Chicken Curry.  However, as we experienced, different Rieslings will react quite differently with the same dish.

Final Words

As a final thought, I would like to share my generalized conclusions on pairing wine with spicy Thai food.  Here are a few things too consider:

  1. Stay away from high alcohol wines; the alcohol can intensify the heat.
  2. Strong acidity is good.  The strong flavors of Thai food need the acidity in the wine in order to go toe to toe.  A less acidic wine will fade behind the big spicy flavors.
  3. Skip the tannins.  Tannins combined with spicy food can result in some off color flavors.  This is not true in all cases, but in general, you will not be pleased with the result.
  4. Go sweet, but not too sweet.  Sweetness balances the spicy flavors.  More spice and more heat = more capacity to carry a sweet wine.
  5. Pass on the Oak.  With all the fun exotic spices in Thai food, I don’t see the vanilla notes common in oaky wines playing well. Here is an example.  I think a bright, citrus laden acid hound of a Sauvignon Blanc would work great with this recipe.  Make that an oaked Sauvignon Blanc, and the result may be less desirable.
  6. White wines tend to work best as a rule, but light bodied, low tannin, fruity reds can be equally enjoyable.



  • 1 package of rice noodles (8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili paste (sambal oelek if you want to be authentic)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 cans (13 ounces each) coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • crushed peanuts
  • 1 lime


  1. Bring pot of water to a near boil (enough water to submerge the rice noodles).  Remove water from heat and add rice noodles. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat sesame oil In a large sauté pan or pot and add red curry paste, garlic, and chili paste. Keep on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and cook until all sides are browned.
  4. Add coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and peanut butter.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Strain rice noodles and combine with the chicken and sauce. Stir and turn until noodles are well bathed in all that coconut curry goodness.
  7. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with crushed nuts and garnish with lime wedges which can also be used to fine tune the acidity.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Glazed Duck Breast Quinoa, Cipollini Onions, Black Trumpet Mushrooms Paired with 2006 ZD Carneros Pinot Noir

2006 ZD Pino Noir Celery Root Quinoa Duck Breat

I love duck.  I love preparing duck.  I love the way duck plays so well with a number of wines.  But this is not about my infatuation with duck, it is about our latest wine pairing.  This pairing returns us to Decanting Napa Valley the Cookbook

wine pairing at C&S-65

When it comes to food and wine we should not be in a rush.  As testament, this is just the third wine paring from my inspiration for this blog - Decanting Napa Valley the Cookbook – since the inception in early February 2011.  I am ok with this pace – so much food, and so much wine to explore, why rush?

Duck Breasts-2

With this pairing, I cannot provide the recipe (buy the book) but Photo Buddy John was part of the dinner party – which means that between his photography and mine, we have a bunch of good imagery to make up for a lack of recipe. 


Also in attendance were John’s wife – Super Artist Ji, El Jefe Abel and his wife, Banker Beth, and of course Chef Sue.  It was wonderful having these good friends to share this pairing, but it also presented a couple of challenges – including insufficient range space for 6 duck breasts, quinoa, and sauté of several veggies…all at the same time.

wine pairing at C&S-8

The Food

First I have to admit a couple of substitutions.  I was unable to find cipollini onions (substituted yellow and red pearl onions) and Black Trumpet mushrooms (subsituted a blend three mushrooms).  These substitutions had no bearing on the delight delivered by this meal.  I have already declared my love affair with duck, and to that we added another favorite – quinoa.  Quinoa is an experienced chameleon that assimilates the surrounding flavors while maintaining a delightfully distinct texture that is a fine addition to most dishes.

wine pairing at C&S-102

In addition to the wonderfully delicate gamey flavor of the duck, the dish had a nice balance of acid (sherry vinegar), sweetness resulting from the direct use of honey in the glazed pearl onions, and a honey shallot glaze for the duck.  Everyone was pleased with the duck breast – crispy skin and butter tender.  Similarly the quinoa was enjoyed by all with comments of “nicely sweet, but not too sweet,” and perfectly balanced with the second wine (more on that in a moment).

Duck Deboning

Another component that added an interesting flavor to the quinoa was the celery root.  This was the first time I had (intentionally) tasted celery root and quite positively the first time I cooked with it.  My response is unconditionally favorable.  It has s concentrated aroma and flavor of celery while adding an earthiness that contrasted nicely with the sweet components of the quinoa.

Sauteed Pearl Onions

The Wine

OK, another substitution…actually two.  The pairing from Decanting Napa Valley the Cookbook lists the 2007 ZD Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir.  We were anxious to prepare this pairing and rather than go through the wait of ordering this wine, we found a bottle locally of 2006 ZD Carneros Pinot Noir to stand in.

2006 ZD Carneros Pino Noir-2

The 2006 ZD Carneros Pinot Noir is a full bodied Pinot Noir featuring aromas of cherry, dark fruit and cocoa which is quickly rewarded with deep flavors of black cherry, plum, toasted almond, and a delicate touch from the oak that it communed with for 10 months.

My planning was not the greatest for this pairing.  While we have plenty of wine, I had only one bottle of the ZD Pinot Noir for the meal.  Clearly this would not be sufficient.  I quickly ran to the cavernous wine cellar, found the Pinot Noir section, and nearly became lost finding my way back to the dinning room (OK, the “wine cellar” is the recovered space under the stairs in the basement).  Fortunately, my daughter had gifted us a wine club membership which had arrived just days before. The latest shipment included a bottle of 2008 Rutz Cellars Sonoma Cuvée Pinot Noir.  Thanks Dana!!

2006 ZD Carneros Pino Noir

The 2008 Rutz Cellars Sonoma Cuvée Pinot Noir is a delightful wine and a great value at $21.  While certainly a nice wine, I will not put the ZD Pinot Noir in the good value category at $50.  The Rutz Pinot Noir, like the ZD, is aged in oak for 10 months and features similar aromas and the same black cherry, and plum flavors with the addition of a hint of cocoa and a delicate touch of earthiness-smoke-oak.  This Pinot Noir is silky smooth which is a wonderful compliment to the terroir and smoke-oak hints.

The Pairing

The pairing was exceptional.  The dark cherry and plum flavors of both wines made a wonderful foil for the sweet honey flavors in the duck and quinoa.  The added smoke and earthiness of the Rutz Pinot Noir intensified that contrast even more.  The contrast seemed to enhance or brighten the flavors in both the duck-quinoa and the wine.

2006 ZD Pino Noir Celery Root Quinoa Duck Breat-2

Interestingly, the 2008 Rutz Cellars Sonoma Cuvée Pinot Noir was clearly the star among the two wines.  Our conclusion is that this resulted from three aspects.  First, the ever so slight bitterness in the cocoa flavors contrasted brilliantly with the sweetness in the duck and quinoa.  Second, the hints of smoke, oak and earthiness added a compelling dimension.  And finally, the 2008 Rutz Cellars Sonoma Cuvée Pinot Noir was so silky smooth the impression was immediate and lasting.  This smooth character seemed to work particularly well with the duck – almost as if putting an exclamation point of softness on the extremely tender duck.

Final Words

This pairing also included an impromptu desert paring between a blueberry pie with sorbet and a 2006 Royal Tokaji.  The house was split regarding this pairing.  One half of the table declared a win, while the other half maintained that both were good, but didn’t care for the resulting union.

wine pairing at C&S-113

I hope you enjoyed the additional photographs in this post.  It is always good having Photo Buddy John around to make sure I don’t miss anything and to also take advantage of his very creative perspective.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thai Chicken in a Peanut, Coconut, Curry Sauce Paired with ???


Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Color-6

This week I am craving some Thai chicken in a peanut, coconut, curry sauce.  I have begun my research to create a recipe that suits my taste and the basics of my approach are beginning to take shape.  However, I have not yet put much thought into the wine pairing.  If you have already paired with this entre, I would love to hear from you.  Even if you have not, and have some thoughts, I would love to hear from you as well.  Send me an e-mail at, or leave a comment.

Here is a wine note; Schnieder’s of Capitol Hill (the most knowledgeable and friendly wine and liquor store in DC!) has a monthly mixed case special.  I just picked up a case yesterday for the grand price of $79.99.  The case has some nice wine at a true bargain.  Sign up for their mailing list, and you will get a monthly sale list with some wonderful values.  And don’t forget to tell them I sent you.

Oh, and the photograph; relevant of nothing but the series of photographs I have been producing for my sister blog, Craig Corl Photography, featuring the Washington DC Cherry Blossoms.  Can I use cherry blossoms in a wine pairing?  Hmmmm.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shepherd’s Pie Paired with 2006 Ledson Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel

Shepherds Pie with Ledson Zinfandel-1
In celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day I decided to make Shepherd’s Pie.  And as long as I’m cooking, why not make a wine pairing?  I started with researching Shepherd’s Pie, and combined the most appealing aspects of about a half dozen recipes – along with a few touches of my own in order to truly personalize it.  The resulting satisfied faces of Chef Sue and Golf Buddy Steve confirmed my shepherd’s pie was a hit.
The Food
Shepherds Pie
It comes as no great surprise that Shepherd’s Pie is not known for distinct or bold flavors.  Shepherd’s pie generally falls into that middle ground, indistinct comfort food category.  However, my preparation moved a bit off the norm and added distinct flavors that remain consistent with the profile of shepherd’s pie.  The distinct flavors that distinguish this recipe are the liberal use of garlic, the sweet and smoky bacon, cubed NY strip steak as a bolder substitute for the more typical ground beef, brussel sprouts, and sweet Vidalia onions.  With these variations on the traditional symphony, the flavors remain somewhat mild, but acted more like a jazz ensemble with a couple of nice solos.
Shepherds Pie-1
The Wine
During my January trip to Napa and Sonoma Valleys, the genesis of this blog, Chef Sue and I visited a number of wineries that either do not distribute, or have a severely restricted distribution.  Why visit wineries that you can taste from your local wine shop?  We ended up joining four wine clubs including Ledson Winery and Vineyards.  The 2006 Ledson Russian River Valley Old Vines Zinfandel was part of our first shipment.  I love Zinfandels, and this bottle was a real pleasure. 
2006 Ledson Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel-1
The 2006 Ledson Russian River Valley Old Vines Zinfandel features a rich nose of plum and cherry.  You are then rewarded with wonderfully complex flavors of raspberry, strawberry, cherry and pepper.  The finish is long and satisfying.
Although Ledson Winery and Vineyards does not distribute, you can buy directly at their website.
The Pairing
My intent with this pairing was to introduce a contrast of fruit and spice from the Ledson Zinfandel to the more moderate flavors of the Shepherd’s pie.  The risk in doing this is that the Zinfandel could have completely overpowered the mild pie.  Fortunately, the folks at Ledson have food in mind when they craft the many Zinfandels in their inventory.  While flavorful and complex, the Zinfandel did not trample over the Shepherd’s Pie.  In fact, the Ledson Zinfandel seemed to add flavors that in retrospect seemed missing in the Shepherd’s Pie. 
Shepherds Pie with Ledson Zinfandel
I think the pairing also worked well because the recipe introduces a couple bolder flavors to the traditional pie.  These flavors, embodied in the bacon, NY strip, and brussel sprouts, mingled joyfully with the Zinfandel.
Final Words
Oddly, the biggest challenge with this pairing was not selecting the wine or preparing the recipe.  It was the photography.  I love Shepherd’s Pie, but it is not terribly photogenic.  I did my best to make it look appealing, but in the end, it still looks like a pile of (tasty) stuff.  I think that preparing this recipe in single serve bowls with a portion scooped out to reveal the hidden treasures might have been more appealing from a visual perspective.
Shepherds Pie-2
Royal Potato Crown
  • 10 medium-small red tomatoes (leave the skins on)
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 beef broth stock
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste
NY Strip Steak Filling
  • 1 NY Strip steak (about 1 pound) cubed (about 1" cubes)
  • 4 slices thick hickory smoked bacon, cut in thirds lengthwise and laterally
  • 2 Vidalia onions, chunked (keep it a bit rustic)
  • 1 small package of shredded carrots (or you can shred 2 large carrots)
  • 12 - 15 brussel sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle light or Guinness beer
  • 1/2 cup beef stock (broth is fine if you don't have stock)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Wash the potatoes then boil until fork tender. Combine the rest of the potato ingredients with the potatoes in a large bowl and mash or place in mixer until light and fluffy. Cover and let rest while you prepare the filing.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until just browning and far from crisp. Remove the bacon, and add the onions to the rendered bacon fat - yes, everything tastes better with bacon fat. Cook over medium heat until onions are soft. Add the beef and increase heat to medium-high. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to brown all sides of the beef. Add the brussel sprouts and the shredded carrots and cook until the brussel sprouts begin to soften; about 5 minutes.
Turn on the oven and let it preheat to 350 degrees F while you finish preparing the filling.
Open a 16 oz. can of Guinness. Offer a toast to your Irish friends and drink 4 ounces.  Poor the rest in the skillet and make the NY Strip swim happily. Open a second 16 oz. can of Guinness and keep close at hand - you are sure to get thirsty during the preparation. Ok, back to the stuff in the skillet - bring to a boil making sure you scrape the good stuff waiting on the bottom (lots of flavor here that you want to take advantage of). When boiling, add the tomato paste and flour. Stir regularly for about 2 minutes to make sure the paste and flour is incorporated. Add the bacon, beef stock, and rosemary. Season to taste with pepper and salt. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens to your liking.
Scoop the filling into a lubricated casserole dish, pie dish, or other container that makes you happy. The next time I make this, I will probably bake in single serving oven safe bowls - it saves the messy plating process. Cover the filling with a royal crown of potatoes and send to the oven for 30 +/- minutes; until the potatoes begin to brown and the edges bubble. Remove from oven, heap on the cheese, and bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove from oven, open another Guinness and admire your handiwork for another 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
In vino veritas, buen provecho.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Duck Three Ways with Mayo Viognier

wine pairing at C&S-93

Last minute invite…I am doing duck three ways tonight, and if you have a good bottle of wine, come on over and we can all share.  Tonight’s duck is “the rest of the duck” from a wine pairing we did earlier in the week – that pairing only used the breasts.  So I have three ducks in the oven rendering down some great duck fat (every freezer should have equal parts ice cream and duck fat). I will be making an adaptation of plum foie gras, the hearts and gizzards will be sautéed and featured in a micro green salad with vinaigrette, and the legs and thighs will become curried duck with mango and plum.

The remaining bits and pieces (bones and neck) will be turned into stock.  In the end, my goal is to use every possible morsel of these brave ducks.

I’m posting this at just after 5pm on Friday, 1 April.  You have about two hours before the tasting begins.  Photos and the full blow by blow should be posted next week.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.