Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Softshell Crab BLT, Crispy Pork Belly, Brioche, Calabrian Chili Aioli Paired with 2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Crab BLT with 2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Welcome back to another pairing from Decanting Napa Valley The Cookbook. This pairing of softshell crab BLT, crispy pork belly, brioche calabrian chili Aioli with a 2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir is particularly special because I prepared it in honor of Chef Sue’s birthday.  It is also a bit special because we have been anxiously waiting several months for the arrival of softshell crabs.  Meanwhile, the bottle of Etude Pinot Noir has posed in the wine rack taunting me with that familiar Pinot snicker.

With softshell crabs finally arriving, and a event appropriate for this wonderful pairing I was very excited to prepare this creatively conceived dish.  This is one of those magical recipes where I find myself loving every single ingredient.  But before we press on with the full description, I have to mention a few substitutions.  I was unable to find pork belly, so I substituted oven roasted thick cut bacon.  Mache (a type of lettuce) was also prescribed but not available near home, so I substituted red leaf lettuce adding some nice texture and color.  Finally, I was unable to find the calabrian chilies and used dried pepper flakes as a substitute. All the substitutions worked fine, but I really would have liked to have the pork belly – yum!

For the full recipe you will need to purchase the cook book at Decanting Wine Country.  Sorry, but I will tell you a bit about the dish.  Fundamentally it is a reconstructed BLT sandwich with the wonderful addition of a lightly fried softshell crab.  At the base, we start with a brioche lathered with a generous portion of the pepper aioli.  We then stack on the pan seared and oven rendered pork belly (or bacon in my case).  Next comes the thinly sliced grape tomatoes and lettuce and rather than top our BLT with another piece of bread, we finish it off with a lightly breaded and fried softshell crab.

2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir-3

The flavors in this dish are subtle and complimentary.  Even the pepper aioli adds only a small splash of heat and does not overwhelm the will balanced warm flavors from the pork and the crab.  The three featured flavors derive from the pepper aioli, pork, and crab.  Before seeing this recipe, I had never thought of the crab and pork combination.  However, once presented with the possibility, it made good sense.  Neither have bold or dominant flavor profiles, and we all know that pork belly matches well with just about anything – even crabs!  In this case, it worked beautifully and the dish was extremely well balanced. 

Crab BLT with 2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir-1

Our tasting crew consisting of birthday girl Chef Sue, Gunslinger Teji, Golf Buddy Steve, and Formerly of Austin Dawn, all commented that in each bight, you not only were treated to a wonderfully balanced set of flavors, but that you could taste each individual component without any one flavor bullying another.  From a textural standpoint, this dish has everything you can imagine from the crisp crunch of the brioche and softshell crab, to the fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and finally to the multi textural bacon (the pork belly would have even been better from a textural perspective).

Crab BLT with 2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir-2

So far, so good.  However, the crowd was skeptical of pairing a red wine with the delicate flavors of the softshell crab.  Fortunately, the Etude Pinot Noir was a light to medium bodied Pinot Noir that made everyone around the table smile in approval.

2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir-4

Here are the tasting notes from Etude Winery:

“Our goal is to produce a distinctly styled Pinot Noir of the highest quality, a wine that can satisfy any 'Burgundian' urge and yet be proud of its California roots. The 2007 Estate bottling offers inviting cool climate aromatics of raspberry, pomegranate and sandalwood with a touch of turned earth. Classically structured, the palate bursts with flavors of sweet frambois strawberries, red cherries and mocha. The lush fruit combined with the baking spice notes from aging in French oak creates a defined Pinot Noir with elegance and length.”

Also from the Etude Winery website are some notes from 2009 when Robert Parker gave this wine 90 points and said “Etude’s outstanding trio of Pinot Noirs begins with the dark ruby/plum-hued 2007 Pinot Noir Estate, which offers plenty of sweet cherry, pomegranate, wood spice, and forest floor characteristics in its round, gracious, expansive personality. Enjoy it over the next 5-6 years.”

2007 Etude Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir-6

In my opinion, the bright red fruit of this wine was clearly the star with a good supporting structure and earth notes to form a nice balance and full mouth feel.  The fruit forward nature of this medium bodied Pinot Noir perfectly complimented the sweet, rich flavors of the pork and crab.  Had the wine featured darker fruits, I don’t believe it would have worked nearly as well.

At $40 per bottle, this is a wine worth trying.  It would be a pleasure to drink on it’s own, but this wine is a brilliant choice for a broad range of paring options.

As you can tell, I am not rushing my way through Decanting Napa Valley The Cookbook.  I believe this is about the 6th pairing from the cookbook.  I’m sure we’ll return to the cookbook soon.  But for now, I will sit back and enjoy another glass of wine.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


No comments:

Post a Comment