Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Dinner: Stuffed Pork Crown Roast Paired with 2009 Cono Sur Cochagua Valley Chile Viognier and 2009 The Immortal Zin Old Vine Lodi California Zinfandel

Pork Crown Roast-3

Every time we get in the car to visit our secret Potomac culinary lair, I always look forward to our customary stop at Nick’s of Calvert – our favorite butcher.  During the drive, Chef Sue and I usually chat about menu plans for the weekend with the intent of visiting Nick’s to provision.  This trip occurred just in advance of Christmas weekend, and I was thinking Goose a la A Christmas Carol. 

We arrived at Nick’s, and found our goose.  Unfortunately, the $58 price tag sent me reeling.  I would really like to cook a goose, but I’m not ready to empty my wallet to do so.  If you happen to know of a source in the DC area where I can find a goose at a better price, let me know.  After dumping the goose idea, we proceeded to graze through Nick’s for inspiration.  Minutes later we came across a beautiful pork crown roast and Christmas dinner began to take focus.

Pork Crown Roast

For the stuffing, I adapted a recipe for bobotie (a South African meatloaf type dish) that features plenty of fruit (pears, apples, raisins), curry, and a touch of heat from pepper flakes.  Each of these components contributed to my selection of a Viognier for the pairing.  The idea was to echo the fruit flavors with the hallmark intense fruit found in a Viognier.

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The 2009 Cono Sur Cochagua Valley Chile Viognier deftly fulfilled my expectations with big floral aromas and intense flavors of apricot, peach, melon, and more subdued hints of spice and almond.  This wine features healthy acidity and a crisp finish.  I found this Viognier to be much brighter and crisper than the local Virginia and Maryland Viogniers I have been tasting lately which makes it a versatile pairing wine that would work very well with spicy meals such as Asian or Indian dishes.  At $12 this wine is a great value.

Of late, I have begun a routine of pairing two wines – one a complementary pairing such as the 2009 Cono Sur Cochagua Valley Chile Viognier, and a second intended to create balance through contrasting flavors.  Selecting a wine for contrasting balance is a tricky proposition, so the complementary wine is selected as the principal pairing, while the contrasting wine is more of an experiment.  In this case, I selected the 2009 The Immortal Zin Old Vine Lodi California Zinfandel as the contrasting wine.

Zinfandels, a full bodied wine, provide complex layers of flavor with dark fruits, spice, varying levels of acidity, high alcohol content, and a broad range of tannins.  My selection in this case was based on the intent to contrast the lighter fruit flavors of the stuffing with the dark fruit and spice from the Zinfandel.

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The 2009 The Immortal Zin Old Vine Lodi California Zinfandel was a wonderful surprise pairing.  The subdued dark fruit and cherry aromas belie the bold cherry, strawberry and dark fruit and spice flavors.  This wine is velvety smooth in the mouth and has a pleasing long finish.  The pairing was spectacular, and was the favorite of our Christmas dinner crowd.  However, I am finding it difficult to describe why.  Here is my best attempt:  The 2009 The Immortal Zin Old Vine Lodi California Zinfandel was a pleasant contrast in fruit flavors adding a layer of dark fruit to the brighter fruit flavors in the stuffing.  I found the spice flavors of the Zin played nicely with the curry and red pepper flakes, and the smooth round mouth feel seemed to match the tender texture of the pork precisely.  At $14, this Zin is a great value and an enjoyable wine anytime.

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To round out the meal, we had salt boiled baby red potatoes and pureed turnips.  While quite enjoyable, the pork crown roast was clearly the star of the day.  I hope you enjoyed your Christmas dinner as much as we did.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium diced onion
  • 1 pound loose fennel sausage
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups bread broken into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 apple diced
  • 2 pears diced
  • 1 orange sectioned with membranes removed
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg


Pork Crown Roast-1

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions in the hot oil until soft. Break the pork sausage into the skillet and cook until just browned. Do not cook through. Just before finished, add curry, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
  3. Place the milk in a shallow dish. Soak the bread in the milk. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and add to the bowl with the sausage and onions. Set the milk aside. Add the bread to the sausage mixture.
  4. Stir in the raisins, pears and apples.
  5. Place the pork crown roast in a roasting pan just larger than the crown. Pack the stuffing mixture into the center of the crown roast and in the open spaces at the base of the roast.
  6. Whisk egg with leftover milk, and pour half the mixture over the stuffing in the center of the crown roast.
  7. Cover the stuffing and the tips of the rib bones with foil then place the whole roast in the oven and bake for  2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone registers 150 degrees F.
  8. About 45 minutes before done, remove the foil covering leaving the small bone tip foil in place.
  9. Remove crown roast from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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