Perfect Pairing – Malbec with Slow-Cooked Lamb Stew

Because of the slow cooking, the lamb practically melts in your mouth.  Which is reason enough to try it, but it also boasts an earthiness that I like with a good Argentinian Malbec.  One of the nice things about Malbecs from Argentina’s Mendoza region is their affordability.  But sadly, their quality is inconsistent, so be sure to confer with a trusted wine merchant for a recommendation before parting with the $20 or so you’ll need to find a good one.

Ingredients (Serves 6+)
 2 Lbs lamb shank
 10 small onions
 4 Cups water
 5 tomatoes – blanched, peeled and chopped (or one can organic chopped tomatoes)
 2 Sprigs fresh parsley
 2 Sprigs fresh thyme
 2 cloves garlic, chopped
 2 Bay leaves
 2 (15 Oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
 1 pound cubed ham3 Sweet Italian sausages

Procedure
Boil the lamb in the four cups of water until it’s falling-off-the-bone tender.  Remove from heat but RESERVE THE LAMB BROTH for later. Once the lamb has cooled, cut into bite-sized cubes/pieces.

Using a generous square of cheesecloth (photo), secure the parsley, thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine, leaving a long leash on the garni, so you can easily pull it from the stew later.  Place the herb bundle, the lamb, ham, onions, tomato and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the reserved lamb broth and enough water to equal four cups. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for an hour.

Meanwhile, remove the sausage meat from the casings and brown lightly, breaking up into fork-sized crumbles. Remove sausage from heat, drain off fat, and reserve.

Drain and rinse the beans and set aside.  After the stew has simmered for an hour, stir in the beans and sausage and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, or more if you want a thicker consistency.

The deep flavors of this dish work very well with the tannin and fruitiness of the Malbec, both of which offer warm comfort on a winter evening.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Eileen’s “Dead Easy” Leg of Lamb

My wife and I enjoy a wide variety of people, but especially those who appreciate good food.  This dish always reminds us of Jeff & Eileen, our two foodie friends who introduced us to it, and it to us.

Their recipe works on many levels – it’s dead easy and affordable, it fills the house with the enticing aromas of garlic and Rosemary, and it tastes fantastic.

This highly seasoned dish calls for an earthy red wine, though frankly, it’s not that picky about what type – a wide variety of varietals will compliment this warm winter dish.  Try a Monastrell (AKA Mourvedre), a good red from the North of Italy, or a cool-climate pinot noir.

.

Ingredients
3 ½ – 4 lbs bone-in leg of lamb
2-3 Cloves garlic, peeled
1 Oz Sea salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-5 Rosemary sprigs,about 6 inches long

Procedure
Pre-heat oven to 375℉.  Using the flat side of a broad knife (or any convenient and flat surface) smash the garlic on your cutting board.  Using the oil and salt as grit, chop and mash the garlic into a paste, then spread evenly on lamb and rub.  Place the meat on a wire rack in a roasting pan (OK, do as I say, not as done in the photo!) with about an inch of water and the Rosemary sprigs in the bottom of the pan.  Put in oven and set timer 15 minutes per pound plus 15 minutes (ex. – a 4 pound roast would get 4 X 15 = 60, plus the extra 15 = 1 hour, 15 minutes).  This simple timing formula produces a roast leg with a nicely pink center and some nice crusty bits at the ends for those who prefer their meat with less (or no) color.  Remove from oven, cover, and allow to sit for 15 minutes before carving.

Serve with roasted potatoes and a green vegetable.  Pairs well with a variety of red wines, though I prefer those with a bit of earthiness, such as pinotnoir, Mourvedre (Monastrell),  or most red wines of Northern Italy.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Pork Ribs, Tuscan-Style (For Earthy Red Wines)

This month, my recipes seem to center around ribs.  I guess I’m craving these hearty fall-off-the-bone dishes as Autumn approaches.  Hope you are too!

These ribs are best when slowly cooked using low, indirect heat on your charcoal grill, but they are still delicious when slow-roasted in your oven until tender and crisp.  They are generously seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices that compliment the earthiness in a lighter wine, though they do have a bit of spice kick that will fight with high-alcohol wines.  What makes them Tuscan is the simple balsamic glaze finish, Balsamic vinegar being a Tuscan specialty.  I’ve adapted it here with a touch of vanilla, which helps round it out and bridge more effectively with Pinot Noir and other domestic reds.  Other bridge ingredients would include cherry juice or cranberry juice, and I encourage experimentation if these ingredients are handy in your kitchen.

Note: This recipe originally appeared as an insert with my October, 2009 shipment to members of my “Pinot Selection” sampling program.  Though optimized to showcase an earthy Pinot Noir, it works well with other such wines, such as a good Rhone-style wine (look for with alcohol below 14.5% or it will fight the spicy heat of these ribs) or the old-world wines of Italy.  Click here to see some current selections  that work well.

Ingredients (Serves 6)
2  Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 Scant Tbsp kosher salt
1 ½ Tbsp fennel seeds
2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp Chopped sage
2 tsp Chopped thyme
2 tsp Sweet paprika
1 Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp Ground coriander
1 tsp Ground cumin
1/2 tsp Ground allspice
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 Lbs pork spareribs
4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Scant tsp vanilla extract

Procedure
Combine all but the last three ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Rub the spice paste over the meaty side of the spareribs and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate for a day.

Three hours before your planned mealtime, bring your grill (or oven) up to 300° (this is a low heat, requiring no more than 30 or so briquettes, though you’ll need to add five more every 45 minutes or so. Arrange the ribs on the indirect portion of your grill (or on a large, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan if cooking in your oven) with the meaty side up.  Roast until tender, about two hours.

Remove ribs from heat.  Combine the vanilla and balsamic vinegar, then brush the meaty side of the ribs and return to the direct heat side of the grill (or 6” under the broiler) until browned, ~2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut between the ribs and serve.

Serving Suggestion: mashed potatoes with chives, gingered carrots.

Adapted from a recipe by Bruce Aidells

DTWM Video Still croppedCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Note: This recipe originally appeared as an insert with my October, 2009 shipment to members of my “Pinot Selection” sampling program.  Though optimized to showcase an earthy Pinot Noir, it works well with other such wines, such as a good Rhone-style wine (look for with alcohol below 14.5% or it will fight the spicy heat of these ribs) or the old-world wines of Italy.  Click here to see some current selections  that work well.