Perfect Pairing – Pinot Noir with Roasted Squash Risotto

Every chef I know makes risotto differently.  And it seems they each believe their way is THE way to make it.  The only thing they can seem to agree on is that a good risotto should be creamy but not mushy – cook it too long and it turns to a glop best used to affix wallpaper.  And though this recipe is not simple, neither is it difficult to do – and the time required to make it is well rewarded by the pleasure it brings.

Ingredients (Serves 4 as main course, or 8 as first course)
6 ½ Cups low-sodium, Organic chicken stock
4 Ozs pancetta, chopped fine (1/4” square)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Large onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ Cup Arborio rice
2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
½ Cup white wine, not heavily oaked
2 tsp garlic, micro-minced
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, destemmed and chopped
4 Ozs fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
¼ – ½ Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 Ozs fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
Salt and Pepper

Procedure
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (F).  Set a large sauce pot on a back burner over low heat and begin warming the chicken stock.
Heat a large, oven-proof stock pot or Dutch oven over med-high heat for 2-3 minutes. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and when the oil is hot enough to shimmer (but not smoke), add the squash.  Sauté until it starts to brown – about 5 minutes – stirring so each side of the squash makes contact with the pan.  Move your pot from the stove to the oven for 8 -10 minutes or until the squash is tender but not mushy.  Remove from oven, transfer squash into a bowl (set the pot aside, we’ll use it again in a minute) and gently stir the minced garlic into the squash.  Set aside.
Heat a 12” sauté pan over med-high heat for two minutes, then stir in 2 Tbsp of the butter.  As soon as the foam subsides, add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and fresh pepper and sauté for ~5 minutes without touching.  As soon as the bottom mushrooms show good browning, begin stirring and continue cooking for a minute AFTER the mushroom liquid has all cooked off, then set aside.
Increase heat to high under chicken stock.  Heat your large, empty squash pot over medium-high heat, add another Tbsp of the oil and sauté the pancetta until brown.  Add the onion and sauté until soft, ~5 minutes.  Add the Arborio rice and begin stirring (for the next 30 minutes!)  But first, after a full 2 minutes of stirring the hot rice, add the white wine and simmer until nearly absorbed.
Add the first cup of hot chicken stock to the rice.  Stirring often, add more liquid as soon as it is nearly absorbed – more frequently at first as the rice gets saturated after about 20 minutes, when the rice will be “al dente” tender. Gently stir in the thyme, squash and mushrooms.  Add another ½ cup of stock, the parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter and gently combine.  Taste for salt and pepper.  The rice should be creamy and tender.
Enjoy!
Dave the Wine Merchant

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.

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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

Roast Chicken with Orange-Honey Glaze

I’m a huge fan of honey.  And this recipe was posted by some online wine friends currently on an extended tour of Australia.  Not only am I thoroughly jealous of their travels, but they also had the chance to don bee suits and inspect the world’s last genetically pure strain of bees. Pair this dish with some nice vegetables sautéed with sliced garlic and it makes an easy mid-week meal.

A Chardonnay works well with this dish, particularly if the oak is moderate and the acidity is good,  because it bridges across to the orange-and-honey glaze, the salt of the chicken and the vegetables, and, well, everything.  If your palate leans towards wines with a bit of sweetness, try a dry muscat or Riesling.  I think Viognier would work quite well, though look for one with alcohol below 14.5% if it’s to work well with this bright dish.

Ingredients
* Whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces
* Juice of one orange
* 2 Tbsp honey
* 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce

Procedure

Pre-heat oven to 400℉.  Stir together the orange juice, honey and soy until the honey is dissolved.  Wash and thoroughly dry the chicken (some chefs recommend letting the skin dry out for a day in the refrigerator).

Baste both sides with the honey liquid. Place a rack inside a roasting pan, chicken on the rack (not touching, if possible and roast for ~50 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 185℉.

This next step is a royal pain in the patootie, but if you can baste the chicken pieces with the pan drippings every 5-10 minutes, you’ll be thrilled with the crispy skin that it creates.  Make sure the skin doesn’t burn – the sugars in the honey make it easy to do!

Cheers,
Dave the Wine Merchant
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