Wine-Friendly Recipe: Sheperd’s Pie (Irish Pub Grub)

Sheperd's Pie, a very wine-friendly dish
San Francisco's Blarney Stone

I tend to prepare this traditional Irish Pub fare in the springtime.  Of course it’s a great Winter dish too, but Spring is when we usually have a surfeit of lamb in our house, and this recipe provides a great way to use every bit of your left-over protein, ensuring the lamb wasn’t sacrificed without good justification.  It does take a bit of time, but places little demand on the skills of a home chef.  In fact, this was a favorite during my bachelor days for its ability to provide several meals during the course of a week – a great return on my investment of an hour in the kitchen.

OK, and its economical too, which means you’ll have more money left for wine.  This dish compliments a wide variety of red wines, from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese to Merlot and even lighter Cabs, if you must.  I find its boldness to be too much even for full-bodied white wines, though it might be pleasant with a full Rosé (think Grenache/Mourvedre) chilled for no more than 20 minutes in your refrigerator.  Oh, it’s also nice with a Guinness. ;-)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs Ground lamb (beef can easily be substituted, though the classic Irish version features lamb)
  • 1 Small brown onion, diced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 Cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup (or tomato paste and a touch of sugar)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 Cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots and corn), thawed
  • 2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled (optional) and quartered
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • 1 Cup cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Add the potatoes and garlic to a large pot of salted and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for ~25 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a large pan up to temperature over medium heat, add a bit of oil and once hot, add the onion.  Sauté, stirring, until just beginning to brown, then remove to a plate and add the ground meat to the pan.  Break up the meat as it cooks to obtain a fine consistency, then stir in the flour for a minute or two.  Stir in the broth, and then the salt, pepper, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, onions and mixed vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, ~5 minutes before spreading evenly across the bottom of a 13 x 9 casserole dish and set aside.

Set your oven temperature to 375.  Then, drain the potatoes and then return them to the pot.  Add the milk and butter and mash (no chunks) or smash (some chunks) the potatoes.  At the end, stir in the cheddar cheese, if using. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Spread the potatoes evenly over the casserole and bake in your preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden (I sometimes cheat and cut the baking time short with a few minutes of broiler time – but if you choose this shortcut be sure to WATCH the entire time, as it goes from perfect to ruined in 30 seconds!). Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Pinot Noir with Chicken in Balsamic-Cherry Sauce

I must confess to an unabashed and obvious bridge ingredient here – the savory cherry sauce evokes pinot noir better than anything except maybe cranberries.  Come to think of it, cranberries would be a good experimental substitute for the cherries – I’d try them with blueberries as well.

Ingredients
6 Boneless chicken breasts (halves)
2 Tbsp ea. – olive oil and butter
3 Shallots, minced
3 Cloves garlic, minced
½ Cup pinot noir (drinkable, but not expensive)
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
½ Cup chicken stock
½ Cup heavy cream
1 Small tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ Pint (or ½ can) cherries, pitted
Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure
Place a breast (the chicken’s, not yours) between two generous layers of plastic wrap.  Using any heavy, flat item (though not flat, a rolling pin or empty wine bottle will suffice) pound the breast to half its original thickness.  Tip, wetting the plastic wrap helps prevent breakage during pounding.

Over medium high, heat a wide skillet for ~3 minutes, add the olive oil, then the butter.  When melted, sauté the chicken breasts in batches, without crowding the pan.  Sauté until just barely browned on each side (the inside should still be slightly pink at this point).  Remove to a warm oven and hold.

Add the shallots and garlic to skillet and cook 6-8 minutes or until tender.  Add wine and vinegar and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Continue to simmer rapidly until reduced to about 1/3 – ½ cup.  Add chicken stock, cream and tomato and simmer until sauce is reduced by almost half, about 5 minutes.

Add cherries to sauce and stir to warm.  After a minute or two, return the chicken and its drippings to the skillet and warm thoroughly, about another three minutes.  Add a touch of salt and a generous amount of cracked pepper.  Serve sauce over chicken.

DSCN0417Bon Appétit!
Dave the Wine Merchant

NOTE: This recipe originally appeared in materials sent to members of “My Pinot Selections” – a bi-0monthly wine sampling program.  To review wines currently in stock that will pair well with this recipe, click here.

Merlot with Braised Beef Short Ribs

When this marinade and slow-cooking process are used on a cut of meat with lots of well-marbled fat and connective tissue (Flank or Top Round are also fine) the resulting flavor and mouthfeel are perfect for this wine.  I again employ my secret ingredient – vanilla – which echoes the flavor of the wine. It really works!

Note: This recipe originally appeared as an insert with my October, 2009 club shipment.  Click here to see wines that pair well with this recipe.

Ingredients

6 Lbs beef short ribs 4 Ozs dried cherries
¼ Cup flour ¼ Cup fresh Thyme sprigs
½ Cup olive oil, divided 4 Sage leaves, fresh
3 Cups chopped onion 3 Bay leaves
2 Cups chopped carrots 2 Cups Merlot (don’t use the good stuff!)
2 Cups chopped celery 4 Cups low-sodium beef broth
8 Cloves garlic, peeled 1-2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 scant tsp Vanilla

Procedure
Preheat oven to 300°.  Put ribs in large bowl and coat well with salt, pepper, and flour.  Heat a heavy Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat for ~4 minutes.  Add half the olive oil and brown ribs all over, working in batches.  Set browned ribs aside.

Add remaining oil to empty pot and, when hot, add the Mirepoix (the holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery).  Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, dried cherries  and the herbs and combine well.  Deglaze the pot with the red wine then return ribs to the pot.  Bring to a simmer and reduce for about five minutes.  Add the broth, cover, and place in oven to braise until ribs are tender – check after two hours but plan for three.

Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes.  Remove ribs and set aside (try to keep them on the bone!), and remove Thyme sprigs and Bay leaves.  Pour remaining ingredients into a food mill (or pulse in a food processor six or seven times until finely chunked), then return to pot.   Spoon off any fat, season to taste with salt and pepper, then add balsamic and Vanilla.  Return ribs to sauce until warmed through, serve with extra sauce spooned over ribs.

Serving Suggestion: Stand the ribs upright in mashed potatoes, spoon remaining sauce over both, and serve with a side dish of sautéed spinach.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Note: This recipe originally appeared as an insert with my October, 2009 shipment to members of my “Grand Cru Selections” sampling program.

Click here to see my current inventory of wines that pair well with this recipe.

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Pissaladière Niçoise (Onion tart with anchovy & olive)

File:Pissaladiera.jpg
Image from Wikipedia - click for entry

To those following my recipes (thanks Mom!), I apologize for including onion tart recipes two months in a row. But as I flipped through our old copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” this particular version evoked a visceral reaction (i.e., hunger) and a memory (i.e., fond) of a 1996 bicycle tour through Provence.

Perhaps it was the beautiful scenery, or maybe the number of calories we burned every day, but by lunch time I was game to try anything I could recognize on the menu.  In what may be a male extension of never asking for directions, I equally refused to break out the translation book to interpret French Menus – I figured an occasional culinary surprise might make the trip more memorable.  I mean, what could possibly be so bad?

Except for ancovies, which I hated.  Until this little tart came along, gave me a seductive wink, and took me for a ride I’ll never forget.  If prepared properly, the anchovy adds a barely discernable enhancement you can’t quite identify as “fishy”.

A very wine-friendly dish, as long as the wine is not too tannic – the saltiness from the olives and ancovies only serves to enhance the roughness.  Otherwise, pair this with most any medium-to-full bodied white or light-to-medium bodied red.  Avoid dry rosé wines at all cost, unless you feel you deserve a heavenly experience!

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Lbs chopped onion
  • 1 Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, and 1/2 bay leaf, tied in washed cheesecloth)
  • 2 Cloves unpeeled garlic
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pâte Brisée Tart Crust, partially cooked (recipe follows, below)
  • 16 Stoned (pitted) black olives – the dry Mediterranean type
  • 1 Pinch of ground cloves
  • 8 Anchovy fillets, whole

Preparation
Cook the onions very slowly in the olive oil with the herb bouquet, garlic and salt for about an hour.  Discard the bouquet and garlic.  Stir in ground cloves and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the onions in the pastry shell. Arrange anchovies over the onions in a sun-burst shape.  Distribute the olives evenly across the tart and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Bake in top third of oven for 10-15 minutes or until bubbling hot.

Pâte Brisée (Short Crust Pastry)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
  • Scant ½ tsp Salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 6 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Chilled Crisco, Lard or other
  • 6 Tbsp ice water

(Ratio for a “short” crust = 2 parts Flour to 1 part Fat)

Julia’s recipe was written 25 years before the food processor, but I think she’d have found it a useful addition to her kitchen.  So I recommend its use to simplify the making of your pie crust and assure fool-proof results!

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of your processor and pulse briefly to combine.  Add the cold butter while pulsing repeatedly just until it combines with the flour and resembles small gravel or clumps of oatmeal.  With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water just until the dough comes together in your bowl – stop as soon as it forms a ball.  Remove everything from the bowl, dust with flour, kneed twice or thrice and then form into a ball, flatten to about an inch thick, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.

Remove your crust and let it warm for just a few minutes.  Unwrap it and sprinkle four over a flat surface and begin rolling out your crust, working from the center to the edge, turning ¼ turn, roll, turn, roll, turn…and repeat until dough is sufficiently thin and well shaped (add flour to rolling surface as needed.)  Place crust in an 8” tart pan, and bake at 400 (F) for ~9 minutes.  Remove and cool completely before filling.

Wine Pairings
When I first tasted this dish, it was paired with a Rhone wine.  I have difficulty imagining a more perfect pairing, but this first wine is a bit pricey for many budgets, so I’ve also included a very food-friendly Merlot (and no, I don’t need to hear the old joke again) as an affordable alternative.  I’ve also suggested a blush wine, one of the sign post wines of Southern France, and perhaps the most versatile of the still wines when paired with food!

2006LaBrumaPeay Vineyards, 2006 Estate Syrah “La Bruma”, $47″
I’ve selected this subtle, cool-weather syrah to go with the pissaladiere recipe.  Its subtle aromas and flavors of pepper, lavendar and just-ripe blackberrry are intriguing on its own, but also provide a nice foil for a wide range of medium-to-heavy dishes.  From the talented hands of Winemaker Vanessa Wong, formerly of Peter Michael Winery, the Sonoma Coast appellation is undoubtedly proud of this iconic example of their vineyard’s capabilities.  (If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Andrew Lane, 2005 Merlot, St. Helena  $18
Like Miles Raymond in the movie “Sideways”, I am not a big fan of most Merlot.  They can be the dumb blondes of the wine world, wallowing around in the shallow end of the pool with the likes of sweet white Zinfandel.  Not this one.  A relative Rhodes Scholar.  An impressive wine in its own right, I’d dare say you’d peg its price tag well above its modest tarif if tasted in a blind tasting. (Sorry, no image available!  If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Rose bottle shotElkhorn Peak, 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir, $19

Though this wine was not included in our club shipment, that is not a reflection of a lack of quality.  In fact, it’s the only blush wine in my portfolio this year.  Which is saying something.  It’s just that, after four years of evangelizing blush wines, then being stuck with excess inventory after their purpoted popularity exceeded the reality, I finally realized that these wines were best relegated to the specialty shelf.  For those of us who enjoy these great, dry wines, you’ll not be saddened once the cork is separated from this bottle!

A saignee from Elkhorn Peak’s estate pinot production, this wine is relatively deep in color, despite just 8 hours of skin contact at relatively cool temperatures.  It’s flavor is true to type – red fruit notes of strawberry and cherry, with enough acidity to evoke a squeeze of lemon over the whole fruit pile.  See if you don’t also find a bit of sassafrass in there!

A Note On The Recipe
40Th Anniversary, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking

This recipe originally appeared in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” Volume One, P. 171 (picture on right).  Published in 1961 by Knopf and 1966 by Penguin Books.  It’s available through ecookbooks.com for $24 (as of tonight, anyway) at http://tinyurl.com/qedfru

Dave with WineCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
866-746-7293

Quote of the Day
The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook
~ Julia Child, American Gourmet Food Pioneer, Author and TV Personality (8/15/12 – 8/13/04)