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Friday, March 9, 2012

New Wines, New Recipes

There was a time when I stuck to the basics - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, occasionally Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and a few Italian wines.  These days, I feel like every time I go into a wine shop, I’m looking for something new to try, something completely different from anything I’ve ever had.  It’s partly the desire to learn about wines I’ve only read about, and it’s partly to “keep it fresh” and interesting, and it’s partly an excuse to find new recipes to pair with wines I’ve never tried before.  For me, new aromas and flavors from a grape or region I’m not experienced with call for a recipe I’ve never attempted - usually something challenging.
Less common Italian wines have led me to experiment with less common Italian sauces and dishes, or to take on more challenging recipes.  This year I taught myself to make ravioli and I’m currently coming up with new flavors for ravioli filling, and now I’m planning to attempt a gnocchi dish with an interesting Aglianico.  After trying a few different Aglianico wines over the past few months, I’ve decided it’s a good candidate for my cooking style and it’s inspired me to look for new recipes and even write some of my own. (I have a strong preference for writing recipes as opposed to following recipes.)

“Raw” ham and cheese ravioli

Caprese ravioli

My fascination with wines of South West France has also inspired me to learn to create dishes to pair with the mysterious, bold, and irresistible characteristics of wines from Cahors, Madiran, and Gaillac.  A good quality and relatively inexpensive Madiran, Domaine Le Serp, came to my attention a few months ago and I decided roast duck would be a good pairing - except I had never made duck before.  It turned out nicely - pan roasted duck with a raspberry sauce and portobello mushrooms with this blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Franc was a wonderful pairing.  I’ve got a Gaillac waiting for a proper pairing, and I’m thinking of cassoulet.  No, I’ve never attempted a cassoulet before, but I do love cassoulet and it’s been a while since I’ve had any - so I think that will be the pairing, and within the next few weeks, I’m hoping to try it.

2008 Domaine Le Serp Madiran

Roast duck with raspberry sauce and portobello mushrooms

I finally got my hands on a Blaufrankisch from Austria, and while I haven’t decided exactly what to pair with it, it seems it’ll be a meat dish, perhaps something braised.
Generally, it’s my desire to learn that pushes me to try new wines, but it’s the new wines that make me want to attempt new recipes, and my belief is, what’s the worst that can happen when experimenting in the kitchen?  Other than usually having a pretty big mess to clean up after trying something especially challenging, there’s a lot to gain from trying new recipes, and for me, the inspiration is the wine and the pairing.  And I’m sure I’ll never run out of wines to try, or recipes to attempt.

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