Thursday, February 4, 2010

#33 - Duck, Celery Root & Bok Choy With '07 JRE Tradition

Words aren't going to be sufficient to describe this one.

But let's dedicate 1000 or so to it anyway.

It was...a bit weird.

So much so during the preparation that Mrs. Ney laid down a warning that we might be having leftover Aldi Cordon Bleu and potato casserole.

By the end, though, we were quite happy with the strange result.

Food: Medium-rare duck with a blackberry-licorice sauce, roasted celery root, bok choy and star fruit

Mrs. Ney's premonition that leftovers may be in the offing came from the crust on the duck breast. Charred black due to the brown sugar on the crust already going through the caramelization process before searing, there was...a char smell wafting through the apartment.

Couple that with the celery root, crusted with salt and egg whites and roasted for what seemed like five freakin' hours, and it was not a happy cooking experience for the wife yesterday.

Star fruit was substituted for kumquats in the recipe. Bok choy was on the side.

The star of the entire meal was the sauce. A blackberry-licorice sauce that beautifully straddled the line between thick and light, it had such a pure, clean, deep taste that it went well with not only the duck, but was delicious with the celery root.

The skin was charred black but the meat was a good medium rare and, once it cooled off a tad and we were judicious in eating it, a nice, almost maple syrup flavor came out. We could also start to taste the dehydrated black olives in the crust as well. Really wasn't bad at all and didn't really detract from anything. Heck, as some of the crust rubbed off on the celery root, it served almost like a tasty exotic pepper spice.

The celery root was roasted with the salt and egg white to retain its juices. Guess what celery root tastes like. It tastes like celery if it was a root, like a concentrated form of celery with an almost woodsy, earthy taste. Retaining its juices with this form of cooking made it quite good, even if it isn't exactly something we'll crave or do again.

Substituting star fruit for the kumquat, though, allowed us to contrast it with the celery root. Both played in a similar taste range w/r/t texture, weightiness and intensity of juice. In the end, though kumquat and duck are spectacular together, I doubt it would have gone well with the wine. Who knows? Maybe. I wondered during the meal if riesling might have been a good pairing with the Asian flavors if the crust on the duck wasn't charred. With kumquat, maybe. With star fruit, I tend to doubt it. That subtle difference between the two (less acidity and sugar in the star fruit) may have been the tipping point back to red. But I digress.

Star fruit has comparatively little "popping" taste to other fruit. Tastes like really watered down grapefruit/orange juice. Much less acidic and more subtle in flavor compared to other citrus (which star fruit technically isn't). More pretty to look at than delicious to eat. Nice stuff just not something we're going to rush out and stock up on.

The entire meal, though, turned out to be not only edible, which Mrs. Ney was worried about, but delicious in more than a few spots and quite intriguing in many ways.

Clean as well, even with the char, something that came about due probably to the absence of any wheat. I'm not giving up bread in this lifetime but meals without gluten do make me feel quite good.

Wine: 2007 John Robert Eppler Tradition ($6-8 Binny's)

A blend of 49% Zinfandel, 38% Petite Syrah, 10% Tempranillo and 3% Syrah, this one was bought as well in the "Sam's was sold to Binny's!" raid.

Purple-dark red in the glass. Zinfandel characteristics dominate with dark berry and cinnamon, but as typical Zinfandels get to their jammy quality on the mid-palate, the other grapes in the blend begin to show up and it never gets to that jamminess, making it a solid, medium-bodied and very food-friendly and versatile wine. Almost comes off like a lighter California syrah or a more hefty pinot noir. Unique and well worth it for the price. An strange, appealing complexity for sure.

A tiny hint of wood on the finish that wasn't particularly well-integrated when sipped alone but overall, this one's a solid little well-crafted wine. If I bought it for $20, I'd be happy enough with the result but wouldn't do it again. For $6-8, it's a steal.

Pairing: Yep. Good. I'll Take It

I'm sure the sauce helped. The blackberry and licorice in the sauce matched up perfectly with the dominating Zinfandel in the blend. But nothing else clashed. Not the bok choy. Not the star fruit. And kinda great with the celery root and the sauce together. Hint of actual jam came out with the duck.

As I said, the wine is very food-friendly, made not to box itself into a corner or stay in a certain range. Don't know, after having it and knowing what to expect, if I found enough in it to want to come back again and again, but with a little of time away and if we were in a bind, I'd be more than happy to go it another go.

Not bad at all.

For Mrs. Ney, she's not waiting five hours for celery root again in this lifetime and I wholeheartedly support that.

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