Wednesday, December 8, 2010

#137 - Asado Negro & Mashed Plantains With '07 Seghesio Zin

Or dark and deep brisket.

You choose. Land of the free, you know.

A Sam Sifton recipe, the restaurant critic at the New York Times who gave us this offering just a few days ago - Venezuelan Black Beef.

Here's the recipe and here's the article explaining such things.

We used brisket. I'm gonna blaspheme here but I find slow and low beef to be one of the most neutral food-type stuffs on the planet, right up there with stadium popcorn and, in another milieu, CSI:NY.

I can respect it, even like it at times, but I can't think of one time that I craved it.

But we got a good one last night. And it came from the balance offered along with the various accoutrements not hitting us over the head like a blunt hammer with its ever-present presence.

Food: Asado Negro with mashed plantains, jalapeño cheddar biscuits and sautéed spinach

Most certainly dark and deep, but with a caveat. When I took a bite of the beef, upfront was a pretty and bright balance of vinegar and sugar, not cloying, not overly acidic. Then that gave way to a subtle hit of the low and slow infusion of ingredients like the peppers, onions, garlic and soy-Worcestershire mix. But again, it was more of a lifting darkness as opposed to something that sticks in your throat. Finished with the brisket that wasn't fatty or tasting like a nap might be required posthaste.

Make no mistake. This IS dark and deep. Great depth here, just without the sticky-sweet sugar and stomach-scraping acid. Came off fancy due to the care the recipe takes to make sure a proper balance was struck. In place of the white sugar, we used piloncillo, unrefined whole cane sugar from Latin America (and mentioned in Sifton's article). Might have been the difference. Tons of sugar used in this recipe but it never came off candied. Everything came off...proper and oddly light.

Mashed plantains on the side, bringing more Latin-y goodness.

Jalapeño cheddar biscuits. Been way too long. I heart these things so much.

A fine and good meal with a recipe worth trying.

Wine: 2007 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County ($22 - WDC)

It's been about two years since we had this one (same vintage). I remember thinking at the time that if someone didn't know what people mean by balance in a wine and wanted a cheap bottle that had it, this was the one to try. Big, sparkly, supple, round blueberry and dark cherry fruit last time followed by an appropriate and delicious herb hit and finishing with some very pretty acid. Fond memories.

The short drinking window given for this one by critics ( - 2012) made me curious but after last night, that seems right. The fruit isn't dying per se, just transforming into a macerated blueberry, blackberry and dark cherry mixture that maybe has been sitting out on the counter too long. Came off a touch flat, showing more a blue Sweet Tart quality, especially with the food, and later showed a bit of almond extract and some leather. I missed that sparkle, that liveliness, that balance that was oh so apparent last time.

Still serviceable stuff with a softer edge but it's time to drink this up. More air didn't really improve it.

But serviceable with the food.

Pairing: 88 Like a senior golfer who has a good front nine with the food

Nothing to dislike and the wine even had moments of (mere) goodness with brisket.

Never broke out though, staying in that middle of the road territory of "that ain't too bad, huh?"

Odd with the cheddar biscuits, showing more of its dying structure than anything. The Sweet Tart note really kicked up with the plantains but it settled into a nice place with the brisket.

We needed to bring some sugar with the asado negro recipe and zinfandel was right and proper. We had no regrets but something younger and more spritely may have rounded out the tasty food on the plate quite nicely.

Live and learn. Drink the zins with short windows and late teens/early 20s price tags very early.

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