"Don't practice your alliteration on me!"
Yesterday's meal went through a heavy editing process on the fly, much soul-searching and an in-the-shower epiphany that "really tied the plate together."
I'm sure few people find fregola to be an important shower epiphany but last night, fregola brought the food love.
Throw in Rogue River Blue Cheese purchased two months ago yet still chugging along quite nicely, thank you very much, and Mrs. Ney found a winner where, for the four hours of prep before the meal, she didn't think she had one.
She's the Minnesota Twins of cooking. A way WILL be found.
Food: Pancetta-wrapped and prune-stuffed pork tenderloin with blue cheese fregola and bacon fat chard
Pork-tastic! Pork and pork with a side of pork.
Pork tenderloin ($4 - Aldi) wrapped in La Quercia pancetta ($3 - City Provisions, it was a "high-low" meal) and stuffed with prunes and rosemary, all slathered in mustard and roasted.
Medium-well pork tenderloin that was tender and juicy. Both of us really don't care about pork as a main dish. Pork chops can go to H-E-double hockey sticks. Cured pork products are, of course, another story but pork-pork is like a Butterfinger or Hershey bar or some college friends - you have to revisit one every two years to remind yourself why you don't revisit it more often.
That said, tasty pork with charred and deliciously caramelized pancetta with a subtle sweet prune and rosemary hit in the center. Each bite was a Good Bite.
Shower epiphany fregola ($2.50) done in chicken stock, fennel seed and orange zest. Topped with Rogue River Blue Cheese. Done in the risotto style, fregola first introduced itself to us in magical ways during a meal that shall not soon be forgotten. More "Crap, that's good!" here. Rich and rustic, tasting like gussied-up Sardinian peasant food.
Chard ($4) done in bacon fat and Aleppo pepper. Heaping mound, tasted like meat, we loved a few bites and promptly threw in the towel. Just too much.
$18 total for both plates.
We ate well last night, loving what came out of an uncertain meal direction while having no freakin' idea what wine to serve with it for most of the day (a smoky-sweet blackstrap sauce was in play at one time, polenta another).
Things turned out just fine.
Wine: 2009 Schild Estate GMS ($12 - WDC)
Started with a 2006 Nerello del Bastardo, an $8 Trader Joe's Super Tuscan blend that we were sick of looking at on the shelf. Corked. Smelled like cardboard that's been sitting behind the garage for months in the summer heat. Decanted for 2 1/2 hours to see if it would blow off because there was a resemblance of decent wine goodness hanging around, underneath. Nope. Corked. A cheap Italian wine corked? NOOOO!
Settled on a surprisingly cheap Schild Estate GMS blend (55% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre and 20% Shiraz). Schild Estate, of the surprisingly cheap Shirazes that have garnered boatloads of praise over the last few years, seems like it picked up in American market where Pirramimma left off in the quality $25 range. Can't find Pirramimma for the life of us anymore, Schild's everywhere. In our world, Pirramimma's a very personal friend and Schild shiraz isn't that. But it's always been good (enough) stuff in the $25 world. This GMS blend was HALF that.
Smoky herby berry on the nose. Berry fruit basket right away with a big underlying blackberry juice quality that I really loved. Medium-bodied, smooth, open, welcoming with a juicy acidity, turning a touch smoky and meaty halfway down, a hint of licorice on occasion, and finishing with a deft, long, dark fruit touch of sweetness.
Tasted like a nicely restrained Rhône Ranger. More of a naturally occurring sweetness than a sappy sweet finish many of the California blends allow. Like a favorite sweatshirt.
If we paid $25 for this, we would have been happy and may have even bought more. It's not.
It's $12. And entirely food-friendly.
Pairing: 88 A broad and open wine with a meal that we never thought was going to be that
Quality, aged (to put it mildly) blue cheese, rustic, browny, grainy, starchy goodness, caramelized pancetta char, bacon fat greenness, pruney sweetness with herby hints. That's a big basket to capture and the wine captured nearly all of it in admirable and Mom-like ways ("Come with me, sweetie. It's best).
Fielded like a rangy, handsy shortstop and showed a food-ingratiating maturity well beyond its years, lifting things nicely while never allowing its sweetness to dominate.
$30 for a pretty tasty feast.