Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#189 - Garlic Shrimp, Ethiopian Hummus & Syrian Bread With '07 Brut Cava

But having wrote what I just wrote about Avec, we (and by 'we,' I mean Mrs. Ney) currently have (has) taken the Mediterranean angle and tweaked it to more of a Greek/North African/Middle Eastern bent.

It's a bit of what we currently love and last night fell right into that vein, maybe more than any previous meal.

Garlic shrimp isn't particularly finicky with wine as long as you follow certain guidelines.  A crispness, substantial enough body and especially a nice minerality is vital.  Albariño typically has all those traits and we've loved the combination in the past.  Lively and spritely is the order of the day, something to contrast the oily, garlicky shrimp keeps things balanced.  This recipe of shrimp has a certain smoky richness to it and it needs something with a certain energetic or effervescent quality to work.

We returned to a similar pairing we liked a year ago that showed why bubbles are lovely with food.

Food:  Spanish-style garlic shrimp, Ethiopian hummus, Syrian bread and mint snap peas

Same Cook's Illustrated garlic shrimp recipe from last June.  One head of fresh garlic, one head of black (fermented) garlic, dried thai chilies, bay leaves and extra virgin olive oil cooked up together with the shrimp and served at the table in the cooking pan. Great smoky, deep oil in the pan that demands bread for dipping, hence the Syrian, sesame seed-inflected bread.  This is great stuff, easy to make and can be whipped up for about $20 total.  We wanted shrimp and got shrimp in a form we like most.

Black beans found in the freezer puréed with cooked carrots, extra virgin olive oil, tahini and "berbere" spice blend from the Middle Eastern Market on Foster.  Deliciously weird, tasting almost like chocolate and cinnamon were involved but never fully dark and heavy-ish.  Dark-er but light in taste.  A blend of  chile peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima, rue, white and black pepper, and fenugreek, the traditional blend used in Ethiopian cuisine and played wonderfully with the sesame seed bread.

Snap peas with mint and parsley, sprinkled over the shrimp as well.

We like Avec but this is the direction we currently want - a meal with flavors we love but altered to give an edge of flavors we haven't had and probably want.

We wanted everything about this.

And the wine helped.

Wine:  2007 Raventós i Blanc "L'Hereu Reserva" Brut Cava Penedes ($18 - Binny's) 

Grape: 60% Macabeu, 20% Parellada, and 20% Xarel-lo (biodynamically grown)
Region: Penedes, Spain

We saw the vibrancy in the 2006 of this winery's bottling become less so over a six-month arc last November.  This was the 2007 and we loved it as much as we had the 2006 during its peak, even if it was a touch more simple.

Crusty bread notes wrapped around a dry structure predominated with a body that's a touch more light than the 2006.  Fine minerals, medium bubbles and a wee bit of apple and fuzzy fruit skin all over the place.  Longish finish that intrigues with its sort of star fruit (?) tart quality.

The L'Hereu Reserva could be sold for $30 and we'd still buy a bunch of it.  It's that good.  We've had a decent sampling of Cava and always come back to this one.

Pairing:  92  Take it any day

Bubbles are not only forgiving with food, they offer something that perks up darker flavors in the best way.  They take a meal that borders on the smoky and earthy and make it refreshing and summery (especially with spicy heat, which wasn't present last night but can't be more highly recommended).

That's exactly what happened last night.

It's about the bubbles leading the way with the secondary flavors serving as light touches of support.

Specific pairing notes weren't blowing up everywhere but the minerality in the wine enhanced and accentuated the shrimpy shrimpiness of the shrimp in a great sense.

Great stuff.

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