Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#256 - Ethiopian Beef & Plantain Stew With Two New World Rhône Blends

Happy Leap Day!

Legend has it that nothing you do on this day counts.

I say with all those quarter-days stacking up, only to burst out into a full-fledged calendar day every four years, it counts!  It counts four times as much as a regular day.

So get outside, go for a jog.  It's beautiful out.  Call your mother and tell her you love her.  Everything counts four times as much.  For the lazy person, this day is "Gold, Jerry!"

Went to the Horn of Africa last night for Ethiopian flavors and came out liking it enough to possibly put it into the weeknight rotation.  Easy to make and a nice diversion in our spice world.

Didn't love it but a solid balance that played well in the world of medium intensity flavors bouncing off each other rather nicely in a small box.

Food:  Ethiopian beef and plantain stew over rice

From, ndizi na nyama, or plantains with meat, is one-pot goodness with ingredients people most likely already have on hand.  So...easy-peasy.  Even the recipe is open to interpretation.  It's one to two pounds beef (or similar).  Oh, the options!

Mrs. Ney Ethiopian'd it up using an Ethiopian spice blend in place of the curry powder.  Green plantains were used in place of ripe ones given the three-hour simmer time, thinking the amount of time in the pot would break down the starch sufficiently.  Stick with ripe ones.  While fine enough and soft enough, a more ripe plantain would have allowed the spice to get into them more than we achieved.

Sun-baked, iron-rich mud with a coconut lift in a great way was the overall impression.  Tender meat with a spicy, earthy edge to the stew that came off like you were tasting the land.  Great heat from the peppers that contained itself to the mid-palate, allowing the rest of the ingredients to show their faces and play off each other with flavors that kept changing as the temperature changed.  Always something new popped up.

Tasted of a place and a place we haven't visited.  We weren't head-over-heels in love but both of us constantly said, "This is good!"

The wines had moments.

Wine:  2009 Owen Roe Sinister Hand Columbia Valley ($24 - Binny's) & 2009 Shild Estate GMS Barossa ($14 - WDC)

Both 2009, both New World Rhône blends.

The Owen Roe is 70% grenache, 25% syrah, 3% mourvèdre, 2% counoise.
The Schild is 55% grenache, 25% mourvèdre, 20% shiraz

Two bottles were opened for comparison, mostly.  With the cheapness of the Schild, it seemed apt.  After tasting the stew and feeling like a darker blend (the Schild) might perk up some of the darker realms in the food, we wanted to see the difference.

Grenache gets a bad rap.  the grenache-heavy Owen Roe showed some pretty cherry and strawberry notes upfront with milk chocolate and herbs bursting up from the bottom and latching onto the fruit. Solid, medium-bodied goodness here with balanced acid, if a touch simple.  But I can't say that's a knock on this wine.  It offers what it offers, a grenache food-friendliness that doesn't even attempt to become a bully.  Good, table wine, pop, pour, eat and drink.  The price kills that a little but it's nothing too over-the-top in that realm.

Having said that (<---usually a damner), the Schild is $10 less and continues to deliver something oh-so great in the world of pop-eat-drink table wine wondrousness.  Big burst of darker berry fruit led by blackberry wrapped in licorice and smoky, tarred herbs.  It's a plushy beaut with a juiciness that keeps it alive and flowing so greatly.  Longer stages here than the Owen Roe with more defined transitions, more acts.

Liked the Owen Roe, might buy again.  Continue to love the Schild and will buy again.

Pairing:  87  Both offered something different but if we have to choose, it's the Schild every time.

The Owen Roe's success came in the mixing of its milk chocolate cherries and the sun-baked, iron-rich mud spice impression in the stew.  Good stuff.  I kept reaching for the glass to explore such things.  Didn't particularly mature over the course of the meal into something else/more but it was a new note in my world very much liked.

But the Schild continues to be the Schild.  Its depth and expansiveness brought more complexity to the stew, broadening out the smallish box of flavors it offered, particularly allowing the plantains to take more of the part in the overall taste.  The Schild, as in the past, cracks open the hood, gets in there and finds nooks and crannies to place itself and push out its chest.

More swirl, more...more with the Schild than the Owen Roe.

Now get out there and be four times more than you are on just any regular day.

It's Leap Day!

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