Thursday, April 7, 2011

#178 - Lamb, Turkish Beany Goodness & Rice With An '05 Cab Franc

Things learned or reaffirmed last night:

1.  Find a good meat purveyor.  That's understood.  But also find a second-favorite meat purveyor when your favorite feels a wee bit too expensive for the budget or the meal (1a. - and find a cheapo you can trust for those really tight weeks).

2.  Keep trying grapes you don't love.  That's understood.  But when you pick a bottle containing said grape, pick a good one and spend a couple of bucks extra.  Otherwise, it's like watching baseball for the first time and checking out the Astros.  That's not good baseball.

3.  Recipes with names you can't pronounce are usually pretty good stuff.  If the name lasted this long and wasn't translated into something like Turkish Beany Surprise, there's probably a good reason for it.

4.  Watching Red Sox Nation go into full-blown apocalypse mode this early in the season has been a joy to watch.

Food:  Lamb, zeytinyagli barbunya, basmati rice and asparagus

Medium-rare lamb, tasty lamb, not a lot of lamb but we were fine with the amount, simple lamb full of enough lamb goodness.  From Gene's Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square.  $20 for both plates as opposed to $30-35 from meat purveyor numero uno, Paulina Meat Market, also on Lincoln.

24-hour marinade of puréed onion, cinnamon and olive oil for the meat, cast-iron seared and finished in a 450-degree oven.  Onions came through, cinnamon not so much but perked up with the wine.  Good meat but the side dish made the meal.

Zeytinyagli Barbunya, a Turkish bean dish from The New Book Of Middle Eastern Food (page 327).  Borlotti beans soaked overnight and mixed with onions, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, sugar, Aleppo pepper, dill and parsley, minus the tomato paste to keep it lighter.  It's a dish similar to ful, the Egyptian fava bean dish but without the lemon juice.  Extraordinarily subtle flavors with everything taken down a notch from what we expected.  Light, but once the tongue quickly adjusted, we relished in its low-key goodness.  Like most good recipes, every ingredient could be tasted, all surrounded by a thin, delicious liquid that brought everything in line.  This is great stuff, bringing the entire meal down in intensity, tasting fresh, light but never making us feel like we were going to have to hit the snacks two hour later.

Basmati rice and asparagus to round out the meal.

Ate well.  Could have gone in tons of directions with the wine.  A lighter syrah or mouvèdre blend might have beefed up the meal.  A Rioja might have mingled well with its tobacco, cedar and cherry notes though after eating, I tend to think it might have clashed.

We went with a grape we don't love.  Cabernet franc.

Wine:  2005 Charles Joguet Les Verennes du Grand Clos Chinon ($35 - Red & White)

100% cabernet franc.  Two hour decant and it needed it.  Extremely tart right out of the bottle.

Settled into something quite pretty.  The main reason we don't love cab franc is the wet leaves.  Check that.  Not wet leaves.  Drenched old wet leaves, like when you have to dig out the eaves in the spring from all the detritus from the previous fall.  That's been our limited experience with 100% cab franc.

But as usual, find a good one and the goodness makes it good.  Lots of raspberries in different forms throughout with a small hit of cherry and even a tiny bit of concentrated blueberry underneath.  Secondary flavors of tobacco and some sort of dark spice.  Fine structure offering layers galore all wrapped in a medium body with some of the prettiest, understated acid I've had in a long while.  Tannins played its right and proper role in lifting and mixing all the flavors.

Never turned ugly or odd at any turn with the food, always taking cues from the food and doing good things.  Which brings me to the defining flavor in the wine.  With the asparagus especially, something was sitting in its core that we couldn't put our finger on.  Something slightly creamy with spice and acid.  Then Mrs. Ney nailed it.  It tasted like great homemade ketchup.  

The wet leaves were there but never dominated.  No real green herbs hits or twigginess though, which I expected from a cab franc.  Just a pretty wine drinking well now, could easily be held for years and from a very good vintage taken from a small parcel of ungrafted vines of Franc de Pied instead of grafting on phylloxera-resistant American rootstock (that's really old-school).

It took me awhile to get there but I'll be buying more.  Flickinger is currently selling it for $30.

Pairing:  89  The wine was in lockstep with the weight and grace of the food

Came down to what didn't happen.  Nothing ever reared an even slightly ugly head.

The cinnamon in the meat rub and the Aleppo pepper in the zeytinyagli barbunya shot right to the wine's core, perking up the wine's edge and lifted and intensified the fruit in a great way.

And the ketchup with the asparagus made for the most surprising and funny note of the night.

We could have gone in a ton of directions with this meal and each would have been different and most likely good stuff.  Even an oily, herby and lemony white would have been entirely interesting with only a small tweak or two with the food.  It was that light considering it was lamb.

But in the end, the impression left on me was that the Les Verennes Du Grand Clos served so well that it probably would have landed in the upper tier of any pairing.

So...success.  And delicious.

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