Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#198 - Daniel Boulud Fennel Balls And Peppadew Purée With '09 Schild GMS

The 2009 Schild Estate GMS came to the rescue in February after a bottle of cheap Italian wine turned out to be corked.

Same thing happened last night when a 2006 Domaine de Ferrand Châteauneuf-du-Pape turned out to be dreadfully dull, showing all liquid figs and blood with not nearly enough acid we were craving at the time and was needed with the food.

Back in February, we drank the Schild Estate GMS with pork, pancetta and prunes.  Delicious food that we enjoyed but the pairing and the surprising cheapness for such big delivery in the wine was the talk of the night.

Last night was different.  We ate food so good it made me want to swear...loudly.  The Schild this time simply reminded us how versatile it is with food and how we really should be buying a case or two very soon.  It's that food-friendly and that good.

But not as good as Daniel Boulud modified fennel balls.

These are just silly great.

Food:  Daniel Boulud fennel balls with a peppadew pepper purée, candied pancetta and pomegranate seeds with an arugula salad

Basically arancini, Boulud Frenches them up and adds Spanish touches, like something that would be served on the border of Tarragona and Rousillon.

Go here for the F&W recipe.  Mrs. Ney altered it by using the sweet picanté peppadew pepper from South Africa so...it became a something of a Sicilian arancini loaded with the more French ingredient of fennel in three different forms with a base of South African peppers as a sauce (with northern Italian pancetta, probably Californian pomegranate seeds and Indian tellicherry black pepper and Portuguese sea salt on the arugula.  I can do this all day.)

Best arancini I've ever had, hands down, except they weren't really arancini as they weren't stuffed.  Boulud's recipe called for a piquillo pepper stuffing but Mrs. Ney substituted peppadew and puréed it into a sauce for the base of the plate, putting eight risotto balls in a circle in the sauce with the center populated with candied pancetta done up in dark brown sugar and a healthy sprinkling of pomegranate seeds for brightness and parsley for earthy herbalness. Not stuffing the balls turned into something that was probably better with the fennel in the form of fennel bulb, fennel seeds and pastis in the risotto blend just exploding with fennel flavor but never turning one-dimensional.  Perfectly cooked balls (bah!), moist but not gooey and a panko crust with a perfect crunch.  Sheer bliss.  Finding the right bite made for something akin to food perfection.  A bit of spicy, zingy sauce, a touch of sweetened pancetta, a pomegranate seed or two and a healthy dose of fennel ball was the best bite of food I've had since...maybe the Moroccan-inflected tuna in January?  Don't know.  It's close.

Arugula salad to finish with extra virgin olive oil, cherry balsamic vinegar, Portuguese sea salt and tellicherry black pepper.  Big fan with reservations.  I'm going to need more exposure to tellicherry black pepper.  Fruity as all get-out, showing something like dried black cherry notes but I wanted a black pepperness comes with regular black pepper to accompany the more mild Portuguese sea salt.  Seemed muddled to me.  That said, it seemed like ages since we've had arugula and tasted like something very much wanted, even needed.

A Great Meal, one of the best of the year, and something entirely unexpected.

Wine:  2009 Schild Estate GMS ($12 - WDC)

I'm loaded right now so frankly I'm lucky to get the bold type right and that I'm spelling things correctly so it's time to copy and paste because the wine showed precisely the same way as it did last time.

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.

Yeah...that.  A bit boring by itself but what it offered to us mostly was a juicy acidity so very much needed with this meal, something to carry the pomegranate seeds and take the acid to such great heights.

And it did.

Pairing:  93  Take it any day and we have 36 more arancini left.  It was a big recipe.

This was ridiculously great food with food-friendly wine.  I can't say the wine pried open flavors or greatly enhanced the food in new and interesting ways but I can say that the wine never got in the way and the big gobs of vibrant blackberry juice with solid acid played right into the fennel-fest on the plate in spectacular ways.

I never want this wine on its own but with food it very much has a large place.  It's one of the best bargains when it comes to food pairings out there.

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