Thursday, December 22, 2011

#238 - Short Ribs in Ancho-Pumpkin Mole & Potato Far With An '08 Quinta Cruz Touriga Nacional

Ever had an ancho-pumpkin mole, a starch that tastes like crêpe batter and shredded potatoes had a baby and then washed it down with blackberry licorice juice?

We have.  Last night.

Tasted like we tried a restaurant in some niche neighborhood in west Chicago where French-Hungarians settled decades ago but heavy influence from Mexico seeped in and someone decided to open a place that catered to both.

And it was delicious.

Food:  Short ribs in ancho-pumpkin mole, salty-sweet potato far and arugula with pomegranate seeds

Short ribs in an ancho-pumpkin mole recipe from NPR's The Splendid Table.  Good short rib meat, nothing to write home about but served admirably as a vehicle to a mole where we could taste every ingredient in a great way.  Achieved its mole 'greater than the sum of its parts' goodness, tasting pure, deep, substantial yet never sticky, heavy or flat.  Get that in mole and you got a good mole.  This was a darn good mole.

Salty-sweet potato far (from Around My French Table), the delicious surprise of the night, is a Breton recipe, Breton being the ethnic group in the northwestern French region of Brittany that trace their heritage from southern Britain.  Crêpe-based recipes filled with "stuff" is the word there and this is no exception.  Prunes, raisins, bacon, shredded potato and the elements of crêpe batter turned into a pie-casserole-type business.  Truly.  Like crêpes and potatoes (or latkes) had a baby (and oddly Hungarians, though I'm no expert on such things).  And stupid good.  Versatile as well.  Would be spectacular for breakfast.  Touch of sweet but tamed by a salty potato edge, turning it all the way to the good side of savory (-ish).  Clafoutis-like creamy hint.  Never had anything really like it and want so much more.  Good one here with the prunes/raisins working right into the ancho-pumpkin mole, taking the meal from two seemingly disparate elements to something that tasted weirdly great together.

Nothing fancy but entirely interesting.

Arugula, cilantro, extra virgin olive oil and cranberry-balsamic reduction to finish.

Mrs. Ney didn't think the meal warranted anything pricey so we cracked a throwaway wine (after opening a corked true-blue Portugese, CARM) from our trip to The Spanish Table in San Francisco.

Wine:  2008 Quinta Cruz Touriga Nacional Pierre Ranch San Antonio Valley (? - The Spanish Table)

Touriga Nacional from California?  Yes, please.

No illusions when I bought it, not expecting much but a bit of a shock here.

If you crave blackberries and licorice juice with an unidentifiable dried herb from a jar that's been in your kitchen for ten years, then this wine is for you.  We apparently did because there was just nothing wrong with this.

Juicy, juicy, juicy.

Nothing particularly interesting at all by itself but with the food, a clear, definable palate of blackberry juice with a black licorice background and the aforementioned dried herb note brought the goods.  If this was $8, I'd buy six bottles.

Pairing:  90  Budget meal that didn't taste that way

It neeeeeeded the food and this food played right into it.  Mrs. Ney thought the food needed dark fruits and acid (because there was zero acid in the food outside of sprinkled pomegranate seeds on top) and we got that with this wine.  Tons of blackberry with enough acid coming from its juicy nature to slide right into the prunes and raisins in the potato far and the allspice, pumpkin seed, clove and almonds in the mole.

Tasted like this wine could only have shown this level of goodness in this particular food.

Trying not to oversell it but there was just nothing wrong with this pairing.  Everything made better by having both present.

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