Monday, February 27, 2012

#254 - Sausage, Rapini & Tomato With '09 Palmina Barbera

Everyone frets over the authenticity of foods: its provenance, its ingredients, its handling, the people behind it, etc.

All those things are important but we prefer terrible and terribly funny instructions on the back of, say, a package of orecchiette that tells us to stir "approximately carefully" to tell us what's in the package and who made it.

No faceless corporation or mass-produced factory product allows that!  That's some tremendously small operation that goes to, cuts and pastes and calls it a day.  Good for them.

Orecchiette, sausage and rapini is a house favorite.  We don't know what we did before discovering it a few years ago and promptly put it in wide rotation.

The joy comes in its simplicity and rusticity.  Soul-satisfying stuff to the nth degree.

Last night's Oscar food was a diversion from the well-worn path, incorporating tomato, carrot, celery and onion, making a stew and mixing it into the traditional form.  A Mario Batali recipe taken from the Palmina site, it's a good one, deep and rich and tasty.  We just ever so slightly missed the rustic, simple Love of the more simple version and its delicious white wine accompaniment.

That said, we ate and drank very well here.

Food:  Orecchiette, sweet sausage and rapini with a mirepoix and tomato base

Go to the recipe link above to see the steps with a few alterations (leaving out the tomato sauce as a finish - Mrs. Ney didn't want it too tomato-y - and less of a wine deglaze).  The resulting dish was mostly everything we want from sausage and rapini plus something else.  Here, though, we don't quite feel like more is better.  We very much liked what we were eating and might even go this direction again but doubt it given both the more labor intensive prep and the feeling that more stripped-down version is better here.

We missed the more pronounced interplay between the red pepper flakes and pecorino with the sausage and particularly the rapini, something you get at a beautifully high level when those are the only ingredients playing.  The tomatoes and carrots, while tasty, muddled some of that.

Great ingredients used.  The aforementioned orecchiette (Bari) cooked a perfect al dente, San Marzano tomatoes, shimmeringly green and pretty rapini, delicious Trader Joe's sausage.  This was good food prepared well.  And we liked it muchly.

But we gained an education here.  This pairing, while very nice, informed us on what's great about sausage and rapini with white wine.  That pairing hones in on the give and take between the rapini and garlic with delicious white wine acid and brightness of the fruit.  The dish wants lift and good white wine gives it (DeFalco Falanghina a favorite).

Red wine goes straight for the sausage which, while delicious, isn't the star of the dish.  It's the great supporting actor buttressing the rapini, garlic and red pepper flakes.  We missed that.  The rapini took a backseat with this recipe, lost a bit in the tomato and mirepoix complexity.

Simple is better.

No fault with the wine, though.  This was delicious stuff.

Wine:  2009 Palmina Barbera Santa Barbara County ($11 - Binny's)

Half-off deal at Binny's.  Worth $20-25, easy.  Opened three hours before dinner to see about a decant and play it by taste every hour.  Pretty, bright fruit upon entry but finished like someone threw dark and sappy tree bark in a blender.  "Whoa!" was the uniform response.

After two hours, the sappy tree bark settled down quite nicely and it showed a stunningly linear progression to goodness right up to dinner.  Didn't decant, just left it open.  The two-hour mark is where it became a beauty, offering a massive bouquet of roses on the noses and fruit that trickled down to the mid-palate and beyond, integrating itself quite nicely.

The end result was a nicely constructed wine with good balance and bright-ish acid, showing wild berry, mulberry and sour cherry fruit that gave way to delicious secondary flavors of a touch of chocolate, truffles and herbs (in particular, a great cherry and herb surprise at the end).  Medium-bodied stuff with an Italian acid play that comes with good Italian wine.  They nailed the acid with this one.  Would never have known it was Californian.  This could easily have been Italian from a grumpy, idiosyncratic Italian winemaker with a jones for good table wine.

Really liked it and look forward to their nebbiolo soon.

Pairing:  88  Some mixing and mingling but the rapini didn't pop

As I said, the wine honed in on the sweet sausage and tomato combo, which rounded out the wine and brought the brightness of the fruit to the forefront, but we missed what the rapini brings to this party.

This is white wine food is our world because the rapini brings the Love.  And the more time involved to make this preparation only confirmed to Mrs. Ney that we'll mostly likely stick to what utterly works for us in the future.

Cuz it's about the best thing on the planet.

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