Thursday, June 21, 2012

#285 - Fish In Shrimp Sauce & Maduros With '01 LdH Gravonia Blanco

Or filhote com molho de camaroēs e bananas, if you want to practice your Brazilian Portuguese.

That meal, the third in today's roundup, came off so utterly surprising that we vowed to eat fish once a week from this point out. With a recipe like this and eating it with a wine like the 2001 López de Heredia white, that might be something that lasts longer than the mere proclamation.

Hot Chicago days brought about food from hot climes this weekend.

Monday saw skirt steak in green sriracha sauce (Food & Wine - Susan Feniger), sweet potato fries, mayo for dipping and arugula salad with 2008 Orin Swift Saldo ($26 WDC).

It's a meal that naturally follows the utterance, "I want something California blendy, maybe something Zinfandel-ish." Grab some cheap cut of beef, maybe marinate it, maybe not, get a good char on it, throw on some interesting sauce you found on the interwebs or in a magazine like green sriracha sauce, toss a bag of sweet potato fries in the oven, whip up a fancy mayo for dipping (like pan juice mayo), finish with an arugula salad and drink something New World, big and blendish. Orin Swift, Villa Creek, Owen Roe (the Ex Umbris started this business).

Very little kitchen pain, flavors galore, tastes like a fancy BBQ and everything comes in under $50. This meal is our "let's just order a pizza and drink something we have in the house." It's essentially the same price, same amount of time, only a bit more work and delicious as all get-out. Green sriracha is something delicious. Doesn't resemble sriracha in the traditional sense. It's more of a broad definition akin to an Asian chimichurri or pesto, led by basil, coconut and lemongrass and worth a look. The Saldo more stayed its delightful self than offering a whole lot in the way of real, true-blue enhancement but that's all what really wanted. No clashing and tons of juicy dark goodness. Pairing Score: 88

Tuesday saw Greek-marinated chicken with Lincoln Square Farmers' Market new potatoes and roasted beets and beet greens with yogurt, mint and dill, served with NV Tselepos Moschofilero Amalia Brut Methode Traditionelle ($25 - Binny's).

Onion, parsley, lemon and garlic chicken thighs, juicy stuff that blended very well with everything else on the plate. Marinated and herbed tomatoes leftover from lunch puréed down and poured on the beets, with walnuts & feta mixed in.  Beet greens blanched, then charred in the chicken pan. Tzatiki on the side of everything.

The tasty bits from this meal came in the mixing and blending. Chicken and beet green combo just bounced and jumped. Toss a bit of yogurt dip on that and it become even better. Beets and yogurt alone. Thank you. And so on. It's a tired mantra but farmers' market is usually always worth it. Here, we could taste how fresh the dirt was in the beets. Tasted like it was just pulled from the ground. The new potatoes tasted like we caught an insanely fresh bag. And it helps that the Lincoln Square market is so gosh-darn cheap. Huge bundle of beets for two bucks! They gotta charge more.

The Amalia Brut is a favorite sparkler and this might have been the best it's shown. Smoky lemon creaminess with a nice intensity that changed beautifully to a pear and mineral finish. Offered so much of itself without ever coming off like it was eager to please. Solid back and forth with the food, offering a citrus note that the food wanted and got.  Pairing Score: 90        

Wednesday saw white bass in shrimp sauce with maduros, served with 2001 López de Heredia Gravonia Blanco ($25 - Binny's).

Back in March, we thought that we might have had the best fish prep we'd ever had, sea bass a la Veracruzana, also served with this wine. This prep, a Brazilian fish stew recipe from this month's Saveur, certainly thrusted itself into that discussion.

Similar success between the recipes with some similar ingredients but very different expressions. The success here came in the unique blending of all of The Stuff with happy surprises in abundance. Cilantro, pickled chiles, basil, Italian frying peppers, lime lift, tomato serving as a glue, shockingly delicious little shrimp nuggets in the sauce, just everything you could ever want from a fish dish. Fresh, fresh and fresh with a wee touch of spice, herbal cleanse, white rice base to add heft and something for the sauce to ooze into, nothing more was needed. And that was the rub, just like the previous Veracruz offering. When you eat it, it tastes like an embarrassment of riches in the mouth. Plantain maduros deep-fried and salted afterwards, which added a starchy-salty element to the meal in a nice way. It was a meal that made me want to swear. That. Good.

I understand the utter silliness of numerically ranking pairings. This is a good example of that ridiculousness. Saying that the Veracruzana prep with this Heredia was better somehow diminishes this showing. And it shouldn't. We flat-out loved how the food and wine played with each other here, with the food turning the Heredia into a luscious gem of a wine in a way we haven't seen from any vintage from this winery.  It was almost like the wine found itself smiling at the dance the food was offering and decided to jump right into the muddy mosh pit of flavors and go wild. Last time, with the sea bass, it showed such a great maturity and grace, steering the ship in every way. This time, it shed its formal wear and decided to have some fun, all the while giving everything Heredia white, at its best, gives. Pairing Score:  93

For dessert, Pineapple "marinated" in fennel fronds and star anise, a Ferran Adrià concept chronicled in Taste Buds & Molecules, the strangely good book that continues to inform us on the molecular similarities between foods and between those foods and grapes. Like the anise-flavored volatile compound salad with '11 Kim Crawford SV, we found this...informative. Ate it with a 2009 Barrére Clos de la Vierge Jurançon Sec ($18 - WDC). That wine has been just sitting around, never getting a second thought. Should have. It's quite good. The pineapple was stupid, so fresh and weird, tasting only like something that could have come from the strange genius that is Mr. Adrià. The wine with the pineapple turned into something that tasted like Pastis halfway through the water phase and never tasting like the pineapple was bullying the wine into anise-flavored submission. It was more like the wine wanted to go that direction. Interesting change. Liked it with a reservation. We enjoy the Taste Buds & Molecules lessons. It works and we learn things. At times, though, we want a contrast. Flavors driven by molecular similarity, while utterly good and tremendously wild stuff, can lead to a fatigue brought by the sameness of it all. Usually a welcome fatigue but a fatigue nonetheless. We'll continue to use the book. It's just too fascinating. Whole meals? Probably not. In a dessert form like this? Sure.

Odd week, hot week, pretty great food week.

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