Friday, February 27, 2009

11th hour inspiration

Last night was one of those last minute dinners, conceived of an inspired notion so late in the day that you probably should have been sitting down to eat already. Hunger, I suppose, will occasionally spur a good idea. As I recall, we were extremely close to ordering Thai takeout, when one member of the household did not seem enthused about the idea. I had not intended to cook, but then it was 8:30pm with the clock ticking. Earlier in the day, a certain other member of the household had pointed out that we have lots of risotto taking up space in the pantry. The message was clear: cook up said risotto over the next few weeks, or it will find its way to the trash.

Fair enough, risotto it would be then. Often I am fond of cooking risotto with red wine (usually a barbera, or nebbiolo) as opposed to stock. The rice soaks up all of that delicious wine flavor, and besides, if you're an occasionally serious home chef without a regular supply of good homemade stock in the freezer, you're covered. This time around, however, I thought I would try white wine. With riesling on the mind, I chose a bottle of Hospitien Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett. I wanted to season the cooking liquid in what I thought to be a somewhat Friulian manner, so I settled on a couple of bay leaves, coriander, cumin seeds, and a bit of cinnamon. Noticing a butternut squash on the kitchen table, I decided to roast that and make a puree, blending in a bit of chopped fried bacon and placing the mixture beneath and on top of the rice.

I think it turned out pretty well, as did the roommates. Nicely seasoned, a bit sweet-ish from the Riesling (as I expected) but still very enjoyable. It complemented the rich, earthy-sweet squash flavors nicely, and the savory parmesan plus the salty, smoky bacon completed the balance of the dish.

And the wine?

I cracked open one of my three '02 Radikon Ribollas. Stanislaus Radikon makes wine that is difficult to categorize as either white or red. The skin maceration is so long that the color ends up looking like this.

Additionally, he uses no sulphur at any point in the grape growing or winemaking process. Not easy, but in his mind that's the only way to do things. For more Radikon info check out this Eric Asimov post on the producer.

While I think I have retailer/ Italian wine guru Sergio Esposito and his prolific emailing digits to credit (earlier in the day he had sent out a Radikon email), I wonder had I not received that email, if I would have have made the same dip into the cellar, knowing that the pairing would be such a strong one. And it was a great pairing. The wine seemed to really bring out the flavors of the dish, the spices in particular, especially the cumin. And though the nose is so brooding and complex, this wine always seems to finish with such a light, pure flourish, the tingling acidity urging you to take another sip or grab another forkful of food.

Having enjoyed this wine twice before without food, and being blown away, I must admit that the experience pales in comparison to a terrific meal which highlights and complements this phenomenal bottle of wine.