Monday, November 22, 2010

Duck and barbera - Chrismont La Zona Barbera 2009 (King Valley)

Italian grapes and wines work well beyond the edges of the Italian table. A case in point - many Italian grapes or wines sit comfortably with many dishes from Middle Eastern cuisines. I cook a fair bit of food that is loosely 'Middle Eastern', courtesy of prods from books like Claudia Roden's excellent New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

There is a Persian dish called fesenjan that is usually a stew of chicken with pomegranate juice and walnuts. Variants of this combination exist in other parts of the Middle East, but the balance of nuts, poultry and fruit-sharp acid are common. Crossing over to Italy, agrodolce sauces and stews, cooking down vinegar in the presence of sugar, courtesy of Arab influences through Sicily, have something in common with the balance of fesenjan type dishes, especially when pine nuts or almonds feature.

So barbera and a fast version of fesenjan-ish flavours makes some sense. The juicy fruit and acid of the barbera (this time a Chrismont La Zona barbera from 2009 and the King Valley) balance the fruit and acid aspects of the sauce, with the tannins playing off against the nuts and meat.

Take two duck breasts and fry them off, skin side down, in a moderately hot pan until fat renders and the skin is crisp. Drain the rendered duck fat, give the meat a touch of the pan on the flesh side, then off to a warm oven to finish and rest. Sprinkle sugar in the pan, let go to light caramel, then deglaze with the juice of a pomegranate, some sherry vinegar, and let the caramel dissolve. Finish with some toasted and chopped (rough or fine) hazelnuts, salt, pepper and a knob of butter. The sauce should be sharp, sweet, nutty and deep. Serve with the rested duck and some steamed vegetables (and barbera).

1 comment:

  1. Another bottle of the 2009 Chrismont La Zona Barbera tonight, with bucatini and an amatriciana sauce. Still drinking well.