Monday, January 31, 2011

Pancetta #3 - Amatriciana & pinot noir

Thinking about a good pasta dish to match with pinot noir? Recent experiments with the home-made pancetta included a good match between some young pinot noir (2008 Wickham's Road) and spaghetti all'Amatriciana.

While cured and dried pig cheek (guanciale) is my ideal meat for combining with tomato and chilli for making the Amatriciana sauce, home cured pancetta is a good variation. The sauce can be stripped back to olive oil, cooked-out pancetta, tomato and chilli. Or done slowly starting off with onion and pancetta in a little oil, braising over low heat for 20 minutes or so, before adding garlic, chilli, a little white wine, tomato and a touch of sugar. Cook out slowly until the sauce 'cracks' and oil starts to separate. Check for seasoning and serve tossed through pasta. Bucatini is traditional, but I also like this sauce with penne or spaghetti.

As much as barbera-based wines can be good fits for sauces using tomato, I find young, bright and brisk pinot noir can also have a fruit and acid profile that matches well with pasta and Amatriciana sauce.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Corte Normanna Falanghina (2008)

Tasted blind in a lineup of Italian whites, the 2008 Corte Normanna Falanghina impressed me. Starting with a little onion skin, this falanghina also offered smells of dried herbs and marshmallow. Candied citrus peel and good acid carried through the palate, tailing out along a long, acid finish.

From my scribbled notes, I guessed this could have been a bright vermentino, or even a soave or other garganega based wine. Wrong on both counts, and another confirmation of falanghina as an interesting Italian white grape.

Sourced for the tasting through Enoteca Sileno.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sangiovese and serving temperature

Last night, out for dinner at Pulp Kitchen in Ainslie, we worked our way through a simple bottle of a sangiovese from Abruzzo at a range of different temperatures.

First pour: This would have been served at about 25 degrees. Almost volatile, fruit flavours blurry and diffuse. Not really drinkable, but better with a little ice added from the water glass. Bottle returned to the fridge.

Second pour: Around 20 degrees. Started to show a demarcation of red and purple fruits. Nose lost lift and prickle and started to show some cherry characters. Better drinking, including with potato and chive gnocchi. Sent back to the fridge for more cool time.

Last pour: Around 16 degrees. Much clearer expression of varietal characters. Acid and tannin now in focus, though still a softer, easy drinking style of sangiovese. A good match for a simple but tasty dish with cotechino sausage and lentils.

Kind of good to have some of the wisdom about impact of serving temperature confirmed like this - in the one place, from the same bottle.

Pancetta #2

My toe in the smallgoods water has been pancetta. Unsmoked bacon or petit sale, really. The Gallic dry cure used salt, sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns and juniper berries. As Jane Grigson notes in her excellent book on the history of French charcuterie and pork cookery, much Roman preserving of meat followed Gallic examples, flavourings and techniques. Which helps explain why I found myself using a French cure recommended by an Englishman (Hugh F-W) to make an Italian product.

Anyway, the first test of the dry cured pork belly was the bacon sarnie. Salty, crispy, porky bacon unsmoked goodness with soft white bread, a bit of butter, some lettuce and sauce. Test passed. Second test: bacon and eggs, also passed. Third and fourth tests still to come: pasta and then soaked and simmered with peas, petit sale style. Think I like this smallgoods thing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Zucchini risotto and riesling

In honour of the summer of riesling, I matched up a good, young Australian riesling with some Italian cooking tonight. A simple risotto: sweat some proscuitto crudo off in olive oil and butter until starting to colour, add arborio rice and give it five minutes in the fat, stirring. Hit the base with some white wine (Tahbilk 2010 riesling from Nagambie Lakes in Victoria) and when taken up, start adding chicken stock with a small zucchini coarsely grated. Keep it just moist, stirring in more stock as you go. When the rice has nearly lost its chalky centre, take it off the heat, add a second grated zucchini, stir in some cubes of cold butter and grated cheese (a bit of pecorino tonight), touch up the seasoning and let the creamy, oozing rice rest for a few minutes. Serve with a bit more cheese and seasoning if it needs it, and a crisp dry white wine (like the 2010 Tahbilk riesling).

Much as we think about wines like riesling having different textures and qualities over phases of their lives, this dish gives you two cuts of zucchini. One cooks all the way out, losing colour and texture into the background of the rice. The second add barely cooks, giving youth, colour and freshness. And there is something about the taste and sweetness of just-picked young zucchini flesh and skin that works so well with the crisp and cut of young, dry Australian riesling.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making pancetta

Making Italian smallgoods is a new thing for me, so I'm starting out at the easy end with making some pancetta. Unsmoked bacon with a dry salt cure plus some aromatics, basically.

A tad over a kilo of pork belly, skin on, has gone into a glass dish. Juniper berry, black peppercorns and fresh bayleaves have been ground with salt. Mixed with more salt and soft brown sugar, the dry cure mix is rubbed into the meat once a day. Each night, I'll drain off the liquid and rub another handful of cure into the pork.

Around day 5, there'll be bacon. Or pancetta (pre-drying). Or something.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Scott 2010 Fiano (Adelaide Hills)

My second wine from this new Adelaide Hills producer and I like it a lot. Fiano has the ability to retain natural acidity even in the heat of South Australian vintage, as well as delivering some genuine interest in flavours, textures and palate weight.

What I like best about this wine is that it does not taste of young vines. Sure, it is ripe fruited (13.5% alcohol), but there is weight and intensity that is unforced and honest. The citrus is there (more in the just-candied lemon part of the spectrum), there is an attractive lemon pith bitterness, it has length, persistence and crispness, but for me the star of the flavour show is a clean and clear hit of pear drops - pear fruit and pleasantly sour acid, working together. While a little less ripeness and alcohol might freshen the wine and give it a more brisk carry through the mouth, I wouldn't want it to come at the expense of that clarity of pear drops flavour and acid, nor the richness of mid-palate texture the wine has.

Good fruit, smart winemaking and a characterful wine of versatility and persistent interest. A producer to watch, I reckon.

$25 rrp (10% off in a six pack), 13.5% alcohol, screwcap. Website here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Scott 2009 Shiraz Sangiovese (Adelaide Hills)

I have a lot of time for the Adelaide Hills as a wine region. Ashton Hills is around the top of my South Australian wine tree, but newer producers such as Ngeringa and Mike Press also feature in my buying and drinking. That said, some of the Adelaide Hills standard bearers do not do much for me (the Shaw & Smith shiraz being a case in point - much prefer their chardonnay).

Scott Winemaking is a new Adelaide Hills producer. The range includes a Fiano, a sparkling pinot grigio, a multi-vintage sparkler from the traditional French champagne varieties, and this wine, a blend of 82% shiraz and 18% sangiovese. Blending trials for wines like these must be fascinating - seeing the shifts in flavour, aroma, texture and finish as the balance of the blend alters.

There are the hallmarks of Adelaide Hills shiraz here, with purple fruits, a little tar, some violets and a plushness of texture, especially through the mid palate. The 18% sangiovese adds notes of cherries and a lightness through the length of the wine, including a touch of furry tannins. The overall lift (not VA) of the wine makes me wonder if a bucket of viognier might have found itself in the shiraz ferment at some stage. Delicious is not a word I often use for wine, but there is a fruit-driven succulence to this that warrants the word.

The wine went well with herbed lamb, roast borlotti beans and a dressed salad of broad beans and mint. I doubt it has the bones for age in bottle (not a wine about structure, tannin and acid, more about fruit shape, weight and texture), but that is no bad thing given how well it drinks now. The 20% new and 80% used French oak seems a good balance, but I suspect a little more sangiovese in the blend may have made for a better wine.

14% alcohol, sealed with screwcap, rrp $25 a bottle or $22.50 in a six pack ordered via their website.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Italian food, two slices, Penne Salsiccia

Two versions of penne with sausage:

1. Machine cut raw capsicum thin & unpeeled. Make basic sugo. Boil, fry, or boil then fry, simple 'Italian' pork sausages to stabilise, then cool and slice into rounds. Frypan, heat, olive oil, saute the raw capsicum until it softens a little, add a handful of sausage slices, fry a little more. Add a ladle of sugo, a few black olives and cooked penne. Toss, heat and serve.

2. Boil an uncooked cotechino sausage gently for about an hour, lift and cool. While that is happening, make tomato sugo. While the sugo is reducing, take a mix of capsicum colours and either roast in the oven, barbecue or grill over the gas hob until the skin blackens and the pepper softens. Rest, covered, to loosen the skins with steam, then peel, remove seeds and tear or slice into strips. Slice the cotechino, push the skin away and crumble into medium sized pieces. Sweat a little onion in olive oil until softened and just starting to colour, adding a little fresh garlic (crushed with a knife) at the end. Turn up the heat, add the sausage, fry a little, then add strips of roasted capsicum, a splash of white wine, some sugo and a little fresh thyme. Start to cook the penne as the sauce gently simmers. When the penne is just cooked, lift, drain a little and add to the sauce with a few black olives. Cook gently for a further minute to have the pasta 'take' some of the sauce, without overcooking, then serve.

The back story here is dinner out last evening at Bellucci's in Woden. Penne Salsiccia was explained as penne with cotechino sausage, roast capsicum and sugo. As with #1 above, penne and sugo did feature, but the cotechino and 'roast' capsicum were no shows. While the second version does involve a few more steps and take a bit more time, it is a more honest accounting.

The sausage penne dish was accompanied by a bottle of 2003 Fox Gordon cabernet sauvignon from the Barossa. The sweetness in the wine, and the capsicum flavour, went well with the capsicum (undercooked and skin on as it was) and the sausage pieces.

Earlier in the evening, another bottle of the Taminick Cellars 1919 vines Trebbiano was well-liked by the table. A touch more development has helped bring forward the waxy texture and integrate the crisp, lemony acid.