Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Cabs

"What kind of wine would you like? We have two Cabernet Sauvignons - a reserve and another one that the Wine Spectator loves for the price."
"Which one is your favorite?"
"We've never had either. I know! We'll bring them both!"
"That works for me!"

Since the wines are both from California, and one is a reserve odds are they'll be big, bold monsters that would overwhelm a poor chicken or pork dish. Grilled beef, however is another story. Why not with a bold reduction sauce like moelle... yeah, that should work.

Let's use up the meager end of season tomatoes, throw in a variety of peppers from the garden, add some fresh mozzarella and extra-virgin olive oil for a starter. Top the thing with a basil chiffonade. No vinegar, so that things are ready for some wine right off the bat.

Luckily, tri-tip was on sale at the market. Prepped with a salt, tarragon and black pepper rub, it waited until the mesquite coals were sparking then off it went, seared over coals with direct heat, then moved to indirect heat to finish. Nothing like meat and potatoes, so some fried Russet potato cubes with a bit of truffle salt to round off the plate. I knew that truffle oil would be useful!

This week's quiz in cooking class will include brown stock, so might as well make some, reserve the bone marrow and use a bit of it with a reduction sauce, throw in some tarragon, add a splash of red wine to liven things up and drizzle it over the beef. Not bad. The sauce worked well to elevate the meat into something more haute cuisine than backyard BBQ, adding complexity and depth that enhanced the beef. It also tested how well the wines would cut through the fat to cleanse the palate and bring forth more flavor.

The reserve wine had lots of vanilla and oak. The other was more fruit-centric. Both were good, but didn't have much in common at the end, other than being grown in California and being mainly Cabernet Sauvignon. Both went well with the beef, but one brought out the char-grilled flavor while the other favored the meaty saucy notes.

Just to give those wines a chance to show their harmonizing skills, some cheese. We just went to Nicasio Valley and had some washed rind and some Swiss style cheeses, along with a piece of Roquefort to challenge things. Roquefort really isn't a red wine cheese - it's better with Port or sweeter wines like Montbazillac. Nobody seemed to mind, though.

To finish things off, celebrate summer's last hurrah of strawberries with a mousse. Cool and refreshing, and never mind the fat content. This is dessert, so not a good time to diet. Besides, rowing four kilometers should help us atone for our gustatory sins. Somewhat.

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