At the beginning of the month, Snooth published my “Experiments in the Vegetarian Kitchen–Cab Franc from Loire”, which included a recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits with Spinach and Paprika Mushrooms–one of four recipes that I’d created to pair with four different bottles of Cabernet Franc from Loire. And since I’ve been a bit crazed with everything under the eclipse for the past couple of weeks, today’s post is from the home, on pairing (vegetarian) food and wine.
Considering the earthy, vegetal elements oft found in Cabernet Franc–especially from Loire–this is one red wine that pairs well with vegetarian fare. Just as I’d done with the first recipe, I assembled ingredients that either reflect or compliment the acidity, body, aromas and flavors of the wine, and so the core ingredients came to include cabbage, kasha, and goat cheese. Using two recipes that I love and have prepared many times in the past, I assembled the following, which I then paired with two wines.
Cabbage and Kasha Casserole
2 1/2 lb green cabbage shred
9 tbs butter
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup kasha
1 large onion chopped
1/3 cup sour cream
min. 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup unflavored bread crumbs
1 1/3 cup goat cheese (I used Bucherondin from Loire)
Hungarian Hot Paprika
1. Preheat the oven at 375º
2. Blanch the cabbage in boiling water for two minutes; strain and pat dry with a linen or cotton towel.
3. In a large skillet, heat 3 tbs. butter and 2 tbs. of vegetable oil. Saute the cabbage for approximately 20 minutes; toss as it cooks, until browned.
4. In a Dutch oven/casserole, heat 2 tbs. butter, add the kasha and stir for 3-4 minutes.
5. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock. Once simmering, reduce heat and cook for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
6. While the kasha is cooking, brown the chopped onion in 3 tbs of olive oil. Mix the onion with the kasha.
7. In a separate bowl, whisk the sour cream and 2 eggs together. Combine this with the onion and cabbage, then add this mixture to the kasha, with at least 1/4 cup of fresh chopped dill. Add salt to taste and when thoroughly mixed, transfer to the Dutch oven.
8. Break the goat cheese into a bowl, add the bread crumbs, and toss. Sprinkle this atop the mixture in the Dutch oven and dust with Hungarian Hot Paprika.
9. Top with 4 tbs of melted butter and brown in the oven, uncovered, until bubbly.
While cooking, I drank a glass of Chinon Cuvée Terroir 2007. Straight out of the bottle, there are thin layers of earth and cherry with a shot of spice that tickles the throat. The aromas are that of a cherry-essence flower, just pulled from the earth. The flavors suggest red fruit filtered through a few strands of tobacco, riding the heels of rustic tannins that pleasantly coat the mouth and linger, like a calling card in the palm. The acidity is wet like spring rain, falling on plucked cherry fruit.
When paired with the casserole, the earthy elements of the wine are enhanced by the paprika spiced kasha and cabbage; and on the nose, a skunk walks by my glass. With all this earth and spice, the fruits of the wine are reduced, dropping back like a front runner who’s just taken a pull for the team. Earth the sprinter, comes through for the finish–but overall, the wine’s just too strong, running laps around the subtler flavors of the dish.
Still seeking the perfect match, I uncorked a bottle of James Petit Bourgueil Cuvée les Galluches 2007. It’s light bodied with refreshing acidity and flavors of cherry strained through a sieve of rocks. Upholding the structure, like the ends of a bridge, stands walls of earth–a perfect integration of the holy trinity–minerality, fruit, and earth.
Here, the casserole takes the wine down a notch, uncovering a previously undetected spice. Red fruit crawls to the back seat while earthy notes and minerals rise to the surface, both in the wine and in the dish. The Bucherondin, salty and creamy, compliments the fruit, and the wine is in control only because some factor must play that role; yet it’s careful not to dominate. As the supporter, the casserole doesn’t relinquish its voice, it sits happy to join the Cuvée for a ride…