Wine Pairing Recipe for Bordeaux - Mushroom Bake

spray olive oil
2 large russet potatoes
6 Tbsp. butter, total
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
3 lb. fresh button mushrooms, sliced
6 roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 13 oz. canned, diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup half and half)
4 oz grated Parmesano Reggiano
2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil then spray with oil. Slice the potatoes thinly and place on baking sheets, sprinkle with salt. Bake 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter in a large frying pan. Simmwe the onions and mushrooms until translucent. Add spices, mushrooms, tomatoes, sugar and wine and cook over low heat 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
FOR BECHAMEL SAUCE: In a saucepan, melt the remaining 4 Tbsp. of butter and add flour, whisking together. Whisk in the milk (or milk and half and half mixture for a richer flavor) and cook on low until the sauce thickens. Add 2 oz. of the Parmesan and the salt, whisk until the cheese melts. Taste and add more salt if desired.
In a rectangular baking dish, spray bottom and sides with oil, then spread half the mushroom mixture on the bottom. Most of the liquid should have cooked out, if not, use a slotted spoon to transfer the mushroom mixture. Cover with a layer of the potato, then spread the last half of the mushroom mixture on top. Carefully pour the
bechamel sauce, it should pour in a ribbon from the side of the saucepan. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serves 8.
A good wine to pair with this recipe is the 2005 Chateau Le Pape Bordeaux from Pessac-Leognan, France.

In praise of vegetable gardens:
If you love wine, then you probably love good food, too. Just as a great Bordeaux starts with the perfect grapes, so your great meal starts with the best ingredients. No store bought produce tastes as good as home-grown. Plus, we're all looking to save money in this tough economy, so just as the 375 ml. bottles of Bordeaux gives us a way to have benchmark wines without busting the bank, planting a vegetable garden saves on our grocery bills.

These potatoes were grown in the ground, but with the "no dig" method that can be used to grow vegetables in pots, old tires, even plastic trash bags! Here's the secret: line your trash bag or 1' deep hole in your garden with 10-20 layers of newspaper, spread a layer of hay on top, sprinkle a mixture of blood meal and bone meal over the hay, then 8" of potting soil. Plant your veggies and you'll find you need very little watering to grow happy plants. The newspaper keeps in the moisture and once the roots hit the blood and bone meal, the vegetables really take off! For potatoes, use mostly hay to fill your container, sprinkle with potting soil and use tomato cages to keep the hay from blowing away. The potatoes will be easy to harvest from the hay--no digging!
Notes on Bordeaux:
The name Bordeaux denotes the famed French wine-making appellation bordering the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers. Varietals permitted for a Bordeaux blend are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec (though I believe Château Clerc Milon still is permitted to use the Carmenere grape as well). The top vintages are said to be: 1982 - 1990 - 2000 - 2005. Lucky for us all of this week's special Bordeaux sale are 2005! Here's what Robert Parker, Jr. had to say about the 2005 Bordeaux: “Tasting 2005 Bordeaux from the bottle, many of them three or four times, confirmed that this is the greatest vintage produced during my 30-year career.” Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate, Issue 176



2 Tbsp. diced onion
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
2 tsp. oregano
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. basil
2 tsp. red chili
2 tsp. paprika
1 bay leaf, crushed
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (leftover wine works well)
Mix spices, grind together in a spice grinder for fuller flavor and rub on meat. For a marinade, mix spices with the oil and vinegar and marinate beef for an hour, turning every 20 minutes. Place beef on hot, oiled grill then turn on low, close grill cover and cook until 2/3 cooked, then turn and cook the rest of the way. Makes enough marinade for 1 lb. of meat. Pair with the 2006 Garnacha de Fuego.


Wine Pairing Recipe: Salmon With Wine Sauce

4 tbsp. butter
2 green onions, chopped fine
2 cups dry white wine* (see note)
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped fine
2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Long filet of salmon with skin, about 2 lbs.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and sautee onions for 10 minutes until transparent. Stir into a glass baking dish with the wine, herbs, and pepper, then put in the fish, skin side down. Bake 45 minutes, basting often with wine mixture until fish is firm throughout (fish should be fully cooked, but not overcooked). Keep the fish warm, but strain the sauce into a measuring cup. While baking, make the sauce.
4 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. flour
3 egg yolks at room temperature
1/2 cup whipping cream at room temperature
3 tsp. fresh dill, chopped fine, or 1 tsp. dried dill
On top of a double boiler, melt butter and set 2 tbsp. aside. Whisk the flour into the remaining butter to make a white roux, slowly adding the wine liquid, whisking as it cooks on low. Reduce the sauce for about 15 minutes. Slowly add egg yolks, whisking until the sauce thickens. Add the melted butter, whipping cream and dill. Season to taste with salt. Remove the fish skin, platter the fish, cover with sauce and garnish with fresh dill or parsley. Good platter accompaniments are steamed asparagus and homestyle potatoes. Serves 6. Pair this salmon recipe with the 2004 Bocce Pinot Gris.
You can use any wine you wish to use in your cooking because some of the world's best recipes have come from experimentation. But, wine is used as an ingredient to add flavors and aromas. If you use bad wine with bitterness or an off-taste, those unpleasant flavors will be cooked into your food. So, use the best wine your budget can afford! The best bet is to use the wine that will accompany your meal, since you have selected it to pair well with the flavors of the other ingredients.

One can use just any wine for a recipe, just as one could use any cheese to make a grilled cheese sandwich. But, the results will be just as varied. Following the cheese metaphor: your sandwich will be quite different if you use Raclete, farmer's cheese or Brie. The Raclete will be melty and mellow, the farmer's cheese won't melt well and may take on a crumbly texture, the Brie probably will melt out of the sandwich and onto the griddle. Also, the quality makes a great deal of difference: a quality cheddar will make a superior grilled cheese sandwich, poor quality cheddar will be rubbery, leaving a pool of orange oil on your plate.
Just as the varietal of cheese makes a difference above, so the varietal of white wine you choose for this week's wine pairing recipe will effect the outcome. Salmon is a fatty fish (nutritious, since fish oil is high in Omega-3) so it needs acidity for balance. That's why common marinades for salmon use acidic citrus bases such as lemon or orange juice. An acidic wine, such as a Pinot Gris gives this recipe a nice balance. Avoid heavily oaked, "oily" wines such as some Chardonnays.
If you're on a tight budget, or want to save every drop of your wine for drinking, here's a tip: use 2 cups white grape juice (or ginger ale!) with 2 tsp. white vinegar for baking the fish. There will be less flavor than the wine, so you might want to add a couple springs of rosemary in the cooking liquid (remove after cooking) to round out the flavor.


Grilled Artichoke Wine Pairing Recipe--and Jesusita Fire Santa Barbara

4 large artichokes
3 lemons: 1 lemon cut in quarters, 2 lemons halved
about 1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated hard white cheddar
1 cup mayonnaise
paprika, salt and pepper
Cut the artichokes in half, cut out the choke (the thistles at the heart of the artichoke), and trim off the sharp ends of the leaves. (Using kitchen scissors for the leaves is much easier than cutting with a knife.) Rinse the artichoke halves and shake dry. Rub with the cut lemon all over (this keeps the color of the artichokes)
Steam for 15-20 minutes--until an outer leave pulls off easily and the stem can be pierced with a fork. As soon as they are done, plunge into cold water to stop the cooking and drain. Coat all over with good quality olive oil (the quality of the oil will make a difference in the final taste of the dish).
Preheat the grill to medium. Shake off excess oil (to avoid oil dripping on the flame or coals and causing a fire!) and place the artichokes face down. Cook about 5 minutes, watching and turning them as needed. You want the  outside lightly charred but not burned and the inside warm.
Platter the artichokes with the centers up and sprinkle with grated cheese. Serve with the lemon mayonnaise below. Serves 8 as a side dish.
Grilled Lemon Mayonnaise:
While you are grilling the artichokes, grill the lemons face down for about a minute. Let them cool a bit, then squeeze the juice into the mayonnaise. Stir well, season to taste with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with paprika. Serve the grilled artichoke with the lively 2005 Thumbprint Cellars Cabernet Franc.
The grilled artichoke recipe was chosen last week; this week the idea of grilling anything is far from the minds of Santa Barbarans. We're in day four of the Jesusita wildfire and the ashes of the houses of our friends and neighbors fill the smoky air, wafting down like snowflakes and covering our cars and decks. The darkened sky thrums with the sounds of helicopters and planes making a loop from reservoir to fire, dropping their payloads at the edge of this monster that has caused tens of thousands to flee with the few things they could grab as they evacuated.

This Jesusita wildfire started as just a slim wisp of smoke near some power lines in the foothills above Santa Barbara on Tuesday, which was an uncharacteristically hot day in this city with near perfect temperatures year round. When I first saw it on the news, it was just two acres at 2 pm and could easily been doused by air drops. But it takes a disaster before a State Of Emergency is declared and full resources can be deployed. So when the winds picked up in the afternoon, the fire quickly ripped across the foothills above the heavily wooded Mission Canyon neighborhood and became a menace. Then the winds abated, and by the morning the fire looked like it was just a thin ring around the burn area and the smoke was light. But looks are deceiving and all bets are off when 60+ mph winds drive oxygen into flames. The dreaded sundowner winds created monster 100' flames that spit embers for miles. An enormous column of smoke rose above town, visible as far as Thousand Oaks. For about half an hour, when the winds were at their peak and were blowing right toward downtown, we feared the historic downtown might catch the embers and ignite. Fortunately, the capricious wind changed direction, but not all were spared, our friends' house in the photo was burned that night. They had just escaped the Tea Fire which had taken houses right up to the neighbor to their east. The Jesusita fire took only one home on their street--theirs. They found their Vespa intact and several paintings that firefighters had kindly removed and set on their driveway. Many thanks to the brave firefighters who are sweating and toiling to save our beautiful city! Thursday morning, again, the fire sat down and waited for the winds. This time, their whim was to blow west, scorching miles of scrub and homes set in the canyons above San Roque and San Marcos pass. Strangely, while the winds and firestorm raged in the foothills just five miles from us, we sat out on the deck in perfectly calm weather looking at the moonlight on the ocean. It was a surreal juxtaposition of Southern California and Currier & Ives because huge "snowflakes" were gently wafting down--"snowflakes" of ash. Today the fire rages unabated above Santa Barbara from San Marcos pass to Montecito. If the wind turns again towards the ocean, we are in dire danger because the fire line is so long, maybee 5-6 miles, that if it pushes into town, nothing short of a miracle will stop it. Keep us in your prayers!
Our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes and to all who have taken refuge. We have six fire refugees staying with us, every available bed and couch is filled extra blankets and pillows borrowed from neighbors.

Since this blog is supposed to be about wine and food, let's talk about what to feed a houseful of people. Luckily we had stocked up on Edna Valley Chardonnay during the last Wine Clearance Sale (subscribe to the FREE, no-obligation wine newletter Online Grapevine to hear about future sales). The wine paired well with smoked chicken sausage, Italian Tofurkey tofu sausage, steamed homegrown beets and greens with butter and lemon pepper, crusty bagette and a Greek salad. The 2006 Midlife Crisis Chardonnay from our Wine Cellar would pair well with this meal.