Posted by johngl
A few weeks ago, my friend BigDMcC called me up with a proposition. He wanted to do some posts with food and wine pairings as a basis, tasting several bottles and then deciding what food would go best with them. I naturally agreed, but thought we might just take a blind stab with some classic pairings.
So yesterday, he brought over several wines based on the Sangiovese grape — the cultivar of woven-basket Chianti infamy. Despite it’s much maligned 1960’s bottle-as-a-candle-holder character, it is now one of the stars of Tuscan wine production.
Sangiovese is light and somewhat delicate in color, yet can be extraordinarily lively with acidity, making it a great partner for red pasta sauce or pizza.
Not knowing exactly which wines BigD was bringing over, I had picked out a leg of lamb last Wednesday. A little heavy perhaps, but not unheard of as a pairing with Tuscan wine.
This was a small sampling of the lamb, with a reduced sauce, over potatoes. It was pretty yummy with these two wines. I won’t steal any thunder from BigD’s future posting, so I will mostly concentrate on the food part of this gig.
That said, here is the entire lineup of wines:
It is not unusual for BigD to bring over $100 worth of wine. Usually, it is just one bottle. This is his attempt as promoting “approachable” wines. It doesn’t matter that nearly everyone else I know thinks that $25 is a lot for one bottle of wine to have with dinner. If you had any one of these bottles in a restaurant, it would probably cost you at least $50 (if not more).
I think I just felt BigD reach through the internet and throttle me. Quick, back to the food…
Start with a leg of lamb. Not leg of sheep. Leg of lamb. Get a small one. The smallest you can find.
Since the ones that are readily accessible to me are already deboned, they put them in these little silicone and cotton mesh nets:
There is an advantage to these things in that you can pull off the netting and lay the whole leg open so you can apply some herbs and seasonings, then roll it back up again.
What herbs do you use?
Turkish bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram. Sprinkle some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on the interior of the lamb while you’re there.
So, let me take a side road on this little ride. Let’s talk about peeling root vegetables for a minute. It drives me absolutely nuts when I see how some folks peel a carrot. Try this method and you may be surprised at how much faster it is.
Note that this is a “Y” peeler. You don’t use one of these in the same manner as the old style peeler. Hold the little end of the carrot with your left hand (if you are right handed). Take the peeler down the carrot to the big end.
One big long strip of carrot peel. You can even use the same technique on a parsnip (it works nicely for asparagus as well):
If BigD can master this in just a few strokes, so can you.
Now, back to our regular scheduled programming…
Before you know it, you will have a big pile of peeled root veggies. This is a pile of carrots, parsnip, garlic cloves, celery, onions, and the remainder of the pile of herbs. Leave the pieces large since this is going to be in the oven for a very long time.
So, now you have hopefully rerolled and re-netted the lamb with herbs nestled tightly inside. Grab your cast iron dutch oven and sear the meat with the help of a little bit of olive oil. I don’t even know what to say if you don’t have this necessary piece of equipment.
Once browned on all sides, step over and preheat the oven to about 225°, then take some tongs and remove the meat from the dutch oven and set it aside. Replace it with all those yummy veggies.
Allow the wine to reduce for about ten minutes and get all in the veggies. It will give everything a nice dark red stain. Add about a third cup of red wine vinegar. Add a small can of tomato paste and stir it in to distribute evenly then, add about three cups of rich stock (chicken or pork) to the pot and bring everything back up to a boil.
Place the leg of lamb back into the pot. About a third of it will be sticking up above the liquid.
Now, just pop it in your preheated oven and forget about it for an hour. Go ahead and drink the rest of that bottle of wine.
After an hour, open up the pot and roll over the lamb about a third of the way around. Do this again in another hour.
After about three hours, turn the oven down to 170°. Let it finish out for another two hours at this temperature.
At five hours, the lamb was certainly done and due to the low-temp cooking, the veggies were still firm and tasted amazingly sweet (naturally, I had to sample).
Strain out the solids and reserve the juices. Allow the fat to separate. Skim off the fat (or use a fat separator) then pour the juices back over the meat. Serve the meat over potatoes with the juice as-is, or, for a thicker sauce, ladle out a few cups of juice and reduce over high heat until it thickens up to your liking.
This dish will feed us for several days. In fact, for lunch today, we had it over pasta. Pappardelle to be precise. It was wonderful.
It turned out to be another glorious day, so we enjoyed our lunch outdoors. Accompanied by a Jacob’s Creek Shiraz, this was a good pairing. The Shiraz is big enough to handle the richness of the lamb quite easily.
So, why didn’t I have a Sangiovese with the pappardelle and lamb? I didn’t have any.
BigD and the pedestrian palates of my spouse and I determined those Sangiovese wines would be superb with Italian sausage subs or some homemade pizza. You will probably see those dishes in future posts.
The wines were not quite sturdy enough for this preparation of lamb, except maybe the Felsina, which complemented my sample plate very nicely.
It was worth a shot and didn’t work out too badly. I love it when BigD brings the wine…