Saturday, January 22, 2011

A great wine for great food and company

A few weeks before Christmas we visited one of my favorite local wineries Ventimiglia Vineyard  .  The experience was a delight as always.  Gene, the winemaker is delightful and bubbly and his passion really comes through in his wines.  He makes great, easy drinking but complex wines that are exquisite.  I first came upon Gene’s wines by taking an unexpected detour and visiting the tasting room.  That was over two years ago and I was hooked.  I find myself hoarding Ventimiglia wines, saving them for the times when I want a super special taste. 

My absolute favorite is the Fratelli, which is a blend of Cab Sav, Merlot and Cab Frank.   I am more partial to full bodied wines, this wine lighter in body, delivers and exceptional smoothness and flavor.  Like I said, I am hooked.

And what is a great meal and drink if not shared with friends.? Here is a glimpse of a very special meal which was meant to showcase Ventimiglia wines and  savor the joy of a perfect pairing.

Pan Seared Venison with Juniper Port sauce, served with Ratatouille and rosemary roasted potatoes.

Vension and Juniper Port Sauce
2 Venison Tenderloins or venison roast.
4 Juniper berries
½  tbs of whole black pepper
For the sauce:
4 juniper berries
2 shallots minced
1 clove of garlic minced
1 tbs of fresh rosemary mince
1/4 cup of brandy
1 cup of port
½ cup of dry red wine
2 tbs of butter

Grind the 4 Juniper berries with salt and black pepper in a spice grinder or mortar.  Rub the mixture on the venison tenderloins and refrigerate for a few hours. 

When ready to cook, bring the meat to room temperature.  Preheat the pan until scorching, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sear the meat on all sides no more than 1 min on each for rear.  If cooking roast, additionally cook in a 400 F oven for 10-12 min.  Take the meat of the pan, loosly cover with foil and let it rest.  In the meantime prepare the sauce.
To the same pan, on low heat, add the shallots, garlic and rosemary.  Let them sweat for a few minutes.  Add the whole juniper berries, brandy, port and wine .  With the wooden spoon scrape all the delicious brown bit stuck to the pan.  Let cook for 2 min, than strain the sauce and return it to the pan.  Let cook for another 5 min or until reduced by ½.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Swirl in the butter, pour over the meat and serve immediately. 

No, I did not get the recipe from watching the cartoon.  All this fancy French word means is vegetables sautéed in layers, what my mother called a vegetable ragu.  This dish can be made with whatever is in season and is always a colorful addition to a  simple meat preparation.

1 small butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
½ red pepper julienned
1 small yellow onion diced
½ pint of grape or cherry tomatoes
½ cup of fresh or frozen peas
Handful of chopped parsley
1 tbs honey
½ tbs smoked paprika
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Toss the butternut squash with honey, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Toss the zucchini and the yellow squash with salt pepper and olive oil.  Spread all on the baking sheet and bake for about ½ hr until fork tender.
On low heat caramelize the onions in  a tablespoon of olive oil until lightly brown, add the pepper and sauté until soft.  Add the cherry tomatoes and sauté for a few more minutes until tomatoes just burst.
Add the peas and combine all the vegetables together, top with parsley and serve.

You can serve this meal with a crusty bread to mop up the sauce, or as I did with a homemade pop-over.

Invite friends over for dinner and enjoy with a glass of your favorite red!

  We all know which one is mine!

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