Tue 9 Jan 2007
Friends, I’m a carnivore.
It’s true that I don’t eat foie gras now, for ethical reasons, and I avoid sweetbreads as too rich and injurious to my digestion, but other than those exceptions, bring on the braised meat, the roasted meat, the seared meat, the rack of lamb, the veal shank, the short ribs, the rib roast, the strip steak. Much of that fare we — or I — partake of in restaurants, while at home we try to eat fish as much as possible. During the Yuletide season, however, we did over-indulgence with lots of meat and lots of red wine, so LL suggested recently that it would be good to try a few vegetarian dishes. Gack! I said within, but agreed to the regimen, even as I thought about tofu, brown rice and seaweed.
LL had something else in mind, though, and an example was the Brussels Sprout and Mushroom Ragout with Herb Dumplings from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen (Broadway Books, $27.50). Madison was the founding chef of Greens, the revolutionary vegetarian restaurant that opened in San Francisco in 1979, and is author of a roster of award-winning vegetarian cookbooks. Nothing wimpy here, this is an incredibly flavorful dish, filled with wintery, rooty effects of deeply caramelized onions and mushrooms, a rich mushroom broth and the hearty influence of the most tender and flavorful Brussels sprouts I have ever tasted. The dumplings, dotted with parsley and tarragon, compliment the dish wonderfully — and also make it non-vegan, since they contain milk and an egg, though Madison says that substituting wild rice for the dumplings would be fine. A little pancetta would have — no, no, I won’t say it.
Madison suggests a rich Santa Barbara chardonnay with “a little oak” for the dish, but the heady, autumnal redolence that filled the kitchen put me in mind of pinot noir, so I opened a bottle of the Flowers Pinot Noir 2004, Sonoma Coast (about $45 to $50). Lord have mercy, what a match! The wine is beautiful in every sense, from its intense dusky, ruby hue, like the color of a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting, to its bouquet of smoky black cherry, cola and spice, to its lovely harmony and balance, its black fruit flavors permeated by earth and moss and a satiny texture that has some iron and grit to it.
It was a great meal during which we listened to Christmas music for the last time as a reminder of the end of Yuletide and the New Year holiday.
A cheaper wine with much the same effect as the Flowers, but not quite the elegance or resonance, is the Lockwood Block 7 Pinot Noir 2005, Monterey County (about $20).