Wed 4 Mar 2009
Readers of this blog know that LL and I tend to cook pretty simply at home. You can look, for example, at the posts I did last week, up until a few days ago, about what I prepared from ingredients on hand while LL was out of town. When she came back Sunday, I made black bean and butternut squash chili with Swiss chard; Monday night, she made chicken mole. That kind of thing.
Occasionally, though, I like a challenge, so for dinner last night, I turned to the cookbook Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges (Broadway Books, $40), a compendium of recipes derived from three of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Asian-inspired restaurants in New York, Spice Market, Vong and 66. I was intrigued by the recipe of the straightforwardly titled “Cod with Malaysian Chili Sauce.” (66 closed in April 2007 and reopened in June 2008 as Matsugen, a soba house.)
This is one of those dishes that requires two or three preparatory steps leading to the cooking of the primary element — the cod, in this case — and then assembling the dish. First, make the basil oil from Thai basil, grape seed oil and salt. Then cook down to a jam-like consistency a mixture of Guilin chili sauce, garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine (for which you can substitute fino sherry), sugar and salt and the chopped white parts of scallions. The result is spicy, of course, but more heatedly intense and concentrated than spoiler-hot. While the cod roasts in the oven, you blanch diced celery. That’s it; all it takes is putting everything on the plate in order. It’s a great dish, with lovely and intriguing contrasts in flavors and textures, a dish which, actually, you could use at a dinner party.
For wine, I took a chance on the Loan Semillon 2005, from Australia’s Barossa Valley. I say “took a chance” because I wouldn’t typically associate the semillon grape with spicy Asian fare, but this worked beautifully, both in the sense of balance and contrast. The wine boasts a perfect 13.3 percent alcohol; the grapes derive from a certified organic vineyard.
A limpid golden color with mild green highlights, the Loan Semillon 2005 — the current release of this wine — opens with scents of bee’s-wax, fig, green plum, roasted lemon and almond blossom. Give it a minute, and it tosses some lychee and lime zest into the mix. The wine ages eight months in old French barrels, lending a fine firmness of structure and a suggestion of dried spice. Moderately lush flavors of leafy fig, lemon and lime fill the mouth; fortunately — for the wine and for the dish we were eating — clean, bright acidity sweeps the palate and gives the wine a vibrant edge. Drink through 2010 or ’11. Production was 475 cases. Closed with a screw-cap. Excellent. About $22.
Imported by The Grateful Palate, Oxnard, Ca.