Mon 12 Oct 2009
We got two great meals from one hefty Berkshire pork shoulder, with plenty of leftovers.
Pictured here is a Guajillo-Spiked Pork and Potato Taco, concocted from a recipe in Mexico One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless (Scribner, 2000), creator and chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago.
This dish requires that you toast the dried guajillo chilies, which we had on hand — yes, we are the kind of household that just happens to have dried guajillo chilies on hand, as well as cheesecloth and parchment paper and a Chinese hat, what am I supposed to do, apologize? — rehydrate them and them puree with garlic and chopped tomatoes. Brown the cubed pork in oil or lard (well, what are you going to do when you have this lovely, white pork fat, huh?), and then you simmer the meat in the tomato-chili puree until there’s almost nothing left of the sauce, and then you add water and cook it down again, this time with the potatoes. That’s about it. What remains is exceedingly tender and flavorful and intense. LL went to a local taqueria and bought fresh tortillas, which were still warm when she got home. These are not tacos loaded down with extraneous ingredients; cilantro is all that’s called for, though I made a simple salad — chopped romaine, tomatoes and red onion — to go on the side. We didn’t even use any salsa; the slow-cooked meat and potatoes in the rich sauce needed no embellishment.
The first night we had the tacos, I opened a bottle of the Mettler Family Vineyards “Epicenter” Old Vine Zinfandel 2007, from Lodi County, which I thought was more balanced than the version from 2006 that I reviewed on September 20. With 8 percent petite sirah grapes in the blend and seeing 19 months aging in oak (85 percent French, 15 percent American), the wine is undeniably large-framed, dense and muscular. Aromas of ripe, fleshy, dusty blackberries and black currants are highlighted by whiffs of black pepper and packed with lavender and violets that smell as if they had been crushed in a mortar with bitter chocolate, potpourri and pulverized gravel. Yikes, as if that weren’t enough, in the mouth, the wine is rich and succulent, but it doesn’t flaunt that over-ripe boysenberry jamminess that makes many “old vine” zinfandels cloying, nor does its alcohol level — 15.6 percent — come off as hot and sweet. Instead, this wine maintained poise dictated by vibrant acidity and buttressed by a rather stark edge of foresty briers and brambles. Drink through 2011 or ’12. Excellent. About $25.
The Mettler Epicenter 2007 was a terrific match with the intensity and banked spicy heat of the tacos. It was as if a glass of this wine and one of the tacos went out into the alley behind the cantina for a wrestling match and each round was fought to a draw, until they just said, “Aw, fuck it, amigo, let’s go back inside and eat and drink together.” Ole!
A few nights later, we ate the rest of the tacos, and this time I ventured the Clayhouse Adode Red 2007, Central Coast. This is an interesting sort of New World/Old World blend of 44 percent zinfandel, 32 percent petite sirah, 16 percent syrah, 5 percent malbec, 4 percent grenache and 2 percent mourvedre. It’s tasty and moderately complex, but it’s not the same kind of wine as the Mettler Epicenter ’07, so while we enjoyed the Clayhouse Adobe ’07, it didn’t make the same kind of impression paired with the tacos. It offers scents and flavors of ripe red and black currants and plums, an array of dried spices, an intriguing earthy hint of leather and loam and fairly supple, chewy tannins. Try it with burgers, meatloaf and pork chops. Very Good. About $15, Good Value.
With the rest of the pork shoulder, we made the Sun-Dried Tomato and Fennel Sausage Patties with Creamy Polenta from the May 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. My, oh my, what a spectacular dish this was! The sausage contains the chopped pork shoulder, pork fat, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, fennel seeds and so on, The Italinate sauce that accompanies the sausage patties consists of canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and more basil. Serve this with polenta topped with chopped basil and grated Parmesan cheese, with a salad on the side, and it all makes for fine, hearty, flavorful eating. (My pictures of this dish didn’t work out, sorry.)
Here was a chance to open a bottle of the charming Gilli Vigna del Forno Freisa d’Asti 2006, from Piedmont. Charming, yes, but with plenty of stuffing. (The grape is the freisa.) Black raspberry and black cherry scents and flavors are permeated by baking spice, bitter orange and a hint of tar. The grape’s typical acidity makes the wine unabashedly lively and appealing, while a texture that’s slightly taut and sinewy reminds us that charm can have a serious side. Hints of wild berry and a seductive floral element emerge after a few minutes in the glass. Loads of personality and terrific with the dish. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Domenico Selections, New York.