In a year of incredible unrest and uncertainty, one things that remains true, food still brings people together. Don’t risk, people, getting or being infected and passing that on to family members, just because you just had to be together. Especially those of you who work on the front lines, school systems and other public arenas. You have made it this far, work on continuing to the end of this. As we are not be able to gather around the table this year or agree on the best way forward, we can still share a toast or a moment via Facebook or Zoom. Together across the miles we can still make dishes and can take a swing at new recipes that are satisfying or as comforting as a hug. A holiday menu that delights, delicious dishes from diverse points of view and that celebrates unique flavors and magically, wonderfully, taste better as if we could enjoyed them together can highlight your holidays. (My public service commercial).

What to drink when all the best food happens especially on the holidays? Probably this year more than ever, you’re definitely going to need wine. So! How to choose the right bottle for such a variety of flavors, personalities and unknowns-like when Aunt Shirley, wearing her mask and PPE, who doesn’t drink red wine shows up, or Auntie Barbara who drinks only reds, can indulge with you, then the smartest thing to do is to cover all your bases by buying something in all categories.

1. Sparkling

Bubbles can bring the party on and cut through rich dishes, so get a sparkling wine to sip solo or enjoy with buttery snacks and main courses. A bubbly wine from Spain with a little dryness, such as Raventos i Blanc de Blancs 2017, will work well with buttery dinner rolls and have you going back for seconds of your favorite indulgent stuffing.

2. Rose

Yes, Rose’! I know its not summer. Food-friendly rose’ is always a sleeper hit for holiday foods. The key is to make sure it’s a robust, juicy one-not just pink water-to play up the many seasonings in your dishes. A punchy rose’ like Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose’ 2019 sings when sipped with salty, herby, savory dishes like Smoky Poblano Corn Pudding (recipe below).

3. White

I only like white wines a little, little bit, but white wine with a little somethin’-somethin’-just enough acid to be mouthwatering and enough depth to make me want another glass. Yum…Stay away from the Moscatos, it’s like drinking Kool-aid ginger ale, way too much sugary taste that would ruin a perfectly good dish or yet meal. For the holidays, I recommend Fiano di Avellino “Vigna della Conregrazione” 2017, this should do the trick without breaking your change purse. Fiano is the little Italian grape that could. A richer alternative to Pinot Grigio, it has honey, pineapple, and white pepper notes that works with everything from savory dishes to fruity desserts.

4. Red

You think red wine only goes with red meat? Nope! Red Burgundies and other Pinot Noirs are great with turkey, green things, and all things potato. Try something like Regis Bouvier’s Marsannay Rouge “Les Longerois” Vieilles Vignes 2017, which has texture, medium tannins, and a kind of jamminess that is actually savory. It’s wine you’ll want to keep sipping even after the meal is over.

The Recipes:

It just can’t be the holidays without corn, here’s a nice twist that uses frozen corn and freshly roasted peppers.

Smoky Poblano Corn Pudding 8 servings prep: 1 hr, 50 min.

Ingredients

4 Poblano peppers,

(Contrary to all you’ve heard about Mexican peppers, these are mild and slightly sweet, but more flavorful than a green pepper and way not as spicy-potent as the other categories on the market, nearly always used as “Chili Relleno” on most Tex-Mex menues).

3 eggs

1 c. whole milk

½ c. whipping cream

1/3 c. sugar

¼ c. flour

¼ butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1 (16-oz.) pkg. frozen corn kernels

1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 tbs. chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425*. Arrange Poblanos, cut sides down, on foil-lined baking sheet; roast until slumped and charred, about 20-25 minutes. Wrap foil around peppers: let stand for 15 minutes. Remove charred skin and coarsely chop the meat of the pepper.

2. Reduce oven to 350*. Grease a 2 qt. baking dish. Whisk together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, flour, butter, and salt in a bowl; stir in corn, cheese, and roasted peppers. Pour into prepared dish.

3. Bake until slightly puffed, golden brown around the edges, and let set, about 1 hour. Garnish with the greens. (Can be covered with foil and chilled for up to 3 days, then reheated in a 350° oven)

This meatless main dish gets a double hit of umami from mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Rub some crusty bread with garlic and drizzled it with olive oil to serve along side.

Ricotta-stuffed Grilled Portoellos with Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

4 large Portobello mushroom caps (about 1 lb. Total), gills removed.

3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ tsp. salt plus a pinch, divided

1 cup part-skim milk ricotta

¼ c. chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

¼ c. grated parmesan cheese

3 cups baby arugula

½ c. slivered sun-dried tomatoes

2 tbs. lemon juice

Directions:

1. Preheat grill to medium heat (outdoor or indoor grate).

2. Brush mushrooms with 1 tbs. oil and sprinkle with ¼ tsp each of S&P.

3. Grill, gill-side up, for 5 minutes. Flip and continue grilling until tender, 6-10 minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, mix ricotta, basil, parmesan and ¼ tsp. each of S&P in a small bowl.

5. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and blot with a paper towel to remove any liquid. Mound the ricotta filling in the caps. Return to grill and continue cooking until filling is hot, 5-7 minutes.

6. Toss arugula and sun-dried tomatoes in a medium bowl with lemon juice and remaining oil and pinch of S&P. Place 1 cup salad on a plate.

7. Garnish cooked mushroom tops with more basil, serve with the salad on side, and crispy garlic bread sections.

~Pairs best with Folly of the Beast Pinot Noir, 2018, Central Coast, CA

It’s all the rage, to join the Court of Master Sommeliers. The introductory course and exams are less about teaching you about wine but more assessing a person’s ability to know, taste, and sell wine in a restaurant setting. Dipping my toes into the world of wine presented basic issues. 1. To effectively educate myself without any structure of curriculum or mentor ship. 2. Tasting advice from Master Sommeliers, (in Rangeley?). It’s like scaling the mountain of wine knowledge and doing it without any of the gear and guidance to reach the top. 3. If you memorize the information just to pass an exam, you are more likely to forget it once the exam has come and gone without hands-on practice. 4. Your goal, if one day to be a Sommelier in a restaurant, is to work in a wine related profession or just learn about this exciting and interesting world, because you love wine. The goal should be to thoroughly understand and appreciate wine-not to simply pass a test and receive a title. Perfecting this career would be a challenge. Even online, there is so much extensive studies and decades of exposure into wines, wine making, history, concepts, grapes, fermenting processes, aging, bottling etc, but it was enough to give me knowledge on differentiating types and pairings. Each levels of Sommelier studies becomes more intense, demanding and is quite expensive, but more effective in an environment where you can be an understudy. I’ll stick to food history and recipes, but it was fun and I did learn a lot. The recommendations in this column came about studies in wines characters and paring with certain food proteins, legumes, spices, desserts and occasions, and there was charts!.

Your ideas, recipes, comments are received at [email protected]

Happy Fooding! Happy wine-ing! Happy Holidays!~and the last words come from~Louis Pasteur~

A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.~Ref. Uncorking your future, Becoming a Sommelier~Julia Conley, Wine Educator

 

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