Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, Ribs, and Tuscan Wine

You may not know this, but we've had a lot of snow on the east coast. Today, it was New York City's turn.

When we woke up the snow was falling sideways, the winds were so strong. It continued throughout the day, and as I write this it hasn't stopped. I want to eat warm, comforting food in this kind of weather. Something that makes the house smell good.

A good friend recently turned 40 and celebrated by inviting a bunch of her friends to dinner. I ate many tasty things that night, among them some pork spareribs that had been braised in some sort of tomato based sauce and served over creamy polenta. I loved it - so savory, a great mingling of flavors. A few days later while grocery shopping I saw some nice looking pork spareribs and decided to try to cook the dish at home.

At the end of this snowy day, kids in bed (squawking, but in bed), I did my best to make creamy polenta. I think that polenta here is kind of like oatmeal - most of us, myself included, use the quick-cooking version, the less flavorful but easier version. From what I understand, real polenta needs to be cooked with constant stirring for a half hour to achieve the right flavors. Tonight, I didn't do that. Once the water boiled, I let it cook for 5 minutes, whisked in some butter and grated Piave cheese, covered it, and let it sit for another 5 minutes.

How did they make the sauce at the restaurant? I have no idea. I kept it simple - finely chopped onion cooked with the bits left from browning the ribs, some chicken stock, some chopped San Marzano tomatoes, one of last summer's dried red chili peppers, and salt. A long braise in a slow oven, atop the polenta, a little more grated cheese, et voila.

There was not even a moment's doubt about what to drink with this dinner. A few months ago I bought two of bottles of 2007 Montevertine Pian del Ciampolo, $23, Neal Rosenthal Imports, and in my mind's palate, it seemed like a good pairing. Montevertine is a Tuscan producer making what I understand to be traditional Chianti-style wines - I learned about them four years ago on Eric Asimov's blog. I'm a fish out of water with Chianti, but this bottle, Pian del Ciampolo, this one I usually buy.

I drank one of these a while ago and liked it, but it needed a good decant before reveal itself. And even then, this wine is not about fruit. It's about leather and smoke and game and acid. There is some lovely bright red cherry, but I find that to be a secondary consideration.

We opened this wine at about 5:00 and let it sit for almost three hours as we put the kids to bed, made dinner, etc. When we opened it, it was like a freshly tanned hide. Later on it was more balanced, still leathery though, and I thought it was great with dinner - the acids were tamed, the leather too, and I noticed a lot more dark smokey fruit in the wine. BrooklynLady thought it was "kind of average." I hear that - there is nothing overtly beautiful about this wine, and it is quite the high acid wine. It's ugly-hot, if you know what I mean.


Karin said...

This was one of the wines, maybe even was the wine that made me aware of what wine could be. I wasn't at that time aware of a lot but I knew this was something I liked a lot and it made me go up to Rosenthals on 84th st and check them out.
Sorry to hear that you guys didn't care for it that much.

Cliff said...

I haven't had the 2007 but have faith. In better years, they can be hard to read on release. (2004 was like that.) But it's special stuff.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Karin - i did like it, very much. it's just not a crowd pleasing wine. and that's fine. and i forgot to include this in the post, but i think that although it is their entry level wine, it would be great with a couple of years in the cellar. it's a bit rowdy right now and a few years might bring a nice mellowness.

hey cliff - i'm already a believer. something must have come out wrong in my post.

Anonymous said...

It's a cerebral food wine to be sure. Nothing flashy or overt about it in the modern sense, nor is it a carbonic fruit salad, as Texier would say. All the wines tend to be this way, from this bottling to the Pergole Torte. I guess you could describe it as "classic." Beautiful stuff once you give it the right setting (which it looks like you did).

Dan said...

Those ribs looked delish. How did they come out?

Scott Reiner said...

depending on the vintage, obviously, i find the pian del ciampolo really starts to come into its own after 5 years.

motevertine, be it pian del ciampolo, montevertine or pergola torte, is for me what 'chianti' could and should be. I am, however, no expert. all i really drink from chianti is montevertine ans castell in villa. what other producers do you follow/should i be following?

michelecolline said...

They are in one of the classic parts of the classico zone..very high..rocky, shallow soil...Spring gets there as much as three weeks behind the lower around Siena.

Anonymous said...

Don't fear the real polenta!