Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oxtail Stew and 3 Old Spaniards

With the cooler Autumn weather arriving I've been using the slow cooker and sous  vide to create some hearty wintery dishes. This week Helen and I cooked an eight hour oxtail stew inspired by Spain's Rabo de Toro paired with three old vine Spanish reds. For the stew the addition of  dark chocolate adds a lot of  richness and wine complimenting ability. The basic recipe including liberties we took based on in house ingredients for two was:

1 lb oxtails (browned on the grill)
10 pearl onions
1 parsnip, peeled and coarsely diced
1 small Spanish onion, diced
1 medium carrot peeled and diced
1/2  red bell pepper, diced
1 celery stalk,  diced
2  diced tomatoes
3 small white potatoes (halved)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
1.5 oz  70% dark chocolate (microplaned)
1 cup beef stock
1 cup dry red wine (used 1/3 of each reds to make a cup)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook in a slow cooker on HIGH for 6 hours and SIMMER for two or more.

I went with an Spanish Old Vine budget theme for the wine pairings to include the 2007 Bodegas Olivares Alto de la Hoya Jumilla, Bodegas Castano La Casona 2008 Old Vine Monastrell Yelca and the Le Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garancha 2007 all easly available in the BC marketplace.

2007 Bodegas Olivares Alto de la Hoya Jumilla $16.99
Old Vine Monastrell 98%

Dark purple colour with aromas of smoke, hay (floral) , spice, and dark berries. Medium-bodied to full-bodied with soft tannins for 2-3 years cellaring potential with flavours of mulberry, blackberry, blueberry, and black cherry. Subtle notes of hay and mineral in the mid palate and a long berry and savoury hay/earthy and liquorice finish. Well balanced with decent acidity and alcohol levels.

Bodgeas Castano La Casona 2008 Old Vine Monastrell Yecla $9.50
40 – 60 year old vine Monastrell
Ruby purple with black pepper and blueberry aromas. Medium to full-bodied with lush plum, blueberry, and savoury almost meaty hints on the nose. Medium to full-bodied with lush texture and flavours of ripe berry (carbonic maceration?) layered by hints of game, fresh black pepper,cherry, and a bit of dark chocolate.

Le Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha Navarra 2007 $13.99
 Old Vine  (vines between 60- 100 years old) 55% Tempranillo  and 45% garnacha

Ruby purple colour with aromas of maraschino cherry and plum.  Medium-bodied with red plum, chocolate, and fruit compote notes finishing with some rustic chewy tannins - good food wine.

All three wines worked well with the hearty and rustic stew. Like your dinner guests, the Bodegas Olivares  is a classy great value wine on its own or with the oxtail. The La Castona with its pepper, meaty, and  chocolate notes was the perfect foodie friend pairing and best overal pair with the oxtail; while Red Guitar is like your sexy hipster friend which everyone enjoyed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Iberico Ham: The New Pig On The Block

Today was a perfect rainy day in Vancouver to drop by Cafe Barcelona to taste a variety of hams with Antonio Padilla and his wife of Iberico Spain featuring the products of Embutidos Y Jamones Fermin.  Antonio is the BC distributor of  Iberian ham products. Iberian Bellota has only been available in Western Canada for the last year. If you were lucky you’d find it on the charcuterie plates at Salt, Judas Goat, and les amis du Fromage; hopefully that will change sooner rather than later for Vancouver foodies. It is still easier to find Kobe beef or Iranian caviar here than this exquisite Spanish meat.

Antonio Padilla of Iberico Spain
 A small group of restaurateurs and media gathered to taste four Iberico products from Antonio’s portfolio with a glass of accompanying Vina Albali. Antonio offered samples of his Salchichon Iberico sausage – a slicing sausage reminiscent of salami in appearance seasoned with salt and pepper and a with a silky melt in the mouth texture and subtle sweetness. The Chorizo Iberico Extra, minced loin and fat with pimento and garlic, was mildly spicy with sweet nutty undertones and a smooth texture. The Lomo Iberico de Bellota, an air-cured loin marinated with salt and pimento, was very lean, rich and with a subtle smoky nutty taste; while the Iberico Bellota was a stunner with its melt in your mouth texture, savoury yet sweet flavour and lingering mid palate to finish nuttiness. Expensive but  a little goes along way.
So what makes this ham so special? Regular Iberian ham is aged a minimum of two years much longer than most ham we purchase at supermarkets or deli's. The Iberico Bellota is aged a minimum of 24 to 36 months,  sometimes over four years, and has its provenance in its production. These hams are produced from free range Pata Negra (black hoof) pigs that feast on tree fallen acorns, gorging on up to ten kilo's per day until they double in weight before off to the slaughter. The curing process takes a minimum of two years during which time the  antioxidant quality of the acorns changes saturated fat into mono-unsaturated fats  with higher levels of oleic acid than olive oil. So eat more Spanish ham, wine, and olive oil!

 If at home or the restaurant; some Iberian ham and drink pairings I would recommend are the Estrella Damm inedit, a Spanish beer,  with Salchichon Iberico sausage - a nice balance of wheat--lager beer that balances the sweetness of the sausage. A good quality Cava  will partner well with the Chorizo Iberico  Extra   balancing out the fattiness and nutty flavours.  Lomo Iberico de Bellota will pair exquisitey with a well crafted Cidra (dry cider) or with a selecton of cheeses try a Gran Reserva Rioja to complement the smokey/nutty notes with the aged flavours of the wine. The Iberico Bellota is a must with another Spanish superstar - Sherry;  try a fresh dry Fino with the montagna y mer "mountain  and sea combination" of saltiness, sweetness, and complexity. How fitting the noblest ham in the world is with Sherry - a classic combination that must be tried.