An Omelette and a Glass of Clinton

Eggs are not a food I pair with wine. This may have to do with the time of day I usually eat them: breakfast or lunch. Hubrecht Duijker, Mr. Wine in Holland now retired, recommends a dry sparkling wine to go with them. His are the ones you get at a traditional New Year’s Eve party, where the eggs are devilled and sparkling wine is abundant. More often than not, however, eggs are an ingredient, be it in a Spanish tortilla or a sauce Hollandaise – and who wouldn’t like a glass of wine with those?
But a plain omelette?
‘Let’s just have an omelette and a glass of wine’ may indicate ‘the almost primitive and elemental meal’ (Elizabeth David, ‘An Omelette and a Glass of Wine’ in the anthology of the same title). The kind of meal one longs for after a hard day’s work. It’s late, you’re tired and hungry but you don’t feel like cooking, so you drag yourself to the fridge: eggs, a rind of Parmesan, drooping lettuce, half a lemon, and on your way back you grab a bottle of whichever wine you come across first. When Elizabeth David drags herself to the fridge she naturally returns with eggs, a piece of home-made pâté, olives, a fresh salad, ripe, creamy cheese and fresh fruit. The omelette she turns the eggs into contains Parmesan and Gruyère. This indeed primitive and elemental meal is then washed down with a local (she admits sometimes dreadful) wine.
perfecteggArchitect, script writer and travel and gastronomy author Aldo Buzzi (1910-2009) also likes to pair eggs and wine. And a local, in fact very local wine at that. So I read in his little book about all things foodie: The Perfect Egg and Other Secrets (it’s the kind of thing one gets published only after one has made a name for oneself with several more substantial works).
In ‘Eggs on Leeks’ he gives a recipe of – you guessed right – fried eggs on boiled and chopped leeks. ‘The [frothy] butter mingles with the remaining waters from the leeks to make a delectable little sauce. Should be accompanied by a good glass of Clinto (…).’
There he is again (see my posting Foreign Affairs): Clinto, Crinto or Clinton. This American hybrid produces a dark red wine, low in alcohol, famous for its stains, not for its taste: a bit foxy, they say, or ‘peculiar’. I wouldn’t really know as this outlaw grape is hard to come by. It is still grown in some places, including France and, where Buzzi must have gotten his bottle from, Veneto. Every now and then voices are heard who plead to lift the ban on American hybrids, as they need much less chemical treatment. For this plot of Clinton, however, there is no hope left. Or so I think. I must confess I don’t understand a word they say.


How to

Are there any parts of life not covered by How-to manuals apart from being born and start breathing, though many of us got a little help with these tasks too? Type ‘How to’ and Google provides one with a few search options: ‘how to tie a tie’, ‘how to delete facebook’ and the slightly worrying ‘how to train your dragon 2′ (something must have gone wrong the first time). Let’s be honest: these are by no means easy tasks. But visiting a vineyard? I could do that without help, couldn’t I? The Huffington Post does not agree and I must say, I have made a faux pas or two myself.

Thinking winemakers are everywhere as welcoming as in Alsace, I once headed out in rural Chianti to one of the star winemakers, via small, sometimes hardly gravelled roads, only to be chased from the premises once I got there. Didn’t I know they had a shop in Montepulciano? That’s where I should go. I didn’t. That was not what I wanted.

Malans, CH

Malans, CH

Last June, visiting the Bündner Herrschaft, a small region of quality wines in Switzerland, I thought I’d do it more carefully. Though I had a few names in mind, I asked the hotel manager if she could recommend a winemaker where I could taste and buy wine. “On such short notice?” she exclaimed. No way. Did I really think winemakers had time to receive me? They have work to do. Maybe in winter, when the vineyard needed less attention. But even then. And of course they would charge me.

When it dawned on her that I was interested in buying wine too, not in huge quantities maybe but surely more than one or two bottles, her entrepreneurship got the better of her. Why not taste the open bottles of their house wine, for sale in the winemaker’s shop just opposite the hotel? In the hotel’s kitchen, right away? Why not indeed, I liked their sparkling wine. And of course she allowed me to leave any boxes for the day in a cool place so I could do some more sightseeing.

A vineyard is not a vineyard is not a vineyard is not a vineyard.


Wine&Dine: Lentils & Chianti

As rain and wind howled round the house we didn’t feel like going out to do some much needed shopping. What to eat? We were out of almost everything. Spouse muttered “pizza” and “delivery,” but seeing my not too enthusiastic reaction retreated to the utility room cum pantry to do a last and thorough inspection. A celeriac, a piece of chorizo, some lentils. That would do fine for a simpler version of Stephanie Alexander’s “Celeriac sautéed with lentils and walnut oil.” (See her The Cook’s Companion – it really is a companion.)

Dine: Celeriac sautéed with lentils
(1) Heat olive oil and fry onion and garlic, add not too small cubes of celeriac and a bay leaf. After a while add lentils, a twig of rosemary, some fresh oregano and stock. Cook over a moderate heat till lentils are tender but not mashed. The liquid should be almost gone. Discard rosemary, oregano and the bay leaf (lest it settles on your windpipe). Stir in chopped parsley (leave a little aside), pepper, salt to taste.
(2) In the meantime, cut the chorizo in small pieces (1 cm) and fry them in their own fat. Discard fat and lay aside.
(3) Meanwhile, cut some celeriac in julienne and fry in a little vegetable oil until brown. Lay aside, sprinkle with a little sea salt to taste.
(4) Ladle a generous portion of the lentils on a deep plate, sprinkle with walnut oil (if you happen to have it) and a little sherry vinegar (idem). This adds to the nutty, earthy taste of the lentils. We forgot but our two “side dishes” made up for it. Add the chorizo. Top it off with some fried celeriac and parsley.

poggerinoWine: Fattoria Poggerino – Chianti Classico DOCG 2009
Radda in Chianti, 14%vol, by Piero and Benedetta Lanza, € 14,95, for sale here.
The sweetish celeriac, the earthiness of the lentils and the fatty sharpness of the chorizo need a firm but not too firm red wine. One that won’t overrule the celeriac nor be overruled by the chorizo. This Chianti did the job alright. It’s a smooth, well-structured and well-balanced wine. Ruby-red in colour with aromas of red fruit, blackberry, elderberry and laurel. The wine has spent one year in barriques.


Wine&Dine: To Soothe the Frazzled

Nigel Slater, of whom we speak in my house only with due respect, as he is a genius according to two (!) blurbs on his book Appetite, is none too fond of cauliflower. Though he admits one can do more than boil it and serve it with a cheese sauce, he continues by saying: ‘Resist the temptation to undercook. The raison d’être of a cauli is to end its days as a soft and gentle supper to soothe the frazzled and overworked’ (p. 103). He gives no recipe.

Are you frazzled in any way, or a bit overworked? Let me help you out with a soothing and reviving supper. Let’s even resist the temptation to cook the cauli at all.

Dine: cauliflower couscous with fish
Wash and drain the cauliflower, cut it in not too big chunks. Put the chunks into a food processor and chop them till they have the size of couscous (that will take a few seconds only). Put the ‘couscous’ in a bowl (yes, the smell is not pleasant right now, but that will change). Add generous amounts of olive oil and lemon juice and a bit of salt. This is the basis. We need a few more ingredients to turn this into a tasty salad. For example some herbs: chives, parsley, mint, all chopped. A small red (or less sharp green) chilli pepper cut into rings to give it a bit of pungency. Or fennel leaves and a few (black) olives (be careful with the salt in that case). Or…, well you probably got the picture by now. Let the couscous rest for a while so that all flavours blend. In the meantime you can fry or (char)grill the fish (monkfish, sardines or red mullet would be great). It might be a good idea to add some garlic to the fish (the salad has none).

If you’re in desperate need of carbs, do take a break between preparing the couscous and cooking the fish and settle yourself on the couch with a piece of bread and olive oil. If both are of good quality, that’s a real treat.

Wine: Verdicchio
Azienda Santa Barbara, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, 2011, 12,5%vol, by Stefano Antonucci, € 7,25, for sale here.
This Italian white from the Marche region presents itself as going well ‘per cibi poco grassi’, i.e., with low fat courses, and of course with fish. And it paired really well with the couscous. Its mellowed acidity could more than cope with the lemony freshness and the velvety saltiness of the cauliflower couscous with herbs and olives. It did not much for the tilapia I served it with, but I wouldn’t recommend that fish anyway.
Stefano Antonucci has more choice in Verdicchio’s. This one is his cheapest.

(Previously published on my blogspot site, May 2013)