It’s been way too long since my last post.
It’s not that I haven’t eaten anything worth writing about, it’s just that writing about anything lately has felt like a chore.
I blame it on the Texas heat.
So, I’ll do what I’m sure every blogger before me has done and apologize, promise to be more consistent with my posts, pick myself up and start eating – I mean writing – again.
Ok, now that that’s over, on to the business of food. Or in this case, wine.
I had the true pleasure of being asked to attend a conference (work related, I promise) in Napa Valley earlier in this month.
Yes, yes, I know. Tough life.
The four days I spent in the valley were mind-blowing for a food-lover like me. To be sure, the conference was doused in wine. Every meal included at least 2-3 varieties, paired perfectly with each course. In short, it was exquisite.
Before visiting Napa, I would have labeled myself a “beer guy.” That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy wine before, but my love for craft brews runs deep. But I left Napa with a different perspective on wine, and it’s been on my mind ever since.
Reflecting on my trip, there’s so much to share – some of it hard to articulate. Sort of like a complex bourdeaux, perhaps?
Distilling it down as best I can, I think I was most struck by three things:
- I drank better wine while in Napa than I’ve ever chosen to drink before. And I noticed a big difference in the way it tasted and the way it made me feel afterwards. Perhaps those headaches I used to get when drinking wine had something to do with the less-than-$10 price tag. I guess you get what you pay for.
2. Good wine and good food are awesome together. They sort of create that “better than the sum of its parts” anomaly.
3. White wine is the bomb. Before Napa, I turned my nose at white wines – chardonnays, reislings, sauvignon blancs, etc. The types I had tasted were either too fruity or so chilled they tasted flat and flavorless. The white wines I had in Napa were crisp, flavorful but not overly so, refreshing and very smooth.
So, I did what most Napa tourists have probably done, and I ordered two overly-priced bottles of white wine from Chimney Rock, one of vineyards I sampled while in Napa. Shipping was a nightmare, not to mention a risky venture (wine doesn’t do well in extreme temperatures, and we’ve been living in extreme temperatures all summer here in Houston). But it was worth it. The wine – Sauvignon Gris, an unusual grape not often bottled by itself, but usually used in blends with other grapes – was just as amazing as I remembered it being in Napa. And it’s great with food, too!
One of the dishes I ate while in Napa, which was paired with a dry chardonnay (but would work well with a sauvignon gris or pinot grigio, too), was a carmelized peach, fried goat cheese and friseé salad. I re-created it at home and it was just about as delicious as the original.
The dish is all about a balance of flavors and textures – the sweetness of the peaches is complemented by the tartness of the goat cheese and friseé, the softness of the peaches is juxtaposed by the crunch on the fried goat cheese and bristliness of the friseé. A bonus – it’s very easy to make.
Here’s the recipe:
Carmelized Peach, Fried Goat Cheese and Friseé Salad
• 2 firm peaches
• 1 “log” of goat cheese, frozen or very well chilled
• Panko bread crumbs
• 1/2 cup flour (for breading)
• 1 egg
• friseé (or you can use curly endive or even arugula)
• 1/4 turbinado sugar (aka “sugar in the raw”)
• red wine
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Set out two plates and a bowl. Put 1/2 cup of flour in one plate, and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs in the other. Crack the egg into the bowl and scramble with a fork or whisk.
Cut the goat cheese log into 5-6 thick-ish slices. Bread each slice by coating first with the flour, dipping in the egg wash, then coating with the bread crumbs. Set each breaded slice on a plate and then refrigerate once all slices have been breaded.
Halve both peaches and remove the pit. Tip, if you cut the peach perpendicular to the clef, it makes removing the pit a ton easier! Once the pits are removed, dip the cut end of the four halves into a shallow bowl or plate with the turbinado sugar so each cut end is coated with sugar, then set aside.
Heat a sauteé pan on medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.
When the butter/oil mixture has melted and is just slightly smokey, add the peaches to the pan, cut side down. Allow the peaches to carmelize, which will take 5 minutes or more. The pan will probably begin to smoke, which is okay, but don’t let it get too smokey.
After the peaches have formed a nice, dark, sugary crust, de-glaze the pan with a few generous splashes of red wine. Allow the wine to cook down into a thicker liquid – similar to a balsamic vinegar.
Turn off the heat and set aside.
Heat up another pan with the remaining tablespoon of oil and last two tablespoons of butter. Place the breaded cheese into the hot pan and cook just until both sides are crispy and golden.
Arrange a handful of greens on a salad plate and place 1-2 warm peach halves and 1-2 fried cheese slices on top. There should be plenty of wine-sugar liquid left in the original sauteé pan. Drizzle this over each salad and serve while still warm. Be sure to pour yourself a glass of dry white wine and enjoy!