Garnacha and Another Quixotic Wine Pairing Adventure

Once again, I’m taking #MyArtEscape overseas! What better way to prepare for a trip to Spain than to dive into the pot and uncork some knowledge? Ole!

I’m not sure which came first: the dish or the wine idea, but I was determined to find a wine made up of 100% Garnacha (known as Grenache in France and Cannonau in Sardinia.) As you know, I love rosé and Grenache is used in many of these wines from Southern France. It is usually blended with other grapes such as Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah. Now, Grenache is a red grape and I’ve explained how pink juice comes about in a previous blog (or you can Google it to learn more too.) This grape is also used for Châteauneuf-du-Pape and I’ve talked about it before as well.

Some grapes like the Nebbiolo, for example, haven’t found much success outside of their indigenous territory. However, Garnacha has easily adapted in other parts of the world with great success and after Tempranillo, it is the second most planted red grape variety in Spain. Do a little research and you’ll see that it has survived disease and drought, making resilience a large part of its popularity.

The Wine: Alto Moncayo 2016

I know very little about Spanish wine and wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.  Today’s choice far exceeded my expectations!

Founded in 2002, Bodegas Alto Moncayo is a winery located in the Campo de Borja D.O (short for denominación de origen, a classification system used primarily for Spanish wines) located northwest of the province of Zaragoza. Check out this video produced by Bodegas Alto Moncayo that will put the location into perspective. The vineyard is 500 metres above sea level in the highest part of the town of Borja and to the south its namesake El Moncayo, which is the highest point in the Iberian Mountain Range. You can find out more about this area here.

DYK that after Switzerland, Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe and after Italy and France, produces the largest amount of wine? The three countries together produce almost half of the wine made in the world!

Alto Moncayo is the winery’s flagship and it has received lots of acclamation. Although the winery itself is very young, the vines are between 40 and 70 years old and the wine is aged in new barrels for 20 months. As described on their website: “It has a remarkable complex nose, with balsamic aromas, redolent of black fruit, roasted notes and a very good structure in the mouth” and you can read more here.  I’m getting a little better at aroma and flavor profiles, so I would add that dark cherries, chocolate and tobacco were also present, but remember a lot of this is subjective so I don’t want to impose on your own interpretations.

Wine snobbery aside, I can conclude that it’s just yummy and I’ll be dreaming about it for days!

Photo Credit: Author

The Dish: Spanish Rice, Chicken and Chorizo

Living in South Florida means that there are many versions of Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken), but today I wanted something typically Spanish. I think what sets this dish apart from others are the dry rub mix and fresh ingredients. Don’t compromise and use prepackaged seasonings or tomatoes from a can or jar, ugh.

Here’s another secret: rinse the short or medium grained rice (in this case 1.5 cups) and then soak it in a bowl filled with cool water for about 20 minutes and then drain and rinse again.

  • Rub the dry spice mix on four chicken legs each cut to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Be sure to get the spice under the skin too.
  • Chop one large tomato, a medium sized red onion, 4 garlic cloves and a green pepper.
  • Warm a Dutch oven and coat it with about a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the chicken legs until slightly crispy; remove from pan.
  • Add the equivalent of two large chorizo sausages removed from their casing, and brown the sausage.
  • Add the onion and green pepper and sauté with a pinch of salt followed by the tomatoes, tomato paste and garlic. Add 3 cups of (low or no salt) chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken and bring the liquid back up to a boil before stirring in the (drained) rice. Gently place the chicken back into the pot, cover and reduce the temperature to low to allow enough time for the rice to cook through – about 20 minutes. Remove the Dutch oven from the stove and let the Arroz con Pollo stand covered for at least another 10 minutes. ** This last step is key to get that soft, but not mushy texture.
  • Finish the dish with a squeeze of lime and fresh, chopped cilantro. I found the recipe here.

Note: The Alto Moncayo is a bold wine and may not have been the perfect match for this dish. I’m now thinking that a Garnacha blend may have been more suitable. While I wouldn’t pair it with a steak or a tomato based beef stew, I think roast pork with seasoned, roast potatoes may be a better fit. (I have an amazing recipe for bacon wrapped pork tenderloin that I think would be perfect.)

Buen Viaje!

If you’re anything like me, a lot of planning goes into every vacation. I’m not just talking about booking a plane ticket and hotel. When I go somewhere, I go deep into research. I’ll be visiting one of the places on my “Bucket List,” the Alhambra in Granada and I’ve already booked an apartment in Madrid in Barrio de las Letras near The Art Triangle. The first being the place where Cervantes lived when in Madrid and the second, home to La Reina Sofia, the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. There’s a farmer’s market nearby and, since Spain holds the record of the most bars per inhabitant, I’ll be drinking vino and Cava for days!

It’s so me, I know: #MyArtEscape.

Adios!

If anyone out there in Google land is reading my blog (okay I know some of you are because I read Google Analytics), you’ll know that I end each post with a quote. Although, I have not read Don Quixote, (but may try to read at least Spark Notes before going to Spain) I have no idea in what context this quote is placed. We could read it literally and say that if you’re hungry anything tastes good, which sounds like something my British mother would have said when putting a plate of liver and boiled potatoes in front of me. No lie and probably there was some boiled carrots too. Triple ugh!

Or, knowing that Don Quixote was a dreamer, we could see life as a Quixotic journey and the experiences and knowledge we acquire along the way, are the best seasoning in the dish. Who knows?

La mejor salsa del mundo es el hambre, y como ésta no falta a los pobres, siempre comen con gusto. (The best sauce in the world is hunger and since it doesn’t leave out the poor, they always eat with pleasure.) ~ Miguel de Cervantes

Until next time, inhale curiosity, swirl spontaneity and taste the joy of travel whether that be through a book, a painting, a trip or a glass of wine. Salud!

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Please follow and like us:

Lavender, Leather and Lactic Acid

It’s been awhile since I blogged or spent time in my kitchen, apart from preparing something quick for the sake of sustenance and getting me through one work day and into the next.

I’ve missed cooking slow, reading for pleasure and writing without a deadline looming overhead.

Serrano Market at Yellow Green Farmers Market (Hollywood, FL)

Time for a brief, mental getaway where I’ll pack the car with a cooler, head over to Yellow Green Farmers Market early and then drive over to Hollywood North Beach for a run. In 45 minutes, I’m able to run a little over four miles, north to the Dania Beach pier and back down to the Hollywood Broadwalk. (Go ahead and call me slow poke, but I’m not running for time, and have found a great way to beat the deadline stress plus maintain the same dress size despite my “calories don’t matter” cooking adventures!)

Pierre et Vacances located in Cannes La Bocca. The apartment is small, but the view is big!

This weekend, my palate travels to Provence. Probably one of my most memorable holidays was spending two weeks in the French Riviera. Set southwest of Nice, Pierre et Vacances is a chain of short term rental apartments in Europe. In Cannes La Bocca, you can book a fair size apartment with a small kitchen and a large balcony that overlooks both the resort pool and crystal blue Mediterranean! Considering how close it is to fancy Cannes, it’s not that expensive. Check it out here. It’s also steps from the market where you can pick up a baguette, fresh vegetables, cheese and a rotisserie chicken.

There’s so much more to Provence than the Mediterranean and should I return, I’ll hop on a train and head northwest. There you’ll find me prancing through fields of lavender and sipping on Châteauneuf-du-Pape!

However, in the meantime I’ve found a way to bring a little Provence into my kitchen. – be forewarned that roast chicken will never be the same after you try this recipe.

Lavender from Herban Tapestry located at Yellow Green Farmers Market

A Little History of Lavender

It was impossible to find fresh lavender, but Herban Tapestry (located in Yellow Green Farmers Market) offered three options. The aroma of the less expensive one didn’t seem significant enough to add to the dish and the most expensive one seemed better for a soak in the tub. So, I chose the mid-priced offering which smelled fragrant enough to blend nicely with thyme and rosemary.

Creative Commons

The best time to find lavender in full bloom in Provence is early to mid-July, although travel forums recommend that you check closer to your trip since the season lasts only a few weeks. Jean Giono wrote: “Lavender is the soul of Provence.” It was the Romans, however, that were the first to discover how to extract the oil. Did you know that lavender derives from Latin lavare meaning to ‘wash?’

The Pairing Wine: 2015 Clos Saint Michel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Reservée

As you know, I am a wine newbie, so if you’re a wine expert and stumbled upon this blog post, pardon my simplicity. Clos Saint Michel is the name of the winery; Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the region (and translates to the Pope’s New Castle); and the term cuvée reserve refers to a higher quality wine and in this case, from vines more than fifty years old. This wine is made up of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 30% Mourvedre. The winery is situated upon the former bed of the Rhône Valley, thus the terroir (or land) is pebbly and rocky.

DYK that 95% of all wines in the Rhône come from the Southern Rhône? More than 380 million bottles per year! If you care to learn more, click here.

Aroma and Flavor Notes: I’m still grappling with tasting notes and I know that’s because of my newbi~ness. Hopefully, it all will dissipate in a year when I’m self-predicted to be at the end of the CSW textbook. When reading about this wine, I noticed the word “leather” mentioned a couple of times. Now I didn’t smell or taste leather, nor do I know if I could, as I sit comfortably on my leather sofa staring at the back like a child tempted to lick a metal pole in winter (that’s a Canadianism, I know.)

So according to Vinfolio.com, “when a critic tastes leather in a wine, he is almost always talking about the tannins. This makes sense, since the same tannins in wine are also used to tan leather. In reality, leather smells like bold red wine, not the other way around.”

Lactic Acid

Speaking of the CSW, I’m through the second round of reading chapters 1 and 2 with twenty-one more to go!  Whereas I thought from the start that I’d be diving into regions, grapes and history, I’m here stuck in acids and compounds, flashcards and brain strain.

A punny thing is that until last week, lactic acid meant to me that annoying buildup in the legs that you roll out after a run. However, in wine:

Lactic Acid is one of six different acids found in wine and created by the winemaking process. A chemical compound usually found in dairy products, this mild acid is created when a wine undergoes Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) – the process that converts Malic Acid into Lactic Acid….Lactic Acid also appears naturally in grapes during the fermentation process when the yeast converts sugar to alcohol…

Have I lost you? Well, you’ve reached the end and thanks for supporting my acidic banter. The good news is that my Provençal roast chicken is done and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape uncorked for the hour that it took me to write this post.

Follow the recipe carefully and don’t forget to add salt & pepper to the cavity of the chicken and stuff it with lemon chunks and whole cloves of garlic.
Brush olive oil onto both sides of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I’ll finish by saying that the marinade and a cavity filled with lemon chunks and whole garlic cloves produced a succulent and aromatic roast chicken. It is served with a side of roast vegetables.

Until next time, let scent transport you to another place and melt away your stress, and may indulgence be the reward for a routine of moderation.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

Please follow and like us: