October 26, 2009

My First Wine Review!

*Just a forewarning, I am no expert on wines. I'm doing these posts to further my own wine knowledge. I know a bit more than the average person since we're required to take a food and wine class for my major. A semester long of wine lectures, food presentations, and to finish...a food and wine tasting. Damn, life in HTM is hard. Okay, I'll stop bragging and get back to the review.

Fetzer Vineyards, Valley Oaks 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Hopland, Mendocino County, California)

I'm usually not a Cabernet fan. Most are known for being full bodied and can be a bit too peppery/spicy for my young wine drinking tongue. Upon first pour there's a distinctive vanilla/berry aroma. This cab is very smooth with an amazing burst of juicy black cherry. If you take a second to let it sit in your mouth, you'll also get a subtle vanilla and chocolate flavor. As with most Cabernets, there's a nice but fairly mellow spice and oak taste.

I also love this wine because it's "earth friendly." Fetzer has succeeded in becoming a carbon neutral company. 100% of the energy they use comes from renewable resources(think solar and wind energy). Their vines are also certified free of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Snaps for them!

You can pick this wine up at most grocery stores for under $10.

Hooked on Butternut Squash

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. The sun here in San Francisco finally awakes from it's summer slumber and I get to breathe in the crisp clear air. More importantly, fall foods such as apples and root vegetables are in season. My most craved vegetables this time of year are winter squashes(acorn and spaghetti may soon make an appearance), simply roasted in the oven. I'm not sure when my obsession with butternut squash began. But once I fell, I fell HARD. It's one of my go-to fall comfort foods and just one of them goes a loooong way when you're cooking for one. Once you get past the peeling and dicing(and trust me, I know it can be hard to get a knife through one of those bad boys without chopping off one or a few of your fingers) you'll find yourself smitten.

Ina Garten's roasted butternut squash risotto is probably the most common concoction coming out of my kitchen since moving to San Francisco about 2 years ago. I half the recipe and still have leftovers for the next two days.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (Trader Joe's has AMAZINGLY flavorful chicken stock)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads (optional...I don't know of any college student who has this just lying around)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

After peeling and dicing the squash, toss it with the olive oil and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Put it in a 400 degree oven and it should be soft and slightly browned right when the risotto is finished cooking(about 25 minutes).

Meanwhile, put your chicken stock in a small sauce pan, cover, and leave it on low heat over the stove.

To start the rice, heat the olive oil and butter to sweat the shallots. DO NOT substitute regular onions, trust me, it's not the same. The shallots give a distinctive sweetness and more flavor than regular onions. While the shallot is cooking, go ahead and bust out the white wine, pour a glass full for yourself :) then measure your 1/2 cup for the dish. I recommend a dry chardonnay or even a full bodied pinot gris. Next, put your rice in and toss it around until it's covered in oil and happy looking. Ina uses pancetta in her dish but I never really have that just lying around(although maybe I should?). The dish is still awesome without it but I'm sure the pancetta would be divine. Once the shallot and rice are translucent, pour in the wine and let it soak up all of the liquid. Make sure you stir to develop the starch (that's what will make your risotto creamy!). Next, add the chicken stock a couple ladles at a time and stir to make sure the rice isn't clinging to the bottom of the pan. Once the stock is absorbed, continue to add more stock a couple ladles at a time and stir until the rice is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, roasted butternut squash, and if you're feeling crazy, a pad or two of butter. Depending on how salty your stock and cheese are, season with salt and a dash of pepper to taste.