Monday, August 20, 2007

Beef Carpaccio

I absolutely love Beef Carpaccio. It is a perfect meal for meat lovers in this triple digit heat. Kelly thinks that I make the best Beef Carpaccio in the world. I won't argue :)

First, I start with the best quality beef I can find. Normally I would go to Charlie's Meat Market, 4790 Summer Avenue 38122. They have a great selection, excellent quality and a true "butcher" atmosphere. However, with Sunday being my only day off I went to Fresh Market. I've experimented with a number of different cuts of meat for this recipe such as tenderloin and sirloin, but I've found that strip steak works the best. It has the most flavor and best texture and mouthfeel.

Next, I coat the steak with a heavy blend of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. If you've had the steak in the fridge for sometime, let it come to room temperature before searing. Get a medium-sized skillet SCREAMING hot. Add enough olive oil to barely coat the pan and place in the steaks. After 2 minutes check them, if there is a nice brown crust flip them over. After both sides are crusty and brown place both of the steaks on a plate and in the freezer for 5 minutes. Placing the meat in the freezer makes it firm up and cool down quickly. Take the steaks out and slice them into 1/4 inch slices. Place them on a sheet of plastic wrap and cover with another sheet. Using a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle which is what I normally use), bash the hell out of the meat until it is very thin. Arrange the thin steak on a serving platter. In a mixing bowl, toss one package of pre-rinsed baby spinach or arugula with the juice of half a lemon. Drizzle the beef with truffle oil, scatter with coarse sea salt (I prefer Maldon, which you can buy at Mantia's, 4856 Poplar Ave. 38117, along with the truffle oil), top with spinach and shaved Parmiggiano-Reggiano. I like to use a vegetable peeler to get nice cheese shavings of the block of Parmiggiano. The best accompaniment with the Carpaccio is thick slices of grilled rustic Italian or French bread.

To pair with the Carpaccio I poured a 2002 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina. The supple tannins and sweet black fruit paired nicely with the earthiness of the beef and truffle. The full body and nice acidity cut through the texture of the beef. Delicious.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sunday is For Eating & Drinking

It never ceases to amaze me how much my friends and I love to cook great food and pair it with great wine. This past Sunday, Patrick, Sabrina and I got together to cook, drink wine and talk about what pairs best with what wine. As we like to do, we allowed what was fresh and beautiful to influence what our meal would be. Everything except for the proteins. Patrick was curious to know how a pork roast would pair with a 1997 Felsina Chianti Classico he had. And I wanted to see how my 2002 Shea Wine Cellars Shea Estate Pinot Noir would do up against a roast duck. These two meats obviously needed some overnight treatments. My duck laid in a brine of water, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, star anise and a dash of balsamic vinegar. This overnight bath helped to tenderize and impart good flavor. Patrick nestled his pork loin in a dry spice rub, garlic and olive oil. At Fresh Market Sabrina found beautiful shrimp, bay scallops and crab for a luscious seafood bisque to pair with a 2006 Zaca Mesa Viognier.

We started off with a mixed olive tapenade that I prepared at home and spread on crisp homemade crostini. This paired harmoniously with a 2005 Cantina Del Taburno Falanghina. The brininess of the olive and sharpness of the garlic contrasted nicely with the minerality and bright fruit and acidity of the wine. Next was super fresh salad of avocado, mixed greens and fresh pink grapefruit. Gracias Sabrina. This zippy salad paired amazingly well with the 2005 Alois Kracher Pinot Gris. I've never had a botrytis affected pinot gris, my concept of what a pinot gris can be is now truly changed forever. Everyone in Memphis should taste this wine.
Next was the seafood bisque and Zaca Mesa Viognier. The wine was a cool pale silver-gold hue with a nose of apricot and rosehip tea. The fresh oily texture, creaminess and apricot fruit paired wonderfully with the creamy richness of the soup. The sweet crab and scallops brought out more fruit and acidity in the wine. Lovely.
We retrieved the duck from the oven, nicely browned and crisp and perfectly done. The Shea Pinot Noir that I paired with it still seemed too young. Even though I wished it was ready to drink, it does mean that Oregon can produce serious, age-worthy pinot noir. It had a deep ruby-purple color with a nose of fennel, licorice and black cherry. The palate of black fruit, olive and bright full acidity cut through the richness of the duck and played off its gaminess. I re-tasted it with the olive tapenade and it was stunning together, an explosion of olive!
The '97 Felsina and Patrick's beautifully roasted pork loin was heavenly. The herb and smokiness of the pork and its hit of garlic blended seamlessly with the flavors and supple textures of the perfectly aged Chianti Classico. The varied terroirs throughout Italy produce such beautiful wines that can't be reproduced anywhere else in the world. The meal and wine was incredible. I don't think I ate again for a few days.