I’m smiling because today I’m in the spotlight on food52. Thanks Amanda and Merrill!
And on to today’s business: a story of loss and laughter and why there are very many reasons people say ‘don’t go shopping on an empty stomach’. Look, I’ve experienced them many a time. But yesterday, I added a new one to the mix while shopping at Sligro. So, I was hungry and tired and anxious to go home to some great Italian food (and no, not my husband’s cooking but our friend’s)!
I’m standing in the oil & vinegar aisle, in search of some rice bran oil and olive oil. Grab a couple of bottles, get my trolley and go. All the way to the cheese and sausage section, hoping I’ll find some of my missing links. But no joy. A few minutes later a lady walks up to me and says, ‘Please can I have my trolley?’ I slowly raise my eyes, first to hers…. just to see what she’s on about. She does look pretty serious…maybe even a bit suspicious. Then, I lower the same viewing objects down my hand. The sight that confronts me is nothing I’ve purchased today. My apples and tangerines, cello tape and turkey breast are suddenly transformed into …toilet paper. I’m in shock…and with swift apology, I hand her the cart, honestly babbling about not putting anything in it…yet. And then I go in search of mine, which I find…thankfully, my bag and all else intact.
And then I start laughing, so hard…because I’m hungry! And because only a few weeks before I watch this exact scene play out at my local supermarket. In the baking section, a lady walks up and down selecting items to purchase. She finishes and strolls off. As do I, in the same direction. Minutes later a gentleman accosts her saying, ‘please can I have my trolley back?’. She looks in amazement and then we all burst out laughing. He says ‘you’re welcome to have the trolley…if you pay for all the things in it’. It was a humorous occasion…. unlike mine.
I mean I had more to lose, my bag for a start. She didn’t smile much, even when I bumped into her again while I sought some Beaujolais nouveau. And apologised again. And then while we both paid at the till…. and I saw the huge bill that could have been mine – toilet rolls, bread and something or the other.
Hmmmm, all’s well that end’s well and on to my offerings for the day.
Please don’t take my word at all for it for I know only a little bit about wine, not being a good drinker and all. In fact, my only expertise with the liquid is poaching pears…and that is something. For the rest, a sip or two ….a month or year is just fine by me!
Saying all this, as soon as I read about Beaujoulais nouveau on Dining Dish, I knew I would hunt it down. Of course, I knew I was sure to find it at Sligro, if nowhere else. Now if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about Beaujolais nouveau, just ponder on the next few sentences:
Because of its release date – a week before Thanksgiving, it has become to Thanksgiving what Champagne is to New Year’s Eve!
If like me (when I first read of it) you know nothing about this wine, …become an expert in 60 seconds with this facts
- Beaujolais [BOE-zjoh-lay] Nouveau is always released the third Thursday of November, regardless of the start of the harvest. This year it was released on the 19th of November!
- The region of Beaujolais is 34 miles long from north to south and 7 to 9 miles wide. There are nearly 4,000 grape growers who make their living in this picturesque region just north of France’s third largest city, Lyon
- All the grapes in the Beaujolais region must be picked by hand. These are the only vineyards, along with Champagne, where hand harvesting is mandatory.
- Gamay (Gamay noir à Jus Blanc) is the only grape permitted for Beaujolais. While certain California wineries may label their wine “Gamay Beaujolais” this is not the same grape variety as what is grown in France, and is quite different in taste and growing habits.
- Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be made from grapes grown in the 10 crus (great growths) of Beaujolais-only from grapes coming from the appellations of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages.
- Beaujolais Nouveau owes its easy drinkability to a winemaking process called carbonic maceration—also called whole berry fermentation. This technique preserves the fresh, fruity quality of the wine, without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins.
- Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk young-in average vintages it should be consumed by the following May after its release. However, in excellent vintages (such as 2000) the wine can live much longer and can be enjoyed until the next harvest rolls around.
- Serve Beaujolais Nouveau slightly cool, at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit-the wine is more refreshing and its forward fruit more apparent than if you serve it at room temperature.
- Approximately 1/3 of the entire crop of the Beaujolais region is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.
- The region of Beaujolais is known for its fabulous food. The famed Paul Bocuse Restaurant is just minutes from the heart of Beaujolais, as is Georges Blanc’s eponymous culinary temple. These great restaurants have plenty of Beaujolais on their wine lists. This quintessential food wine goes well with either haute cuisine or Tuesday night’s meat loaf.
When I saw the bottle, there was nothing exceptional about it save for the bright colours on the label. On investigation, the super-knowledgeable man at Sligro looking after the wine section told me that this was the best crop in 40-50 years because the summer weather was perfect – warm and sunny with below average rainfall. As a result, there was an early harvest and by September, the wine was already bottled!
The guy at Sligro said ‘this is a wine you buy to drink. This weekend. Not next year or the year after but now’. He advised storing it till no later than March for by then, the second ferment would have started, ruining the fresh, fruity, summery flavours. When I asked him if I could cook with it…he was a tad reluctant and then said ‘well, for a dish of 20-30 minutes cooking time, yes…longer – no’! If I didn’t already have jars of poached pears in the fridge, I would have tried it. Instead, we’re going to drink it. Soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Now on to poached pears…. in white wine, and in red wine. This is about as easy as it comes! And all because it is the season for cooking pears (stoofpeertjes, dutch translation). As you can imagine, pears are cheap – I got 5kg of small Gieser Wildeman pears for 5 euros! And fresh as can be!
Take some cooking pears, peel and core them. Leave the stalks on to look fashionable.
Next? Get a large pot; pour in a bottle of wine. Red or White.
Are you a white wine buff? Then toss in a cinnamon stick, a split vanilla pod, a cup…or two of sugar (white or brown), strips of orange and lemon peel from 1/2 of the fruits and a pinch of the best saffron you can lay your hands on with some water. Add 8 large pears or 20 small ones. Bring to the boil and then turn down heat and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, till the pears are soft, according to you!
Store in (kilner) jars, syrup, pears and all…. and use as necessary. Perfect cold, warm, in cereals and just on its own. Give little jars as gifts…. if you want. Or save them all…for you.
Now my absolute fave – red wine poached pears. Perfect on its own. With venison. In cereal, to ‘gift’ to friends and exactly the same procedure as the white…. without the water and the saffron. If it is not sweet enough, just add more sugar…no rules, no punishments…nothing. Purely for your pleasure!
I have made it with red wine alone and with a wine-water mix and I find that the colour is not as dark and vibrant when water is added, and the poaching syrup takes a bit longer to get syrupy (with just wine though, it means that you have to continuously turn the pears around to coat but then you end up with a rich, thick, super glossy syrup that I can taste…this very minute in a tarte tatin!).
Anyhow, both taste delicious. I used a great wine (thank you, husband) – young and fruity (and not that expensive either at 4 euros a bottle) but it was AMAZING, and I think this makes ALL the difference, If I can, I’ll try it with the Beaujoulais nouveau and compare results. Anyhow this tempranillo is a perfect base for the pears– young, fruity and rich in colour…from the Navarra region of Spain, which is famous for many things – including sausages I had in my Tapas workshop!
So if you’re looking for a liquid companion this week, tray the BN (and remember I’m no expert) – if only for the novelty value. And for a quick, make ahead dessert….look no further than the pears. Serve with some crème fraiche or even ice-cream, a drizzle of sauce…or make a painless tarte tatin – pears in pan, topped with store-bought pastry, into oven. End of story.