Monday, November 19, 2012

Exploring Wine: A Thanksgiving Pairing

I almost bored myself to tears last week as I wrote about suggested wine pairings for your Thanksgiving feasts. I was going argue why the body, structure, and fruitiness of a Pinot Noir would be perfect with your succulent turkey and cranberry sauce. But then, I thought better of it and instead I’m going to tell you a little story about pairing wine with the holiday meal.

It’s 10am. I’ve just finished serving my family a generous meal of scrambled eggs, biscuits, ambrosia, fresh coffee, orange juice, and applewood smoked bacon. I need the bacon for Brussels sprouts I’m roasting later in the day. So I do a pre-Thanksgiving breakfast feast. I can’t just cook bacon at 9am with a house full of people and not expect them to eat it all before I can say, “that’s for later.” I buy double what I need and accept the fact that I will also be sneaking little bits of it all day.

After cleaning the kitchen, I sit down to finish my second cup of coffee and go over my lists and recipes to make sure I start cooking everything on time, and in the right order. My sous chef/mother notices I have no oranges or sugar. She sends dad out for them while she starts peeling apples for a pie. I ask for Sucanat to try and keep the meal as dairy-free, organic, and non-processed as possible.

He comes back with a pound of refined white sugar, along with Grand Marnier and champagne to use to kill off the orange juice; because we obviously can’t just have orange juice sitting around. My sister decides it’s too much for her and goes for a run. My dad abandons his new mimosa making duties to accompany her. Gman is already out. My coffee is down to the last bitter, cold sip.

I start on the Brussels sprouts, rinsing, chopping, and roasting them with apples and bacon (which barely made it into the dish). My sous chef and I decide there is no time like the present to sample the good wine I carefully choose to compliment our dinner. My, my do I love Pinot Noir. It’s the Goldilocks of wine - not as heavy as a Cab or Malbec, not as light as a Nebbiolo or Chianti - and it goes down so easily too, especially while one is cooking. As soon as the Brussels sprouts are in the oven, we start the cranberry sauce. The Grand Marnier doesn’t go to waste, and we pour a little into the cranberries and orange zest. Man, the wine is so good. It makes everything fragrant and I pat myself on the back for such a fine selection.

More biscuits, and some cornbread go into the oven as the Brussels sprouts finish up. I start boiling the potatoes and cook the sausage for the dressing. Everyone returns. We open a second bottle then nearly burn our fingers sampling the Brussels sprouts straight off the pan. “Yes,” I say, complimenting myself out loud, “the Pinot Noir picks up the bits of bacon nicely without over-powering the apples”. My sister rolls her eyes.

Then I realize that the turkey roast is still chilling in the fridge. It’s now 2pm and the side dishes are near completion. I ignore everything that Giada and Ina have taught me and rub a bunch of butter all over the cold roast, and then dump some salt and pepper on it. It’s thrown into the oven about 50 degrees hotter than noted on the packaging. We consider cutting up and grilling it instead, then realize the grill is out of gas and its also 40 degrees outside.

Slowly the day slips through my fingers. Once everything is finished in the kitchen, we are forced to drink cheap Chardonnay with the turkey (which wasn’t a total loss) instead of the hand-selected Pinot since my sous chef and I finished that off, oops. But no one seems to notice or mind. We end the night with a rousing game of Apples to Apples. Then devour some apple pie and vanilla ice cream.

Nothing was exactly as I prepared for in my head the weeks leading up. In the moment, I was stressed more than I was calm. I was even resentful that I couldn’t go for a run too, but really, I was relieved to get some quiet time to do one of my favorite things: sit in the kitchen with my mom, drink the finest wine we can afford while pretending to be focused on the food, but really we’re just gossiping until everyone returns and the moment is gone.

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