Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Beauty of Leftovers

I’ve been tasting and teaching a fair bit lately. No more than usual, but for some reason I realized last night that I’d accumulated more than my typical number of bottles in the kitchen fridge. And most of them, despite the season, were richer reds. Which meant that I had the perfect excuse to grill up some hamburgers (on a stovetop griddle pan, of course: I live in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, and there are ordinances against setting up a grill outside my building) and drink the remaining bottles with my wife.

It was a great way to start off the week, and definitely took the sting out of a Monday night.

Dinner was nothing fancy—that would defeat the purpose of making burgers—but it was prepared with the wines in mind. The hamburgers, for example, were made with fresh-ground beef that I picked up at Reading Terminal Market, 10 blocks away. And they were topped with a couple of strips of locally produced bacon and stuffed with a little bit of blue cheese. Not enough to dominate the flavor, but just the right amount to lend the meat an added sense of sweetness and funk when the cheese melted from the heat of the cooking. Balsamic caramelized onions provided a sweet bite, a fresh-baked sesame brioche roll a hint of nuttiness, and a rosemary focaccia roll a perfumed herbal quality.

Because the burger itself was already more than a mouthful, I decided to include the tomatoes on the side, as part of a tomato-parsley-and-herbes-de-Provence salad, as opposed to adding yet another layer to an already hefty burger. And instead of fries, I made a quick potato-and-local-string bean salad.

The beauty of a meal like this was the wide range of flavors and textures, which meant that I had all the latitude in the world when it came to the wine pairings.

All of the highlights were wines left over from classes I’ve recently taught at The Wine School of Philadelphia, and included the Bergerie l’Hortus Pic St.-Loup 2006, which picked up the minerality of the beef; the Borsao Garnacha “Tres Picos” 2007, whose ripe berry fruit and well-integrated spice sang with the onions and the herbs; and the Icardi Barbaresco “Montubert” 2004, which, though it would have been better had I added the sautéed mushrooms I was planning on, was still delicious. (Of course it was—it’s Barbaresco!)

The lesson here is simple, and one that I cannot stress enough: Have fun with your food and wine pairings, try combinations you might not have before, and, above all else, enjoy the juice in your glass. Because any time you’re drinking something that brings you pleasure is a cause for celebration, and can make even humble hamburgers memorable.


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