Monday, April 02, 2007

The Miracle of the Grill

I’ve mentioned before that my cooking skills are hardly worth writing about. Sure, I can cook a few things pretty well, and I have some recipes that I could make in my sleep—chili for instance. But when I read cooking blogs and what other wine bloggers are whipping up in their kitchens, I feel woefully inadequate.

Take for instance, my inability to grill a steak. I’ve ruined more steaks than I care to talk about. What should really be a fairly easy task has eluded me for years.

So, when I picked up a package of New York strip steaks on Saturday, my girlfriend, E, gave me a concerned look. “You always get mad when you cook steaks,” was her comment.

Yes, it’s true. I have sulked through many a lousy steak dinner, berating myself for my ineptitude.

But, it’s been awhile since my last disaster and since we are headed into prime time grilling season, I thought it was time to try again. I felt certain that I could do justice to these pretty steaks—much like Charlie Brown must feel before he tries to kick the football again.

This time the grill sabotaged me. When I put the steaks on, it was immediately apparent the grill wasn’t hot enough. I looked at E with disbelief and shame.

There was no turning back, however. I re-started the grill and the flames leapt to the correct height. The poor steaks languished in grilling limbo. Ever so slowly, they started cooking.

And when it was all over, they were perfectly medium rare. Go figure.

I had rubbed them beforehand with coarsely ground black pepper and a bit of kosher salt, and finished them with a red wine-balsamic syrup and some crumbled feta. Along with the miracle steaks, we had roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.

It was lovely to actually enjoy a steak dinner at my house. Making our dining experience even more wonderful was a bottle of d’Arenberg Shiraz-Viognier ‘The Laughing Magpie’ 2003.

Jeff Stai at Twisted Oak Winery recommended this wine to me. It is a big, serious wine that definitely needs decanting. The nose is a curious combination of blackberries and petroleum with a whiff of peaches. The flavors are dark and brooding: black fruit, tar, chocolate, coffee, cinnamon and pepper. Underneath all of that is just the slightest hint of peach, or maybe apricot. It’s very interesting to taste how red and white wine work together when blended.

The wine and food sang together in perfect harmony. The complex flavors of the meal were a perfect match for the complex wine.

I love it when a plan comes together.


el jefe said...

hi John - glad you liked the Magpie - we're releasing a similar wine later this year. It's a style I could get seriously addicted to...

John said...

Thanks for the tip, El Jefe. I picked up a bottle of the 2005 vintage this morning, and I hope when the Twisted Oak Syrah/Viognier hits the market I'll be able to get some in NC. Cheers!