For this week's weekend dinner party menu, I decided to go as Spring-centric as humanly possible while still taking this recent cold-front (which needs to get lost, stat) into account. The result was a menu so universally crowd-pleasing, impressive, and comforting, I can't imagine anyone not taking my advice on this one.
And if you're not taking my advice (which is positively psychotic), you'll be sure to take Jon's. Jon Troutman, Senior Editor of Cork'd, is back with more genius wine pairings that I'm itching to try with these recipes. His explanations of the pairings totally triggered excitement-induced salivation. And I don't doubt they'll do the same for you.
Et maintenant, le menu, mes chéries...
Inevitably, ramps were going to make an appearance on Eat and Greet. For if they didn't, I feared you'd question my credibility. Anyone who has any level of interest in food, freaks for ramp season. And since it's upon us and quickly fleeting, let's grab some while we still can and whip up a crostini, k?
Crostini with Ramps, Ricotta, and Mint
Recipe Courtesy of Yours Truly
1 baguette, sliced into rounds, toasted, and rubbed with garlic while still warm
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup finely chopped ramps (grilled scallions could be subbed here)
1 Tbsp. or so of chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients (except for baguette) in a small bowl and smear onto crostini.
"Nothing says spring time like farmers market ramps! Because ramps, along with ricotta and mint, are such flavorful foods, you'll want a flavorful wine to stand up to it. Gruner Veltliner (aka GruVee) is a perfect option, and something that has seen a huge spike in popularity over the last few years. The best examples have a spiciness to them, sufficient acid levels to stand up to most foods, and are capable of laying down in the cellar for 10+ years. Here's one highly scored GruVee from a well known, well distributed winery." 2006 Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Gobeslburger
Although Carbonara doesn't really need a recipe (it's hard to screw this up), here's one from Food & Wine as a guideline. Feel free to substitute the pancetta (or guanciale if you can swing it) with bacon which will add a great smokiness to the dish.
Recipe Courtesy of Anne Quatrano for Food & Wine
1 pound spaghetti
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/8-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (3 ounces), plus more for serving
freshly ground pepper
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and cream. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute.
Add the spaghetti to the skillet. Cook over low heat, tossing until coated. Slowly add the reserved pasta cooking water and beaten egg yolks. Toss until coated with a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Add the 1 cup of Parmesan and season with pepper. Transfer to bowls and serve, passing extra parmesan.
For the salad, combine baby arugula and some chopped radicchio in a large bowl. The dressing is as follows: whisk 1/2 Tbsp. orange marmalade, one clove grated garlic, 1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. dijon mustard. Whisk in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to taste. Drizzle over greens, toss, and serve.
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or better yet, when it Italy, drink like Italians. That's why the perfect wine to pair with Spaghetti Carbonara is a "Super Tuscan"; a blended wine from the Tuscany region of Italy, typically composed of their native grape, Sangiovese, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These wines are big, rich, and concentrated, refusing to be overpowered by the fatty pork." 2007 Falesco
Vitiano (I've had this one! Proof here and evidenced in photo below)
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberries in Cassis
Recipe Courtesy of Tamasin Day-Lewis for Bon Appetit
We know I'm not big on sweets, but I can get down with a custard or cream-based dessert. Way down. And Panna Cotta is no exception. The strawberries in Cassis (black currant liqueur) just put it right over the edge. If you think you won't use Cassis outside of this recipe (think about all the Kir's you can enjoy this Summer), feel free to use an aged balsamic with a sprinkle of sugar instead.
"Ahh, dessert wines. These are totally overlooked in American culture, largely because we over indulge on appetizer, main courses, and the tables wines to match. Unleash your inner sweet tooth. This Panna Cotta presents the perfect opportunity to get down with some Auslese Riesling. Auslese is a classification used for German and Austrian wines, which essentially means that the grapes were left on the vine an extra long time, becoming super ripe and concentrated. The resulting wines are a hair sweet but with solid acid levels. What does all this mean for you? Go slow, because one glass can easily lead to a second or third. Is that such a bad thing, though?" 2003 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnnenuhr Auslese Riesling
The answer is, no. As long as you're drinking plenty of water alongside, of course.
Make this meal for the people you care about this weekend. They'll stick with you forever. I know it.