I have all kinds of different motivations about what to make and how to prepare it, when I have time to do some cooking. Sometimes that makes for some weird — and occasionally fortuitous — combinations of food and wine.
Tonight’s dinner is an example. It was my first time to cook in three days. One motivation was to explore the capabilities of the “professional” mandoline I bought last year.
Another motivation is often “use what you’ve got available”. Cooking for just myself, the logical choice was to play with the julienne settings on the mandoline and to make matchstick potatoes. A single Russet potato would suffice, and I also had some virgin olive oil (not ‘extra virgin’) in a jar from previous use.
I started with the smaller julienne, and I found those crisped up nicely but barely made a mouthful, so I switched to the larger size, which was still pretty small, compared to restaurant french fries. I fried the larger potatoes twice, finishing at a higher temperature, approaching 360º F. to crisp them up. I drained the oil on paper towels, added salt and pepper, and set aside.
Next, it was time to explore a new ingredient. As a recovering omnivore, I find that I still have a hankering for dishes using pork shoulder, such as pulled pork sandwiches and carnitas tacos and burritos. A few weeks ago I found a packaged item that intrigued me at Whole Foods: Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, from Upton Foods. I had bought it then, because I had seen on Facebook a homemade version of jackfruit, prepared as pulled pork sandwiches. A friend of mine from Jamaica had posted the article. Starting with raw jackfruit was labor-intensive, so I was curious to see if the packed version was adequate.
After exploring Upton’s website for recipes, I had some ideas, so I made up my own concoction. I sautéed chopped onion and garlic scapes (regular garlic will work fine) in olive oil, salt and pepper, until tender. Then I chopped up the greens of two scallions, and I added them to the onions and garlic, after moving them to a separate bowl.
I opened the package of Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, pulled out half of the contents, and sautéed in the remaining olive oil for 10 minutes. As the skillet dried out, I added water a couple of times, which helped soften the jackfruit so it could be shredded, and it made the result more tender, to resemble the texture of pulled pork when pulled apart with a fork. The result was very appealing in taste and looks:
Last (as usual) was the wine selection. The sweet and sour nature of the sauce, and the unusual meat-like texture of the fruit was a real challenge, so my choices covered almost all the bases. First was a Grenache Gris white grape, from Utah, of all places! Why not? After all, what precedents do we have for this dish? Verdict: quite good.
Next, I tried the Vermentino di Sardegna, which went so well with my pasta dish earlier in the week. Unfortunately, a short taste from my glass was enough to conclude: Blah!! Not even close!
Finally, Jeff at Farfalle in Concord had raved about Pecchenino, a Dolcetto from Dogliani, so I figured that would be a long shot as a red wine to try. Result: BINGO! Perfetto.
Overall, the meal was a success, and I learned a bunch about new food, grapes, and compatibility of flavors. Ersatz pulled pork sandwiches with Barbara’s pickles on a grilled hamburger rolls or Ciabatta is next!