After a wave of procrastination forced me to create a last-minute dish for a dinner party this weekend, I learned a valuable lesson…sometimes you have to look past your prejudice to find something interesting.
The task at hand was to create a delicious appetizer to accompany the bottle of wine I was bringing to said dinner party, namely my prized bottle of 1990 Charles Heidsiek Champagne. Not only was this an exalted Champagne from one of the greatest vintages in the last century, it was also a magnum (1.5L), which cranked up the awesome factor dramatically. Needless to say I was feeling some pressure to create a suitable culinary match.
My date for the evening was my brother Cody, and although it may have made for a grander entrance to have a leggy blonde on my arm, I was happy to have my siblings culinary skills. As it was a Sunday, and as I mentioned we had procrastinated horribly in deciding on our meal, most of our favourite specialty shops were closed. With the dinner fast approaching I found myself frantically pacing the aisles of The Real Canadian Superstore, praying for inspiration to strike.
For those of you not acquainted, Superstore is a large chain of grocery stores here in Canada that is not exactly known for providing a “boutique” culinary experience. Nevertheless as I strolled past the deli I noticed a small selection of fresh pasta. Upon closer inspection I noticed a row of fresh pumpkin ravioli…game on.
We entered the party with our generic brand pasta (which we had transferred into a nondescript zip lock bag to avoid any odd looks) and nervously set to work preparing our last-minute selection. With the pasta boiling, Cody set to work pan frying a mixture of shiitake mushrooms and chopped walnuts while I set about opening the Champagne (tough work…I know). With the mushrooms and nuts on the way, we also combined a few drops of white truffle oil into a large dollop of melting butter to create the final touch. It was time for the moment of truth…would our dish end up looking like it was prepared by an in-bred catfish farmer or a four star chef…we were about to find out.
Before we discuss the dish we must first discuss the Champagne. Holy sweet Elvis in heaven…this was EPIC. I suggest everyone reading this promptly grabs a surgical scalpel, removes their spleen and sells it on the black market to buy this Champagne. I’m talking make-up sex good…I’m talking Hagen Daaz on a hangover good…yes, that good. The delicate bubbles rocket aroma’s of toasted nuts, honey, fresh apple and spiced pear from the glass. The taste buds immediately reach climax as a wave of fresh bread, baked apple, creme brulee and hazelnuts rushes over the tongue and the delicate bubbles wash across the throat like a fresh ocean mist. BAM! Although this is now 20 years old, it could easily have aged another 10. Why the hell don’t I have more Champagne in my cellar?
Now onto the food. Cody set about gingerly placing the pasta on a serving plate, finished with a sprinkle of roasted hazlenuts, a smattering of the diced mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil. The result? Drool inducing! The creamy pumpkin filling had a delicious spice and just a touch of sweetness. The ravioli had the consistency of the perfect pillow, with the earthy truffle working beautifully with the toasted hazelnuts.
Not only was the dish awesome, it was a seamless pairing with the wine. The richness of the Champagne was echoed perfectly with the lush texture of the pasta. The hazelnuts coaxed out the deep, toasty components with which age had endowed the wine. The pumpkin brought forth an exotic spice note that had gone un-noticed without the food. Perhaps most importantly, the lively acidity and voracious bubbles served to refresh the palate with each sip, leaving behind a longing for another bite.
So the lesson here? Everyone needs to drink more bubbly? Lesson #2: Look past your prejudice… behind the generic packaging and preconceived notions you might just find something special.