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Wine Tasting Featuring Winc

The holidays are fast approaching and that means one thing – parties. I actually was invited to attend a doterra essential oil party that one of my yoga friends was hosting. We decided to do the part potluck style where everyone chips in and brings something different. I offered to bring something snacky and some wine because of course I did. I figured this would be an excellent time to bust out some new and different Winc wines for my friends to try.

When I was looking through Back to Basics, I turned to the first recipe in the Appetizers section and I knew immediately that was what I needed to make. It is the recipe for Ina’s Parmesan & thyme crackers. Yes, homemade crackers and they are SO easy you won’t believe it. Essentially they are savory shortbread cookies. Shortbread being cookies that are butter and flour with no egg. Instead of adding sugar, the recipe calls for Parmesan cheese and thyme to give them lots of flavor. The result is a buttery cracker with great salty Parmesan and herb flavor. I actually decided to use some dried thyme when I made them because it was easier. I KNOW, I KNOW – Ina would not be a fan of using a dried herb here. However, I think dried herbs are great and convenient. Not everyone has time to run to the store to pick up some fresh thyme just to use a teaspoon for a recipe. This is where dried herbs are a savior.

No cheese for these crackers - only wine...

No cheese for these crackers – only wine…

I can’t wait to make these around Christmas and mix up the herbs and possibly the cheese a little bit. In fact, I was chatting at the party with a friend who is lactose intolerant. She gave me the idea of using Pecorino cheese instead of the Parm because Pecorino is sheep’s milk cheese and doesn’t contain the lactose that Parmesan (cow’s milk) does. You’d still get the same salty bite but it would be lactose friendly. These went great with the wine. They are perfect for neutralizing the palate when switching between different wines.

Now, on to the wines. I chose 3 to bring along that I thought would be different for everyone to try. Vinyasa Chenin Blanc, To Be Honest Red Blend, and Supercluster Tourigua Nacional.

Vinyasa Chenin Blanc:

vin-YAS-a

vin-YAS-a

The only white wine I brought, it’s totally self-explanatory why it was necessary. With the attendees being my yoga teacher training peers – we HAD to have some Vinyasa! Also, this wine is particularly interesting. First, it is low in alcohol by volume – only 11.8%. I like how I say “only”, I mean, it’s less than normal. Anyway, this wine is also…vegan. Before I found out, I thought all wine was vegan. I mean, it’s fermented grapes stored in either steel or oak barrels, what animal products could be involved. I decided to do some digging. Turns out A LOT of wine is not vegan friendly. Here’s the deal: when wine is made and the grapes are crushed, there is a lot of sediment that floats around in there, especially in very young wines that haven’t been aged very long. The producers put that wine through a processed called fining before bottling. This process is basically a filtration system that removes the sediment and leaves the wine clear. I figured they’d just run it through a fine sieve, but what producers do is pour animal casein (protein) into the wine. This casein attracts the sediment and it kinda congeals into larger clumps of stuff that can more easily be removed from the wine. To achieve this, vegan friendly wines use something like activated charcoal for the fining process. KNOWLEDGE DROP! I know what you’re thinking – MIND.BLOWN. I’m not actually sure if wines will actually say they are vegan or if you need to do your research before hand. It can’t hurt to do a little research if you want to maintain a vegan friendly diet.

Ok – so the taste. Even though this is a white wine, it definitely is not sweet. I tasted citrus and interestingly enough the pith of the citrus. There was some bitterness there like you were eating an orange or drinking unsweetened tea. I think this wine would be great with some peaches or raspberries in it to counterbalance the bitterness of it. Or it could definitely be great for a sangria.

To Be Honest Red Blend by Matt Bellasai

Nothing to whine about here, tbh.

Nothing to whine about here, tbh.

Oh Matt Bellasai, how I want your job. If you followed Buzzfeed on Facebook over the past couple years, you’ve probably seen Matt’s entrance into the wine world with their segment “Wine About It”. He basically sat at his desk, slammed some wine and got buzzed, then was given a topic to complain about. I specifically remember his segment where he did the Edward 40 Hands challenge with I think Pinot Grigo. He has since moved on from Buzzfeed and started his own segment now called “To Be Honest” and the premise is the same. However NOW he has his own wine! When I saw that Winc was collaborating with him I knew I had to try it. And Matt, if you’re reading this and you need an assistant or backup – let me know!

This is a great versatile red blend as most are.  A little bit of breathing on this wine really releases the fruitiness of it. It is quite complex as it is a blend of four grapes from the Paso Robles region of California. Best part of this wine, is that it is great, easy to drink and only $13 – very affordable and would make a great gift for anyone who likes red wine.

Supercluster Tourigua Nacional

Hipster chic

Hipster chic

This is what I call the hipster of the bunch. Tourigua Nacional is a Portugese grape that is grown in Paso Robles, California and is considered to be pretty rare. What makes this wine “hipster” is how it is made. When I think of the hipster scene, I think of cold-brew coffee and microbreweries with the whole chemistry set up. They are always looking for ways to incorporate science into how they make things. This wine is just that. It is made using the “carbonic method”. Like vegan wine, I had to do some research. Essentially, the grapes are harvested from the vineyard and instead of being macerated to let the juice ferment, they are place into large drums in tact. The winemakers fill the drums with CO2 and the grapes are left to ferment in tact. Meaning the juice ferments INSIDE the grape. This is to result in a lighter bodied red-wine and it’s just a pretty cool and modern method.

This was by far my favorite. It was super easy to drink right out of the bottle with loads of fruit flavors. It also had a little bit of syrupiness to it, so it had some weight to it. A great way to describe it is how one of my favorite vloggers, Whitney Adams puts it. She says it is like drinking whole milk versus skim. You know how whole milk is thicker and silky whereas skim milk is a bit watery. Yeah, Supercluster is like whole milk in that situation. It’s so great – and I’d definitely pair that with a cheese board because it would really go well with some bold flavored cheeses.

So there you have it, three interesting wines and some delish homemade crackers to go with. As the holidays are fast approaching, you might be wondering what to get as host/hostess gifts for any upcoming parties. WINE! Especially some interesting wine that would be a great conversation starter. Plus, it gets delivered right to your door! If you want to pick some up for a discount, visit my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Until next time, happy eating and stay thirsty!

Print Recipe
Parmesean & Thyme Crackers
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 30.
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
crackers
Ingredients
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
crackers
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper and combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon of water (mine took 3 teaspoons of water total).
  2. Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a sharp knife and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

You can totally make these WAYYYYYYYYYY ahead of time and put them in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you need them, thaw them out in the fridge overnight, slice and bake.

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Fresh Mushroom Risotto

Well, Thanksgiving is officially over. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and ate all the things. I was hoping to put up a post last week, but I ended up getting sick after the holiday so I held out. This week,  I wanted to go for something a little bit different than anything we’d had for Thanksgiving so I decided to go for the Wild Mushroom Risotto featured in Back to Basics. Risotto is something that I’ve always felt is super fancy and always looks really, really good. However, I’ve tried to make it a few times before and never had any success at it. The rice would always be undercooked. I mean like still crunchy. I decided I would take my time with this one and follow the methodology that Ina laid out exactly when making it and hope that it would turn out.

img_0635The first thing that you’ll need is Arborio rice. This is the best rice to use for risotto as it is short grain and VERY starchy    which is what makes risotto creamy. You can find this in the regular grocery store in the rice isle. It’s pretty common now. If you use jasmine rice or brown rice, it will just absorb the liquid and won’t release the starch. You’ll end up with a pot of rice, which I’m sure will still taste good, but it won’t be creamy like risotto.

The one thing different that I noticed I never did before was to heat the chicken stock while I’m cooking the risotto. Essentially you’re stirring and stirring the rice while adding the stock a little bit at a time while the rice absorbs the liquid and releases its starches. In my prior experiences, I just dumped the stock in straight from the can or box. This go around I decided to take Ina’s word on it and I used my homemade stock I made a few months ago and I heated it in a separate pot on the stove over medium/low heat.  Honestly, this makes sense to me now. I took a cooking class a few years ago and the instructor told us that the quickest way to bring the temperature of a pan down is to add food to it. So, when I was making the risotto before and I was adding the room temperature stock to the rice, it was dropping the temperature of the pot and it wouldn’t cook through. If the stock is warm, then the cooking continues undisturbed and allows the rice to cook all the way through.

Passarola and Cremini

Passarola and Cremini

Now, let’s talk mushrooms. Ina recommends using dried Morel mushrooms. Morels are very rare to find fresh and if you do, they’re typically astronomically expensive. In an effort to make them more widely available, companies have started to dry them and sell them in stores. Then all you have to do is re-hydrate them in boiling water then you can use the broth as stock which adds even more flavor to whatever it is you’re cooking. I’ve done this with porcini mushrooms (and I will admit, it does add a TON of flavor to the dish) – I made some barley mushroom soup when I was on my vegan kick and it honestly gave the soup a beefy flavor. However, I had issues finding Morels except at the local Whole Foods for like $15 for a tiny little pack. I’d have had to buy two packs to make the risotto and I feel like $30 on one ingredient is a little too pretentious even for me. So, I improvised. I found some really cool oyster mushrooms that had a blue tint to them at Trader Joe’s and decided to use those and the Baby Bella (cremini) mushrooms. The risotto still turned out fantastic. If you want to use dried mushrooms, I provided an Amazon link at the bottom for some dried Porcini mushrooms and added a note at the end of the recipe on how to incorporate them into the risotto.

Beautiful Blue Oyster Mushrooms look just like a painting

Beautiful Blue Oyster Mushrooms look just like a painting

img_0636This also marked my first time working with Saffron. Just like the Morel mushrooms, saffron is a pretty expensive ingredient. It is the stamen of the a crocus flower. They have to be hand harvested and dried which is what gives them their mystique. It does add a beautiful yellow tint to the risotto and a spiciness that I can’t really explain. It is unique and really good. The good news is that you only need to use a tiny bit. This I did splurge on and got some from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find any at the store, here is a link where you can order some online. I recommend this ingredient as it is difficult to duplicate the flavor of the saffron.

Overall, this risotto turned out perfectly. It was about 30 minutes of monotonous stirring, but if you have a little bit of time, it’s totally worth it. Also, it is very hearty and can easily be turned into a fully vegetarian meal, just leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock. Also, feel free to add whatever vegetables (you can use frozen) you want to this dish. It really is pretty adaptable to whatever you have going on in the fridge.

img_0733

I had to pair this dish with some wine – the recipe called for it after all! You’ll want a dry wine, meaning not sweet. If you add a sweet wine like Moscato, it will give the rice a sugary taste. I would recommend a Sauvignon Blanc as most of them have a lot of flavor and not much residual sugar. However, I used Winc’s Passarola Vinho Branco from Portugal. Vinho Branco literally means white wine in Portuguese. It is a versatile white wine and is absolutely delicious to drink with the meal and by itself to be honest. It has a lot of citrus flavor, think lemons and limes. It is also nicely balanced between acidity and sweetness. If you like Sauv Blanc, you’ll LOVE this and the good news, it is super affordable. One thing I love about Winc is how I get to try wines from all over the world, like Portugal, that I wouldn’t have normally tried otherwise. If you want to try Winc and get a discount on your first order, use my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Leftovers!!!

Leftovers!!!

 

Link for Porcini Mushrooms:


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Print Recipe
Fresh Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 144
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Remove and discard the stems of the cremini mushrooms and rub off any excess dirt with a damp paper towel. Don't rinse them! Slice and set aside. Slice the oyster mushrooms and set aside with the cremini mushrooms.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the bacon and shallots over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of the warm chicken stock to the rice plus the saffron, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer over low heat until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock mixture, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry before adding more of the stock mixture. Continue until the rice is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. When done, the risotto should be thick and creamy and not at all dry. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot in bowls with extra cheese.
Recipe Notes

If you use the dried mushrooms, decrease the amount of chicken stock by 2 cups. Steep the mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for 30 minutes. Run the mushroom stock through a coffee filter to remove the sediment. Mix the mushroom stock with the chicken stock and simmer in pan. Add the now hydrated mushrooms in with the cremini mushrooms.

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