Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aussie Rules Football...

...nah, not in the way you're thinking. Not in the sense of the rugby-like game, featuring a bunch of dudes in short- 60-year old man running a marathon short- shorts, knocking out each others' teeth and having the gaul to actually kick the ball around with their feet. This is football, folks. Feet should have nothing to do with it.

I'm talking about watching the Super Bowl (sorry..."The Big Game") with a bunch of chow and some wines to go with said chow. Being the generous blokes that the are, the folks at Jacob's Creek (a monolith of Australian wine who probably had the budget to part with four bottles) provided to me- as samples- some vino to match up with treats worthy of five hours of pomp & circumstance, underwhelming commercials, geriatric rock stars, and the occasional snap of American football.

Essential booze safely procured, the matter of food became priority number one. With all due respect to the popular choices: greasy burgers, hot dogs, and other meats of unknown providence, we wanted to gussy up the dinner table, while still sticking to- well, not junk food, but I guess finger foods. Stuff you can put in your pockets, wrapped in a napkin, to be smuggled into the stadium or movie theater (WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT WITH CLAMS IN BROTH).

Speaking of those, we paired the Pinot Grigio with Littleneck Clams steamed in said Pinot Grigio. Some butter, pureed shallots, smashed garlic, a crisp white wine, salt, a little pepper, and parsley combined with some well-scrubbed little gems is probably my death-row meal. Even better than the clams is the insane broth- now infused with the briny juices from within the previously-unopened little buggers- that is sopped up with crusty bread. As Mario Batali said (via Bill Buford in the foodie-must-read, Heat), "it's about the sauce, not the little snot of meat in the one is interested in the little snot of meat!"

Moving onto the dry Jacob's Creek Reserve Riesling- a variety notoriously high in acid- I wanted to turn the delightfully-fattening, traditional football fare of bratwurst on its head (with hopes that the acidity would counter-balance the tasty fats). We popped the sausage out of the casing (which is always a creepily erotic affair), formed it into patties, and griddled them until just cooked through. Topped with sauerkraut simmered in Samuel Smith's Lager and good hot mustard, these may have been the toast of the tailgate. As Riesling is one of Germany's two greatest exports- the other being sausage- this seemed like a perfect match. While I wasn't a huge fan of the wine by itself, it did "meat" expectations as part of the pairing.

For the Pinot Noir- a wine designed for food, something not-too-hefty-but-not-too-light seemed logical. And chicken wings always seem logical, under any circumstances. Football game? Chicken wings. Tornado warning? Chicken wings. Criminal court sentencing? Chicken wings, preferably before, as they don't serve them in jail. Anyway, the fruity Pinot worked with the slightly sweet, slightly spicy wings (some traditional, some Asian-spiced), and the ample acidity of this grape countered the fattiness of both wing and tasty dipping situation.

Alas, something was missing. Pull out your animal consumption checklist: Feathered friends? Check. Tasty sea creatures? Check. The pig, [according to Bourdain] a noble and magical animal? Check. Beef...

...check. Paired with the JC Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (a grape which has been one of Australia's most notable exports), braised short rib tacos seemed to make sense. The day before, I did a quick-pickle of some old onions I had lying around, briefly simmering them in cider vinegar, sugar, salt, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, a dried chile, and a bay leaf. Jarred and left in the fridge overnight, they still had a crunch to them, but the sweet tang worked with the beef: boneless short rib, braised in a combination of pureed mire poix w/ garlic, water, tomato paste, Cabernet, and spices (cumin, black pepper, red pepper, coriander, Mexican oregano, thyme) until it shredded apart with a fork. Rich and tasty, and great with the wine.

All in all, a fine time, best summed up by a video featuring low-resolution photos, snippets of amateur video, and- of course- underwhelming didjeridoo manipulation. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oy. Oy. Oy.

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