This past weekend saw us digging into the cooler chest (AKA Freezer), for some down home slow braised ribs. We have spoken before about how we braise ribs. Ribs are a cut of meat with a fair amount of connective tissue, and so it needs a long simmer. With that in mind, I powered up my Le Creuset want to be, and started to brown the ribs three at a time. A heads up, NEVER overcrowd the pan, because if you stuff the pan with meat, so that you get the browning done faster, you will have stewed meat – not browned meat. Stewed meat looks flabby and almost boiled, instead of crisp and brown. Once done with the three rounds of browning, I had to clean up the mess. Another aside, I always make a mess when I am browning meat. When the meat browns, I leave the pot open (again to minimize the potential for stewing), and that inevitably leads to some fat existing the pot. So, after cleaning up the mess, I dropped in three large sliced onions and I let them brown in the leftover fat (which I strained out of course ahead of time). Once the onions were nice and brown, I dropped in 6 or so ounces of tomato paste, and let them get brown, to enrich the flavor. Once the paste turned brown, I gave the whole pot a nice mix and dropped in two cups of whiskey.
<Slight diversion again> :-). Whiskey is not Whisky which is not Mash. Yep, Whisky is not a simple term. In the 1870s, Scottish Whisky was flooding the market, and most of them were poor quality, while American Whisky was better quality (wow what a 100 years does). So American and Irish distilleries, threw in an extra e to make it Whiskey, and something different from the inferior Scottish distillers. Well, to keep with tradition, Scottish whisky is still called Whisky, while American grain spirit, is called Whiskey. American Mash is a spirit that is made of either corn or rye, while the grain is still called Whiskey. Anyway, I happen to have used Canadian Whisky, but any grain whisky would have worked. Sweet mash Whiskey would have wrecked the dish, so keep away from the sweet stuff. </end of second diversion>
Anyway, once the onions and tomato paste are browned, I threw in two cups of Canadian Whisky (maybe a bit more), and then returned the browned ribs to the pot. The whisky took the liquid level to a bit less than half way up. I added water until I covered 50% of the meat. Braising is NOT boiling, so please leave a fair amount of space for the meat to breathe and take in moisture, while releasing its own fat, while also allowing for its juices to intermingle with the whisky.
What comes out, if left to cook in an oven for a couple of hours at 350, is meat that falls off the bone and a sauce that could be thickened with a Roux of some sort, but we passed, as the liquid was thick enough for our interests.
With such nice fatty meat in a heavy sauce as our main course, I reached for a wine that could go stroke for stroke with its depth and flavor. I was sent a bottle of 2007 Bodega Flechas de Los Andes Gran Malbec, and I thought that now would be a good time to try it out.
The last time I tried this bottle, it was at the 2009 International Food & Wine Festival. I semi-panned the wine because of its extreme extraction and tannic flavors. Well, that is one of the cons of tasting wine at a wine tasting where the wine being served is not in a controlled environment. So when I opened this bottle I knew what to expect, and I was not surprised by the extracted and tannic nature of the wine. However, I am happy to say that the wine does have a second life, and after the wine has sucked in enough air, the wine’s extraction calms a bit, the tannins integrate – leaving just enough to bite back, and the fruit finally comes through out of the cloud cigar smoke to give you a feeling of the wine’s true potential. This is definitely a young wine, and one that will smooth out over time, but not one that really works for me, as it is a bit unbalanced to start and one that is still “over the top” when all is said and done. Still a fun wine to try with a gang of friends, and be sure to open this at the beginning of the meal, take a taste, then decant it, and try it again at the end of the meal.
The wine note follows below:
2007 Bodega Flechas de Los Andes Gran Malbec – Score: B+
This is one of those wines that takes a long time to become ready. This is a young wine that clearly in need of time and/or air. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is screaming hot initially, after the heat dissipates, ripe plum, cherry, and cranberry fruit comes through, along with spice and pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off over tannic, unbalanced, without direction, and all around super extracted. Those comments are very much in line with what I felt the last time I tasted this during the Herzog Wine Event in Oxnard. However, once it gulps in enough air, like an oxygen starved diver, the wine turns into a balanced and mouth coating wine with cranberry, plum, and cherry flavors. The mid palate is still tannic, but not over the top, with balanced acidity, and mounds of spice. The finish is long and lingers on the palate after the wine is gone, with a cloud of dense cigar smoke, residual tannins, ripe plums, and distinct spice notes. Please, please open the bottle, take a quick taste to mostly get the wine under the bottle’ shoulders (which are tapered in this heavy and upscale looking bottle), and allow this wine to breathe for a good many hours. Otherwise, decant it and enjoy in a couple of hours. Either way, this wine can handle about anything you throw at it. This wine will not win an award for elegance or style. It is more of a leather bound brute, with an initial harsh attitude, that turns into a sweet smile. It carries an alcoholic breath, extracted/Hollywood exterior, all while chomping down on a massive and lit cigar. It is an acquired taste, but a fun wine with a group of folks.