“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—December 2020

By the time you read this first article in a series of “Best of” offerings, Thanksgiving will be just a fleeting memory, but I’m pretty sure many of you would have had a delicious homemade meal accompanied by an amazing Pinot Noir which, in my house, is the wine of choice to accompany turkey.

With the help of George Cravens who, in better non-COVID times, coordinated the Mini-Tasting gatherings, and with the flavors of the start of the holiday season still lingering in my mind, I am pleased to share with you in the coming months, while awaiting in-person gatherings again, some of the award-winning recipes and wine pairings from the recent past.

Pinot was the wine of choice for the last pre-COVID Mini-Tasting held on February 22 of this year, with the following wines taking the top three spots:

1st Place—Paul Hobbs, Russian River Valley

2nd Place—Bellante Reserve, Dierberg Vineyard,
   Santa Maria Valley

3rd Place—2017 La Brisa Vineyard, Sonoma County

Interestingly to me, none of the winning dishes of the night even came close to resembling turkey. There was Roast Pork at the Cravens’ home ala Linda Downey, Grilled Salmon at Robin McCormick’s ala David Rutledge, Chicken Provencal at the home of the Newall’s ala Linda McLean, Glazed Ham from Kevin Donnelly at the Neutz’ home, Pork Tenderloin from Eric and Carmen Kaines at the Solis’ home, Lasagna ala Kim and Sam Clark at the Topham’s home and, Chocolate Cake by Cheryl Bell at the home of Marcia and James Vaughan. 

I know that just the change in seasons and the reminder of what was sampled that night makes me want to open a terrific bottle of wine and dabble in the kitchen, but the winning recipe that caught my eye and has me salivating was the submission by Barbara White (which, by no coincidence had Pinot in it) of a veal dish that she and her husband, David, presented while hosting the evening at their own home. Thank you Barb for sharing this dish with all of us.

Wishing everyone a Merry and Happy Everything during this month of holiday magic. 

May you all be well and happy and drinking fabulous wines while puttering in the kitchen!

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

Oven Braised Veal Stew with Black Pepper and Cherries


2 lb. boneless veal stew meat cut into 2-inch pieces

¼ tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil

¾ cup boiling water

2 Tbsp. veal demi-glace (try Williams Sonoma)

2 cups fresh or undrained thawed frozen pitted cherries

2½ Tbsp. honey

1 cinnamon stick

1 cardamom pod

1 dried bay leaf

1 cup dry red wine (Syrah, B arbara, Pinot Noir) optional

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

½ package of flat butter noodles

Steps. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place veal pieces in bowl; sprinkle all over with pepper and 1 tsp salt. Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Melt butter with oil in 5 to 6 qt Dutch oven over high heat. Working in 2 batches (if necessary), add veal; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, 6 to 7 minutes per batch. Transfer veal to a bowl using a slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off drippings from the Dutch oven.

Stir together ¾ cup boiling water and demi-glace mixture, cherries, honey, cinnamon, cardamom bay leaf and optional red wine to Dutch oven; bring to a boil over high heat, scraping bottom and sides of oven to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover; nestle veal in the cherry mixture.

Cover and roast in preheated oven until veal is very tender, about 90 minutes. Remove and discard cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately over noodles.

Optional Thickening. Deglaze the stew. Pour the veal, cherry stew into a bowl through a sieve. Place veal, cherry mixture in a bowl and set aside. Return the sauce to the Dutch oven and add ½ cup heavy cream. Heat over medium heat until the sauce has thickened; 10-15 minutes. Return veal, cherry mixture to the sauce to Dutch oven and reheat over medium heat 10 minutes.

Make Ahead. Stew can be made up to 3 days ahead; let cool then cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently.