- Sarah O'Kelley
New Year's Goals
Like most people, I too start the year with resolutions. But I prefer to call them goals! And I try to make mine fit in the more positive, feel-good category rather than in the self-denial, no-pain/no-gain category!
Writing more and cooking more always seem to make my lists, and I often find myself wanting to branch out with the cooking -- getting out of my rut and exploring cuisines beyond the United States and Europe. So my subconscious must have been at work a few weeks ago when I ordered not one but three Indian influenced cookbooks! Before this story goes any further I must also admit that I already own two classic Indian cookbooks that I have yet to use.
But perhaps that’s why these three captured my attention. They are all by Indian-Americans who have personally enjoyed melding Indian flavors with other culinary influences. They have also gone to great lengths to explain in layman's terms the myriad of spices and other ingredients and have simplified some techniques.
So enough buildup already! The books are:
Milk & Cardamom by Hetal Vasavada
So what does all this have to do with wine?
Well, to be frank, strong spices can be quite the challenge to many wines. Turmeric in particular has that unique impact on your palate that’s almost a little numbing? And then spicy spices are obviously tricky and do not play well with the tannins found in thicker skinned grapes (like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, etc.)
But I was determined on my first real Sunday off in 2021 to put my books to use and enjoy some wine! I was immediately drawn in by a somewhat approachable take on Saag Paneer -- you know that yummy creamy spinach dish with the cubes of soft almost-melting cheese. Krishna herself describes it as THE classic Indian take-out dish, and I am personally an addict!
This being my main project I kept the protein simple and went with a New York Times quick take on Tandoori Chicken. I say simple referring to technique, but in reality there were a lot of things going on in the chicken marinade. And then in Saag Paneer: lots of coriander and cardamom and a finishing oil that involved cumin seeds, cayenne, and a rhizome called asafoetida!
So what to pair? Often I could deliberate over a pairing like this for days, but this one came to me right away...Romorantin from Cour-Cheverny in the Loire Valley. A little known white grape (Romorantin) from a little known appellation (Cour-Cheverny) to go with my first attempt at Saag Paneer -- what could go wrong?!
But seriously, I had my reasons. Romorantin is a relative of Chardonnay but to me almost has more in common with richer Chenin Blanc. It has this ripe apple/pear quality mixed with a bit of fresh hay and that Parmesan Cheese rind thing that I love! At the bottle shop I manage we have the old vines Cour-Cheverny from Philippe Tessier called La Porte Dorée, and those 80-year-old vines give an intensity to this wine that makes it stand up perfectly to all sorts of flavors including the myriad of spices found in my Saag Paneer.
I definitely recommend checking out Krishna’s book and snagging a bottle of Cour-Cheverny asap!
(Side note: when I say that I ordered the aforementioned books I want you all to know it was not from Amazon but rather from the iconic bookshop, The Strand, in New York City; they have of course been struggling this past year. And ordering on their website is just as easy as Amazon and a hundred times more rewarding!)