Three New Mexico wines, and seared cod nested in veggies
Ponderosa Valley Vineyards New Mexico Riesling 2007
Ponderosa produces two Rieslings, one dry, one so sweet that upon opening the bottle it seemed at first to be syrupy enough to suppress Riesling characteristics of citrus and exotic fruit. Our niece, Nancy Feldstein, had brought oriental potstickers to a party, however. She dressed them with a hint of wasabi and a dash of soy sauce. Lo and behold: the Ponderosa Valley Riesling began to assert some of its intended character. So far, so good.
Most of the family elected to bypass the wine. Judy and I took a half bottle home. The next day the wine had come to life! It’s still too sweet for my own taste, yet I found I wanted more than a single glass while I read a newspaper and half-watched television news. Soft but distinct dark spice joined mandarin orange and mango on the palate, and there was enough citric acid to explain why one glass had not been enough.
Nancy’s uncle, Judy’s brother, lives in New Mexico right now and had sent us some wine as a hostess gift. This is the first of three bottles we’ve sampled. Stay tuned for two more, a white and a red from New Mexico.
Ponderosa Valley Vineyards New Mexico Pirandello 2006
What a fine French chenin blanc would be if it were blended with up to a third of top quality California viognier — that is, warm sweet pear with a hint of cardamom, vibrant acids, and an oily finish, showed up in this white wine. Great for sipping by itself, it should be good with lightly sauced pasta and sauteed fish like tilapia. It didn’t quite shine with the recipe below, with which we tried it.
Ponderosa Valley Vineyards New Mexico Pinot Noir 2003
This wine has the longest-lasting sour-cherry-pie acidic aftertaste I can recall. “Earth” (not “barnyard”) in nose and palate, with an herb so delicate it’s almost too much to say it suggests wild caraway seed. Color is light, as is its body, so that it looks like a French burgundy but it packs an American punch. It went very nicely with the following meal.
Seared cod with “black-belt” veggies
We tried two of the three New Mexico wines with a stovetop casserole, finding the pinot noir the better of the one white and one red. The pinot noir, like many of that varietal, certainly could be matched with a variety of main dishes.
“Stovetop casserole” sounds like a one-dish meal and, when finished, it is. But I found I needed two pans as I cooked. I like serving from a skillet right at the table.
First, I browned two long strips of thick “platter” bacon, then breaking it up and setting it aside. In the same pan, two-thirds of a medium onion, quartered top to bottom and sliced thin, were sauteed in about a quarter of the bacon grease until translucent, then topped with a thawed 14-ounce package of frozen leaf spinach.
When thoroughly warmed through, the pan was drained of most of its liquid and the bacon bits were added back and thoroughly mixed with the onion and spinach. With the heat turned down to its lowest level, a scant quarter-cup of crumbled feta cheese was scattered across the top, but not cooked in.
Part way through the above routine I sauteed, in olive oil and in another pan, a cup of frozen green beans, thawed, cut in quarters. The beans were piled atop the other side of the vegetables in the other pan, the one that went to the table for serving.
Then, without wiping, the second pan was used to quickly sear one side of each of six small fillets of wild-caught cod. They weren’t allowed to get really dark, just golden brown. Then they were turned over, lighly salted, and sprinkled with coarsely-ground black pepper. It only took about five minutes to poach what had been the top side of the fish fillets. I use medium heat and only about an eighth of an inch of water, covering the pan.
When cooked through, the veggies were pushed to the side in the pan and the fish pieces were piled in between what now were two beds of greens.
On the spur of the moment I decided to dust three pinches of ground cumin and a teaspoon of granulated garlic over the whole dish. It was very good, and satsifying even though I had forgotten to prepare a small amount of whole wheat fettucine! And the Ponderosa Valley Vineyards non-vintage Pinto Noir proved a good match.