If you find yourself in need of a lift right about now, you could do worse than our Wine of the Week, Saint Gregory 2009 Mendocino County Pinot Noir ($19). It's a pretty wine, with a bright acidity that tastes, at least to me, like a promise. It's an optimistic sort of wine, with a refreshing delicacy that feels like morning sunlight on your tongue. Chilly temperatures will fade, the current flu virus will ebb and spring will be here soon.
Rivulets of dried herbs and spice meander through ripe fruit flavors, especially black plums, Bing cherries and black raspberries. There's an earthy quality, too, like cool topsoil, licorice root and new black leather. Tannins are long and soft so that the wine has that lovely satin-on-velvet texture that makes pinot noir the most food-friendly of all the major red varietals.
At the table, think earthy and gamy: The wine is outstanding with duck, goat, lamb and wild boar and delicious with potatoes, celery root and mushrooms. It goes well with wild salmon, is a great match with oil-cured black olives and is a lovely accompaniment to grilled sardines. It is also a good match with onions, especially French onion soup or an onion galette.
For today's recipe, I've taken inspiration from the classic Boeuf Bourguignon, a perfect dish for this time of year. In this version, I use maitake mushrooms instead of white mushrooms, as both their texture and flavor are extraordinary with the wine. I also use celery root instead of potatoes or egg noodles to further enhance the match. If you can, begin making the stew two days before serving it. Once it is fully cooked, cool it and refrigerate it overnight. It's one of those dishes that is best the day after it is cooked.
Beef Stew with Maitake Mushrooms and Celery Root
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 pounds beef chuck, shoulder or shank, cut into medium chunks
6 medium shallots, peeled
1 2 small cippolini onions, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
-- Kosher salt
-- Black pepper in a mill
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ?-inch dice
2 Italian parsley sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 bottle dry red wine
2 tablespoons butter
? pound bacon, preferably thick-sliced, diced
? cup all-purpose flour
1 large or 2 medium celery roots
1 pound maitake or oyster mushrooms, broken into sections
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
Put the beef, shallots, onions, garlic and carrots into a large stainless steel or glass bowl, season with salt and pepper and use your hands to toss the ingredients together. Tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaf together with kitchen twine and tuck into the bowl. Pour the bottle of wine into the bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
To finish the stew, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and use tongs to transfer the meat to a strainer. Shake off as much liquid as possible from the meat and then pat it dry with a clean tea towel.
Set the marinade aside.
Set a large saucepan or deep saute pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of the butter and the bacon and cook until the bacon is almost crisp. Add the meat and brown thoroughly on all sides. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and bacon and stir gently for about 2 minutes, pressing any lumps of flour with a fork to dissolve them.