Our Wine of the Week, Sebastiani Vineyards 2010 Sonoma County Chardonnay ($13), is a workhorse kind of wine, especially in the fall, when its full rich flavors mirror the flavors of the season.
This wine is a classic California chardonnay, with a buttery warmth suggestive of toasted bread. Depending on how active your imagination is, this quality can influence your perception of the wine's considerable fruit.
Apple flavors may suggest apple butter slathered on that toast. A fillip of lemon paired with that butter may make you think of toast topped with lemon curd and creme fraiche and a suggestion of burnt sugar, while the wine's creamy texture could evoke Smucker's Butterscotch Topping.
These elements, while bold on their own, are subtle and balanced.
When it comes to pairing the wine, now is an easy time. The last of the year's tomatoes, the first of the year's winter squashes, ripe figs, chanterelles and quince poached in honey are all good companions, as are wild salmon, pork tenderloin and chicken breast.
Today's recipe features gnocchi made with winter squash, which resonates beautifully with the wine. Browned butter mirrors its toasty quality, creme fraiche adds a plushness and toasted breadcrumbs tie it all together.
Winter Squash Gnocchi with Browned Butter, Creme Fraiche and Toasted Breadcrumbs
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 pound Delicata, acorn or similar winter squash, cut open and seeded
1 pound russet potatoes, washed
1? cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
5 tablespoons best-quality butter (see Note below)
4 tablespoons creme fraiche, stirred to loosen
? cup freshly made breadcrumbs, preferably from sourdough hearth bread
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
— Small parsley sprigs, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Set squash on a baking sheet and brush the exposed flesh with a little olive oil. Use a fork to pierce the potatoes in a several places, set them alongside the squash and bake until both are very tender when pierced with a bamboo skewer. Begin to check after 35 minutes and check every 10 minutes thereafter until done. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Break each potato in half and pass it through a potato ricer or food mill; discard the skins. Remove and discard the skin of the squash and pass it through a ricer or food mill, or mash it thoroughly with a fork. Put both purees into a medium mixing bowl, season with salt and season generously with black pepper.
Stir in half the flour and continue adding more until mixture is soft and smooth but still just a bit sticky. Let rest a few minutes.
While the dough rests, make the browned butter. To do so, put the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. When butter is fully melted, use a shallow spoon to remove any impurities that rise to the surface. Carefully pour butter into small skillet, leaving behind any milk solids<NO1> in the bottom of the pan<NO>. Set the butter over medium low heat and cook until it begins to brown and gives off an aroma reminiscent of hazelnuts. Remove from heat.