Our Wine of the Week, Gnarly Head 2011 Pinot Grigio ($10), is a great quaffer to have around for the holidays. With its pretty acidity, it is a refreshing counterpoint to the rich flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving feast, especially the sweet potatoes and winter squash. It is also outstanding with cornbread dressing, polenta dressing, grits dressing and traditional bread dressing with chestnuts.
When you first pour the wine, you'll notice warm aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom and a whiff of Meyer lemon zest. Meyer lemon and honeysuckle are mirrored on the palate and mingle with other subtle flavors, including white peaches and nectarines, ripe green melon, fresh ginger and the slightest suggestion of jalapeno. These flavors are buoyed by a mineral foundation, like wet cement or river rocks, a characteristic that keeps each sip refreshing.
The wine works beautifully with spicy foods, as the fillip of ginger and jalape? engage with the flavors of, say, Southeast Asian curries, and the lively acidity serves to balance the heat. The wine never turns bitter, as heavily oaked chardonnays do in this context. Winter squash in green curry is an extraordinary match.
For today's recipe, I'm veering away from holiday foods -- so many of us prefer our favorite family recipes year after year -- to focus on a classic Malaysian dish, laksa, that is still not common here, though it is absolutely delicious. Ingredients are available at most Asian markets.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
12 to 16 cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass, thick part only, thinly sliced
1 to 2 ounces commercial chile paste, by taste
? ounce Thai prawn paste
? ounce dried shrimp
1 ounce (about ? cup) shelled candlenuts or macadamia nuts
7 to 8 1/8-inch slices fresh galangal (a ginger relative)
1/3 cup coconut palm oil or mild olive oil
1 14?-ounce can coconut milk
1? cups chicken stock or water, plus more as needed
-- Kosher salt and granulated sugar to taste
8 ounces (about 15) small black mussels, scrubbed and debearded, if necessary
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 ounces bay scallops
10 ounces thin rice noodles
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into thin wedges
Combine the onion, garlic, lemongrass, chile paste, prawn paste, dried shrimp, candlenuts or macadamia nuts, and galangal in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until smooth.
Pour the oil into a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the puree and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture separates from the oil, about 8 to 10 minutes. Do not let it burn.
Stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 10 minutes. Season with salt and sugar to taste; if the sauce tastes flat, add a little more salt and sugar until it perks up. If it is too thick, add a little more chicken stock or water.
Add the mussels, shrimp, and scallops, cover, and cook until the mussels just open, about 4 to 6 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain, rinse and drain thoroughly. Divide among large soup bowls.