Steak, Cache Creek cabernet sauvignon make for delightful pairing
Our wine of the week, Cache Creek 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County ($35), is a grown-up wine and not just because it’s an older vintage. Flavors are focused, with black fruit unfolding first, followed by sweet spices such as clove and star anise and a hint of toasted sesame on the lingering finish.
At the table, there are several obvious pairings that work beautifully. Steak au poivre — green, red or white — is a stellar match, as is almost any beef cooked rare. The meat’s juiciness mirrors the wine’s, and it all comes together delightfully.
Other foods flatter and are flattered by this dignified quaffer, too, such as grilled halibut with a mustard glaze or black olive tapenade, roasted or steamed sweet potatoes with butter and black pepper, falafel, teriyaki, spaghetti squash Bolognese and oven-roasted carrots with wild rice and currants.
Earthy flavors — think beets; brown, red and black rice; barley; and farro — bring out the wine’s qualities and inspire today’s dish. Chickpeas and farro help make the wine soar. Add the concentrated flavors of skirt steak and the richness of kale and you have a wonderful pairing that doesn’t rely on a huge portion of meat, which makes the dish more affordable. If you don’t want to spring for skirt steak, you can use hanger steak or flank steak instead; just don’t cook it past medium-rare.
Skirt Steak with Warm Chickpea, Farro and Kale Salad
Makes 4 servings
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight and drained
6 ounces (1 cup) farro, soaked in water overnight and drained
6 - 8 leaves of Lacinato kale, central stems removed and cut into ½-inch crosswise ribbons
Black pepper in a mill
Red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 bacon slices
2 cups cubed butternut or similar winter squash
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
8 - 10 ounces skirt steak or hanger steak
Put the chickpeas in a small saucepan, cover with water by at least 1 inch, add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the chickpeas are fully tender, 25 to 50 minutes, depending on the chickpeas’ age. Drain and tip into a wide shallow serving bowl.
Put the farro in a medium saucepan, cover with water by 1 inch, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, about 25 to 35 minutes or a bit longer; begin testing for doneness after 25 minutes. Drain and tip into the bowl with the chickpeas.
Meanwhile, put the kale in a medium bowl, fluff and separate the ribbons with your fingers and sprinkle lightly with salt. Add a few turns of black pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a bit of lemon juice and a splash of olive oil. Use a wooden pestle or similar tool to gently pound the kale several times, as you turn it. Tip the kale into the bowl with the farro and chickpeas.
Put the bacon in a heavy saute pan and cook until crisp; transfer to absorbent paper to drain. With the pan over medium-low heat, add the squash and saute gently in the bacon fat until it is completely tender and lightly browned on all sides; use tongs to turn it, keeping the cubes as intact as possible. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Put the remaining lemon juice and olive oil into a bowl or jar, add a pinch of red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and add the cumin. Taste, correct for salt and acid balance and pour over the farro and kale. Toss gently but thoroughly.
Crumble or chop the bacon and add it, along with the cooled squash and Italian parsley, to the other ingredients. Toss, drizzle with half the dressing and set aside.
Working quickly, preheat a heavy skillet or grill pan over high heat. While the pan heats, season the skirt steak all over with salt. When the pan is very hot, add the skirt steak and cook for 90 seconds. Turn and cook for 90 seconds more, or a tad longer if the meat is quite thick. Transfer to a clean work surface and let rest 5 minutes. Cut the steak in thin crosswise slices and scatter them over the salad. Pour the remaining dressing over everything and enjoy right away.
Variation: In place of skirt steak, use eggplant. Cut one eggplant into ¾-inch slices, brush olive oil on both sides and season with salt. Heat a large grill pan and when it is very hot, add the eggplant. Cook for several minutes, turn and cook until the eggplant is completely tender. Remove from the heat. Divide the farro salad among individual plates and top each serving with eggplant. Enjoy right away.
Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The Good Cook’s Book of Oil & Vinegar.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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