Pairings: Pinot soars alongside pork confit
Our wine of the week, Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard Pinot Noir ($70), is a sneaky show-off. It starts out all subtle and elegant, as if revealing itself from behind a pretty fan. But before long, it drops the coyness and blossoms into its full self. It is not really subtle at all, but regal, commanding and generous.
Fruit flavors, especially cranberry, pomegranate, Queen Anne cherry, red raspberry and strawberry ride atop a rivulet of bright crisp acidity with just enough engaging minerality to make you sigh with pleasure.
Amongst all that red fruit is a surprise: a burst of orange zest that elevates this wine from many of its peers. It is, in a word, breathtaking.
All manner of favorite foods come to mind when considering how best to enjoy this lovely pinot noir. If you can get guanciale (smoked pork jowls), cut it into decent sized pieces (?- to ½-inch cubes) and make a traditional Spaghetti Carbonara; use the best black pepper you have, preferably one with floral qualities.
Sweet potato polenta is a good match, too, and one that will keep vegetarians happy, as will winter squash risotto.
Rare duck, rare lamb, or rare goat served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms welcome this wine alongside. It’s also delicious with smoked salmon and with an end-of-the-season BLT.
For today’s recipe, I’m inspired by the wine’s notes of orange zest, which is not common in this varietal. Although the recipe takes three days to make, there is actually very little hands on work, so please don’t be overwhelmed by the time. The rewards - the wine soars with these flavors, which is what you want a match to do - are worth it.
Pork Rib Confit with Braised Cabbage and Bacon Gremolata
Makes 2 to 4 servings
1 rack pork spare ribs, about 2 to 2½ pounds
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper in a mill
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 quart lard or rendered pork fat, plus more as needed
4-5 allspice berries
- Grated zest of 2 oranges
3 bacon slices
1 small red onion, cut into very thin half moons
½ small red cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons rich red wine vinegar
¾ cup, loosely packed, Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
Two days before serving this dish, begin the confit. Cut the ribs into two pieces. Season them all over with salt and several very generous turns of black pepper.
Put the thyme sprigs into a flat glass dish, set the ribs on top, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
The next evening, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Melt the lard.
Put the pork and the thyme into an ovenproof container, add the allspice berries and half the orange zest, and pour the melted lard over everything. The pork should be fully covered; if it isn’t, add more until it is.
Set on the middle rack of the oven and cook, covered, overnight. After 8 hours, check the pork for tenderness. It should be fully tender but not falling apart; if it is still a bit tough, cook for another 2 hours.
Remove from the oven and let cool. While the fat is still liquid, use tongs to transfer the ribs to a clean container. If the meat falls off the bones, just use the tongs to discard them; if it clings to them, don’t worry about it. Cover and refrigerate. Strain the fat, store it in a glass jar, and reserve for another use.
When you are ready to serve the dish, fry the bacon in a heavy skillet until it is very crisp. Transfer to absorbent paper to drain. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
With the skillet set over medium heat, add the onion and saute until limp and fragrant, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, turning frequently, until it just begins to wilt. Add the vinegar, cover, and cook for 5 minutes more. Uncover and continue to cook until the cabbage is tender. Taste, correct for salt, and season generously with black pepper. Cover and keep warm.
Chop the parsley leaves and put them in a small bowl. Add the garlic and orange zest. Crumble the bacon and add it to the bowl. Toss gently and set aside.
Put the pork into a heavy skillet set over medium low heat. Cook gently until the pork is heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add about 2 tablespoons of the gremolata to the cabbage and toss gently; divide the cabbage among individual plates. Divide the pork, setting it partially on and partially off the cabbage, among the plates and top with the gremolata, using all of it.
Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The New Cook’s Tour of Sonoma.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.