MxMo4 (Apéritifs): The Food Pairings

I was particularly excited when Mike told me about the fourth installment of Mixology Monday, which focuses on apéritifs. I always enjoy my husband's experiments with spirits, but I feel bad sometimes that my contribution to cocktail hour is generally little more than "thank you, honey."

bubbling away

When MxMo 4 was announced, we both thought it presented a perfect opportunity for me to take a more active role by preparing a series of appetizers to pair with our drinks. After all, apéritifs are traditionally accompanied by a little plate of something savory to whet your appetite before a meal. We discussed it over the course of a few weeks, then decided on three pairings based upon the spirits we wanted to play with and ingredients which we thought would complement their flavors. Here's what we came up with.

serrano ham, black fig, blue cheese, sherry

First Course: Roasted black figs stuffed with Old Chatham Hudson Valley Ewe's Blue and wrapped in Serrano Riserva
Paired With: Adonis

Salty blue cheese and Serrano ham really just call out for Sherry, to me. I had a few ideas about how to serve them, but when I saw these gorgeous black figs at Greenwich Produce, I knew I'd revisit an old favorite recipe. I make an "X" cut in the top of each fig, stuff a chunk of blue inside, then wrap them in a thin sheet of Serrano - simple but elegant. Since our oven is still out of commission, I used the toaster oven my parents got us as a housewarming present. The stuffed figs were roasted at 450 for about 10 minutes, until the ham crisped at the edges and the cheese became melted and gooey. I love these little sweet-salty bites, and we agreed they went really nicely with the softly sweet, yet smokey flavor of the Adonis.

Second Course

Second Course: Crab-Stuffed Baby Artichokes
Paired With: Cynar

What else could I pair with an artichoke liqueur than, well, artichokes? I love the combination of artichokes and crab, so I decided to stuff the cooked halves of baby artichokes with a lemony crab salad. After cleaning the 'chokes and boiling them until tender, I drained them and laid them on a baking sheet. I combined fresh crab meat with a little mayo, copious amounts of fresh lemon juice and zest, some minced shallot, sea salt, cracked pepper, and some fresh thyme and chives from the garden. Each 'choke was topped with a heaping spoonful of the crab mixture, then a thin slice of Ouray cheese. They went into the toaster oven to broil until the cheese was browned and bubbly.

We had these with the Cynar, which Mike simply poured over ice and garnished with a lemon wedge. It was... different. Not at all unpleasant, but probably not my favorite thing. The drink did work well with the dish, though. My only complaint about this course is that I think the 'chokes could have taken a stronger cheese - perhaps something a little saltier or sharper, which might also have tempered the sweetness of the Cynar. Mike agreed, but was still popping cooled leftover 'chokes into his mouth as he mixed our next drink. A success, but with the caveat to try a different cheese next time.

Third Course Seelbach

Third Course: Duck Rillette Toasts
Paired With: Seelbach

Since the inception of our Fizzy Friday tradition earlier this year, a glass of something sparkling has become one of my favorite ways to preface a meal. With this in mind, I requested a champagne cocktail of some sort, which I intended to pair with some of Mike's delicious duck confit rillettes. He discusses why we settled on the Seelbach here, and I will just go on record here and say that I think the choice could not have been better. The rich, creamy rillettes with their little bites of vinegary wholegrain mustard and slivered cornichon were a perfect foil for the complex layers of flavor in the Seelbach, the bourbon and bitters echoing some of the warm spices in the cure mix Mike had used in the duck confit. It was truly a sensual and luxurious mingling of flavors and textures, and was my favorite pairing of the day.

How we had room for dinner and wine after all this yumminess is still beyond me, but we did it. We went to bed with full bellies and happy taste buds, and the memories of the wonderful food and drink made my slightly fuzzy head the next morning totally worthwhile.

Posted by jenblossom on June 26, 2006 | TrackBack
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