The Northeast’s cold winter months beg for “comfort foods” — soups, stews, braises, roasts, etc. There was a time in my life — B.C. (Before Children) — that my winter evenings were regularly comforted by homemade dishes that I cooked up from scratch. Now that I’m in the year 5 A.D. (After Daddyhood), the opportunity to put together a meaty stew or braise a lamb shank just doesn’t happen. But I still want comfort foods, and I’m not too proud to admit I now take shortcuts.
One of my favorite shortcuts in the A.D. years is courtesy of Costco — Ruprecht Beef Pot Roast. It takes 15 minutes to warm up in the microwave, it’s pretty lean and fairly healthy (7 grams fat, 22 grams protein per serving), and it’s gosh-darn delicious! No, it’s not nearly as good as grandma’s pot roast — nor even Vino Joe’s — but it more than fills the bill for a 15-minute dish.
To somewhat stifle my guilt of not cooking from scratch, I’ll spend those 15 minutes cutting up and convection-roasting brussels sprouts and carrots. And/or, making quick-mashed potatoes — which is an ideal side dish in part because this Ruprecht roast includes far more extra gravy than you’d ever need.
On this particular evening, I was feeling especially ambitious (read: my wife was bathing the kids so I had an extra 20 minutes) and braised some red cabbage as well. The final result was Vino Joseph’s technicolor dreamdish of deliciousness!
So that was the food; this is a wine site so of course let’s talk about pairings. I tried several wines that all worked well.
First, I tried the dish with what I like to refer to as an “everyday wine” — a wine that fits my daily budget for a bottle, which is about $15 (of course, the bottle can always cost a little less!). Montes Classic Cabernet, which has an earthy character with some smokiness and a distinct bell pepper tone (due to a naturally occurring chemical compound called pyrazines) — something that I love, but not everyone does (thankfully, not everyone loves the same things in wine, or we’d all be drinking the same wine all the time and demand would outstrip supply). With a bite of pot roast on my palate, this Cab turns to a pleasant, juicy cherry flavor while the wine’s ample acidity and ripe tannins hold the structure. It was interesting how that “cherry bomb” erupted once my mouth had the protein — it’s similar to how astringent black tea becomes creamy and balanced once you add a tablespoon of milk.
The second wine I tried was more of a “weekend wine” — that is, a wine in the $20 – $40 range. Campo di Sasso “Insoglio del Cinghiale”, a wine with similarly ripe tannins, more acidity, and more complexity. It was a really good match. Whereas the dish lifted the Montes Classic Cab, this wine lifted the dish, melding well with the flavors while also making the pot roast seem more expensive by bringing out a richness in the meat and gravy.
Somewhat surprisingly, I was able to alternate the wines throughout the meal, feeling fully satisfied with both choices. Often, a less-expensive wine doesn’t hit the palate with as much authority after having a few sips of a more expensive one. That’s a testament to the Montes standard of quality and highlights its excellent “bang for your buck” status.
What’s your favorite “shortcut” dish and wine pairing? Let me know in the comments.