Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hermitage and Cassoulet

It's hard to know where to start with this wine; beautiful mature color, an aroma that filled the entire room, a mouth feel as smooth as silk and as slick as satin,  a small taste of heaven and a light refreshing finish.  The wine was a 1990 E. Guigal Hermitage that's been sitting in the cellar for a number of years.

The aroma was an amalgam of dark fruit, soil in a totally clean barnyard, fresh leather, cinnamon, cardamon and a few other spices.  There was nothing subtle about the aroma.  The taste was mixed, mature fruits, dark cherries and plums and currants.  The taste lasted for almost half a minute.  There was still a bit of tannin and perfect acidity.  Everything about this wine was together and its exactly why I like wines that have the ability to mature and become something like this.  There have been times when I've held a wine too long, but not this wine.  This was as close to perfect as I've had in some time.

Dinner was nearly it's equal, a mostly traditional cassoulet from one of Julia Child's books.  It started four days ago when we soaked the beans.  Later that day they were cooked with some salt pork, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, lavender, garlic and onions.  When they were done they went into the refrigerator for a couple of days to mellow and age. While they were aging we braised some chunks of lamb shoulder and some rabbit in white wine and chicken stock.  That also aged for a day and a half.

The final assembly included a layer of the beans and a layer of the mixed meats.  To the lamb and rabbit we added chopped duck confit and a small amount of chorizo sausage.  We repeated the bean layer, and the meat layer and ended with a final layer of beans.  The braising liquid from the lamb and rabbit was added.  The top of the casserole was then covered with a mixture of fresh bread crumbs and parsley and drizzled with a little duck fat.  Into a hot oven it went.  At half an hour the bread crumbs had formed a crust and that was punched down into the beans and meat.  When the second crust formed at an hour the casserole came out of the oven.   See the picture below.

The crumbs were crusty and toasty, the meats soft and luxurious and the beans perfectly cooked and filling.  Of course there was enough to feed a small army, but we put a severe dent in the dish over the course of the evening.  In the last week of my life, and I hope that's many years down the road, I want this meal and this wine again.

No comments: