Saturday, December 5, 2009

Root-y, Root-y, Root-y!!!

What a terrible title for the post. But I did find myself chanting it, and then my wife joined in, and then, before we even knew what was happening, Sean Astin showed up at our house in full, mid-to-late seventies football gear, and got a quarterback sack.

I'm pretty sure I shed a tear. Listen, guys are allowed to cry at sports accomplishments in the face of overwhelming odds. I'll probably lose my man-card for disclosing this.

Anyway, if Rudy had listened a little more carefully, he'd heard that I was singing the praises of root vegetables.

It all started a couple weeks ago while I was attending Primal. After downing bacon, lamb liver, smoked fatback, and bull testicles, I had the crazy urge to eat some vegetables. I found someone serving pan roasted rutabagas and other assorted tubers. They were delicious and satisfying and...

...yes. Bull testicles. Proof here.

So, with cold weather infiltrating the Deep South- bringing with it a need for hearty fare- I grabbed a rutabaga, a sweet potato, and a fistful of assorted fingerlings (of all different colors, shapes, and sizes; indeed, a very ethnically-diverse fistful of taters). I dissected everything into about 3/4" cubes (almost including a finger or two...them rutabagas is wily!) and threw them in a mixing bowl. Also added an onion I quartered. Then, despite wanting to use more fresh stuff, I went with what I had on-hand...threw a tablespoon of garlic powder in the bowl, a tablespoon of ground sage, a tablespoon of smoked paprika, some dried oregano, maybe a teaspoon of celery salt, then added sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and olive oil to coat. Tossed it around in the bowl like a madman drunk on adrenaline, threw it all on a pan, into a 350 degree oven for about an hour, and voila!

No crazy garnish or plating flourish, but c' you really plate anything all fancy-like when you're just eating at home? This is what the kids call "keepin' it real," I'm told. Yep, plastic fork too. Don't worry, hippies. I'll reuse it.

Anyway, the dish was texturally great: potatoes soft with a bit of bite, rutabaga with a bit more tooth too it, and the sweet potatoes were almost creamy, yet all had crunchy edges and lots of tasty caramelized bits (or maybe they were Maillard-y me out, food scientists). Once again, totally satisfying. Sometimes (and I can't believe I'm saying this), you just don't miss the meat.

To wash it down, I cracked a 2006 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot. From the kingpin of Napa, I would expect one of Napa's greatest grapes to do its best in this situation. With big dark fruits, warm spice, and a good backbone of tannin, it displayed the lushness that is California (especially Napa) Merlot. Granted, I would probably decant it for a couple hours before consuming next time. Regardless, the fruit in the wine worked well with the rustic heartiness of the root veggies. "Rustic heartiness"??! I've been reading too many food magazines.

Perhaps the best part about the wine, however, was the label. Mondavi's higher-end bottlings feature incredibly thick paper on the labels. While I'm not one to buy a bottle based on the label, a nice fluffy one comes in handy when you take down the whole bottle, and then the whole bottle takes you down. Ah, the ironing is delicious.

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