To Balsamic Or Not To Balsamic: Red Wine & Mushrooms

We just got a new Panini griller at home. I haven’t used it yet, but whatever color Portabello mushrooms are, that’s the color I’ve been dreaming in since we got it. And in this dream, I break the stems off, and I wash the mushrooms in cool water. Then I cut long thin grooves into their crowns. Then I pad them with paper towels, and let them rest after their ordeal. In the interim, I pour olive oil into a shallow pie glass. And I pour in some red wine (this changes each time I dream; most recently, it was Chilean carménère for some reason). And I shake in some home-grown and home-dried basil. And I shake in a pinch or two of Italian herbed salt. I shake it, and then I let it rest too. Then I pour olive oil into a small skillet, and wait for it to heat. While it heats, I slice up two cloves of garlic; chunky, not fine. And when the oil is ready, in goes the garlic; it just barely sizzles, I just barely smile.

I have a bottle of 05 Geyserville, and I open it. I decant it. I double decant it. The garlic is starting to brown (the oil is at a very low temperature). I am starting to thirst. One for the chef, one for the garlic. One more for the chef. I smile obviously. The garlic in pink and brown, and ready. It goes into the pie glass.

While I wait for the mixture to cool down, I have more Geyserville. This is the moment of truth; I’ve heard it said umpteenth times that one shouldn’t mix vinegar-based items with red wine. But if I just put a dollop of balsamic in the pie glass, and then I put those portabellos in upside down, so that that lovely mixture just seeps into those grooves and permeates the mushrooms inner flesh, and if I then heated the griller, and if I then put those mushrooms on that griller when it was hot, then that balsamic addition would get a little sticky, and a little sweet, and a little burny, and it would counterbalance the bite of the garlic, the viscosity of the oil, and the herbality of the basil, in such a way that I would be so, so happy. And the kitchen would smell so sexy. In fact, the whole house would smell so sexy. So sexy that, when I open and decant the special 97 Lytton Syrah that I’ve been saving I would almost become woozy. But what have I done? Red wine, really, really good red wine, and something marinated in vinegar? What have I done? Have you done it? What happened? Enquiring minds want to know …



Categories: Food & Wine Pairing, Syrah, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine Tales, Zinfandel

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2 replies

  1. This post is almost food porn, you know. I’m putting portabellos on my shopping list right now.

    Many dishes need a splash of acid to brighten them up. Lemon juice, balsamic, whatever is called forth in a small quantity to wake up the flavors. Shrooms are such low acid items, that they call forth a little zip. A wine with a good backbone like a Geyserville won’t shy away from the flavors. I toss tomatoes with a little balsamic before putting on my pizzas and not heard any complaints yet.

    • “Food porn,” that’s excellent! And I guess if worked, if you’re now out getting Portabellos! Anyhow, thanks for sharing your perspective, I’m glad to know there’s another balsamic supporter out there! Great analysis of the flavors at work as well. Now, I’M off to get some Geyserville and pizza!

      CW

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