There is a great deal of culinary mojo percolating at Ridge Vineyards these days; tendrils of gourmand dew twinkling morning leaves, wisps of foodie mist twisting through siesta trees, an epicurean moon, halo’d with the light of evening kitchens. We’re hungry, we’re cooking, we’re drinking, we’re happy.
And more than that, we’re sharing. With every cosmic oeno-culinary mash-up we discover, we spread the news!
Right now, I’m talkin’ Tagine de Mouton, paired with a new library release, the 2006 Old School.
The wine is fascinating; I’ll begin there. For those of you familiar with the Old School, you’ll likely know it as a small-production, winery-only bottling traditionally comprised of fruit harvested from blocks at Geyserville that ripen with greater levels of intensity, resulting in a decadently luxuriant wine; rich, powerful, ripe, with multi-layered variations of the sweet and the unctuous. The 2006, however, is quite the noteworthy spin on this model; it’s primarily all old-vine fruit, from the Old Patch, harvested in a higher acid, higher tannin year. It’s brambly, spicy, and herbal on the nose, dark and decadent and libidinous on the palate, and warm and carnal through the finish. The resulting wine is structured, focused, penetrating, and absolutely rippling with acidity. Meaning what? Meaning that it’s an absolutely killer food pairing wine.
Cue the Tagine de Mouton. Translation: Slow-Cooked Lamb with Figs, Raisins, and Almonds. Summary: Delicious.
It’s quite the recipe, and it’s extraordinary with this wine. The recipe comes to us from Maureen Draper, who is a pianist and author (“The Nature of Music,” and “The Music Lovers Anthology of Poetry”), and also happens to be the wife of Paul Draper.
TAGINE DE MOUTON
(Slow-cooked lamb with figs, raisins and almonds)
4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
¹/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
¹/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¹/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can pear tomatoes, drained & chopped
¹/2 cup raisins, soaked in water
5 ounces whole blanched almonds
16 dried figs
2 cups chicken stock
¹/2 teaspoon ground ginger
¹/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons honey
Trim the lamb of excess fat and cut into large cubes. In a heavy pan, slowly warm the spices in butter and olive oil. Coat the lamb in the spice mixture and continue to cook for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the onions, garlic, tomatoes, and enough stock to bring the liquid to a level no more than half that of the meat. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Then decrease to a bare simmer, cover and cook for 1¹/2 – 2 hours. Add the raisins, and continue to cook until lamb is very tender. Cool and refrigerate if you are not planning to serve within an hour, or so.
Lightly brown almonds in a little olive oil. Set aside.
Bring chicken stock and spices to a boil. Add figs, and simmer, covered, until moist and tender.
Remove any solidified fat from the lamb, add honey and warm slowly. Add figs, and stir to coat. If sauce is too thin, let it reduce. Transfer to a warmed serving platter. Warm the almonds in a dry pan and scatter over the lamb and fruit. —MD
2006 Ridge Vineyards Old School