This year kicks off with a Tempranillo for Texas Wine of the Month. By now, you should be fairly familiar with the prevalence of this grape. It’s turning heads in Texas blends (McPherson Cellars La Herencia) as well as in single-varietal wines (Inwood Estates Vineyards “Cornelius” Tempranillo). This month, we celebrate a wine devoted solely to Tempranillo grapes—most of which were grown in the Hill Country. It’s an elegant representation of just how great this grape can be in Texas. In fact, it was one of the top 10 Texas Monthly Wines of 2012. And it comes from a winery in Stonewall that continues to make strides in the emerging Texas wine industry.
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Wednesday night, at The Little Nell hotel in Aspen, the Court of Master Sommeliers announced the latest class of Master Sommeliers to earn a the diploma for passing what has been referred to as one of the world’s hardest exams. This year, there were seven who passed, one of whom was Texas’ own June Rodil of Austin.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/8 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup cacao nibs
4 rings fresh pineapple (peeled and cored), sliced about 1/2 inch thick and cut into cubes
3 or 4 whole fresh artichokes
4 medium lemons (juice all 4 and zest 2)
3 or 4 whole fennel bulbs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for brushing
1/4 cup each roughly chopped herbs and greens such as parsley, thyme, tarragon, basil, fennel fronds, celery leaves, and mint (should yield minimum of 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
6 to 8 slices of dense rustic bread, 1 inch thick or more (stale bread works well)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for brushing and tossing
8 large tomatoes (enough to make about 2 cups of juice and pulp)
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 large zucchini cut lengthwise into 1/8 -inch-thick slices (skin on)
1 fennel bulb cut crosswise into 1/8 -inch-thick slices
1 cup fennel fronds (reserve a few for garnish)
2 cups tamari (not regular soy sauce)
2 cups mirin
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced about 1/2-inch thick, or more to taste
1 bunch green onions (green part only)
1 cup dark-brown sugar
In a saucepan, bring ingredients to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer until sauce is consistency of a light syrup, about 2 hours. Strain.
Smoked-Almond Romesco Sauce
3/4 cup smoked almonds
1/2 cup (4 ounces) canned diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup roasted red bell peppers (or use jarred peppers)
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Brown Sugar–Coffee Rub
1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup finely ground coffee beans (dark roast)
1/4 cup powdered chile, such as ancho or a blend
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Mix the ingredients in a bowl, breaking up any lumps.
My recipe definitely falls into the go-big-or-go-home style of Texas cooking (or Texas anything). Although Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was raised in Kansas, he was born in Denison, which is proud to call him a native son. I did not know he was such a huge fan of firewood cooking until I found an old article headlined “The Eisenhower Steak Recipe,” by Ralph McGill, in the Miami News, dated May 26, 1953. This is how you make the fire.
Tim Byres likes to play with fire—and smoke. He made his reputation smoking various and sundry meats at a Dallas restaurant named, yes, Smoke and then wrote a cookbook with the same title. He’s of the opinion that almost any food can be improved with a little smoke, or at the very least by being grilled.