It cooled off after a pretty perfect Holiday weekend, and rain is coming. Good news for the basil seedlings I put in the ground today, and a welcome excuse to get all comforty with the cooking. Yesterday’s smoked sable got our smokerphilia fully engaged, so when asked about any dinner-related desires, the wife quickly pulled some duck breasts from the freezer and nodded expectantly at the porch. Luckily, on our trip to Vermont I had remembered to stock up on wood, so I was able to oblige.
The (local) moulard duck breasts come two to a pack, so I cut the smaller one off and packed it in a cure so it can become prosciutto in the near future. The bigger one, fat scored, and seasoned with lots of salt and pepper, went into a medium-vigorous smoker for about an hour. As always when smoking duck, I put a receptacle beneath the meat to catch every molecule of the sacred smoked fat. While the duck got its bacon on, I washed and sautéed a big bowl of spinach (and a few radish leaves) from the garden with a little onion, then puréed it with a dribble of heavy cream left over from yesterday’s mojito ice cream, plus a bit of Ultratex 8 to thicken it and keep it from weeping. I also made pommes écrasées with some good red potatoes, copious olive oil, salt, pepper, and chives. I so love potatoes this way, and properly made they have a profundity that rivals (or exceeds) any dairy-based preparation. And they’re healthier, too, though that angle was not so much in play this time around.
It’s important at this juncture to point out that a well-salted duck breast applewood-smoked to medium rare in under an hour is as close to InstaBacon as mortals can ever hope to come. It is just egregiously, wantonly, eye-rollingly wondrous in its smoky, salty splendor. And when buttressed by lavishly olive-oiled spuds and creamy, super-fresh greens, it’s a lipidinous tag-team beatdown on the pleasure centers of your brain.
When we had the tasting dinner, Lio and Sharon brought a 2001 Ormes De Pez which we did not get to. So tonight, on the heels of their dinner on Sunday where I had a few sips of some decent Bordeaux, I opened it up to try to figure out how I feel about that region; my opinion has continued to decline lately in favor of more transparent wines from the Northern Rhône and Burgundy (among other places.) Now this is good wine; they use older barrels from Lynch-Bages, which has long been one of my favorite Bordelais properties (a 1985 was the first “real” wine I ever had, in 1992, when I lived in Provence- it’s always a fifth growth that drinks like a second) and Ormes de Pez is made by the team at Lynch-Bages. It’s silky and integrated, with a lovely balance between the fruit and a rocky, leathery austerity. For all of its significant pleasure, I couldn’t help thinking that there’s a reason that Bordeaux (and by extension, Cabernet Sauvignon) is so often the gateway wine that gets people hooked, and the baseline that people use to compare other wines: it smells and tastes like Wine. Not like ass, or feet, or strange angelic ass-foot incense, or anything else- just wine. And for all of the complexity and subtle, elegant layers of flavor, Bordeaux is always just wine. It never gets up into the hallucinatory, multidimensional sensuality where great Burgundy lives.
Good Bordeaux is wonderful, and the grapey, winey places that it hits are deep and satisfying. And with age, they go somewhere special indeed. But they’re too easy, in a way; what gets me excited is the shifting, holographic, fleeting and unknowable near-divinity that unfolds with a great Burgundy or Barolo. There is an aching ephemerality and other-worldliness to those (and some other) wines which Bordeaux just doesn’t show me; it is very much of this world. I still love it, but it’s not my passion. I’m glad I have some socked away, but I won’t be buying any more.