It’s a new year – one that feels strangely like the old one. Be that as it may, I’m focused on getting organized and setting goals. This past week I attacked our (few) closets and turned my attention to the refrigerator and freezer, both of which were haphazard accumulations of pandemic shopping sprees.
Almost a year into COVID living, I now have a better grasp of what we truly need to stockpile and what we don’t. Bringing order to the Ziplocs and plastic containers also had a side benefit – peace of mind. For a few minutes at least, the world felt manageable and tidy.
Small steps, right?
Foraging in the freezer turned up an odd assortment of ingredients that needed to be cooked or tossed in the trash. I challenged myself to create a dish that made use of them all. The goal was modest – a serviceable meal without waste. Culinary heroics were not on the agenda. But . . .
Call it a happy accident, kitchen karma, or whatever you want. This dinner turned out awesome! And my wine pairing was just as fortuitous. With such a diverse range of ingredients, I had low aspirations in terms of picking the perfect bottle. I settled on a straggler on my shelf: 2019 Viarivetti 22 Rosato from Azienda Agricola Rivetti Massimo.
Early in 2020 I had purchased six bottles of this organic rosé of 100% Pinot Noir from Last Bottle Wines. We enjoyed it over the summer with everything from charcuterie to fresh grilled fish. Somehow my literal last bottle turned up just in time for this mash-up of a dinner. Why not give it a whirl?
Located in the Piemonte commune of Neive, this winery is renowned for its Nebbiolo-based wines (Barbaresco) and Barbera d’Alba. Sprinkled in among these native Italian grapes are some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (which are labeled under the Langhe DOC).
Twenty-five hectares of vineyards face southwest, atop parcels of mixed chalk and clay. No pesticides are used, and a blend of more than 20 herbs are planted around the vines as natural fertilizer. Insect populations are controlled by sexual confusion techniques.
Grapes are harvested by hand, early in the morning, so as to preserve primary fruit aromas. In the cellar, nature takes its course in fermentation, which is started with a pied de cuve, rich in natural yeasts from the grape skins. Only scant amounts of sulfur are used.
Pantry Meal Meets Last Bottle
My ingredients: frozen chicken thighs, frozen artichoke hearts, a handful of black olives, a few lonely stalks of rosemary, a tired lemon, and two small potatoes. I turned them into a skillet roast. This was a case of the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. Everyday chicken thighs were elevated by punches of salty, citrusy, herby notes. The moisture from the frozen artichokes helped create a little sauce for spooning over the platter. All the flavors worked together and seemed – dare I say it – intentional!
As for the wine, well, I couldn’t have picked a better bottle for this dish. The cherry fruit was a nice counterpart to the dark meat chicken. Ample acidity ensured the wine held its own alongside the briny olives, tangy lemon, and umami artichokes. At the same time, it was mild enough not to overwhelm the dish with tannin. This is a pairing I would happily do again.
So, cheers to 2021. As we move ahead with new projects, clearing the slate and cleaning out our freezers, let’s remember to take time to enjoy the unexpected pleasures. Whether it’s an ad hoc kitchen experiment that turns out well or a sip from the last bottle of a lovely wine, honor the moment. If we’ve learned anything from 2020 it’s to take nothing for granted.
And to keep our heads up and our hearts open.