Okay, as promised (or semi-promised, at least) here's a recipe to be copied, used, and cherished forever, at least by those of you who love and understand great soups. I warn you up front, however: this is not your grandma's gentle little creamy kinda-cheesy concoction that you remember from your sniffly-nosed childhood wintry stay-home-sick days that made you feel all warm and cozy. Nope, this is a rich, weighty, almost-a-full-meal-in-a-bowl version of an old-style Canadian rancher's soup that we fussed over for a number of days before we felt we had it right, and I still marvel at the level of perceptiveness that Dan Gilbert brought to this process: he was able to clearly understand how he needed to approach and solve the problem just by listening to me explain as best I could how I wanted it to taste and how it needed to work with the wines being featured on that specific night. It was perfect in the end, and was probably the most talked-about and discussed item on the menu, which was impressive. So, here you go, compliments of Chef Dan Gilbert...
Black Diamond Aged White Cheddar Soup
1 leek, duced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 1/2 cups sauvignon blanc (a medium-weight wine with some grassiness is desirable)
1/2 gal rich chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of cayenne (optional, but preferred)
pinch of kosher salt and white pepper
16 oz grated Black Diamond Canadian White Cheddar
Roux (4 oz butter, 4 oz flour)
Saute leeks and celery in canola oil for 3 - 4 minutes, add sauvignon blanc and cayenne pepper and reduce by half, add chicken stock and heavy cream, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes; add a pinch of kosher salt and white pepper and ehisk in half the roux (soup will become creammy and smooth); you may add more roux if needed. Whisk in shredded lack Diamond cheddar, making sure all the cheese melts and binds together (consistency should be a light to medium thickness and silky); strain with fine mesh strainer.
Return to low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently; if soup seems to be too thick, it may be thinned with chicken stock or sauvignon blanc; soup is ready to serve. Garnish with a whole wheat crostini. Serve with a medium-to-full sauvignon blanc albarino, or chardonnay
Those of you who are working on new fall and winter menus will want to look closely at this one...
Unhappily, Mr Fire is back among us and is currently kicking butt across wide swaths of wine country.including Napa (again), Lake (again), and Amador counties. The Valley fire (Napa) erupted late Saturday evening and has burned approximately 95 square miles as of this morning's CalFire report; it has already destroyed the little town of Middletown just north of Calistoga, and has burned more than 400 structures. CalFire is calling it a monster and Governor Jerry has declared Napa and Lake counties disaster areas again. Seems that Calistoga and Kelseyville have been designated as regional shelter centers for the hundreds of families that have been evacuated, and normal activities are in turmoil. No one can say what the impact of these fires will be on this years' winegrape harvest, but word is that a number of growers and wineries are struggling to deal with the labor crisis caused by the absence of workers who are looking after their families and property that may be in harm's way or serving as volunteer firefighters. How long this new disaster is going to be with us is far from certain; as of this morning CalFire says it's at 5% containment, but the winds are up and it keeps jumping their lines. As for the Butte fire (Amador), it appears to be almost as nasty as the Valley; one saving grace, I suppose, is that it's burning in an area that's less heavily populated (and tourist-travelled), but it doesn't appear to be any closer to containment and could do any number of things before it's all over. We wish the best for our many friends in the Napa area, and hope everyone stays safe and well...
A happy note to close this letter: we just picked up a copy of Bota Box's latest offering of their "Old Vine" Zinfandel ($18.95 for the 3l box), which is the 2013 vintage; not only is this a good, well-made red wine, which is frequently all you can hope for from a bulk package with a varietal label, but this one actually tastes like a pretty decent zin! Rich fruit, good color and balance, and a berryish finish that is old-time California through and through. It's worth your while if you like having a tasty red on hand that can be gulped down with burgers and pizza without feeling the guilt associated with uncorking a $25 or $30 bottle for your unruly friends to disrespect.
I think that's it for now, but more very soon...