Sicilian Dinner

Across the Strait of Messina, within eye shot of Calabria, lies the Italian island of Sicily. While it is part of Italy, it is a world apart. Having historical influences from the Greeks, Arabs and Normans, the food, culture and wines are unique to Italy. There is so much diversity in Sicilian food and wine, that is is sometimes referred to as "God's kitchen".

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we have a small group that meets every few months to put together an authentic 5-course meal, paired with local wines (if possible). All the recipes are researched and made with authentic ingredients (even if wee have to import them) and made in the traditional style. In the past we have done Spain, Tuscany, Nicaragua, Chile, Norway, Burgundy, to name a few. This night we gathered for a full Sicilian Dinner.

The recipes and menu were organized by the hosts, and everything came together for the evening. Along with an appetizer (antipasto), I was also in charge of finding the wines to pair with each course. What follows is a recap of each course, and the wine that was paired.

We opened the evening with two antipasto course: 1) Caponata; and 2) Arancini di Riso. Caponata is a dish consisting of eggplant, vegetables, currants, and pine nuts, served on sliced baguette toast. We paired this with a dry Prosecco. I know....Prosecco isn't from Sicily. But, have you ever tried to find a sparkling wine from Sicily? They make them, but finding the is another story. We made up for this with all the remaining wines. By the way, the pairing worked nicely despite not being Sicilian. The second antipasto, Arancini di Riso, is basically a fried rice ball, made from day old risotto, stuffed with cheese. For this course, we paired a COS 2010 Pithos Grecanico Sicilia. This is the same grape (different name) that we see in Northern Italy, that make Soave (Garganega). There was some nice acidity that worked with the frying process.

For the first course (or Primo) of our sit down portion of the dinner, we opened with typical Italian dish (even in Sicily). Pasta Burro e Formaggio e Crema (or pasta with butter, cheese and cream). We paired this with a 2006 Vasari Mamertino Bianco. This course was very similar to a Fettucini Alfredo, so we paired with with a wine of more body, but some acidity to cut through the cream base.. The wine is a blend of Cataratto, Inzolia, and Grillo. The creaminess from MLF, and the fruit from stainless steel fermentation worked nicely with this dish. This was a 2006 vintage, which led to a bit of oxidation.

Our main course (Secondo) consisted of Chicken Marsala, along with a side (contorno) of Asparagi con Arance (Asparagus with Oranges) and a salad (insalata) of Finocchio Insalata (Fennel Orange Salad). This was a challenging pairing. There was the sweetness of the Chicken Marsala, and the taste changing affects of the asparagus, not to mention the licorice flavors of fennel. We had to pair this with a red, so I went with a lighter red, that had some spice, and a bit "funkiness" to work with the mushrooms. I chose the 2010 Terre Nere Etna Rosso "Calderara Sottana". Grown on the side of Mt Etna, this wine is made from Nerello Mascalese.  (a grape unfamiliar to most). I would suggest that this is the "pinot noir of Sicily". It is light, medium tannin, but smooth. We opened this bottle an hour earlier that the food course, and it probably could have handled another hour or so.

Our cheese course (Formaggi e Frutta) consisted of three cheeses: Pecorino, Caciocavallo, and Piacentinu along with red and green figs. I chose to pair with the most pronounced cheese, which was the Pecorino. But, the Piacentinu, with it's pepper corns and saffron, also had a pronounced flavor. I went heavy with the wine, and paired this course with a Gulfi 2008 Nerobaronj Nero D'Avola. This is a striking wine, made from the local Nero D'Avola grape. This is all dark fruit, heavy, and wonderful.

We ended the evening with  a dessert course (Dolce) of Savaoiardi Spagnolette (cream filled cookie). This was paired with a sweet Marsala, served in short glasses, allowing us to dip the cookie in the wine. It was a sweet end to an evening of Sicilian food, shared with friends. Next time, we'll have to do it actually in Sicily. but for now, it will have to do.

Bon Apetit!

No comments:

Post a Comment