Rustic Korea meets the Rhone Valley

20130921_173252Meet our newest blogger, Jin Kim, who describes himself as "a flawed character with a weakness for food and wine, and partakes in games of chance." Judging by the nomenclature, I get the impression that the folks up at Kitfox Vineyards are an imaginative, playful, fun-loving bunch. Is the name "Roan Stallion" a double-entendre? Is it a play-on-word? Or, maybe, it is both. Regardless, the name suggests a funky, eclectic blend of Rhone varieties. But, in fact, it is a blend of Carignane, Grenache and Tannat. Not exactly one-hundred percent Rhone, but a motley combination nonetheless, like an animal with intermingled a roan stallion!

I was given the impression that the Roan Stallion was a beefy, pitch-dark, super-ripe, jammy sort of a breed with an extremely firm spine. With this in mind, I set about to find the perfect mate. I sat there pondering a dish that was as big and powerful as this wine was purported to be. Upon some consideration, I zoned in on big, hearty, rustic braises. But how do you find a mating partner for something "darker than a pitch-black panther covered in tar, eating licorice at the very bottom of the deepest part of the Black Sea?" For the briefest of moments I considered Wesley Snipes, but for obvious reasons Wes was quickly dismissed--I heard he had a Korean girlfriend. And so I thought, why not mate a Korean with the Roan Stallion?

One of the boldest, most powerful of braises/stews that came to mind was an extremely rustic Korean fare called kimchi jji-gae. This emblematic Korean dish is made by simmering aged kimchi in some kind of a base, usually made from either pork or dried anchovies. Instead of just simmering raw meat, I borrowed from the French and braised it, in the hopes of coaxing out more flavor. While paring Korean food with wine is still a fairly new endeavor, and perhaps even a paradox of sorts, convention and tradition need not preclude me from exploring new avenues.

Upon uncorking, I found that the Stallion wasn't quite what I had expected. While, on the nose, it promised ripe and jammy fruit, the color was more reminiscent of a Bordeaux than a black panther. The Stallion had a beautiful nose--abundance of black fruit with notes of baking spices and a hint of gingerbread--but legs more befitting a pony than a stallion. In terms of texture, it wasn't exactly inky, but fairly generous nonetheless (more medium-plus than full). On the palate, I noticed tart, under-ripened red fruit, with mineral and floral undertones. Given the Carignane and the Tannat, I was expecting more astringency, but the seven years of aging probably mellowed out the tannins--and perhaps thinned-out what was said to be a dark and tar-like quality upon release. The acidity, while assertive but not overbearing, kicked in mid-palate and permeated with a wisp of spiciness towards the lingering finish. Although, the beast wasn't quite as big as I had anticipated, it had plenty of merit nonetheless. In fact, the absence of ripe, jamminess probably rendered it a better food-wine, as the bright acidity took center-stage without significant hindrances.

The kimchi braise is so robust, spicy and powerful that it will easily overpower most wines. The Roan Stallion more than held its own and didn't contrast with the food one bit. They both asserted their flavors and characteristics while not overwhelming or undermining the other. But, alas, the paring wasn't the transcendent, synergistic kind that results in mild euphoria. However, on the strengths of their individual merit, as well as viewing the meal as a whole, they all came together quite nicely, resulting in a sufficiently satisfying meal.

Braised Spare-Ribs in Kimchi Broth                                                                           (Yield: 4 portions)

3.5 lbs. Pork spare-ribs--chopped length-wise
4 Tbsp. Vegetable fat (anything neutral)
5 cloves Garlic--minced
2 Tbsp. Korean chili flakes
5 cups Aged kimchi--drained
Drained kimchi juice to taste
3 Tbsp. Soy sauce
1 cup Dry white wine
32 oz. approx. Chicken stock, low-sodium chicken broth or water
1 bunch minus 2 sprigs Scallions--two-inch batons, the whites split in half
2 sprigs Scallions, chopped for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups Sushi rice--steamed
1 pack Roasted, seasoned laver--Korean style

1.  Preheat heavy-bottom rondeau/Dutch oven over medium heat, add fat, raise heat to high.
2.  When the oil starts to smoke, sear seasoned spare-ribson both sides until golden brown, remove ribs, set aside.
3. Take rondeau off the heat, let cool.
4. Once cooled, add garlic and sauté under low heat--do not burn the garlic!
5. Infuse oil with chili flakes, add kimchi, raise heat to med-high, sauté until au-sec (until nearly dry, sludgy).
6. Add soy sauce, cook until au-sec.
7. Add wine, if fond (brown traces on rondeau from seared ribs) still remains, lift it with wooden spoon, au-sec.
8. Ribs back into rondeau with the drippings.
9. Add stock/broth/water just enough to slightly cover the ribs, bring to simmer, lower heat.
10. On low heat, gently simmer uncovered for 1 hour 15 minutes, adding liquid as needed to keep bones submerged.
11. Taste--if the liquid needs acidity, add drained kimchi juice in small increments to taste.
12. Add batons of scallions, mix in, take off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.
13. Plate in shallow bowls, garnish with chopped scallions.
14. Serve with steamed rice and roasted laver.
15. Always drink wine with food.

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