Looking at the date on this post, I see it has been a long time since I last blogged. Lots of reasons for the delay: work-related, personal, and procrastinational (not a word, but it should be). I have a few ideas lined up for blog posts, but I’m not a natural writer — I rarely come across an idea and bang out 500 words in a short time.
I say “rarely” for a reason. Because some days you get an e-mail from a wine publicist that makes the job easy. I get a lot of wine PR e-mails and most of them go right to the trash. Mostly for wine events in far-flung places that require travel (at my own expense). Or pitches about new wines, new vintages, reviews, etc. Delete, delete, delete.
The ones that make it “into print” are the ones that write themselves into blog posts. Like this ever-so-subtle pitch for Happy Bitch wine. Or a nonsense blurb about wine jargon that sets me off. Or a come-on by the lords of French champagne to use proper terminology.
Well, I hit the jackpot at noon today with an almost-too-late pitch from the fine folks at the trade association representing the wines of Languedoc. The header reads “Make 2014 The Year of Languedoc — Languedoc Heats up this June.” It all kicks off with Languedoc Day on May 30. I’m not sure exactly why May 30 was chosen or if this was recently made up, but there is a Twitter hashtag involved so I’m betting it’s not something that has been celebrated for centuries.
As I write this post, the date is May 21. Kind of far into the “Year of Languedoc” to get things started, don’t you think? Only nine days before the big day on May 30. And not a lot of time to get things revved up for whatever might be happening in June. Maybe they’re just a bit disorganized. Or maybe I’m too far down the totem pole to have received notice earlier, even though I import Languedoc wines. Nothing like a PR e-mail to put me in my place, right?
I don’t mean to poke too much fun at them, because they very kindly took me on a memorable wine junket and gave me a lot of great wines to try — some of which I’m now stocking and selling. As I mentioned in a previous post, most people who drink and enjoy wines from the Languedoc don’t know that the wines come from that region. I’m happy to help settle some of the confusion.
So here’s the deal for Friday, May 30. Either open a bottle of Languedoc wine yourself, or go somewhere that has an open bottle or two. Drink, take photos, tweet (using #LanguedocDay, naturally), and enjoy. Really, you can’t go wrong.
If you’re looking for a Languedoc selection, try the Cabernet Sauvignon from Domaine de Mairan. It’s a French-style Cab. Medium-bodied with just a little oak, it has a good amount of fruit and spice, but not overwhelming.
I’ve profiled Jean-Baptiste Pietavy, the winemaker, in a previous post. He’s a great guy who loves growing grapes and making wine. The 2010 Cab vintage is the first to have a name to it other than the grape. It’s called La Tête dans les Étoiles, which translates to “Head in the Stars.” This is what Jean-Baptiste’s teachers in elementary school used to say when they caught him daydreaming in class. It’s a great name for a wine. Even more so since Jean-Jacques d’Ortus de Mairan, the 18th century owner of Jean-Baptiste’s vineyard property, was an astronomer who was the first to accurately describe the phenomenon of the Orion Nebula.
If you happen to be out on Capitol Hill on the evening of May 30 between 5 and 8 pm, stop in and try the Cabernet Sauvignon as part of DCanter‘s tasting lineup. The store is located at 545 8th Street, SE, and has a great selection of wines (and not just ones from First Vine). The Cab will be there along with a Languedoc rosé so you can celebrate the bounty of southwestern France. Or the beauty of a made-up holiday. Just drink the wine!
There are some places that have particular meanings when it comes to food. A dish with the word “Florentine” in the name will have spinach in it, for example. And dishes à la Languedocienne are ones made with herbs, garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil. Nearly anything can be made this way, of course, including fish and meat. But it works particularly well with pork loin, which just soaks up the flavors during its relatively long cooking.
This particular stuffed pork loin recipe is one I have on a handwritten piece of notebook paper, and I think I copied it down when I was just out of college. It already had most of the basic Languedocienne ingredients (plus some bacon, which makes everything better), but I added some chopped sun-dried tomatoes to round out the list. Why not make it completely Languedocienne, after all?
Stuffing a piece of meat seems daunting, but this one is easy — no fancy cutting. As the roast sits on your cutting board, just start cutting horizontally about halfway up. Once the knife is in the meat, keep cutting nearly all the way through. You want to leave about a half inch of meat intact on the other side. Don’t worry about opening it up too much to stuff it, you can spread this stuffing in the cut easily with a knife or a spatula. Tying it up isn’t too difficult either, just take four long pieces of kitchen string and slip them under the roast evenly. Tie the roast tightly, then cut off the excess string.
You can roast the pork in the oven or cook it on a grill as long as you can adjust the heat to relatively low. It’s not necessary to let the stuffed roast sit overnight, but the meat will be even more flavorful, and it’s a good thing to do if you have time the night before. You can serve it hot, warm, or room temperature. While many recipes tell you to take the string off before slicing, it’s actually better to leave the string on while you slice it, then take each piece of string off as you get to it. The roast will stay together better, and it’s easier to get it into a container to store when it’s not falling apart.
Naturally, this recipe pairs particularly well with the Mairan Cabernet Sauvignon, but you can also try any of your favorite Languedoc wines with it. Or try a new one. With plenty of inexpensive selections, it’s hard to go wrong. Even though it’s a made-up wine holiday, you might find you’ve come across something that you’ll want to do every May 30th!
One pork loin, approximately 3 to 4 pounds, fat trimmed so there’s still a little on it, but not too much
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon chopped thyme
2 tablespoons finely-chopped sun-dried tomatoes (use the ones packed in oil)
3 slices bacon, chopped into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Salt and pepper the pork loin and set it on a cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife, start making a horizontal cut halfway up the side. Keep the knife parallel to the cutting board as you continue to cut through, until you get about 1/2-inch from the other side. Put your hands in the opening and pull the roast open a little, just so that you can get a knife or spatula inside to Set the roast aside while you make the stuffing.
Set up the food processor with the steel blade and turn it on. Remove the plunger so that you can drop things into the feed tube. Drop in the garlic cloves, one by one, waiting until each one has been chopped before adding the next. Stop the processor and add the sun-dried tomatoes and the herbs, along with some pepper. Process to mix. Add the bacon pieces along with a tablespoon of olive oil, and process until the bacon is all ground up with the other ingredients.
Using a rubber spatula or a dinner knife, spread the stuffing into the opening of the roast. Tie the roast up, then rub the outside of the roast with the other tablespoon of olive oil. At this point, you can wrap the roast in plastic and refrigerate it overnight, or continue on to cook it. (Letting it sit overnight allows some of the flavors of the herbs and garlic to get into the meat, but it’s not necessary if you don’t want to do it ahead.)
If you’ve let the roast sit in the fridge overnight, take it out about 45 minutes before you want to get it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the roast if you let it sit overnight, and put it in a roasting pan large enough to hold it. It will take anywhere from 1-1/2 to 2-1/4 hours to cook — you want the internal temperature of the meat to be 160 degrees F. Remove the roast from the oven and place it on a cutting board. Tent with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve.