My hubby’s New Year’s Resolution is to eat more vegetables. While I often cook dinners with loads of veggies, those used to be the only meal where the hubby would eat any leafy greens or fibrous foods. To help him with his resolution, he bought a Vegetable cookbook called, Lucky Peach Presents: Power Vegetables! Turbocharged Recipes for Vegetables with Guts by Peter Meehan. He has made several recipes so far, and they have all been delicious!  Unfortunately, he usually cooks on the nights that I am working at the wine shop, so I never have the pleasure to eat them when they are fresh and warm. I usually only get the leftovers, if there are any leftover to be had! Don’t get me wrong, leftovers are amazing, but enjoying the food on the night it is made has a bit more pizzaz.

Being MLK day, I had the day off, and being busy all the time means that days off are meant for errands. I had to go to the mall, clean the apartment for guests, finish lesson planning, catch up on correspondents, set up the wine rack that my brother gave me for Christmas (thanks, Bro!), pay bills, etc…The list is never ending! Being the wonderful man that he is, the hubby volunteered to cook this evening so that I didn’t have to worry about cooking. Normally, I love cooking. It is therapeutic. As a teacher, all day every day I make decisions and give directions. I am responsible for the lives and brains of 20 something, 8/9-year-old kids. I am always telling students what to do. Cooking gives me a break from all that. I don’t want to think when I am done with work. I’m tired and want to sit on my bottom, in my sweatpants, on the couch, and do nothing. Let my brain be mush! Cooking gives me a recipe that tells me what to do, I don’t have to think about anything because I am given explicit directions. The hubby and I catch up on each other’s days while I mindlessly chop or stir or bake. That being said, when I had a ton of stuff on my to-do list today, it was a relief when the hubby volunteered to cook.

Tonight’s dinner was from the hubby’s cookbook; Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie (No Sheep) (p 114). Instead of ground beef in the pie, black beans and tons of veggies were used. Instead of mashed potatoes, it was a homemade masa tamale topping. It had jalapeños for spice, tomatoes for an acidic sauce, black beans for earthiness, and smoked paprika for a bbq-esque flavor. How in the world was I supposed to find a wine for this when I really only have heavier reds in my stash and didn’t prepare beforehand?

That’s when I found it…Alto Moncayo Veraton 2013. The color of this wine should be made into a gemstone. It is so deeply garnet, that if it were encrusted with diamonds, it would make a gorgeous pendant or pair of dangly earrings. Alto Moncayo Veraton is a Garnacha from Spain (same grape as Grenache), with a medium body and spicy flavors. This wine has lots of black fruits (black currant, blackberry, black cherry) and granite on the nose with some oak, chocolate, and dried rose petals on the palate. The tannins are somewhat strong, so I popped the top for about an hour/hour and a half before dinner (I really should get a decanter...). At first, I was wondering if this pairing would work. I knew from previous tastes that there was a spicy characteristic to the wine. If jalapeños were in the dish, would the pair be too spicy? However, the dish also had a tomato based sauce, and a wine with balsamic notes might complement it all. Let’s give it a whirl!

I was eating while putting together the said wine rack. Again, thanks, Bro!

Overall, the meal was delicious. The hubby, who has always baked bread but never really cooked as much, is becoming an excellent chef. The meal was perfectly executed, with a hard tamale topping and perfectly moist veggie mix on the inside. I was quite impressed! The pairing, however, was not as impressive… at first. When having the wine with the food, all of the wine flavors were basically lost, most likely due to the jalapeños and tomato based sauce. I stopped drinking the wine with the food, pushed it aside for the time being, and went to water. When dinner was over, and my glass of water was empty, I switched back to my wine.

This is when the magic happened. With the aftertaste of the meal still in my mouth (that sounds grosser than what I meant), I took a sip of the Garnacha, and those gorgeous black fruits appeared and intensified instantly. The earthiness of the meal that still lingered on my tastebuds complimented the wine in a way that didn’t happen at all when eating the food. The pair just blossomed. It was nothing like this when I was actually eating the food! Because of this, it was hard to rate the pairing. When eating, I would have given it 2 grapes…the flavor of the wine was just gone! But with the aftertaste, I would have given it a 4. So, I decided to find a middle ground, and gave the pairing 3 grapes.

Recipe: Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie (No Sheep)

Wine: Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha ( Dominion Wine and Beer, $27)

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