Sunset Wines – Ancient Peaks Merlot – Special Lamb Chop Dinner Pairing

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 Background

For Christmas 2012, one of our favorite gifts came from parents where we  received two bottles of wine each month from the Sunset Win Club. Every month the UPS man would come with a package requiring a signature. The package contained a featured red and white wine along with a recipe card for a pairing suggestion. I took the first stab at it, and decided to prepare Rack of Lamb to accompany the Ancient Peaks, 2010 Merlot. There were also other recipes for the full pairing and so I went all out! I have created a screen capture for each of the recipes to save them in case Sunset removes them from their site. Click on the links to go to the recipe.

I had never prepared lamb, risotto  or flan before but was ready for the challenge. I did have to make alterations to the recipes because some items were not available in the store, or I was short on time, or didn’t have the equipment necessary to prepare per the instructions. I have made those notations on the recipe uploads.

Results

Results were EXTREMELY FLAVORFUL! The lamb was extremely tender, the watercress endive salad was surprisingly delicious due to the addition of the salad dressing (recipe provided) and the sweet acidity from the blood oranges. I prepared this salad again a few days later. The risotto was a bit moist but the flavor was delicious. I couldn’t find preserved lemon or the Marash pepper so I still wonder what it is supposed to taste like. But it was still really delicious. My special guest said that the flan was the best he had ever had! I had to make them in ramekins because I was short on time to cool them off in the fridge. I am not a fan of flan but this was really REALLY incredible! 

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Lessons Learned

I was EXHAUSTED! But that was my own fault because I shopped and cooked all in the same day … this was stressful but fortunately the food did not suffer! I had to go to three grocery stores because Wegman’s actually didn’t have all the ingredients I was looking for. If I were to redo this pairing recipe again:

I would spread out the shopping and cooking as follows:

  1. Day 1: Shopping and Inventory Check (Preferably NOT on a weekend: The stores were so crowded! )
    • For the best rack of lamb, go to Wegman’s or Whole Foods. Both are pricey but the quality is EXCELLENT!
    • I never did find Marash / Aleppo pepper or the preserved lemon for the risotto. I found the pepper online at Amazon gourmet and now have a bottle in my spice cabinet :-) Again, prepare. I found out later that the Marash pepper can be found at a local middle eastern grocery store. But they were closed by the time I had exhausted Wegmans, Whole Foods, and two different Harris Teeters
    • No one had Creme Fraiche so I had to use Sour Cream in the risotto. I could have made this myself using an online recipe but it had to be done at least one night in advance
    • The entire meal requires a lot of ingredients, most of which are not in the average cook’s cabinet so be prepared to buy several ingredients to complete this meal.  Although this recipe is paired with the Ancient Peaks Merlot, the recipes call for two other wines, a dry white for the risotto, and a port wine for the flan. I purchased the single serving white wines so that I didn’t waste the entire bottle on a recipe that called for 1/4 cup of wine. It helps to have a friend to help you drink all  the “ingredient” wines
  2. Day 2: Prepare the Flan
    • The Flan should be prepared one day in advance to give it enough time to cool (even in the ramekins) and also because we discovered that it tastes even better the next day
  3. Day 3: Cook the Lamb, Risotto, and Salad 
    • Pomegranates were out of season in March/ Early April so I could not include them in the salad. I think this recipe would be a good November/December recipe because blood oranges and pomegranates are both available at that time.

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