Tod Hill – Locals Wine Club member….and friend
Climate change be damned, there is nothing like a drought-on-the-horizon mid December day in Sonoma County. Yesterday I awoke to brilliant sunshine, frost on my roof and all three dogs under the covers. By mid day, I was sweating in the garden pulling beets, clipping kale, picking the last of the serrano peppers, and wondering if I needed sun block. By sunset, I was lighting a fire and contemplating a stew for dinner. No time for slow-braised short ribs or coq au vin. A sea food stew would have to do. I remembered a fish stew served in a whole pumpkin that I had at a hole-in-the-wall Brazilian restaurant on Valencia & 24th back in the 80s. A tropical stew for a cold winter’s night that came hours after a what felt like a warm summer day. Here’s what I did:
- Slice the tops off of two sugar pie pumpkins (the small ones about the size of a softball or grapefruit)
- Scoop out the seeds
- Bake at 350 for one hour; then turn off the oven and allow the pumpkins to sit in the oven for up to an hour more
- Dice, separately:
- 2 red, ripe Serrano peppers
- 1 shallot
- 1/2 of a fennel bulb (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 leek
- 1 large carrots
- 1/2 lb Crimini or white mushrooms
- Heat a small amount of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot
- Add the pepper, shallot, and fennel and saute for about 3-4 min until soft
- Add the leek and carrots and saute for about 3-4 min until soft
- Add the crimini mushrooms and 1 cup dry white wine, cover and let cook until the mushrooms have released their juices
- Chop into 1/2 inch cubes: approximately 8 oz. snapper or other flaky white fish
- Add the fish along with 1 cup water, cook until the fish dissolves
- In the mean time, rinse and mix together 1/2 lb selections of other seafood (I used bay scallops, tiger prawns and calamari). Squeeze the juice of one lime over the fish along with 1/2 cup white wine, salt & pepper, 1/2 cup chopped italian parsley and 1 one diced Serrano pepper. Let sit while the snapper dissolves.
- 10 min before serving, add the fish to the stew, bring to a simmer, lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 min
- Place the pumpkins into plates or soup bowls, ladle the stew into the pumpkins, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and enjoy.
So what wine should we pair with this creation? A Praxis Viognier to capture the tropical mood? A Saracina Sauvignon Blanc to meet the citrus notes? Nope, I chose the Eric Ross 2009 Pinot Noir. Red wine with fish? A Pinot with spicy sea food? No problem. The fennel and mushroom based stock met the earthy tones of the Pinot perfectly. And the fruitier notes mingled with the sweetness of the pumpkin and the shellfish provided a perfect counterpoint to the spice of the Serranos. Fish and white wine pairing orthodoxy be damned.