Thursday, January 27, 2011

Valentine’s Day is about “Pairings”, a Favorite Bottle of Wine…and My Date with a Luscious Casserole…

Valentine’s Day 2011, may be the best day all year to eat in, rather than out. On Monday, February 14th, you and your sweetheart are launching into work mode—but aside from that…Ever been to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day?? There’s usually an overcrowding of people huddled over fondue, helium balloons and corsages, with a noticeable price hike on the surf & turf. Who wants to wait in line when the comforts of home beckon with the epitome of comfort food and wondrous wine available in your own dining room?

My recipe for Updated Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole is a re-imagined dinner classic from the 1950s that tastes like the very definition of “luscious” and slides over your palate like a down comforter. This dish is perfect for a romantic winter’s night when toasts are in order for many more happy Valentine’s Days to come—and into that wine glass, might I suggest you pour…

Layer Cake Shiraz!

Just think of me as a sommelier, weighing in with my wine suggestion for V-day; Layer Cake Shiraz is like sipping from the happiest marriage of blackberries, exotic spices and rich, dark chocolate…yum…and because, like the wine, this casserole is heavy, decadent and creamy, you don’t have to worry about one taste overpowering the other.

Making the Perfect Pair

While it’s true that white wines, like Pinot Grigio, are usually the perfect pairing with fish, there’s also that rule of thumb about balancing the weight of the food, with the weight of the wine—and Tuna casserole—like a culinary hug from the person who loves you most in the whole world—is certainly heavier than the gray sole and mushroom hash I shared with my readers as last year’s Valentine’s Day feast (that fish dish pairs beautifully with Pinot—or a rose wine.)

Wine Buying tip: You’ll note when shopping for wine and spirits this time of year, a backlog of dusty, but perfectly good bottles of rose wine that didn’t sell in the summer of 2010. I don’t know why rose wines are strictly a summer beverage for so many people; pairing it with something delicious like roasted duck and wild rice, is marvelous whether it’s January or June—and right now, you can buy rose wine for as much as 75% off the regular price.

Retro Dining Notes: Re-Imagining Tuna Casserole at Sinatra’s House

Before I go I just have to share two related foodie stories. Did any of you catch the episode of The Next Food Network Star, when Brianna—the chef who trained in France—was assigned the task of remaking tuna casserole? She and her fellow contestants had to remodel 1950s classics, like upside down pineapple cake and deviled eggs, into something that would still make Rat Packers like Frank Sinatra ask for seconds—and the cooking challenge took place in Frank’s Los Angeles pad, next to his pool shaped like a grand piano. Brianna’s update was Crab and Brie Casserole with Wild Mushroom Crumb Topping—so luscious, I simply had to share—and while I’m at it, here’s Marilyn Monroe’s recipe for sour dough stuffing, given a 4 star review for its taste, innovation and fascinating back story in the New York Times.

As Sinatra used to say, you’re nobody until somebody loves you, right? So find some (casserole) to love—and have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

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