Fish and red wine.  It’s a debate that exposes the most elaborate wine pairing guides and rules of thumb, and sends sommeliers into a frenzy of opinions, usually ending with the words “Pinot Noir”.  IMG_3263

On this Meatless Monday, we highlight a Tuscan fish dinner that can be made at home using Mario Batali’s eponymous smartphone app “Mario Batali Cooks!”  The app is a brilliant blend of Batali’s genius in the kitchen, and High Five Labs technology, with in-depth video tutorials, recipe & wine pairings, including those specific to Italian region, course, season, and category, all at your fingertips.  It even creates the market shopping list for you by recipe, and also includes built-in timers and step-by-step photos for ease of use, and mistake-free cooking.  It’s so easy to use, your 7-year-old could make tomorrow night’s Caponata, and make Sicilian grandmothers cringe.  It’s as if Mario is in the kitchen with you.  At $10, it’s likely the most money you will pay for a smartphone app, but if you cook at home, and you enjoy to make a mess in the kitchen with top chef recipes, it’s well worth it.  You may never look at an old hardbound cookbook the same.

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And now the wine.  It’s not a Pinot Noir, but a more unconventional pairing to most, and we’ll explain why.  The wines of the Chianti Classico DOCG are some of the world’s most popular and versatile, poured everywhere from Michelin star restaurants to home dinner tables.  They are elegant wines that go hand-in-hand with many popular dishes.  It’s one of the ultimate food wines of the world.  The wine we selected for this pairing, San Felice Chianti Classico 2009, can be found at your local market for $15.  It’s a medium-bodied, dry Chianti from a juggernaut producer, Agricola San Felice, that delivers expressive notes of red fruit, acidity, and soft aromas, with a balanced overall structure that’s not too bold or overpowering.  This is a wine best enjoyed with antipasti, full-flavored first courses, red meats, and medium-aged cheeses, like pecorino.  It’s also versatile enough to sit pleasantly alongside our suggested menu: Fave con pecornio & Spigola alla Livornese (Wild-Striped Bass in the Style of Livorno).  Both are dishes of Toscana that pair well with a wine from the same roots.  Chianti usually lends to dishes with tomato sauces and olives, and helps to balance their salt levels with it’s high acidity, dark cherry character and moderate alcohol.  In this case, the tomato sauce, olives and caper berries that are added to the pan in the final steps of this recipe, actually braise and finish the fish.  The appetizer is a traditional and simple Tuscan starter of Fava Beans with pecorino cheese, an announcement of the Spring season.  An unconventional pairing to most, however, this is a true Tuscan match made in heaven.  Buon appetito! –JT

SAN FELICE Chianti Classico 2009

SCORE: 90

Related scores: WS-89

Market price: $15 (purchased at Bristol Farms, Los Angeles)

Recommended food pairing: (using Mario Batali’s smartphone app “Mario Batali Cooks”)

Appetizer: Fave con Pecorino (Fava Beans with Pecorino)

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Ingredients: (serves 6, 10 mins)
2 lbs young fava beans in the pod, shelled

1 small bunch chives, thinly sliced

1 lemon, zest & juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt1 1/2 pound chunk of young pecorino (like Cacio di Roma)

Step 1: Peel the favas, pinch open the skin at one end of each bean and squeeze out the bean.  Place beans in large mixing bowl

Step 2: Make a vinaigrette in a separate bowl.  Thinly slice chives and put in the bowl along with the lemon zest and juice.  Season vinaigrette with coarse sea salt.  Whisk in olive oil.  Season with freshly ground pepper. IMG_3255

Step 3: Pour vinaigrette over fava beans and toss together.  Plate lava beans

Step 4: Slice pecorino and cut the slices lengthwise (1/3 inch pieces).  Pile Pecorino next to the favas.  Sprinkle pepper over the top with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and serve immediately.

Main Dish: Spigola alla Livornese (Wild-Striped Bass in the style of Livorno)

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Ingredients: (serves 6, 15 mins)

2 pounds wild striped bass fillet, skin on, cut into 6 equal fillets

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3/4 cup Gaeta olives

1/2 cup salt-packed caper berries, drained

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon red chile flakes

1 cup basic tomato sauce

Coarse sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

ImageStep1: Rinse the fish and pat dry, then cut into 6 equal portions.  Season aggressively with salt and pepper on the flesh side.

Step 2: Preheat a 12-inch skillet until very hot.  Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pan and add the fillets skin side dan.  Shake the pan slightly to jiggle the fillets and allow them to settle in the pan. Image

Step 3: Place a weight on top of the fillets (a

smaller skillet or a foil wrapped brick will do) and cook for about six minutes until skin is crispy and brown.

Step 4: Remove weight and turn over the fillets.  Add olives, caper berries and white wine and let wine cook down for a few seconds.  Add in the tomato sauce and chili flakes.  Braise for about 4 minutes until fish is just cooked through.

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Step 5: Remove from heat and stir in parsley.  Serve the fish with the olives and caper berries and serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

www.agricolasanfelice.com

www.mariobatali.com

www.chianticlassico.com

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