Autumn dining suggests more red wines. The weather is gentle and almost instinctively, the preferred cuisine features heartier dishes. Perhaps some of this is in anticipation of the approaching holiday season when celebratory feasts are important components of ritual and tradition. These are delicious main courses, some could say they are quintessentially American. One is a Deep South Creole classic. The wines are from Oregon.
CHEF HELEN’S MEATBALLS IN RED WINE GRAVY
1 6-ounce piece day-old French Bread, cut into 8 pieces (about 1/3 a loaf of bread)
1 cup whole milk
1 3/4 pounds ground beef (7 to 15% fat)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 1/2 cups canned beef broth
1 bag of baby spinach
4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cups warm whole milk or more
2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Combine bread and milk in a medium bowl, pressing on bread to submerge. Let sit 10 minutes.
Squeeze out most of milk from bread and discard milk. Place bread in a large bowl. Add ground beef, eggs, finely chopped onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and thyme. Using your hands, mix together until well combined.
Form 1 3/4 inch meatballs and place in 2 13-by-9-inch glass baking dishes. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Dust meatballs with flour and shake off excess. Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In 2 batches, saute meatballs until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes.
Return all meatballs to skillet. Whisk together tomato paste and wine. Add to skillet and bring to a boil. Continue boiling 5 minutes, until liquid thickens slightly. Stir often.
Add broth, reduce heat to medium and simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook potatoes in a large pot of salted water for 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain well. Place in bowl with butter and mash well.
Add milk to potatoes and mash and stir to incorporate. Add cheese.
Add spinach and stir it in. The heat from the mashed potatoes will wilt and steam the spinach. If your potatoes have cooled off too much to do this, you can microwave them to heat them back up.
Season liberally with salt and pepper.
GULF COAST GRILLADES AND GRITS
For the Grillades:
2 lbs. round steak pounded to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 2-inch squares
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large red bell pepper about 1 cup, diced
1/2 cup celery diced
2 cups tomatoes diced or 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter or 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning see below
2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
For the Grits:
1 cup Logan Turnpike stone-ground grits
5 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
Combine the 1/2 cup flour, salt and one teaspoon of Creole Seasoning in a shallow bowl. Dredge the pieces of beef in the flour, shaking off the excess and transfer to a large plate.
Heat the oil in a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Place the beef in the skillet, being careful not to overcrowd, and fry on both sides until browned. Transfer the beef to a plate.
Saute the onions in the skillet until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the bell pepper and celery and saute until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute for another 4-5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits in the skillet. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
Melt the 5 tablespoons of butter or olive in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the 1/3 cup flour and whisk constantly until the mixture is a rich brown, about 4 minutes. Add the beef broth and red wine vinegar, whisking continually until the mixture is smooth and thickened.
Return the vegetables to the skillet and add the Creole Seasoning and bay leaves. Return the beef to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves.
Serve the grillades and gravy ladled over hot grits.
For the Grits:
In a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat, bring the milk and salt to a simmer, stirring regularly to prevent the milk from burning.
Slowly add the grits in a steady stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the grits are thick and tender.
Sir Verde’s Wine Suggestion: 2016 North by Northwest Walla Walla Valley Syrah. A spectacular visual of ruby and violet when admired in a crystal stem glass, an enticement to sip and enjoy full, rich flavors.
Bonne dégustation. Love one another.