Monday, November 01, 2004

Risotto and Ruined Condrieu

Monday nights almost demand soothing meals that ease us back into the workweek. I've always believed that the first day sets the tone for the week. If you create an architecturally composed dinner, it's a bit of a letdown if you don't have elaborate meals for the next few nights. If you opt for takeout, what's to stop you from eating out--or out of a carton--for the entire week? Either way, dinner should not be an afterthought.

Which is why I decided on risotto. I don't know why more people don't make it at home. Even John was surprised the first time I prepared it, as he had relegated it to a restaurant-only dish. Maybe it's the infamous constant stirring or the seemingly unattainable creamy consistency that deter people. It's another example of home cooking made luxurious by chefs. But ultimately, it's just rice.

I diced half of an onion, minced several slices of prosciutto, and added them to a heavy pan. While the aromatics cooked
gently, I pulled out a container of chicken broth from the freezer and brought it to a boil. When the onions were soft and translucent, I added some arborio rice and tossed the grains until they glistened with olive oil. The next twenty minutes were methodical: add hot broth, stir until dry, repeat. When the risotto was creamy and the rice still had a little bite, I stirred in grated parmesan and salt. I plated our dinner and asked John to open the wine.

And I knew exactly which wine we would have with dinner--the 2001 Eric Texier Condrieu, a lush viognier with aromas of apricots, peaches and honeysuckle. I had been eager to find an occasion to open this bottle, but it always seemed too extravagant. After passing over this bottle week after week, I decided that tonight was the night.

John poured out a little wine to sniff and taste. Almost immediately, he pulled his head back. He tried again before shaking his head and said, "It smells like rotten eggs."

I was startled, to say the least. I inhaled deeply and found the normally exuberant floral aromas to be muted and flat. I took a sip and was surprised at how astringent it tasted. There was no doubt about it--this bottle was corked.

We pushed the wine aside and had our risotto. John shared interesting and funny anecdotes from work and an idea for a book. We made plans to vote and watch the election returns tomorrow night. Yes, the wine was ruined, but our dinner remained intact. After all, Monday night sets the tone for the week.

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