So I was cooking dinner for the girlfriend tonight, and she had only one request: boiled artichokes with homemade mayonnaise on the side. Simple enough, but as much as I enjoy a good 'choke, I generally prefer a bit more substance on a dinner plate. So I decided to do lightly beer battered shrimp (some decent 16 count specimens I shelled myself), a schmattering of French fries for the hell of it, and some sourdough and clementines to balance everything out.
What wine would go best with such an odd meal? I felt a strong pull towards Prosecco. A combinations of fried foods and fresh mayonnaise really begs for something crisp and acidic to cut through the grease (though my shrimp were not greasy, thank you very much). I settled on the NV Candoni Prosecco Brut. That site doesn't give much information, but at least you can see the unique label. It's actually painted directly on the glass of the bottle, and depicts an Etruscan fresco from Tarquinia, Italy, in the fifth century BC. The girlfriend teaches ancient history, so I scored a few bonus points there.
It is indeed crisp, with medium acidity and is very refreshing (as I often do, I save at least a glass' worth to sample while writing here on the blog). Around $15, so a good bargain to boot. It was a perfect fit for the meal, and I appreciated the fact that it had a wire cage and traditional champagne cork. There are some proseccos that come with these terrible little corks--they're rock solid composite corks like a champagne cork, but there's only about an eighth of an inch above the top of the bottle, not enough to grasp. You can use a corkscrew, but I destroyed a rabbit-style corkscrew that way.
One more amusing note... While I was still doing the prep work before the arrival of the girlfriend, I started making the homemade mayonnaise. I've done this a dozen times before, though I always alter the recipe a bit to try new things. This time I used safflower oil (and used the remaining oil for frying the shrimp--gets nice and hot without smoking). So I'm building the mayo with white wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard, and drizzling in the safflower oil, and wondering why in the hell the damned sauce isn't thickening up.
And then I realize that I forgot the egg yolk. What an idiot.
Fortunately, I read this great French cookbook back when I was in high school. I can't remember the name or the author, but the whole point was to make French cuisine fun and non-threatening. From that cookbook, I made my first cream of X soup (in that case, asparagus), as well as my first fresh pasta. There was a whole chapter on "Kitchen First Aid", and there were lots of tricks on how to fix screwed up sauces. In particular, it mentioned what to do with a curdled Bearnaise sauce: start another emulsion in a separate pot, and then slowly introduce the curdled sauce until it comes together. So in a separate bowl, I mixed an egg yolk with a little more vinegar and mustard, got my emulsion going, and then added in what was effectively a terribly oily vinaigrette. The end result: a perfectly delicious fresh mayonnaise, one that paired wonderfully with the boiled artichokes. And it went well with the fries; a few trips to the Netherlands convinced me of that delectable combination.