14 May 2010

Santorini Assyrtiko & Crabs Benedict

I spied with my little eye a delicious photo posted by Kate of Accidental Hedonist. It looked tasty, so I posted a link to it on my Facebook page.

Throughout the rest of the day a bunch of people wanted to know the recipe. But I didn't know precisely what was going on with the photo, so I commented on the originating post. Questions kept piling on my side of things, so I decided to go right to the source. Since I reviewed her whiskey book and interviewed her last year, I shot her an e-mail asking for more information on this delectable dish. She kindly provided as many details as she could. It was a brunch item served at Fresh Bistro in West Seattle, described thusly:

Sweet Potato-Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict $15
Shredded sweet potato cakes, Dungeness crab leg, chipotle hollandaise, fresh baby arugula salad, sautéed veggies

Kate gave me a few more hints on the structure and I decided to give it a shot. I ran a sweet potato and shallot through the mandoline, bound it all with an egg and a little flour, and made a few sweet potato hash brown cakes. For the sauce, I made a straight hollandaise and added a little adobo sauce from a can of chipotles, just enough to season but not make it hot. Instead of Dungeness, I used some decent canned blue crab meat (hey, I'm a long way from the Pacific), and decided that as long as I'd whipped up a batch of hollandaise I might as well steam some asparagus instead of making a salad.

It's certainly an amazing flavor combination, but very rich. I think I'd prefer it with an English muffin base instead of the sweet potato, or perhaps as a much smaller course using little sweet potato cakes and a quail's egg. It's also a lot of work for one person in a home kitchen. I had a pot going with steaming water for the asparagus, and I was whisking my sauce over the heat coming off the top. I had a skillet going with the sweet potato cakes and jostled around to make some room for another skillet to poach some eggs. Almost forgot to add the crab as I was assembling everything. It takes some experienced juggling to have everything at the right temperature and texture mere moments before serving.

I had the perfect wine to go with this meal, and it curiously enough came from yet another blogger. Constance sent me a bottle of the 2008 Santorini Assyrtiko from the volcanic archipelago of Santorini in the Aegean Sea. 100% Ασύρτικο/Assyrtiko. $15, 13% abv.

I've mentioned this before, but Greek wine labels are getting better and better. Design-wise this could easily be mistaken for an Italian wine on the shelf. I'm not saying that the Greeks need to hide anything, but the older labels tended to be wholly unreadable to someone unfamiliar with the language/alphabet, with perhaps some poorly translated explanation on the back label. You can actually witness this evolution with labels just in the past 15 years. Different companies here, but look at a pure Greek label probably designed in the 60s and used for 40 years, to a hybrid label that still doesn't do much for the English audience, to a more modern layout that very obviously says, "This is a normal wine, nothing to be afraid of." If you can't figure out if the contents of the bottle are wine, a liqueur, a spirit, olive oil, or floor polish, you're going to be less likely to buy it, or even open it if someone brought it back as a gift from vacation.

The wine itself reminds me of Semillon. There's an earthy, honey-like tone to it, with a tart, crisp green apple finish. Hint of juniper on the nose. Absolutely gorgeous golden color. Totally dry, very short finish. It practically disappears after the sip. Should go great with any seafood dish, and the simpler the better. Think little fish grilled and spritzed with lemon juice, or a big bowl of freshly steamed mussels. Even oysters, though maybe not something oily and strongly flavored like mackerel or bluefish.

Big thanks to Kate and Constance for providing all the inspiration for this delicious meal, and to my Facebook readers for pushing me to try it out. Kind of makes me want to send a few categories to different bloggers and try a Mad Libs-style post in the future. "For dinner, Benito had a chicken liver omelet with a side of Doritos salad, pepperoni ice cream, and a glass of Purplesaurus Rex Kool-Aid." Or perhaps not.


Note: This wine was received as a sample from Santo Wines.

11 comments:

Michael Hughes said...

How timely. I was just saying to your friend Marshall how you loved all the weird stuff like assyrtiko & what not.

Benito said...

Michael,

I figure if you've got a reputation for obscure wines, you ought to own up to it. :) I actually received the wine the morning you made that comment.

Cheers,
Benito

fredric koeppel said...

great image i have in my mind of you cooking with all those pots and skillets going. the hardest part of cooking for me is juggling all the elements of a dish or a meal and having them be ready at the same time.

Tracy said...

On behalf of those crazed Facebook commenters...Thank you! Shrimp & Grits Benedict is also a pain, but well worth it. Looking forward to the variation on theme.

Constance C said...

You always have the most amazing meals! When are you going to invite me down to try some with these wines? ;) thanks for the shout out!

Benito said...

Fredric,

After cooking for about a dozen dinner parties I got my timing down pretty good. I do remember once trying to make homemade mayonnaise at the last minute and wondering why it wouldn't come together. Ten minutes later I realized I'd left out the yolks and was just beating oil and vinegar together.

Tracy,

Glad I was able to solve the mystery, and let me know if you try it.

Constance,

If you ever come to Memphis, you know how to get in touch with me!

Cheers,
Benito

Kate said...

Ah...Too bad it was overly rich. I wonder if their a culinary way to compensate for that? Mixed the sweet potatoes with white perhaps? Let me think on that.

Benito said...

Kate,

Maybe the sides were the issue... Some fresh melon and crisp celery would have been a nice contrast.

Cheers,
Benito

B8wine said...

Thanks for the review. I just bought a bottle of Koutsoyiannopoulos Assyrtiko from Santorini and was wondering if it will pair with anything else then seafood. Spinakopita maybe?

Benito said...

B8Wine,

I think it would go great with grilled vegetables, and something like a caprese salad.

Cheers,
Benito

greece_traveller said...

mmm..you made me hungry :)
I am a new blogger and because of my love for Santorini (a Greek island) I started my blog, Santorini Greece. Check it out.