It's fall. Maybe you didn't get the memo, but it's fall. After a summer of what seemed like record-high temperatures every day, the first of September came along and it was like someone flipped a switch. It's like the trees have calendars. I swear to you, as soon as the calendar changed the leaves on the trees in my yard started turning. Oh, sure, we're still getting some warm days, but the nights are much cooler. The air has that freshened note to it, the note that says "apples" and "burning leaves" and "frost," even though we're a good three or four weeks away from the first frost yet. It's my favorite time of year.
This early in the fall you can still get fresh, local summer vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants and cucumbers, and that's fantastic because I love those vegetables. This is still the time of year when people start to crave those other vegetables though - root vegetables. By the end of February I will not want to see another root vegetable again on pain of pain, but I don't really care for most of them anyway. At any rate, it's time to start thinking of things to do with the stupid things. Last Sunday was pretty emphatically autumnal weather and I was feeling the urge for mashed potatoes. Well, just mashed potatoes won't do, not for us. Especially not when I've essentially got two weeks of farm share vegetables to use up. I added some hakurei turnips and some carrots - adding the carrots gave me something to do with them that got them out of my hair, since I don't actually like them.
The problem came when it came time to mash the vegetables. I would normally mash potatoes with milk. That's how my dad always did it, and that's just kind of what I'm used to. The problem is that I'd put out the call for emergency diners, and I was kind of hoping that one emergency diner in particular would come. (She didn't, she was elsewhere at the time and I didn't call on her specifically anyway. I just hadn't seen her in a while other than at our monthly business meeting and had gotten some funny ideas from somewhere that only she would appreciate.) That person has a dairy allergy. I was seized with a sudden terror. I'd already done a dairy-heavy dish in the baked penne. Granted, it was all sheep and goat cheese, but why take a chance? I didn't want to use more dairy. I thought about what I could use. Naturally, being who and what I am, my mind turned to wine. Next thing I knew, the wine was open and being poured into the mixture.
Actually, the wine was a good addition to the vegetables. I use a South African white by the name of The Beachhouse White (clever, huh?). It's a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. This is the wine that I use just about any time that I cook with white wine. They're probably horrified by the idea that someone is using their wine as a cooking wine, but let me explain. I read somewhere that you should always cook with wines that you would actually drink, and that actually holds true. I'm not a big white wine drinker - I grew up with reds and that's my "comfort" wine - but The Beachhouse suits me. The flavor is neither too dry nor overly sweet, it holds its own in a dish but doesn't overpower the other ingredients. It has balance and I certainly don't mind pouring myself a glass if I'm going to open a bottle anyway. It's got a great, clean flavor that adds a lot to my dishes; I'm very glad that I found it. They are not paying me in any way shape or form to talk about them here, I just wanted to talk a bit about choosing the wine I cook with. I'll use others if someone has left an open bottle of white at my house, but The Beachhouse has become the house white around here. In this case, the wine really complimented all the flavors and even made the carrots palatable.
Mashed Root Vegetables with Wine (serves 10; approx. $1.26/serving)
8 good-sized potatoes, scrubbed and diced (I don't peel my potatoes unless absolutely forced)
3 - 4 good-sized hakurei turnips, diced
5 large carrots, peeled and diced
3/4 cup white wine (see above)
- Large saucepan
- Potato masher
- Put the vegetables into the saucepan and add water to cover very generously.
- Bring to a boil.
- Boil until the vegetables are tender. It is a toss-up as to whether the potatoes or the carrots will take longer to cook; test each with a fork to be sure.
- Drain and immediately return the vegetables to the pot.
- Add the wine. It is important to do this while the vegetables are still very hot; this will help that raw alcohol flavor to evaporate out. Note: this will not remove all of the alcohol, so this dish is probably unsuited to someone with an alcohol allergy (yes, it's legit) or a recovering alcoholic.
- Use the potato masher to mash the vegetables to your desired texture. Personally I like a certain amount of chunkiness. If you like a really smooth and silky texture you could certainly use an immersion blender.