Over the past few years, I have gotten to know Legal Sea Foods' Executive Chef Jason Berkman the person. He's a great friend now and shares an affinity for many of the same things that I enjoy, namely good food, cigars and most importantly, wine. However, it was during this past year that I was exposed to his culinary prowess.
Back in August, a group of us took part in a wine dinner in which I selected the wines and Berkie collaborated on the menu (with Chris Baker). It was something to see how the meals came together and the precision in which they were prepared. After an event like this, it is hard not to have even more respect for the talent that good chefs possess.
Like Merry Edwards and John Carnevale, I thought that Chef Berkman would bring a unique element to the Thanksgiving project that I was putting together. I asked him to pick one of his favorite sides to share with us. He picked a kale dish which delighted me, as it is a vegetable that is dramatically underused, but extremely delicious and packed with vitamins. Also, with the gnocchi, crab dip and eventually cheesecake, we finally have something healthy! He also stressed the importance of buying local produce if possible. It will not only ensure freshness and regional identity, but it also supports local farmers. This last point is something that Chef Berkman and Legal Sea Foods aims to do with their menu items whenever feasible.
Applewood Bacon Braised Kale
8 heads of kale
2 large onions (approx 1 1/2 lbs)
1/3 lb of applewood smoked bacon
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 cups of chicken stock
1 tspn. kosher salt
Remove the ribs of the kale from the green leafy portion. Discard the ribs and cut the green leafy portion into 1 1/2" strips, lightly wash and then steam them for 5 minutes.
Dice the bacon into 1" pieces and render it in a medium sized pot with salt on medium heat.
Add garlic to the pot with bacon, when the garlic starts to show signs of toasting, add the onions and continue cooking until onions are translucent (caramelized).
Add the steamed greens to the bacon mixture and mix well. Increase heat to high.
Add 1 cup of stock to the mixture and continue stirring until stock begins to reduce (about 10 minutes). Add the remaining cup of stock to the mixture and continue stirring and cooking for another 10 minutes until the most of the stock has cooked down. Remove from heat and serve.
2006 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette, Oregon - $44
The 2006 Domaine Drouhin is one of Berkie (and my) favorite pinot noirs. The aroma is of beautiful rich cherry that is mirrored on the palate along with a hint of spice. The tannins are noticeable; however, they are well integrated and somewhat delicate. This is a very thoughtfully made, well-crafted wine that is confident in structure and complexity. It is very much a terrific Thanksgiving pinot noir.
When you think about versatile Thanksgiving wine pairings, pinot noir should almost always be one of your first thoughts. The berries, spice, herbs and vibrant acidity that are common characteristics of good pinot make it a tremendously food friendly wine.