Fragrant Stews, Fragrant Wines

Pumpkin is one of the quintessential flavors of fall. It has made its way into many sweet and savory dishes. When in season, the versatile pumpkin turns up in pies, tarts, cakes, muffins, cheese cake and ice cream. Or you could make an unusual supper of soup, stews, ravioli, or lasagna. It’s great pureed or mashed with other root vegetables and can stand up to really fragrant strong herbs like sage.

You can boil it, roast it, bake it, and braise it. You can even ferment it.  Pumpkin beer isn’t a modern day invention. It was used in making beer during the early colonial period because it was more available than malt or barley. The native pumpkin has plenty of fermentable sugars.

There is a pumpkin wine. Three Lakes Winery in Wisconsin makes it. I haven’t tried it but do highly recommend the following pumpkin stew recipes with vinifera grapes that I’m more familiar with.

This wonderful vegetarian stew pairs well with Viognier. At the Harborside Wine Festival this summer, the Chandler Reach 2012 Viognier was one of my favorite finds. Thanks to its aromatic intensity and hint of sweetness, it pairs nicely with this curried pumpkin stew.

Viognier comes from the tiny appellation of Condrieu in the northern Rhone. This temperamental grape is highly sensitive to mildew and low yielding. Well timed harvesting is also a challenge, you don’t want to pick it too early or too late or you will miss out on the beautiful aromas and full flavors.

Curried Pumpkin Stew

3 tablespoons vegetable oil  curried soup
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup water
1 pound pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 potato, chopped
1 green banana, chopped

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir until thick.

Add the water, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the flavors. Add the pumpkin, carrot, potato, and green banana. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring a couple of times, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Another warm fragrant stew made with a lot of spice is inspired with south of the border flavors. For this hearty stew I would suggest a red grape called Tempranillo. It’s a vinifera grape that originated in the Rioja region of sunny Spain. The Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza is a full bodied blackberry and cherry flavored Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. All those luscious fruit flavors and smoky nuance really works well with this dish.

Also from Spain is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond is a Washington winery located in Patterson that sources grapes from around the world. They’re good at showcasing the distinct personalities of varietals from their place of origin. This wine has aromas of blackberries and hints of cherry; it’s approachable, easy to drink, and a wonderful companion to this spicy south of the border pumpkin stew.

3 – 6 chipotle chilies, canned or dried  pumpkin stew
3 garlic cloves
5 medium tomatillos, halved
5 roasted plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced Swiss chard
1 tsp salt
4 cups peeled, seeded, fresh pumpkin, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

If using dried chilies, preheat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chilies and toast, turning frequently until very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Transfer chilies to a small bowl and cover with hot water and rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Toss the garlic and tomatillos in the pan and turn occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add drained chilies to the tomatillos and puree.

For the tomatoes, broil on a baking sheet until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes. Turn tomatoes over and do the other side, for another 6 minutes. When cool, peel and roughly chop and put in a bowl with the juices.

Heat the oil in the frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and onions. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits about 10 minutes. Add reserved salsa, tomatoes, and 3 to 4 tablespoons water; stir to combine. Add Swiss chard and season with salt.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a large baking dish and spread the pumpkin chunks evenly in the dish. Pour the pork and roasted vegetables over it. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.

Remove the foil and raise the temperature to 400 degrees. Continue baking until sauce has reduced slightly and top becomes crusty, about 15 minutes.