Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Stuffed baked squash recipe and wine recommendation

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Brynn writes:

One of my favorite dishes growing up was baked squash, its insides spilling out the top and brown sugar bubbling around the rim.

To be honest I don’t remember what my dad filled the squash with except for bacon and brown sugar. I know there were other ingredients but when you’re a kid nothing else matters when bacon or brown sugar are involved.

Fast forward 20-some years and now I wear the chef hat. Every year around this time I’m intrigued by the abundance of squash spilling from the produce section at the grocery store. Retreating to my childhood memories of this delicious fall treat, I always think I should dig up my dad’s recipes and create new mealtime traditions for my family.

I finally followed through on the idea this year. I didn’t dig up my dad’s recipes, but instead created my own. My first experiment was with Acorn squash. I filled the shells with a mixture of the softened baked squash, bacon, sauteed onions, mushrooms, garlic, shredded Parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs seasoned with Parmesan and Italian herbs.

I recently repeated this recipe, this time opting for Butternut squash.

Both were huge hits with my husband, who at first made a face when I told him I wanted to make squash for dinner. (Our little guy, who is just starting out on solids, happens to love pureed white Acorn squash, so while he’s not eating the tasty filling, he is sharing the squash).

There’s just something about pulling a baked squash from the oven that screams Fall, so with that in mind I wanted to share my recipe to help shepherd in the new season. Below the recipe are our wine recommendations to pair with this dish.

*I should note, when I cook I don’t follow measurements, I eyeball what I’m doing. The below measurements are my estimates, feel free to tweak them to fit your tastebuds.*

Stuffed Baked Squash
(makes 2 healthy servings)

  • 1 Acorn squash (or 1 Butternut squash)
  • A dozen small portobella mushrooms (or crimini mushrooms), sliced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (I buy the Italian Herb/Parmesan blend)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice squash in half the long way. (If using Butternut squash, slice long way, then slice in half — creates four servings). Scrape out seeds and strings. Place squash on baking sheet cut side up. Brush with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (you may need more time on the Butternut squash).
  • While squash bakes, cook bacon using package directions, set aside on paper towel. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until lightly brown. Add mushrooms, stirring regularly. Saute mushrooms until soft, adding garlic at the very end. Saute until garlic is fragrant. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Chop bacon and add to mushroom/onion mixture; add Panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  • Once squash is done (it should be tender to touch and easy to scoop with a spoon), set aside to cool slightly. Scoop out squash, leaving 3/8 inch thickness around shells. Add squash to stuffing mixture, try not to break up pulp. Scoop stuffing back into shells. Dot with butter.
  • Bake at 375 uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until top is brown and crusty.

Wine Recommendations:

We have three wine suggestions to go with this dish. I can’t remember what we drank when we had the acorn squash, but we drank a 2007 Bordeaux with the Butternut squash. Unfortunately the Bordeaux didn’t stand up well to the dish. I was looking for something with a little more weight and I think the age on this wine kept it subdued, leaving me wanting more.

Next time around I’ll try a Chardonnay, which with a flavor profile of tropical fruit and buttery texture will pair nicely with the herbaceous mushrooms, bacon, onion and Parm.

Washington makes some wonderful Chards. Here are three favorites in three different price ranges:

Abeja: Simply the best. Winemaker John Abbott has a lot of experience with this grape. First at Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge winery and then Acacia and then Walla Walla’s Canoe Ridge. This wine is made to pair with food with its balance, rich buttery texture, crisp apple and lush tropical fruit flavors and genuine burgundy barrlels to age it in. (Around $30)

Rulo: The Schlickers are another transplant from California to Walla Walla. Their chardonnays are barrel fermented with minimum of oak but lots of butter, ripe pears and a nice bit of spice. Unfortunately the winery is sold out of its 2010 Chardonnay, but keep an eye out for it in the store. Otherwise wait for the release of their 2011 Chardonnay next fall.

Waterbrook: Founded in 1984, Waterbrook was the fourth winery in Walla Walla. It has always been a value brand, but don’t let that trick you into thinking the wines are just so-so. Waterbrook has always made scrumptious chardonnays, and they’re easy to find at the grocery store. The 2010 chardonnay won a Gold at the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards. It retails around $10.


Our favorite wines of 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

It’s that time of year, when we look back on all that we tasted and reflect on the great flavors that crossed our palates over the last 12 months.

It’s also a time when we get excited about what to taste in 2012.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s a look at some of our favorites that we tasted in 2011. (Note this is only a highlight, and not a comprehensive list; also note the list is not in any preferential order).

Brynn and Mary’s memorable wines from 2011:

Bogle Petite Sirah 2008: This came as a recommendation from Consumer Reports as a best value buys and it lived up to the review. Winemaker notes include the following description:

Full-bodied on the entry, aromas of black plum jam and toasty oak set the stage for what is to come. Vibrant boysenberries and luscious fruit are framed by serious tannins, while wisps of leather and vanilla seduce just enough. A final touch of acidity finishes the wine with a precisely balanced mouth feel.

 

Novelty Hill Royal Slope Red: This is a wine Brynn first tried at a friend’s house and instantly fell in love with. It’s by longtime, and well-known Washington winemaker Mike Januik. Here’s what he has to say about the wine:

Generous and round offering delicious, red ripe plum, blueberry and currant aromas and flavors, with a lip-smacking, spicy finish.

 

Two Mountain Winery Vinho Vermelho: Produced by brothers Matthew and Patrick Rawn, we tasted selections from this Rattlesnake Hills winery at the Taste Washington event last spring. Shortly afterwards, Mary had some of the winery’s Port, or Vinho Vermelho, which was aged in American oak for more than two years. The winemaker’s notes on this wine include the following description:

Inviting flavors of candied citrus, chocolate, dark fruits and deep smoke.

 

Castle Rock Pinot Noir: This is a favorite go-to winery out of California; however, the grapes are sourced up and down the West Coast including Washington State. We recommended it twice this year for recipes that were mushroom-focused. It’s a versatile wine that is also friendly on the pocketbook.

 

Cline Cellars Cashmere: This is a wine we both got to try when we attended the Rhone Rangers tasting event over in Seattle at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. Cline Cellars is one of the oldest wineries out of Sonoma, which means they have some of the oldest vines in the area. Here’s what we had to say about the winery’s Cashmere blend:

The 2010 Cline Cashmere California is a luscious blend of Cote du Rhone grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. It has earthy undertones and flavors of raspberries, cherries and chocolate, with a hint of plum. The finish is long and lingering.

 

Long Shadows Winery Pedestal Merlot: This is another wine we tried while at the Taste Washington event in March. It made our “Top Sips” list and was Mary’s all time favorite wine from the day. Here’s the winery’s summation of the wine:

Wonderful intensity of fruit, with a vivid array of black currant, cocoa, violet and smoky aromas that lead to a full-bodied mid-palate marked by ripe blackberry flavors. Rich and complex, yet pure and focused, with supple tannins that provide a silky and prolonged finish.

 

Sparkman Cellars Ruby Leigh: Another wine that made our “Top Sips” list from the Taste Washington event. This Washington take on a Right Bank Bordeaux blend was both our favorites. Here’s the winemaker’s take on the wine, named after his youngest daughter:

Ruby Leigh is rambunctious elegance. The nose is all violets, sweet vanilla, smoke, candied roses, mint, chocolate and cassis. On the palate black cherry, mocha, spice and a pinch of tobacco lead to a toasty oak and cigar box finish. Soft, fine tannins support a seductive mouthfeel and silky texture.

 

Commanderie de la Bargemone: Ah, just thinking about this wine brings us back to the hot August day (yes, we did have at least one or two of those this year) when we enjoyed chilled sips of the Provincial-style Rose. Incidentally, this is the last wine Brynn documented in her “little black journal of wine” and is the last wine she had a full glass of since late August (any guesses why?) Here’s a hint: She’s got three more months before she can return to drinking wine, albeit at a somewhat reduced volume and frequency. What a great wine to have as a last hurrah before a nine month “vacation” from wine, if you will. Here’s the winemaker’s thoughts:

Offering classic aromas of wild strawberries and red currants, with a light floral character and a crisp, bone-dry palate, this is a rose of reference, to be enjoyed year-round on its own or with a wide range of lighter fare and Provence-inspired cuisine. 

 

Fâmega Vinho Verde: This is another wine we used in our regular recipe recommendations to go with an Israeli Couscous. This wine from the DOC region of Northwest Portugal has citrus, bright apple and fresh pear flavors that’s pleasant, mellow and with flowery aromas. In finishes with delicious notes of mineral and citrus peel. It’s also quite affordable — $8 at the grocery store.

 

Januik 2006 Columbia Valley Cabernet: This is a bottle Mary pulled from the cellar especially for 2011 — the year she celebrated a milestone birthday. (She finally turned 21, he he). Here’s what made it so good:

The 2006 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded 92 points by the Wine Spectator — the finish just doesn’t quit, best after 2012 — and 90 points from Stephen Tanker. Januik blended 7 percent Merlot and 2 percent Cabernet Franc with the Cab and aged it primarily in new French oak barrels for 20 months. The ruby hued, medium-bodied wine had lots of currant, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose and palate with a hint of licorice spice. Smooth as velvet with a mouth-watering finish.

 

Rulo Chardonnay: This is another wine Mary enjoyed for her milestone 21st birthday celebration. This Birch Creek Vineyard Chardonnay has nicely integrated oak, vanilla spice and yummy lemon custard flavors, all that and wrapped up in a full-bodied, balanced wine with a long, lingering finish. And while in Walla Walla tasting this wine, Mary also learned it might soon be making an appearance on the shelves of Trader Joe’s, so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Hedges Family Estates CMS Red: What a wonderful wine to end our list with. This has become a go-to wine for Brynn to bring to parties, it’s affordable and tastes like it cost a lot more than the sticker price. It’s also a good red wine for those with a discerning palate, or those who just like to drink. And a quick reminder, the CMS stands for Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Here’s Brynn’s take on the wine:

The wine has fruity hints of the Syrah upfront that are balanced by the minerality of the Merlot and the weight of the Cab.

 

Thanks for your comments and reading us this last year, we hope you stick around for 2012 when we’re sure to have more wine recommendations, reviews and raves about what’s happening in this ever-evolving world of wine. And, if you have a favorite wine from the year that you want to share, we’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

Brynn and Mary


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