I had the time of my life during the Dairng Pairings episode of “The Taste”.  This particular challenge really allowed me to show off what I got, while further strengthening my dedication as a wino.

For the elimination challenge, I decided to choose the wine I wanted to work with first and then build a dish around that.  I believe this was a better plan then coming up with a dish I wanted to cook first, then trying to make it work with the wines we had to select from.  So I worked backwards, which fit after drinking a few glasses.

Barolo:  sweet dark cherry scented, smoky, licorice, cinnamon like, earthy and complex tend to be the deal with barolos.  Its packs a pow!  It’s a big wine full of tannins, so you need to pair it with big flavors that can carry it.

I wanted my dish to hit a few key notes.  I wanted to create something smoky, deep and with rich flavors [which would match perfectly with the basics of this wine], while also makings sure to include buttery and creamy factors to cut the strong tannins of the wine.  I knew that the balance of these 2 elements would be vital.

The Smoked Tomato Jam gave me the smoky, deep and rich flavors I needed [as well as sweet & spicy].  I have to say, I was so so so thrilled with the complex flavors that this jam gave.  Barolos go well with a strong, nicely reduced tomato sauce—and this jam was that X10.  After cooking down all of its ingredients together, I hit it with the smoking gun for about 10 minutes.  Then I tasted the jam’s finished product.  I was shocked.  I knew it could be a super winning dish if all of the other elements came together.

Now for the Braised Cream, Lemon & Sage Pork Shoulder. The main character in this dish had to provide a nice balance for all of the others to shine.  The neutral heartwarming ingredients were simple—and it translates well [in Italian or English].

Now that I had the perfect smoked tomato jam and braised pork, I added 2 more elements to put this spoon over the edge.  First was the Chanterelle Mushrooms with Crème Fraîche.  Or as the French would say Girolles à la Crème.  This is my favorite way to prepare chanterelles.  I love love love it—it’s perfect in creamy soups, or on top of salads, risottos or polenta dishes.  It was the perfect direction for this dish, plus it would provide the fresh minced garlic and parsley punch this dish needed.

Lastly, the Brussels Sprouts.  I topped off each spoons with some of these chard, shaved and lemony sprouts.  I have nothing more to say about this.

As I was running around and hustling in “The Taste” kitchen, I thought to myself, if I had to name this dish, I would call it “If Italy had a Thanksgiving”.  I pictured myself sitting outside a café in Italy on a cool day, with a big sweater, and fur hat and a big glass of Barolo wine, eating up the flavors in this dish.  Lucky for me, Anthony felt the same way.  Not only did he say this dish looked horrendous [oops], he also said it made him want to jump on a plane to Italy and continue eating.  His strong reaction to my spoon earned me a gold star as he selected me as his favorite.  I was so thrilled he felt a similar connection to my dish.   It just so happens to be that this spoon had a similar effect on Nigella Lawson too.  She picked my spoon as her favorite, earning me 2 gold stars for this episode.

After being revealed as the person responsible for my dish, Judge/Mentor Ludo Lefebvre expressed that he was surprised a women cooked this dish.  “I do tend to cook a little on the masculine side” I proclaimed.  “She’s challenging your sexist preconceptions, man” Bourdain said.  I don’t have enough time or space in this blog to get into the sexist issues in the kitchen and what female chefs face, etc., etc., etc. [that’s a whole different conversation].  But what I can say is that I know exactly what Ludo was trying to say.  I like to have a presence of masculine and feminine when creating a dish. It’s the ying and the yang for me.  It’s a pretty subjective topic, I know [who defines what tastes like masculine or feminine? and so on.].  It’s not so much black and white, cut and dry.  It’s more so my personal perspective and where I draw up inspiration from.  It’s my scale of heavy and delicate, hard and soft, spicy and smooth.  It think all well-thought out dishes should have some sexy and seductive factors in it, and what better way to play around with that then working off the cultural male vs. female ideologies.

Check out my winner recipe here & tell me what you think!

Next up, the “Sandwich Challenge” [Tonight on ABC 8/7c].  Oh and trust me, the sandwich may seem so simple, which makes it that much harder.  Follow me on twitter for live tweets during tonight’s episode @ChefNinamarie

-Ninamarie Bojekian


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