Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mint as Savory.

You know when you have the ultimate cable television package with a thousand channels yet there is still nothing good to watch?  It seems the more choices you have the higher your expectations which ultimately leads to disappointment because there has to be something better.

Hunting for wine since moving to Japan has been challenging, only because while living in the States I had plenty of access to ample selection.  I was always looking for something better and, in the process, skipped over many suitable options.

Now when I peruse the ten linear feet of wine shelving at our local shop I am frequently forced inclined to grab a bottle never considered previously, loosening many prejudices to sip with an open mind.

A few weeks ago I found a sparkling wine that looked good, a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, at a moderate price, so I picked up a bottle.  I chilled it and brought it to friend's house for her birthday.  Turns out it was surprisingly good, not knock-your-socks-off wow, but impressive.

The next time I was near the shop where I found it (a train stop and a jaunt away) I picked up two more bottles so I could try it in a non-celebratory manner, which can alter the experience and hence the enjoyment of the wine.  And really, why should sparkling wine be confined solely to celebrations?  Live a little.  Later at home I flipped through a couple books and dug around online until I found a recipe to complement the wine, Parmesan-Herb Lamb Chops with Mint Aioli.

My experience with mint has generally hovered in the sweet arena, namely the Mint Mojito, a refreshingly delectable refreshment.  Detaching mint from sweetness seemed strange though I know it is culinarily common so I went with it.

I didn't easily find lamb chops (surprise surprise) so I picked up a package of bone-in pork chops which I use regularly because they are so versatile.  I did, however, find fresh mint at the neighborhood store (surprise surprise) and bought it despite the $4 price tag (more than the cost of the four pork chops).

The recipe is very straightforward and easy to follow.  When I tasted the prepared mint aioli I was pleasantly surprised with how well the mint married with the fresh garlic and the sel gris french sea salt.  While the oven was heating I threw in some olive-oiled potatoes to roast while I breaded the chops.

I am not including a photo of the finished pork chops because it was wasn't pretty.  The panko breading that should have crusted up while baking did not and ended up mushy, even after turning the broiler on for a bit; next time I will pan fry them as I usually do.  Before the chops became too dry I pulled them out and declared them done.

After topping off my flute with more sparkling wine I sat down to test the meal.  While not a home-run I enjoyed tasting mint as a savory herb, a new experience now urging me to learn more.  The mint seems to fall into the cilantro-basil family which moves my creative gears toward combinations or substitutions among them (strawberry-mint salsa, cilantro martini, basil ice cream).  This is why I am writing about the wine and the recipe, not because the dish was a huge success but because new doors are opening leaving me curious about what lies beyond.  Mint as savory, why did I never try?

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