Valentine's Day, less than two weeks away, gives everyone, regardless of their standing with Cupid, the chance to indulge their sweet tooth. To that end, we've got a list of recommended, recently rated Ports to share, and we asked Gina DePalma, pastry chef at New York's Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, what sort of dessert she'd serve with Port. DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen (W.W. Norton 2007), answered by creating two delicious, unique recipes that both feature Port, and pair well with a range of tawny, ruby and other Ports.
First, there's a luscious walnut tart, topped with a Port-inflected zabaglione cream, for those who want a restaurant-quality dessert that delivers sweetness and sophistication. The slight bitterness of the walnuts in the tart plays well against the slightly chewy, slightly crisp butter and sugar matrix they're suspended in, and a glass of Port, preferably the same one you use in the zabaglione cream, ties the whole thing together.
For those who prefer a cheese course to dessert, DePalma created a Port-soaked fruit and nut compote whose gently sweet and savory elements would make a fine complement to many cheeses. DePalma suggests blue cheese for its natural affinity with Port, and also found a great match in sheep's milk Pecorino and a soft, aged Robiola cheese. Portuguese sheep's milk cheeses, such as the semi-soft Nisa, or a fine Spanish manchego cheese, would also do well with the compote and a glass of Port. DePalma adds, "The compote itself is quite versatile, so whatever remains after your cheese tasting could be served with roasted or grilled venison, pork or rabbit; as a condiment with any number of salty cured meats; spooned over vanilla ice cream; or with toasted pound cake and whipped cream."
• Pasta frolla (recipe below)
• 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk (white reserved for another use)
• 3 ounces (about 6 tablespoons packed) light brown sugar
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
• 8 ounces walnut halves, toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped
• Port zabaglione cream (recipe below))
1. Roll out the dough and line the tart pan, trimming the edge flush with the rim of the pan. Refrigerate the tart shell until firm.
2. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
3. In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg and egg yolk together. Whisk in the sugar, then whisk in the butter until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Beat in the salt and vanilla, followed by the heavy cream. Stir in the walnuts, then pour the filling into the unbaked, chilled tart shell.
4. Bake the tart on the oven's center rack for 40 to 45 minutes, until it is golden brown and set in the center, but still jiggly. Cool the tart on a wire rack. Slice and serve topped with a dollop of the Port zabaglione cream. Serves 8 to 10.
Pasta FrollaAbout this basic tart recipe, featured in her book, DePalma says, "It makes enough dough for 2 shells. I always think it's great to have extra tart dough to freeze for another time." Wrap the unused dough in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to a month.
• 2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• Grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 small orange
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk (white reserved for another use)
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• A few drops of ice water, if necessary
1. Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and citrus zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine the dry ingredients.
2. Add all of the cold, cubed butter to the bowl, and process until the mixture is sandy and there are no visible lumps of butter.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract and heavy cream. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse three or four times or until the dough comes together. If necessary, add some ice water, a few drops at a time, to make the dough come together.
4. Remove the dough from the food processor and knead a few times by hand to even out any dry or wet spots. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours, before rolling it out.
Twin slices of Gina Depalma's Walnut Tart, with a dollop of Port Zabaglione Cream.
Port Zabaglione Cream
• 4 large egg yolks
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon tawny or ruby port
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
1. Whip the heavy cream with the 1 tablespoon port until firm peaks form; keep chilled while you make the zabaglione.
2. Create a double boiler by heating a medium saucepan of water, filled halfway, over medium heat. Select a heavy, heatproof glass or ceramic bowl that will comfortably fit on the rim of the saucepan; there should be at least an inch of space between the water and the bottom of the bowl.
3. While the water is coming to a simmer, place the bowl on the countertop to whisk the ingredients. Using a flexible balloon-shaped wire whisk, beat the egg yolks, sugar and 1/4 cup of Port until foamy. Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk vigorously, always keep the mixture moving in an up-and-over motion, to incorporate air into the zabaglione as you cook the yolks. Monitor the water by occasionally lifting the bowl up for a moment; if it is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. The zabaglione will start to turn thick after four or five minutes of steady whisking.
4. The zabaglione is done when the whisk leaves tracks as it moves through it, the zabaglione comes away from the side of the bowl, and it mounds lightly when you lift the whisk. Take the bowl off the heat and place it on a folded kitchen towel on the counter. Continue whisking the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is cool when you touch it with your fingertip.
5. Fold the cooled zabaglione into the chilled heavy cream until no more streaks appear. Chill for an hour before serving. Makes about 3 cups.
• 1/2 cup golden raisins
• 2/3 cup dried cherries
• 4 ounces dried apricots, sliced into strips
• 8 to 9 dried Kalmyrna figs, quartered
• 1/4 cup unsalted pistachios
• 1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup tawny or ruby port
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
• A pinch of ground cloves
• Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (2 to 3 passes on the grater recommended)
1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well with a large spoon to coat the fruits and nuts with the Port. Allow the compote to sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, stirring it well every 20 minutes or so.
Serve alongside cheeses of your choice. Store the remaining compote in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes about 4 cups compote.
Note: The following list is a selection of wines from recently rated releases.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions