Blue Cheese Tart with Candied Walnuts and Poached Figs
When a good wine meets the right dish, beautiful music happens and both are made better. Making that beautiful relationship happen gives me great satisfaction. I recently created a wine pairing dinner for one of Fred Scherrer’s wine club members and a number of their friends. It was a menu that I created for a chilly February night, filled with rich and warming dishes, centered around Scherrer wines:
*Amuse Bouche of House-smoked Salmon Mousse, Capers, and Dill on a Potato Crisp
paired with 2011 Rosé
*Cauliflower Bisque with Dungeness Crab Remouladé
Paired with RRV Chardonnay, Helfer Vineyard 2009
*Liberty Farms Duck Confit Risotto with Drunken Cherries and Black Trumpets, served with Winter Green Salad and a Truffle-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Paired with 2007 and 2008 Russian River Pinot Noir
*Smoked Pork Ragu with Homemade Pappardelle
Paired with 2008 Timbervine Syrah and 2007 Sonoma Coast “Big Brother” Pinot Noir
*Beef Osso Buco over Polenta with Braised Garlic Greens
Paired with 2005 and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
*Blue Cheese Tart with Wine Poached Fig and Candied Walnuts
Paired with 2007 Alexander Valley Zinfandel, Special Cuvée
The most challenging course for me was determining what dessert to serve with a non-dessert wine. I created the dessert with blue cheese and figs, two foods that work well with zinfandel. The blue cheese tart works best with a big, jammy zin (or a port) and is a perfect less-sweet dessert. Here is the recipe for the tart, if you are interested. If you want to make the tart more of an appetizer-savory tart, then just reduce the amount of honey in half.
Blue Cheese Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
10 oz Cambonzola or another triple creme blue cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
10 dried figs
1.5 cups of zinfandel
1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Grease tart pan and line with puff pastry. Poke pastry with fork tines all over. Line with parchment and fill with pastry weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove weights and paper and bake another 10 until the center is light brown. Turn oven to 350 degrees.
3. Make candied walnuts. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack. Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with a non-stick mat, or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.
4.Simmer figs in the zinfandel until they are tender. Store in zin to keep warm until you serve.
5. While the crust is baking, mix filling ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour into shell. Cover edges with thin strips of foil to prevent overbrowning.
6. Bake for 30 or until center doesn't jiggle. Serve warm.