I knew the food needed to be a bit tamer. Something calmer. Something normal. Wine and cheese seemed like a safe route, so I played around and experimented with different takes on simple combinations of wine and cheese. Game on.
Cracked Black Pepper White Wine Jelly.
A simple straight forward jelly with attitude. Few ingredients. Big payoff. With slight citrus undertones, I used an affordable Elk Creek Vineyards off-dry chardonnay for the base of the jelly. I brought 2 cups of the chardonnay
to a rolling boil in a heavy cast iron skillet before adding 3 1/2 cups sugar. I let it rip for 4 minutes (until the sugar dissolved into the wine), pulled it from the heat, and added 2 3oz pouches of liquid pectin along with 1/2 cup cracked Tellicherry peppercorns.
After ladling the pepper jelly into sterilized jars, I wiped the rims, sealed the lids, and processed them in a water bath for 10 minutes before carefully removing them to cool on soft kitchen towels. When the jars came to room temperature, I
slid them into the refrigerator to help the jelly set up and congeal.
Gorgonzola Pecan Crackers.
Slightly pungent gorgonzola is typically paired with robust red wines or sweet white dessert wines. With that in mind, I knew the inherent sweetness of the spiced jelly would balance the soft saltiness of the gorgonzola. There are a gazzilion recipes for cheese crackers/wafers/cookies. Although they're not difficult to throw together, they can be finicky and tricky to pull off. Recently, Michael surprised me with a copy of the Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen cookbook. Because cheddar cheese wafers/crackers are iconic in Charleston, they included a version of their own. I used their method, replacing the cheddar cheese with gorgonzole dolce cheese.
I crumbled 4 oz of gorgonzola dolce (the milder, younger version of gorgonzola piccante) into a stand mixer and added 1/2 stick of softened unsalted butter. After creaming them together for 3 minutes, I added 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes. When the dough pulled away from the sides of the mixer, I formed into a 9 "x 2 " log and rolled it over roughly chopped pecans. After pressing the nuts into the softened cheese, I wrapped the log in plastic wrap and slid it into the refrigerator to chill.
Twisted Wine and Cheese.
After preheating the oven to 350 degrees, I sliced the hardened gorgonzola cheese log into 1/4 inch rounds, lined them up on a Sil Pat, and baked them until they were golden brown, about 24 minutes. I didn't leave the kitchen. I burn things. A lot.
While they were still somewhat warm, I stacked the crackers on a pink Himalayan salt block, dolloped a few with the cracked black pepper wine jelly, and served them with thinly sliced Anjou pears.
Here's the deal. They were fantastic. The combination was wonderfully strange. The crackers snapped under the oozing sweet jelly. While the crisp fresh pears added cleansing wetness, the peppercorns popped with biting heat, brightening the muted pungency of the crunchy gorgonzola cheese crackers.