Thursday, January 08, 2009

Friday Nights IN: Winter Comfort with Friends or Family

Times are tough.

My parents didn't have a lot of spare cash when I was growing up, but they had a tradition that I think has a place in today's economic climate: Friday Nights IN. Every Friday, Mom and Dad lit candles, made a special dinner, uncorked some wine and enjoyed a quiet moment at the end of the week. I don't remember eating out when I was a kid, but I do remember these Friday night rituals.

Today I'm starting a new feature on Good Wine Under $20 that gives you a food and wine pairing for tomorrow night--or some Friday night in the future. Some suggestions will be for romantic dinners for two. Others will be for solo dining on nights when you convince your partner to cover basketball/ballet/etc. and get some precious time to yourself. Others will be for meals large enough to invite a few friends over, or to have a special meal with your kids.

This week I'm advocating a meal of Syrah and Macaroni and Cheese. It's perfect winter comfort food.

The Recipe: My favorite mac and cheese is from Food & Wine and has two kinds of cheese and buttery crumbs on top. I got this recipe from fellow wine blogger John at Brim to the Dregs, and he suggested (and I concur) that using whole milk makes for a plenty rich dish. The recipe makes 6 generous servings. Combine it with a salad and perhaps some fruit or sorbet for dessert and you have yourself a meal worthy of company.

The Wine: Syrah is made for mac and cheese. I recommend looking for one with good acidity to cut through the richness of the meal, like the excellent QPR 2005 Matchbook Syrah from Crew Wines (sample; available for $13-$17). The vintage pictured is 2004, but we had the 2005. The wine had delicious, mouthwatering aromas of blackberry touched with green pepper and herbs (thanks to the 11% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in). Flavors of cherry, pomegranate, and cranberry have a lot of lift and brightness and the wine has a very spicy aftertaste. This is an unusually complex example of Syrah for this price point, and will please you and any friends or family you invite to stop on by for dinner.

You don't have to go out to a fancy meal to enjoy a well-earned Friday night treat. Why not start a tradition of Friday Nights IN? When the economy revives, you may find this is one cost-cutting measure that sticks.


Anonymous said...

I like it! Our family has a tradition of take out for Friday nights, almost always with wine, but now I'm going to add the candles, put more thought into the bottle, and let the kids be excused early so my husband and I could enjoy it. Thanks for the idea!

Unknown said...

Glad to hear you like the mac-n-cheese. As we like to say, it ain't good for you, but it sure is good to you.

I have to give all the credit to my best girl, E. She's the one who discovered this sinful dish.


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Anonymous said...

That's definitely a Friday night tradition I can get behind 100% -- especially in this day and age! Don't get me wrong. I love it when I can manage to find the extra cash to go out, indulge in a special meal at a nice restaurant, or spring for a night on the town. However, I honestly value special evenings in just as much. Sometimes more, if anything.

You're right in that it doesn't take much to make an evening at home special. A tasty home-cooked comfort meal, a nice glass of complementary wine, and your choice of either candles or a blazing fire can make an evening incredible enjoyable.

I'm glad to hear you're a fellow mac and cheese lover. That recipe sounds delectable, and so does that Syrah. Last night was a chicken and bleu cheese pizza with champagne night -- a combination I discovered purely by chance but have come to love. The two actually go very well together, and bubbly is always an interesting way to dress up something like a pizza.

I get to know a lot of new wines through various wine clubs I discover through my site I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy them, and somehow pairing them with comfort food has helped make many a bleak winter evening a little more special.

Dr. Debs said...

Candles make everything better, wineywhites!