Sunday, September 9, 2012

Deployment Special Edition: The Lobster Roll

This is the gastronomic pinnacle of an Afghanistan deployment—the lobster roll.    
The roll with its component ingredients:  a toasted [hot dog] bun brushed with melted butter and filled with a mix of lobster tail, chopped celery, mayonnaise, and celery salt, with the latter two ingredients courtesy of a care package from home.

This rare royal feast for the taste buds demands a wine of equally noble pedigree, such as a white wine from Pessac-Leognan, on the left bank of the Garonne in the southwest corner of Bordeaux.  Composed of sauvignon blanc and sémillon grown on well-drained gravel and sand with a large percentage of quartz, the whites of Pessac-Leognan offer a unique minerality not found elsewhere in the region.  Variable degrees of wood treatment in the cellar lead to a spectrum of styles that range from fruit-forward with assertive acidity on one end, all the way to full-bodied and creamy versions that require several years of bottle age to achieve integration of the oak.  The richness and delicacy of the lobster would best be served by a style somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

While it is a somewhat rich dish compared to many other seafood preparations, most red wines would still overwhelm this lobster roll.  But not the food-friendly blaufränkisch, a common variety found in Austria, Germany (where it is known as lemberger), and throughout eastern Europe, where it has a reputation of being a bit rustic.  Common flavors include dark fruits such as berries and cherries, with various spice elements and moderate tannins.  Avoid producers who rely on the heavy-handed use of new oak, which will overpower both the wine itself and the elegant lobster filling.

Complementary Pairing:  Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Try:  Château Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc
[]  Now owned by the quality-conscious Gervoson family,  the vines are about 20 years of age, with a slight predominance of sauvignon blanc over sémillon in the vineyard.  The élevage takes place for 12 months in new oak, with the frequency of bâtonnage varying by the characteristics of the vintage.  Flavors include citrus and stone fruits on the front, while the oak treatment adds a rich texture along with vanilla and spices.  There is suitable refreshing acidity on the finish to balance the melted butter and mayonnaise in the lobster roll.

Contrasting Pairing:  Blaufränkisch, Burgenland, Austria
Try:  Weingut Moric Blaufränkisch ‘Moric’
[]  The label with Moric in large letters is the reserve bottling of blaufränkisch from Roland Velich.  This comes from vineyards in Neckenmarkt and Lutzmannsberg, which have vines of up to a century old.  The produce of the oldest of these goes into his site-specific “alte reben” (old-vine) bottlings, but the average vine age in the reserve wine is still 40.  His winemaking style brings an unusual elegance and finesse to this variety, leading to frequent comparisons to the Côte d’Or, and villages such as Volnay in particular.  With minimal use of new oak, the wine presents floral aromatics, together with bright red fruit, cassis, pepper, and spices.

The deployment capo cuoco di tutti capocuochi, Dr. Timothy Weiner, mixing the lobster roll filling and proving his dominance over all other chefs in Afghanistan for creating this luxurious seafood dish smack in the middle of the desert.
An estimated 20 brave lobsters unwillingly gave their tails to provide the contents of this bin in preparation for an outdoor lobster roll feast.  Chef Weiner draws his lobster roll inspiration from his long-standing imaginary friendship with former First Lady Barbara Bush and her patronage of The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport.

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