Last Minute Gift Ideas
Many of us, whether we choose to admit it or not, are still frantically shopping for gifts in those few days before Christmas. Sometimes, we’ve just been too busy at work to take time out to visit the malls. Or perhaps we’ve just been waiting patiently for inspiration to whisper in our ears. After all the time, effort and money put into choosing and buying gifts, we all really want the gifts we pick to be perfect. And sometimes, it really is easy. Some people conveniently have collections. Pick up a little something that adds to it, and they will be thrilled with your gift. Then there are those people who have very clear interests, like gardening or cars or quilting. Easy, right? Of course! But, choosing gifts for people who don’t seem to fall into any of those categories doesn’t have to be nerve-racking.
Here’s the secret: when you don’t know what to buy for someone, think about the one thing all of us have in common — we all eat. That’s where you’ll find your gift-giving dilemmas solved. Answer a few questions to narrow down the scope of possibilities, and you’ll find yourself with the makings of a great gift in no time. For instance, how well can the gift-recipient cook? Does he prefer to take his dinner from freezer to microwave? Does she enjoy wine, beer, spirits? Alex Belson, Director of Marketing at Tenuta dell’Ornellaia winery suggested that grappa is a perfect gift for every wine lover, especially when you don’t know that person’s specific tastes.
With that advice in mind, here are a few more thoughtful gift suggestions.
Chocolate and Wine Gift Packs
Of course, everyone has heard of matching wine with cheese. The number of wine and cheese parties you’ve probably attended in the last couple of weeks has no doubt convinced you of the enormous potential of that particular food and wine pairing. But, a lesser known pairing is that of chocolate and wine.
Brix (called so because the chocolate is sold in brick format which are then fractured on a cutting board like cheese) is made from Ghanian chocolate and comes in Extra Dark, Medium Dark and Milk Chocolate. Each one has been specifically blended to pair with certain wines. The chocolate bricks can be purchased individually or in gift packs containing a small cutting board and knife. You can also buy them in individually-wrapped bite-sized pieces.
Extra Dark (70%) Very high cocoa content. Pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Zinfandel and Syrah. Also try it with this: Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne DOCG 2005, Piedmont ($150)
Medium Dark (60%) High cocoa enhances fruit-forward wines. Pairs with Merlot, Sangiovese and Tempranillo. Goes especially well with McWilliams Hanwood Estate Shiraz 2007, South Eastern Australia ($17.29)
Milk Chocolate The addition of milk gives the chocolate a creamy smoothness that compliments Pinot Noir, Port or Riesling. Try it, too, with Stratus Red Icewine 2008, Niagara ($40)
Recipe and Wine Gift Packs
The first of the season’s flakes have fallen, so there’s no better time than to take some inspiration from the French. During the winter, the region of Cahors celebrates its two culinary specialties: Cahors (Malbec) and black truffles with themed events throughout the countryside. Although purchasing someone a trip to France might be a little beyond the potential of your pocketbook, there’s no reason why we can’t put those two delicacies together into a great gift. Buy a jar of black truffles and foie gras, and wrap it up with a bottle of Malbec. For the cook in your life, print off a copy of the traditional Roasted Holiday Goose Breast recipe below. Tuck it into a brand new pot with a bottle of Malbec and tie it all up with a ribbon.
Roasted Holiday Goose Breast and Braised Legs with Cassis Sauce
Recipe courtesy of D’Artagnan Meats
1 goose, 10 to 12 pounds, excess fat removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon each crushed juniper berries and grated fresh gingerroot
1 orange, zest removed in thin strips, fruit peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 onion, quartered
1 leek, white part only, split lengthwise
4 cups diced mirepoix: mixed carrots, onions, celery and leeks
1 bouquet garni: 4 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons dried thyme, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, and 4 whole cloves, tied in cheesecloth
1 quart poaching liquid reserved from legs, or chicken stock
1 cup cassis (black currant liqueur)
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup dried red currants
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. One day before serving, remove legs from goose at thigh joint, leaving breast on carcass. Rub breast and carcass inside and out with salt, pepper, juniper berries, ginger, and orange zest. Place diced orange, celery, onion, and leek inside cavity. Prick skin all over, place carcass on a rack, and refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours.
2. While breast is marinating, place legs in a casserole with mirepoix and bouquet garni. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat so liquid just simmers, cover pot, and cook until legs are tender and meat easily pulls away from the bones, at least 2 hours. Remove from heat and let cool. When legs are cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones, and discard. Skim fat from top of poaching liquid; strain liquid and reserve. Shred leg meat and reserve. Legs may be cooked 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated.
3. Remove breast from refrigerator and allow to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat oven to 475°F.
4. Place goose, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan, and roast for 30 minutes. Turn heat down to 400°F, and continue roasting until skin is golden brown and juices run pale pink when meat is pricked deep in breast, about 35 minutes longer, basting periodically with pan juices. Remove from oven and transfer to a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest.
5. Discard fat from roasting pan and empty contents of carcass and any juices into pan. Pour in 1 quart of the reserved poaching liquid, the cassis, shallots, and currants, and deglaze pan, stirring up all browned particles. Pour into a saucepan and bring sauce to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced by two-thirds. Strain sauce, season with salt and pepper, and stir in butter. Keep warm.
6. Warm leg meat, and moisten with a little cassis sauce. Place a large spoonful of leg meat in the centre of each warmed dinner plate. Remove breast from goose carcass and carve across grain into long angular slices. Drape 3 to 4 slices over leg meat, spoon sauce over it, and serve.