What We’re Eating & Drinking Now

Pancetta & Pinot Noir

Grilled Pizzas with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Pancetta with Pinot Noir

Considering all the time and effort we put into perfectly matching what we’re eating to what we’re drinking, sometimes it’s a real treat to stumble upon a pairing that is easy-breezy and effortless, like Pinot Noir and pancetta. Or Pinot Noir and earthy mushrooms that have been baked to crispy perfection. Or Pinot Noir and caramelized onions. Or Pinot Noir and all of those things at once for the ultimate in pairing delight.

Last Saturday, Chef Emily took a group of hungry Astor Center students on a tour through the Green Market at Union Square to meet the mushroom producers and to pick up mountains of their tasty wares. We then headed back to the kitchen at Astor Center to whip up a mushroom feast that included, among many many other things, Grilled Pizzas with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Pancetta. This is a dish that practically cries out for Pinot Noir, and here’s why:

The Pinot Noir grape is a real so-and-so. It’s a challenge for grape growers at every step of the process. It’s thin-skinned, prone to mildew, rot and a host of other diseases, ripens late (read, may not ripen at all unless the conditions are juuuust riiight), and is extremely sensitive to extremes in temperature. So why do they even bother? Well, when Pinot Noir is done right, the resulting wine is pure magic. Wines made from the Pinot Noir grape are some of the most interestingly aromatic, complex, and pleasing wines around. In short, they’re worth all the trouble.

And, when Pinot Noir IS done right, its complexity includes a deep earthiness that might even suggest gaminess, beautiful notes of cherries (sometimes sour, sometimes black), velvety soft tannins and medium body on the palate, which make it incredibly food-friendly, and ample acidity to cut through any richness in your dish that comes from fat, which is – let’s face it – what makes some dishes so tasty.

And what are the major flavor components of our pizza? The earthiness of the mushrooms and gaminess of the pancetta, the bold flavors of the caramelized onions and cured meat, and the straight up fattiness of the pork, the butter, and the olive oil. Sound like Pinot Noir might perfectly complement all of those components? Yup.

The complementary flavors in this pairing include the earthiness of the wine matched with the earthiness of the mushrooms and cured meat. The acidity that is inherent to Pinot Noir cuts right through the richness of the pancetta, butter, and oil, leaving you refreshed and ready for more. And the medium body of the Pinot Noir will perfectly match a dish like this one that is not super light like a salad or a simple fish dish, but not heavy like something fatty and braised either.

Hungry yet? Well, here’s the recipe. And while we’re at it a bottle of Pinot Noir such as these will make you very happy indeed:

Mckinlay, Pinot Noir 2009
Santenay “Les Champs Claude” Vieilles Vignes, Marc Colin 2009
Ladoix, Nudant 2008
Les Chemins de Bassac – Languedoc 2009

Grilled Pizzas with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Pancetta

1 large tortilla per pizza

For the onions:
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups sliced yellow onions
kosher salt

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan over medium low heat. Add the onions and a large pinch of salt. Toss to coat the onions in the butter, then cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are deep golden in color, about 20 minutes.

For the mushrooms:
1 # oyster mushrooms, cleaned and pulled into petals
Olive oil

Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, some salt and pepper. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 375º until deep brown in color, stirring once, about 20 minutes.

For the Pancetta:

Dice into 1/4″ pieces (you can purchase it pre-diced) and put in a cold pan. Over low heat, render the fat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is crispy.

To Assemble the Pizzas:

Toss a large tortilla onto a hot grill. Let it get toasty on one side, then flip for a few seconds. Remove to a cutting board. Decorate with olive oil, onions, mushrooms and pancetta. Cut into quarters and serve immediately!

Check out Kimberly’s upcoming Food and Wine Pairing Essentials class September 13th at Astor Center!

  • Whitney

    I made this last night along with a pesto, heirloom tomato, and aged feta pie. Both were great, but this definitely took the cake. I topped it with young fontina, used crimini mushrooms, and whole wheat dough. Awesome. Thank you!