Fall is the time of year when turning on the oven returns to being a delight rather than a punishment. Light and crisp meals begin to feel less satisfying. Cravings begin to emerge for deeper flavors. And while the outdoor temperatures cool, family schedules seem to heat up–bringing the kids to school, organizing kids’ schedules, attending school events. Not to mention bosses start to frown upon whimsically long lunch breaks, three-day weekends, and family vacations.
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However, there is still life in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun still rises and sets. And urges to curl up under a blanket with a bottle of heady red wine, a large glass of port, or a pint of Ben amp; Jerry’s Brownie Batter seem somewhat unwarranted–at least until there’s two feet of snow on the ground.
Some of the best fall meals celebrate the bounty of the harvest–the great variety of available fresh ingredients–without sacrificing the vibrant flavors of the season. During fall, some foods are still coming to market. There will be plenty of time to eat from the jars and cans in the pantry during winter.
Two classic fall food and wine pairings are roasted poultry with Beaujolais, and creamy vegetable soups with somewhat nutty Italian white wines.
Roasted Poultry with Beaujolais
Few wines are juicier than Beaujolais and few wines pair more perfectly with roasted poultry. Made from the thin-skinned, low-tannin Gamay grape variety, Beaujolais wines carry all the vibrancy of a bowl of freshly-picked berries–and pound for pound prices to match. While the vast majority of the wines produced in Beaujolais are still industrial plonk, a renaissance has occurred in the region in the last 30 years. Most of the wine region’s best producers still sell their wines for under $20 a bottle–with only a handful of the top Cru Beaujolais selling for more.
One of the best introductory bottles of Beaujolais comes from winemaker Pierre-Marie Chermette at Domaine du Vissoux. Using incredibly low yields, natural yeasts, and almost no sulfur, Chermette fashions a simple bottling for the American market called Domaine du Vissoux Pierre Chermette Beaujolais ($15). The wine is unfiltered and packs plenty of lip-smacking berry and cherry fruit with a focused salty mineral spine.
For a step up in quality and structure try the Marcel Lapierre Morgon ($25). Mr. Lapierre was one of vignerons responsible for bringing Beaujolais back from the brink of industrial swill; and his efforts inspired a generation of natural winemakers across France and beyond. Marcel tragically passed away in the fall of 2010, but he left his estate in the deft hands of his son Mathieu Lapierre. The wines often take a few years to show their full character so it is best to look for a bottle with a few years on it–or to purchase a couple of bottles at the end of vintage. The Morgon is typically ebullient with concentrated red berry and cherry fruit, floral aromas, and a silky and sappy texture that is impeccably structured.
Simple Roasted Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
- 1 4lb chicken
- 1 lemon–cut into slices or wedges
- 1 bunch fresh tarragon
- 1 bulb garlic (Here are some great garlic presses for you!)
- 1 onion–chopped into 8 pieces (Here are some great onion choppers for you!)
- 1 bunch carrots–peeled and cut in half
- 1 bunch parsnips–peeled and cut in half
- 2 turnips–trimmed, peeled and quartered
- 8 small red potatoes or other potatoes halved
- Olive oil or canola oil (Here’s some olive oil dispensers you may like)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper (Check out our recommended salt and pepper grinder sets!)
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- A few ounces of white wine or dry vermouth
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Remove the giblet packet from inside the cavity and place in the refrigerator for later. Rinse the bird and pat dry with paper towel both inside and out. Let dry for a few minutes–you don’t want a wet bird. Rub the skin of the bird with liberal amounts of salt and pepper both inside and out. Take the cut up lemon and half of the tarragon and stuff the cavity of the bird. Fold the wings under the body. Cross the legs–closing the opening–and tie them with string. Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan and place it in the oven for 20 minutes.
While the bird begins to cook, clean up your work surfaces, peel and chop the root vegetables and toss them in a small amount of oil, salt, and pepper (you can also use an electric spiralizer). After 20 minutes you should see some juices collecting at the bottom of the roasting pan. Toss in the vegetables and turn the heat down to 400 degrees. Let roast for approximately 1 more hour. Be sure to check for an internal temperature of 180 degrees and that any chicken juices run clear–no rosy colored juices.
Let the bird rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Take the butter and the rest of the tarragon and heat it until melted. Baste the cooked bird. Remove the bird and the roasted vegetables from the roasting pan. Deglaze the pan with a few ounces of white wine or dry vermouth to make a sauce. Serve on the side. Squeeze the bulb of roasted garlic into a small dish–allowing each individual to add as much or as little garlic as they like with the best garlic press. Reserve carcass and scraps for making stock.
Creamy Vegetable Soups with Nutty Italian Whites
Nearly everyone has had an Italian Pinot Grigio. However, many overlook the wealth of other white wines produced across Italy. Many are still dry, crisp, and meant to accompany fish dishes. But others have more body, depth, and character. These medium to full-bodied Italian whites often pair perfectly with fall foods such as creamy squash soups.
Some of the funnest and most affordable nutty Italian whites come from Cascina degli Ulivi in the Piedmont province of Alessandria. The certified biodynamic producer turns out interesting and delightfully odd wines each year. Their Cascina degli Ulivi Gavi ($19) is fermented in large wooden vats and is partially oxidized. It varies wildly in weight and flavor each vintage. However, it typically sports exotic floral and herbal aromas, a bevy of pear fruit, a briny mineral backbone, and notes of cider and roasted almonds from its aging in large Acacia vats.
Another incredibly enjoyable and exotic Italian white is made entirely by nuns in Lazio, about an hour north of Rome. The Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium ($23) is produced from the Malvasia, Trebbiano, and Verdicchio grape varieties and gains its unique texture and flavors from an extended maceration on the skins and aggressive stirring of the lees. The nuns took assistance and creative input from orange wine advocate Giampiero Bea. The end result is a concentrated and richly textured white wine with herbal, citrus, and nut flavors.
Recommended reading: Best Wine Fridges
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Grilled Fontina, Gruyere, and Goat Cheese Panini
- 1 3-4lb butternut squash
- 2 McIntosh apples–cored and chopped
- 2 onions–chopped
- 2 leeks–washed well and sliced thin
- 6 cloves garlic–peeled
- Fresh sage
- Fresh chives
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 5-6 cups of chicken stock (you can use the carcass from the roasted chicken above to make the stock)
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup of whipping cream
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 slices of bread of your choice
- 1/4 pound Fontina
- 1/4 pound Gruyere
- 1/4 pound goat cheese
- Olive oil
Preheat oven to 350. Cut the butternut squash in half and coat the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few fresh sage leaves. Place on a cookie sheet cut side down and roast in oven until fork tender–approximately 30 minutes. Let cool and then peel.
Heat a large cast iron skillet. Add a splash of oil. Add the leeks, onions, apples, and garlic. Add a few cups of chicken broth. Cook until soft. Let cool.
Blend cooked squash, leeks, apples, onions, garlic, and chicken stock with a hand mixer or food processor. Return all contents to a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer. Brown butter with remaining sage leaves and then add to the stock pot. Add the honey and cream. Salt and pepper to taste.
For the grilled panini sandwiches heat a panini press or a cast iron griddle. Lightly oil the outside of the bread slices and evenly distribute cheeses among all four sandwiches. Feel free to use more or less cheese. Garnish the soup with fresh chives and serve with a grilled cheese sandwich.
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!