Courtesy of Aaron Meda, sous chef, Pōst, Albany, NY
Cultivated for human consumption since the 16th century, beet roots have been labeled a “superfood” in recent years. They have an undeniably earthy flavor with a reputation for being quite polarizing. There are several common ways to work around or complement this characteristic, such as roasting to coax out sweetness, adding an acid to brighten things and serving with a soft, creamy cheese. Here, Sous Chef Aaron Meda of natural wine-focused Pōst in Albany, New York, uses all three strategies to create a robust beet sandwich layered with flavors.
- Pastrami Spice mixture (recipe follows)
- 3–4 small to medium red beets, scrubbed and peeled
- 3 bay leaves
- Balsamic Mayo (recipe follows)
- 4 ounces chèvre
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- Arugula, to layer
Add Pastrami Spice to dry skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant. Remove from heat, and finely crush using mortar and pestle. Spread spice mixture in shallow dish and roll in beets to coat.
Heat oven to 350˚F. Lay sheet of foil flat, and add beets, bay leaves and any remaining spices. Fold edges of foil to create packet around beets. Cover with second sheet of foil and seal tightly.
Place packet on sheet tray and roast until beets are very soft, 2–3 hours. Remove from oven and cool completely, then use mandolin or sharp knife to slice very thin.
Heat broiler to high and toast sourdough bread to desired doneness. Remove from heat, and spread each slice immediately with Balsamic Mayo. Divide chèvre between 4 bread slices. Divide arugula among cheese-covered slices, then cover each with two layers of sliced beets. Top with remaining bread slices. Makes 4 sandwiches.
In small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon each caraway seeds, black peppercorns, pink peppercorns, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, allspice berries and sea salt until well incorporated.
In small pot, bring ¼ cup balsamic vinegar to a low boil. Cook until vinegar has reduced by half and has become a thick syrup. Remove from heat and cool completely. Stir into ¾ cups mayonnaise, and mix well to combine.
Made from Sicilian Grillo, Alessandro Viola 2019 Note di Bianco (Terre Siciliane) has a zesty, dynamic texture that balances the multiple components at work here. “Honeyed apricot, pear and herbal notes play really well off the goat cheese,” says Adelia Sugarman, wine buyer at Pōst. “Generous acidity also helps it stand up to the sweetness of the balsamic glaze and the spices of the beets… You’ll want to reach for a sip in between every bite.”
Look for a bright, carbonically macerated wine with crisp, tart berry fruits and some good structure. It will help level the creamy goat cheese and play nicely with the sweeter sides of both the balsamic mayo and the beets without being bullied by any of the earthy characters at play. A Beaujolais Nouveau could fit the bill fine, but plenty others are out there. Try Wild Arc Farm’s 2019 Carbonic Marquette, Two Shepherds’ 2019 Wiley Carbonic Carignan or Broc Cellars’ 2018 Broc Valdiguié.