After decking out the house in all the holiday trimmings, it was time for some comfort food and comfort wine. In the simplest terms, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The 1995 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino is 17 years old and continues to reinforce the notion that the 1995’s are the modern day 1988’s in Tuscany.  Just as 1988 was not as rich, opulent and ripe as 1990, so too was 1995 not as rich, opulent and ripe as it’s sibling, 1997.  
The wine is still a dark blackish red in the decanter, where the wine sat for about an hour before dinner.  The bouquet of the wine is delicate, complex and captivating. The tertiary aromas abundantly frame the dark cherry notes.  Rose petals, pipe tobacco, and mushrooms mingle softly, delicately.  On the palate the wine has a solid core of ripe fruit, with moderately firm tannins and acidity.  The flavors follow the nose with additions of dried fruit, leather and olive. Delicious, complex Brunello, that from my perspective, is at peak. An absolute delicious pairing with seared duck breast over risotto. 93 points, about $40 upon release.

1995 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino; Parma Prosciutto

The request was for a decadent risotto to accompany this wine, so I decided upon Sausage & Broccoli Rabe risotto topped with seared duck breast.  I’ve written up the procedure for risotto many times before, so I won’t repeat the basics, but I’ll elaborate on the technique used here.
The first thing I did was blanche the broccoli rabe, and season it lightly.  I then browned the crumbled sausage and tossed it with the broccoli rabe and left them both to “marinate” for a few hours.

Broccoli Rabe & Sausage “marinating”

As I made the Risotto, which was a very simple process using nothing more than onion, broth, and a bit of butter, I prepared the duck breast.  There are only two simple tricks to properly searing a duck breast.  1) You need to score the fat (but not the meat!) of the breast in a criss-cross pattern and 2) you need to sear it skin side down and leave it alone!  Don’t touch it for a good 3-4 minutes.  By searing the skin, you allow the fat to render out and crisp the skin. Duck fat is healthy fat – the same composition as olive oil – so it’s ok to use as a condiment.  As long as you get the pan hot before you put the breast in, you’ll have a perfectly seared breast.

This is the breast after flipping. Note the crisp color of the skin & the criss cross pattern to the fat. This took about 4 minutes over medium to medium high heat. Splatters a bit, but it’s worth it.

Just before the risotto was done, I tossed in the sausage and broccoli rabe to warm through and incorporate. Then I sliced the duck and gave each person three pieces atop the risotto.  Plated as follows…

Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Risotto with Seared Duck Breast

I cannot imagine a better pairing for an aged, complex Brunello.  A presto…….

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