Recipe: Chicken & (Variations on Bittman’s) Overnight Waffles

Delish Recipe - Chicken & Waffles

It may seem crazy to include waffles among my wine-friendly recipes. They’re usually a breakfast item and few wines pair well with the usual waffle toppings of fresh fruit, whipped cream and maple syrup. I can think of about one wine that would be up to the task (very sweet TBA Riesling, anyone?) but even that is far from a perfect pairing, at least to my palate.

No, the reason I include this recipe is because it is not only the best waffle recipe in the world (go ahead, make it and then try to argue the point), it is waaay better than most of the waffles they serve at even the best Southern restaurants that serve Chicken and Waffles. And adding chicken to a waffle creates a sweet-savory combination that expands the wine options significantly (see recommended pairings, below).

Pro Tip – The waffles need a little extra time in the waffle iron – about a minute longer than the  iron’s warning light thinks they need – to achieve the crunchy outside and soft inside that is the very definition of ‘waffle perfection’.  And while they are best when eaten within a minute or two, they freeze beautifully and come to life after a quick visit to the toaster.

Now if I could only bring my fried chicken up to the same level as my waffles (I’m trying this recipe from Delish now – see Bryce Johnson’s tempting food shot above!)

Ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon Instant yeast
2 cups All purpose flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 cups Milk (use Buttermilk for a more savory version, or substitute 1C sour cream for 1C of the milk)
8 Tbsp butter melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract optional
Canola Oil for brushing on waffle iron
2 room-temperature eggs

Directions

The yeast will need 8-10 hours of fermentation to bring its full flavor and consistency to the batter, so advanced planning is required (but well worth it!). When preparing the initial batter, combine all the dry ingredients and then stir in the milk. Once combined, stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside at room temperature for 8-10 hours.

When you’re ready to prepare the waffles, preheat the waffle iron as you separate the eggs, integrating the yolks into the batter and beating the egg whites to soft peaks before gently folding them into the batter – don’t over-mix or you’ll lose the critical airiness that creates the perfect waffle texture. 

Most waffle irons sold today are made for the deeper, Belgian waffles that are perfect for this recipe. Pour 1/3 cup of the batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done, usually 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven until the chicken is ready to plate.

Remember, in the unlikely event there are any left over, they freeze well for weeks and can be easily called into action by a good toaster.

Wine Pairings – Off-dry, aromatic white wines from cool-climate growing areas. Candidates include Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau or Riesling!  Shop our aromatic White Wines here

Recipe: Frico Friulano

Cheese. Potato. Onion. What could be simpler? Actually, this regional dish requires a bit of finesse to turn out properly, but the yum factor is well worth it.

Next to the famed ham of San Daniele, Frico Friulano is perhaps the most iconic dish of the Northeastern region of Italy known as Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. This region is found just South of Austria and West of Slovenia, with its unique cuisine influenced by both. The foods you’ll enjoy here still feature pasta, but their exotic spices and sweet-savory influence are unique within Italy. 

Map of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Courtesy of Vineyards.com – https://vineyards.com/wine-map/italy/friuli-venezia-giulia

And the region is gob-smackingly beautiful. Though much of the region is over-shadowed by Venice, the entire region is postcard-worthy. Vineyards and fields of sunflowers provide a scenic stage for the chalky hills of the Dolomites and dramatic skies and cloud formations.

But enough about geography. Let’s get on with the food. Before making Frico Friulano you must first understand that there are two types of Frico – one is simply grated cheese placed in mounds on a silpat and baked until browned, then served as cheese crisps. Delicious and worth a try, but not what we’re here for today.

The second type is what’s pictured above – and both types of Frico call for the same Friulian cheese called Montasio. It can be hard to find on this side of the pond, but use it if you can and if not, reach for the Grana Padano or a good Parmesan instead.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Montasio, grated
  • 1 medium potato, about 1/2 pound, peeled and grated
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat for a minute. Heat the oil for 10-15 seconds, then add the onion and cook until fragrant, another 3-4 minutes before adding the grated potato.  Toss the potato and onion until well mixed, add salt/pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until golden and crispy on the bottom – about 10 minutes.

Add the cheese and combine well, working quickly with a non-stick spatula. Once combined, scrape the sides of the pan and spread any excess over the top, smoothing it into a pancake-like disc.  Lower the heat and let cook untouched until the bottom is brown and nicely crusted (~5 minutes, but this will vary depending on your cooking surface). 

Flipping Frico – Loosen the Frico by shaking the pan, place a large flat plate over the pan, flip everything and then slide the Frico back into the pan, exposing the beautifully browned cheese on top. If your Frico breaks during this process, just piece it back together in the pan and nobody will be the wiser. Cook until the bottom is browned, about 5 minutes more, before sliding onto the serving plate.

Slice into wedges and serve with a simple green salad.

Wine pairing – any crisp, aromatic white will be good, but if you can find a white wine from Friuli the pairing will be perfect!

The Frico Friulano at Frasca da Gianni
Frasca da Gianni
Frasca da Gianni – outdoor patio

Recipe – Grilled Bacon Kebabs

Grilled Bacon Kebabs imageFunny, this – “Living high on the hog” used to mean one could afford the prime cuts of meat farthest away from the pig’s belly – the luxurious loin.  But today you can’t walk down a block at lunchtime without running into an urban hipster biting into some form of pork belly.  Eating low on the hog is decidedly trendy.  

This recipe feeds that craze, featuring bacon in a rather unusual but delicious preparation – skewered and grilled. The recipe originated with Chris Morocco  over at Bon Appetit (photo by Ted Cavanaugh), but I’ve simplified it a bit so more people can prepare it using ingredients already in their pantry – unless the back corner of your condiment shelf is hiding a jar of the spicy Asian concoction known as sambal oelek, in which case add a couple TBSPs of it to the relish, by all means. 

When planning your meal you may find it easiest to purchase the bacon by the number of slices you’d like to serve each guest instead of by weight. If this is your main protein, you’ll want a good five or six slices per person.  If serving as an appetizer or side dish, perhaps just two or three.  I prepared this recipe with a thick-cut pepper bacon and can’t imagine how it would work with anything thinner.  

There are three sections to the recipe – the glaze, the relish and the meat.

The Glaze – used during the last two minutes of cooking. Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated. This recipe is sufficient for 8 slices of bacon.  Increase the recipe accordingly as your party gets larger.  And when you’re serving these, it’s bound to do so.

  • 2 Tbsp honey or agave
  • 2 Tbsp sambal oelek or Sriracha
  • 1-2 Tbsp unseasoned Rice Vinegar

Combine all ingredients and set aside.  Told you this was easy.

The Relish – liberally disperse over the dish immediately after removing from the grill.  Let sit at room temperature while preparing the grill so the flavors infuse.

  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced (just up to the green part)
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1+ tsp ginger, peeled and grated, to taste (substitute powdered ginger, if you must)
  • 1/2 tsp light brown sugar or squeeze of honey or agave syrup

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Meat

Indirect bbq heatAt this point, prepare your grill – you want a medium fire on just one side of the grill – you’ll need to use indirect heat to prevent charring.  Using metal (preferably) skewers, weave them through the meat (not the fat) every few inches, then stretch the bacon out flat, as shown in the photo above.  

Place the skewers over the indirect heat side of the grill and turn every minute or so for about 8 minutes.  Don’t leave the grill, these do require a bit of constant attention.  You don’t want the bacon to burn, but it should sizzle as it renders its fat and crisps up.  While still slightly limp but almost ready, brush the bacon with the glaze and turn every 30 seconds for another 2-3 minutes or until you can’t wait to bite into one.  The glaze burns easily, so don’t leave the grill, put your wine glass down, and focus.

Wine Pairing

The heat in this dish can prove tricky for most wines, and it is really best with a low-alcohol, off-dry white (think Riesling) or Rose. However, the “Red Only” crowd prefers to pair hot dishes with fruity, high-alcohol wines such as a CA Zinfandel.  To each his/her own, but if I were forced down the red-only lane I’d opt for a Russian River Pinot. Shop for wines here.

Enjoy!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Duck Breast With Mustard Greens, Turnips, And Radishes

Duck Breast with Mustard Greens, Turnips, and Radishes Recipe

This Bon Apetit recipe is easily adapted – don’t care for turnips?  Try small red potatoes (sauteed or roasted in the duck fat!)  Not big on Mustard Greens?  Substitute Frisee, or a mild rocket/arugula, or if you strive for “painfully hip”, chopped kale in the sweet Asian dressing you’ll find in my recipe (search this blog for “pork belly kale”.  But whatever you do, try this recipe for the duck breast.

Ingredients
SERVINGS: 8
3 pounds boneless duck breasts (3–4)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons English mustard powder
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 radishes, thinly sliced
4 small turnips, scrubbed, thinly sliced, plus 2 cups torn turnip greens or kale
6 cups torn mustard greens; plus any mustard flowers (optional)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Flaky sea salt

Preparation

ACTIVE: 1 Hour  TOTAL: 1 Hour
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Score the fat side of each duck breast ⅛” deep in a crosshatch pattern; season both sides with kosher salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium. Cook 2 duck breasts, skin side down, until fat is rendered and surface is deeply browned and crisp, 10–15 minutes; transfer to a plate. [Note, I ALWAYS save the rendered fat before proceeding!  DC]  Wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining duck and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil.
  • Arrange all duck breasts in the skillet, fat side up, and roast in oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of breasts registers 135° (~5–8 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  • In a small bowl whisk Dijon mustard, mustard powder, lemon juice, and (while whisking) gradually add 3 Tbsp. olive oil; season mustard sauce with kosher salt and pepper.
  • Toss radishes, turnips, greens, flowers (if using), vinegar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper.
  • Thinly slice duck. Scatter greens over a platter (or two) and top with duck. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with mustard sauce alongside.

Recipe by Alison Roman

Photograph by Christopher Testani

Cheers!  Dave

Recipe – Perfect Homemade Meatballs

meatballs_bowlMeatballs are delicious when perfectly made.  Otherwise, they’re better relegated to your slingshot than your table.  The key to the perfect meatball is minimal handling – don’t touch your meatballs too much and they won’t end up being too dense.  And as you likely know, dense, gummy balls will end up as over-cooked chunks of gravel.  Probably not what you had in mind.

That said, here’s a great meatball recipe of only moderate complexity.  Have your butcher grind the three types of meat, and if he/she complains just find a new butcher. This is simply part of their craft.  Or should be.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground pork butt
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • ½ pound ground bottom round (beef)
  • ½ cup frozen spinach thawed and drained thoroughly
  • ½  cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or sea)
  • ½  cup bread crumbs, ¼ for mixture, ¼ for rolling.
  • Herbs and spices to taste (probably about a tablespoon of any or all of the following: basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, pepper, garlic powder (not salt))

Lightly mix everything with the exception of ¼ cup breadcrumbs, emphasis on lightly, try not to squish or squeeze.  Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or up to overnight to let the flavors mingle. 

Preheat oven to 400’.  By hand, form the meatballs into the size of golf balls. (keep it gentle!)  Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, and don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly coated.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in a mini muffin pan.  If the balls will be cooked a second time, say as part of a pasta sauce, err on the lower side of the time range.  If eaten as is, go for the higher end.  But because ovens vary, be sure to test one before you declare them done.

Wine Pairings

If your meatballs are to be served as a stand-alone appetizer, they will pair well with any number of red wines or even Rosé or sparkling wine.  But if served over pasta with the traditional red sauce, the tomato sauce drives the choice – it’s acidity requires wine of equal measure, such as Chianti, domestic Sangiovese, or other varieties from Northern Italy (Nebiolo, Barbera, etc.)

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Recipe courtesy of Paul “Rad” Radcliffe!

What Wine Goes With Chicken Fingers?

Image - Gourmet Chicken Fingers from

Yeah, they look delicious.  That’s because they are.  And even more so when paired with the right wine.  

If you’re a foodie and have yet to discover the brilliant blog – Once Upon a Chef – by former chef Jennifer Segal, I highly recommend it.  This talented chef gave up her toque to raise her kids.  But she still keeps a hand in, so to speak, by testing home recipes and blogging about the best ones.  Each comes with her high-quality photographs and step-by-step instructions.  And despite her cooking chops, she features recipes that any good home chef can manage.

This one, in particular, is very kid-friendly.  And adult-friendly too.  ‘Specially when paired with a lightly oaked Chardonnay, which will tease out the nuttiness of the crust, or a Riesling or other aromatic white, which will flatter the sweet/tart tension of the honey-mustard sauce.  

Do you eat at one of those red-only sorts of tables?  No worries.  I daresay a lighter-bodied new-world Pinot would do nicely, as would a Chianti.  But whatever you do, don’t die before trying this with a dry Rosé, which are usually among the most food-friendly wines you’ll ever find.

Cheers!

Recipe : Roasted Pork Belly on Kale Salad

Dave the Wine Merchant - Roasted Pork Belly on Kale Salad with aromatic white wines
14 people. 6lbs of pork belly. Gone in 60 minutes!

This recipe is a bit time consuming but well worth it!

I first tasted this dish at the Anderson Valley Alsace festival (now known as “White Wine Weekend”). It was prepared by Beau MacMillan, the Executive Chef at Arizona’s Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa.  I’ve adjusted some of the ingredients and procedures to make the recipe a little more home-friendly, for those of us who don’t benefit from a team of prep cooks. 

Pork belly is generally available through most good butchers these days, but you may want to call ahead just to be sure.

The preparation begins with the rub applied to the meat, which remains on for a brief 2 hours before the meat is seared and then slow-roasted.  The recipe is broken into three sections – one for the meat, one for the dressing, and one for the salad (photo, left).

Wine Pairing

Pair this with a rich and aromatic white wine or a good dry to off-dry rosé.  Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, unoaked/lightly oaked Chardonnay or Riesling would be among my top picks.  Rosé fans will like the way the wine plays off the sweet-tart nature of the ingredients, and how the fruit complements the pork.

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients – Pork Belly

  • 1-2 lb. Pork Belly (ask your butcher to remove the thin, tough skin on top of the fat)
  • ~1 Cup Salt
  • ~1.5 Cups Sugar (I use a mix of brown and baking sugar)
  • Zest from one orange, one lemon, and one lime
  • 2 Sprigs fresh rosemary, stripped from stems and chopped

Combine all ingredients, place half in a non-reactive pan, place pork top, meat-side up, and massage the remaining  rub into the top and sides.  Cure pork belly for ~2 hours. About 20 minutes before it’s done curing, pre-heat your oven to 475F.  Rinse the rub off the meat and place in a roasting pan, fat-side up.  Roast at 475F for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 250F and cook for another 30+ minutes – checking every five minutes after that, removing it from the oven when much of the fat is rendered and the meat is done but still a bit pink.  If the fatty top is not caramelized and bubbly, put it under the broiler for a minute or so – but watch it closely, and don’t take any phone calls from mom.

Ingredients – Soy Sesame Vinaigrette

Yield:  approx. 1 cup                                                                                       

  • 1-2 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Ginger, chopped fine
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 Tbsp.   Green onion, chopped fine
  • 1 pinch   Red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup   Rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup   Mirin
  • 1/4 cup   Soy sauce – low-sodium highly recommended
  • 1/4 cup   Brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp.   Cornstarch (dissolved in 1/4 cup water)

Heat a saucepan over medium heat for couple of minutes. Add the oil, wait about 30 seconds, then add the garlic, ginger, green onion and chili flake. Sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds) and then add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer a couple of minutes until thickened.  Strain and cool (alternative – I liked the idea of a wilted salad, and although kale isn’t prone to wilting, I opted to heat the dressing and apply it to the kale salad just before serving.)

Kale Salad Ingredients

  • 1-2 bunches of Kale (1/2 – 1 pound)
  • 1 C Fresh blueberries or golden raisins
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/2 C pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1/3 C Sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 C Shredded carrots
  • 1 Tbsp Chopped mint

Wash kale, remove and discard stems, then chop.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, dress with the soy-sesame vinaigrette (hot, if you so choose) toss lightly and season with salt to taste.  Serve family style on a large platter, or on individual salad plates.  Top with pork belly cut into 1-inch slices.

Recipe originally from Beau MacMillan, Executive Chef.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
5700 E. McDonald Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ  85253
480.607.2302| Main

“#1 Resort in the United States” – Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards
“#1 Resor in Arizona” – Travel + Leisure 500 Best Hotels in the World for 2012

 

Perfect Pairing: Cider-Poached Salmon with Pinot

The bane of the amateur gardener is that everything gets ripe all at once. And eating tons of the same produce, meal after meal, day after day, week after week… one’s tastebuds quickly tire.   So freezing, drying, canning, gifting and other forms of creative storage become highly valued.

And if a bunch of apple trees happen to grow on your property, you eventually ask for a cider press when your handy-man Father in-law asks for Christmas ideas.  You can see what he came up with in the photo here – looks as if it should be launched!  It’s just a happy coincidence that his name is Johnny, one long associated with apples and their seeds.

The first cider from our late-ripening tree was so delicious, I’ve spent some enjoyable hours conjuring up or searching for recipes that feature cider.  Like this one, which I came across in Wine Spectator, for a Cider-Poached salmon.  It’s been adapted slightly from its original version (as seen in “Maine Classics: More Than 150 Recipes From Down East,” by Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. Running Press) to make it a bit more Pinot friendly.  But it already had a good start, and the bonus of featuring Morgan’s 2009 12-Clones Pinot Noir ($32), a wine I’d recently featured in one of our wine club shipments.

INGREDIENTS
1 gallon apple cider
2 tsp each fresh rosemary and thyme (with extra for garnish)
¼ cup (plus 1/4 tsp) brown sugar or 3 Tbsp Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp fennel seed
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
6 Salmon fillets, 4-6 oz. each
1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 – 2 Generous pinches Cinnamon and Cumin
4-6 Tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced

PROCEDURE
1. Heat cider in a fish poacher or (if you haven’t stocked up on Williams Sonoma’s entire storew-wide inventory yet!) a broad-based, saucepan, until liquid is reduced by half its height.

2. Add the rosemary, thyme, brown sugar (or syrup), fennel seed, salt and pepper. Bring to a
full boil and then reduce to just below a simmer – you want steam but no bubbles.

3. Gently place the salmon in the liquid and cook for 6 minutes.  Test for doneness (I suggest an instant-read thermometer, but you can pull one out and take a peek at its center.

4. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a sauté pan until melted but not smoking.  Add apples and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the aromatic spices (Cinnamon and Cumin) and the additional 1/4 teaspoon of brown sugar (not too sweet or it will fight with the wine!)

5. Using a slotted spatula, remove the salmon directly from the poaching liquid to individual serving plates, and garnish with the poached apples and a sprinkling of the fresh chopped herbs. 

Serve with steamed broccolini or asparagus and good rolls warmed in the oven.  

Wine Pairings – You can’t go wrong with any of the lighter style Pinots from cooler growing regions (Sonoma Coast, Monterey, Anderson Valley, New Zealand, Germany…) – you’ll find many options in our virtual Pinot Aisle – as well as a nice Pinot Gris or even a richer, off-dry Rosé.  

Main Course, Shrimp in Sriracha-Butter

Sriracha (Se Racha).  I’m amazed at how quickly the American palate has adopted this spicy-sweet condiment from Thailand.  It is named after the coastal city of Si Racha, where it was first produced to accompany the many seafood dishes such a town is generally known for.  Its use has grown, and it is now a popular addition to any dish that can use a bit of a kick, which in my book, is just about anything that comes after the breakfast cereal.

It’s a simple paste, with just five ingredients – ground chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt.  We found a recipe on line and had it  jarred and labeled within several hours, but you can find it for a few bucks in most good grocery stores.

Here, we use it to form a simple compound butter that is used to flavor this simple fish dish.  Hey, let’s make it even easier and skip making a compound butter, which has to sit overnight, and just add the sauce to the melting butter in the… but I get ahead of myself.  Just read the recipe.  It’s easy as pie.  Easier even.  A lot easier.

Ingredients
2 Tbsp butter at room temperature
2 Tbsp Sriracha
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 – 6 good-sized shrimp per person, peeled (the shrimp, not the persons) with tail left on.
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped

Preparation

Using a fork, combine butter and Sriracha in a small bowl until well mixed.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes, add a little of the butter (to test) – if it smokes, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for about 20-30 seconds before adding the butter.  When well melted, return to heat and add the chopped garlic, cooking just until fragrant, then add the shrimp – don’t crowd the pan, be sure each little bug is in full contact with the pan.

Just before the shrimp turn fully pink, add the lemon zest, mint and basil.  Toss to coat.  When shrimp are done and herbs have wilted, serve immediately.  We like this with good side dishes of Jasmine Rice or Quinoa cooked in chicken or veggie broth and a salad dressed with rice wine vinegar, honey and sesame oil.

My Recommended Wine Pairing

The heat in this dish requires something with some sweetness and lower acidity.  Relax, relax, I’m not talking about disgusting cheap stuff that’s going to shred your cred with your date, friends, spouse or family.  It’s all about balance here, and with your tongue dancing with spice, you’ll be begging for a wine with these characteristics.  Look for a German Riesling (preferably Spätlese or Auslese) or a muscat/Moscato.  An off-dry Rosé would also be nice, but avoid the dry ones, I think they will clash quite badly with this dish.  To pull the dish more towards a drier wine, amp the garlic and turn down the Sriracha.  

Cheers!

Dave “the Wine Merchant”

Adapted from Bon Apetit, though altered to make the dish far more wine compatible.  See their original recipe here.

Hamburger Wine – What to drink?

The common mantra for choosing a wine for burgers is “just use the cheap red stuff!”  I have a couple dozen reasons you don’t want that rock-gut wine for a good burger at home.  But before we begin to consider which wine to serve with your burger, let’s first define your burger!  What is it, exactly?  (click image at left for some great recipes)

First, let’s wade into the debate over how to best cook a burger at home – grilled vs. griddled.  As you can see here at Chowhound, the debate is not without proponents on both sides.  The topic arose again in this month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine, proving that the final word has yet to be established or that it’s been established but is worth re-hashing every year as grilling season flares upon us (pun intended though weak).

In sorting through all the opinions on how to cook the best burger, grilling is ahead by a length, with a cast iron skillet a distant second, and your basic frying pan and George Foreman grill getting pooh-poohed by foodies.  Just a few tips I’ve picked up along the way for grilling the perfect burger:

  • Bring your burger up to room temperature before grilling.  This helps assure an even doneness without drying out the meat.
  • Coat your grill with a high-temperature cooking oil just before setting your burger down.  Peanut oil works well.  This helps keep your burger from sticking, obviously, but also allows you to begin with thinner burgers, which shorten cooking time and helps assure the meat doesn’t dry out before it’s done!
  • Cook over direct heat for a long minute, flip for one more long minute.  Then move your burger to indirect heat for a couple minutes per side.  That’s all you’ll need if your patties are no more than 3/4 inch thick.
  • Adding cheese?  If you want it melted, be sure to add it during the cooking time or the meat will dry out.  To help melt your cheese, cover your grill or top your burger with an inverted pot.

BURGER TOPPINGS

Whether you grill or griddle, how you top your burger makes a big difference in the wine you’ll want to drink.

What Meat? The first consideration, when pairing a wine with your burger, is the meat used to create the burger.  Beef is most common, of course, but I’m quite partial to the LAMBurger, and that link will take you to a wonderful recipe from Bistro Ralph that may just put you off cowburgers for life.  The gamier taste of lamb argues for earthy wines such as Pinot and Chianti.  Even grilled portobellos provide a tasty, low-fat alternative (which also begs for Pinot, in my book!)

Grilled onions? The caramelized sweetness of grilled onions (particularly red onions, or the naturally sweet ones such as Walla Walla) works well with many new world reds (Finally!  A meal you can have with some of those California Cabs!)  Other pairing suggestions include Zinfandel, Syrah and Bordeaux blends.  Afraid to  pull the cork on your high-scoring wines?  Get over it!  You just KNOW they’re going to sit there, waiting for the perfect moment until, years from now, you discover they’re over the hill.  Do it now, the world ends on the May 21st anyway.  ;-)

Mushrooms? I like to grill the mushrooms right on the grill, wrapped in foil with some vent holes, and a simple dash of soy sauce, a quick grind or two of fresh nutmeg (trust me), and a bit of pepper and thyme for seasoning.  Whether cooked on the grill or on the stove-top, mushrooms pull your burger’s wine pairing in the direction of earthy red wines like Pinot Noir or Chianti or Spanish reds.  Go for it!

Cheese? Man, this ads another layer of complexity as far as what wine to choose with your burger. From the vast sea of cheesy options, which do you choose?  Is your burger topped with melted Kraft Singles or Swiss?  Blue cheese or goat cheese?  Cheddar?  Limburger??  It’s impossible to recommend a single wine that will be a home run with each cheese option, but as a general rule of thumb the added complexity cheese brings to a simple burger argues for a more complex, earthy wine. There you go again, getting all spendy on me.

Sauce? The most common, of course, is ketchup.  And the sweet/acid nature of the beast makes me think of blush wines.  A dry Rosé works with so many foods, it should be one of your go-to utility players.  Get over the pink color, Mr. Macho!  These wines also offer a bit of cool refreshment for those used to chilled drinks with their meal (and who among us didn’t grow up drinking iced Cokes with our Burgers?)  Plus, they generally have good acidity, which helps refresh our palate for the next bite of fatty meat/cheese/onion…

For those opting to top their burger with a bit of BBQ sauce, compatible wine pairings move towards the sweeter or fruitier side – a high-alcohol Zin might be just the ticket, as the fruit extraction is a metaphor for sweetness, a taste experience enhanced by the alcohol.  Just remember my first rule of thumb for food and wine pairing?  Match sweet with sweet, acidic with acidic.

Wait, that was rule number two.  But who’s counting?  Just go enjoy your burger.

Cheers!

Dave “the Wine Merchant” Chambers