My Wine Recommendations for 6 Soups You’ll Love!

Carrot-Ginger soup from Good Stock
The Carrot-Ginger Soup from Good Stock calls for an off-dry or fruit-forward white wine.

In the wine world, there’s a common belief that wine makes pretty much everything taste better. With the exception of sugary breakfast cereals and one or two other dishes, I’ve found this old trope is generally true.

But soup? Does wine improve on something as light and ethereal as basic broth? I’d been meaning to answer this question with my soup-and-wine recommendations for ages. I just needed a little push to get going.

Then out of the blue Good Stock asked if I’d be interested in writing about their soups, and now here we are. Good Stock is a young company with a real human at its core, a Louisianan in New York – Ben LeBlanc. He describes them as a modern company doing things the old fashioned way, and by that, he means their fresh-frozen soups are the real deal. They’re made from ingredients any home cook would have in their pantry, with no lab-generated stabilizers, flavor-enhancers, brighteners, or color-savers.  Check out the ingredients on the back of their Carrot-Ginger Soup package (duplicated in the caption for those with eyesight challenges):

Good Stock ingredients
Carrot & Ginger Soup Ingredients: Water, Carrots, Onions. Less than 2% of Black Pepper, Garlic, Ginger, Kosher Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Agave Syrup.

A quick topical detour here about Good Stocks – note in the image above how they have a completely realistic definition of serving size. On each of their soups, the entire 16 oz package is shown as a single serving, and the Nutrition Facts section reflects this.

In this sense, they are way better than, say, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, who seem to believe there is more than one serving in each of their pints (whaaa???) or than either company in Battle Creek, whose nutrition facts reflect a scant amount of cereal constitues a single serving. It’s more like a large bite, really!

For example, the Nutrition Facts in the image above shows a calorie count of 140 for the entire 16-oz package, not some unrealistic (and deceptive) fraction thereof. That said, for anyone watching their sodium intake, I’d scan the sodium content on each package, as they tend to be quite high, as is common with soups. One final thought – I loved that I could tear open these containers without the need for scissors – nice package design!

OK, back to pairing wine with soups. My pairing suggestions are written for each of the six types of soup listed below, not just those from Good Stock. Also, while each of Good Stock’s soups was delicious, each one was even better when enhanced by some additional ingredients from my kitchen – a bit of grated cheese, crouton, popcorn or fresh herbs (and of course, by wine).

Here are my suggested wine pairings for each of the six types of soup I tasted:

  • Carrot & Ginger Soup: (140 calories, 53% DV for Sodium) The sweetness of caramelized carrots is offset by a nice pop of ginger spice that makes wine pairing a bit more difficult.

WHITE WINES: Reach for an off-dry Riesling (Kabinett – Auslese), an un-oaked Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc and other old-world white wines that lean towards the richer side of the spectrum. A Petit Chablis was also a nice match!


 

Roasted Tomato Soup
  • Roasted Tomato Soup: (180 calories, 43% of DVfor Sodium) By roasting the tomatoes, Good Stock achieves a deeper, more caramelized richness to the bright flavor of tomatoes.

The soup is good on its own, but it enjoyed a significant boost in pleasure delivery when enhanced with a splash of grated Parmesan and some fresh basil. Crouton or a grilled cheese sammy would have been the crowning touch, had I not wanted to avoid the oven on a hot summer day.

The wine-pairing challenge here was the natural acidity of the tomatoes (wine pairing pro tip – pair acidic foods with acidic wines) argues for one element in your wine, while the sweet/caramelized elements from the roaster argue for another (wine pairing pro tip – pair sweet foods with sweet or fruity wines).

WHITE WINES: Reach for the crisp, aromatic whites of Austria and Germany as the answer here – Gewurztraminer, Riesling or Pinot Blanc will amplify the soup’s tomatoey deliciousness.


 

Roasted Onion Soup
  • Roasted Onion Soup: (190 Calories, 61% of DV for Sodium) To me, onion soup is predominated by sweetness from the caramelized onions. So it seems oxymoronic to add sugar to the stock, and perhaps that was why this soup was sweeter than I prefer. Or maybe it was the copious amount of salt, which amplifies one’s perception of sweetness. Either way, this soup was greatly enhanced by the addition of two ingredients from my kitchen that can’t be added to a frozen soup – a piece of toast placed on the surface then topped with grated Gruyere and popped under the broiler until bubbled and browned!

RED WINES: This wine stands up to a fruit-forward red wine such as Barbera, Beaujolais, Lambrusco and cool-climate Zins.

ROSES: It also works well with richer versions of the ever-versatile dry Rose, one of the most flexible of food-friendly wines.

WHITE WINES: The herbal notes, the vermouth and the browned cheese pull this dish towards full-bodied whites such as a rich Chardonnay, an aged Corvina (Gavi) and most whites from Southern Italy and Spain. Other standouts will be Viognier from a warmer climate and other Southern French varietals.

SPARKLING: Sparkling wines are known for their affinity to salty foods, and the intense saltiness of this dish makes them an attractive alternative here. I’d avoid the recently popular non-dosage versions in favor of richer/fuller versions – look for those with a heavier proportion of red grapes in the blend, such as those from Montagne de Reims.


 

Coconut Corn Chowder
  • Coconut Corn Chowder: (390 calories, 61% DV for sodium) In addition to the traditional corn chowder ingredients, this soup included a nice pop of mild heat from Poblano peppers and a hint of Jalapenos as well, nicely offset by the sweetness of the corn and coconut. It was one of my favorite soups for the season, as it uses summer ingredients and can be served cold. But I like it hot.

WHITE WINES: A lightly oaked Chardonnay works beautifully here, (Chablis, again!) as well as rich wines like Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and the white wines of Southern Italy and Spain.

What About Rose? All day! When made in the dry or slightly off-dry style, this versatile, food-friendly wine tends to be low in alcohol and flatters both the heat and sweetness of this dish.


 

Roasted Mushroom Soup
  • Roasted Mushroom Soup: (320 Calories, 50% DVfor Sodium) This soup proudly offers flavors dominated by the earthy notes of roast mushrooms. When I make this at home, I like the mushrooms roasted to a darkness that brings out the natural umami. And to me, a mushroom dish without Thyme is like Romeo without Juliet (and we alll know how THAT ended). The soup popped up a notch or two when I added some, and other candidates for enhancement include Cardamom, fresh nutmeg (trace amount), Cumin, Tarragon or Sage.

WHITE WINES: The earthy richness calls for wines offering similar flavor profiles, such as Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, an Etna Bianco or Vermentino.

ROSE: Opt for a richer version of dry Rose – one with a darker color will better pair with the richness of the soup.

RED: I’d happily pair most reds with this rich soup, though I’d be very, very partial to Pinot Noir – mushrooms being one of its greatest combinations. Sangiovese also works well, as does a Langhe Nebbiolo!


 

Lentil Soup
  • Lentil Soup: (310 Calories, 59% DV for Sodium) This version of Lentil Soup was quite light and thin vs the mushy style made popular by split pea soup. This dish has bright flavors of lemon and herbs that make it a nice summer option. Wines that work well with this bright lentil soup include:

WHITE WINES: Lighter whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Moschofilero and Albarino/Alvarinho will enhance the wine’s lemony citrus and herbaceousness. Other pairing candidates include Chenin Blanc, Chablis and the aromatic whites of Austria/Germany.

ROSES & SPARKLING: The acidity of these wines will bridge nicely to the citrus in the soup, and I’d opt for lighter-bodied versions of both of these styles of wine.

Dave at the Wine Shop

Cheers!

Dave

Summer Recipe: Easy Bruschetta on the Grill

Up your summer Bruschetta game!

Grilling your bread instead of toasting in an oven adds a smoky element. And wiping the hot toasts with sliced garlic both cooks and softens its harsher flavors.

Prep/Cooking Time: About 20 minutes, start to finish! Serves 4-6 (or a main course for one!)

Ingredients

  • Sweet Baguette
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes (mixed colors), roughly chopped
  • Big fistful of Basil leaves, rolled into a cigar shape and sliced into thin strips
  • Really good olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large clove unpeeled garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • One med-hot grill

Procedure

Once ingredients are assembled, light your grill.

While waiting for your grill to hot up, slice the baguette on the bias (Right), then prepare the tomatoes, basil and garlic (below).

In a bowl, combine and lighlty toss:

  • The chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 of the basil
  • A very generous splash of olive oil
  • The Balsamic
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Brush or spray each slice of baguette with a thin layer of olive oil and place on the hot grill. Monitor closely – those shown here are too crisp/overdone. The goal is to get a bit of flavor and an outer crispness with a chewy center. After flipping, immediately swipe the hot toast once or twice with the raw garlic. Each garlic slice will last for half a baguette, depending on how much garlic you like.

Once toasted and rubbed with garlic, place them on a serving plate and spoon the bowl contents onto the toasts. Top with remaining sliced Basil. Test one or two and adjust seasoning, make sure the wine works, open one or two more bottles and keep testing until the perfect pairing is found. Once all your testing is complete, serve both remaining bruschetta immediately. (kidding)

Wine Pairings

The acid in this dish (tomatoes, vinegar) will defeat most red wines, so I recommend sticking with crisp summer wines – light reds slightly chilled, dry Rosés and crisp whites – exactly like those you’ll find here

Cheers!

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

Wine-Friendly Recipe – White Bean Crostini (Appetizer)

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for  drizzling
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced and 1 whole clove, peeled
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked white beans, or drained and rinsed canned beans
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 baguette, cut into 24 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional), shaved into strips

Directions:

In a small fry pan over medium heat, warm 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a liquid measuring cup.

In a food processor, combine the white beans, rosemary and lemon juice. Pulse until the beans are partially pureed, 5 to 10 seconds. With the motor running, pour in the garlic oil and process until a smooth puree forms, 5 to 10 seconds more. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. 

Arrange the 24 crostini on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 450 until lightly browned, then immediately, while still hot, swipe with a whole clove of peeled garlic.

Spread about 1.5 Tbs. of the white bean puree on each crostini. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a grind of fresh pepper and the parsley.  If using, place a slice of Parmesan on top and serve.

Wine Pairings

This dish makes it a great pairing with dry sparkling wine and most white wines with ample fruitiness.  Reds-only drinkers will be happiest when paired with lighter reds.

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: Easy Bacon, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart

Years ago, long before I worked in wine, I visited wine country whenever extra time and money made themselves available.  Over the years, I warmed the sheets in quite a few wine country Inns. This tart recipe is from one such place – Sonoma’s Hidden Oak Inn.  It features a tangy goat cheese which is the classic pairing with crisp Sauvignon Blanc, both items being native to the Loire Valley, where one is seldom found without the other.

It is a simple recipe, but an enjoyable one – a perfect combination.  It calls for a frozen pie crust, but those with the inclination and time can certainly bake their own.

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Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
5 Slices bacon, fried, drained & crumbled
½ Lbs (8 Ozs)  goat cheese
1 Tbsp bacon grease
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp Salt
~ 5 spears of asparagus, stalks shaved and then cut in 1-inch pieces
½ tsp pepper
½ Lbs puff pastry, defrosted
1 Egg yolk

Procedure

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Sauté shallot in 1 tablespoon of bacon grease for about 1 minute.  Add asparagus and cook over medium-high heat until the asparagus is tender.  Remove the pan from heat and add crumbled bacon.  On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the pastry to a 10 by 16-inch rectangle.  Transfer the pastry and the parchment to a baking sheet.Using your fingers, pat the goat cheese onto the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.  Sprinkle the asparagus, bacon and shallot mixture evenly over the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.  Whisk together the egg yolk and a splash of water (~1.2 tsp) then brush the edge of the tart with egg wash.Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool slightly, slice and serve warm with a simple salad of mixed greens splashed with really good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  Pairs perfectly with a crisp white wine such as a racy Sauvignon Blanc or old world Chenin Blanc.

Cheers, Dave the Wine Merchant

“Runaway” Chicken Chowder

I’m never sure if the name for this dish refers to the chicken seeking escape from the chopping block, or the recipe’s run-away popularity.  Either way, its bright orange color (and great flavor!) has made it the traditional dish at the annual family Halloween party hosted by our friend (and club member!) Laura Nagle.

It is one of the rare dishes featuring Halloween colors that is not a contrivance, but rather a memorable dish in its own right.  In fact, at the Nagle’s annual Halloween bash, it just may be as big an attraction as the candy.  At least for some attendees  ;-)

Recommended Wine Pairings
This chowder has the sweetness of the yams, a bit of a warming kick from the peppers and the rich texture of  the chicken and hominy.  To compliment all elements, I recommend an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer (click to buy) or one featuring a nose-full of fragrance and a fuller body – a classic California Chardonnay or a rich white Rhône wine such as Viognier.

Ingredients
3 Boneless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Med onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 or 2 Large golden yams,  peeled and sliced thin (2-3 millimeters)
4 1/2 Cups Chicken stock or broth
1-2 Serranno peppers seeded and minced
1/2 tsp Ground coriander
2-3 tsp Ground cumin
2 Cans golden hominy (16-Ozs), drained
2/3 Cups fresh cilantro
Toasted Black sesame seeds or toasted Rye bread croutons for garnish (optional)
Sour Cream for garnish

Procedure
Remove the skin and fat from the chicken and cut into 3/4 inch cubes.

Over high heat, melt butter in stock pot or large sauce pan and stir-fry chicken, stirring constantly, just until no longer pink. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside to drain.

Add onion and potato slices to pan with 4 1/2 cups of stock. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the peppers, coriander and cumin and blend in the pot with a stick blender, or in batches in food processor or blender. Whatever your blending tool of choice, continue until smooth.

Return all ingredients to the pot and add the chicken and the hominy. This chowder can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated for up to two days.  Also freezes well.  When ready to serve, simply heat, top with cilantro leaves and garnish with sour cream, if desired.

Serving Ideas
This chowder is welcome throughout the cold winter months. But to leverage the Halloween theme (for which this orange soup is ideal!) sprinkle with black sesame seeds or croutons made from dark rye bread.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Moules Marinieres – Mariner’s Mussels, the Highway to Heavean!

Mussels Marineires recipeFor one of my rather large birthdays, the kind that either demands a grand celebration with friends or a quiet closet in which to whimper, Superwife and Cole surprised me with a trip to the Loire Valley.  One of my favorite meals was at this street side cafe in Tours.

This simple meal – mussels, crisp french fries, a fresh baguette and a cool glass of local Chenin Blanc – brought me closer to heaven than I probably deserve (or will ever be again, now that St. Peter knows I’ve found this loophole).

Wine Pairing Ideas
When paired well, the right wines can provide the same slice of Tours street side nirvana. So pull a cork on one of these wines, splash some into your glass, then add some fresh-shucked oysters or steam some mussels (recipe below) and you’re in for an hour of pure happiness.


Moules Marinières with Lardon

Moules Marinières are also known as “Sailor’s mussels” or “Mariner’s mussels.”  This basic dish consists of fresh mussels delicately steamed in white wine with garlic, parsley, butter, onion and cream sauce. The addition of lardons by the chef at our sidewalk cafe was a unique twist, adding a permeating smokiness.   Along with the small amount of cream added to the juice, this extra richness suggests a fuller-bodied white wine – an austere wine will fight this dish.  Think Dry or off-dry Riesling, Chenin Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay and perhaps even Viognier from a cooler clime.

Be sure to have a good baguette (more than you think you’ll need) to dip into the delectable sauce and juices once your mussels are gone. Mussel veterans eat by using an empty mussel shell as a pincer to pick the remaining mussels from their shells – a fun way to eat with your fingers!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an opening course)

  • 2+ Lbs of fresh, live mussels
  • 1/2 Pound thick bacon or pancetta, cubed
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • 5 fl oz (1 glass) of dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 large handful of finely chopped parsley
  • 4 tbsp of cream
  • salt and pepper

Procedure
Clean, debeard and rinse the mussels several times in cold running water. Discard any that do not snap shut when tapped and set the rest aside in a colander. Cook the lardons in the bottom of a wide, deep pot until crispy but not burned. Remove, drain on paper towel.  Remove all but one Tbsp of bacon fat, add enough butter to equal 2 Tbsp total, then add the chopped shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat until the shallots have softened.

Add the white wine and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add mussels and cover, cooking on a high heat for several minutes. Gently shake the pan several times during cooking to redistribute the mussels. It is best to remove the mussels one by one as they open, placing them in a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the juices – liquid gold. Again, discard any mussels that have remained tightly shut, as they may produce unpleasant gastro-intestinal side effects (you don’t want to know).

Return the lardons to the liquid and boil until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and parsley. Taste the sauce and add salt or pepper to taste. Transfer the mussels to a large bowl, pour the reduced liquid over the mussels, and serve immediately. Pair with any of these wines and you’ll agree that happiness is at hand.

Les_moules_cropped_and_lightenedCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.
~Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French gastronome (1755 – 1826)

 

Sparkling Wine with Tuna Tartare on Chips

Try this once and I think you’ll want to bring it out for all your holiday parties, beginning with Halloween and on through New Year’s eve, or even Valentine’s Day.  I’m betting it is destined for your permanent recipe book, it is just that good.  Sparkling wine loves the saltiness of both the fish and the chip.  Speaking of chips – be sure to use a fresh bag of Ruffles “Naturals”.  (And no, I don’t own their stock!)

Ingredients
1 Egg yolk (as fresh as possible, this is not cooked except by the acid in the vinegar)
1 tsp peeled and grated ginger
½ Clove garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp Japanese hot mustard (or 1 tsp dry hot mustard)
1 Tbsp Mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1 Tbsp Soy sauce
¼ Cup rice vinegar
1/3 Cup peanut oil
2 Tbsp Sesame oil, combined with the peanut oil, above.
¾ Pound Sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/8 inch dice.  (if no sushi-grade tuna is available, freeze
regular tuna steaks for several hours to kill any unpleasant parasites)
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp snipped fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Bag ridged potato chips (I recommend Ruffles “Naturals”)

Procedure
In a food processor, combine the first six ingredients (up to the soy sauce) and process until smooth.  With the motor running, add the vinegar and when combined, introduce the peanut and sesame oils.  Stop the motor as soon as the oils emulsify.  Cover and refrigerate.

For the tuna, combine the chopped tuna with the shallots, chives, and pinches of salt & pepper.  Mix in enough of the dressing to moisten well, toss again, and add more if needed.  You don’t want the fish to sit in a puddle of dressing at the bottom of the bowl, and you’ll likely have dressing left over – use it as a dip, salad dressing or a topping for grilled fish.

Presentation
When eaten in a casual setting, I enjoy scooping the fish onto my chip taken from a large bowl, or even the bag, depending on the occasion.  More formal gatherings call for the largest of the chips to be placed on a platter, the fish dropped onto them by the teaspoonful, then topped with one or two chives (cut about 2“ from the tip), or a razor-thin lemon wedge.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

NOTE: This recipe originally appeared as an insert to accompany a sparkling wine selected for members of my wine sampling programs.  Click here for membership information.

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Pissaladière Niçoise (Onion tart with anchovy & olive)

File:Pissaladiera.jpg
Image from Wikipedia - click for entry

To those following my recipes (thanks Mom!), I apologize for including onion tart recipes two months in a row. But as I flipped through our old copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” this particular version evoked a visceral reaction (i.e., hunger) and a memory (i.e., fond) of a 1996 bicycle tour through Provence.

Perhaps it was the beautiful scenery, or maybe the number of calories we burned every day, but by lunch time I was game to try anything I could recognize on the menu.  In what may be a male extension of never asking for directions, I equally refused to break out the translation book to interpret French Menus – I figured an occasional culinary surprise might make the trip more memorable.  I mean, what could possibly be so bad?

Except for ancovies, which I hated.  Until this little tart came along, gave me a seductive wink, and took me for a ride I’ll never forget.  If prepared properly, the anchovy adds a barely discernable enhancement you can’t quite identify as “fishy”.

A very wine-friendly dish, as long as the wine is not too tannic – the saltiness from the olives and ancovies only serves to enhance the roughness.  Otherwise, pair this with most any medium-to-full bodied white or light-to-medium bodied red.  Avoid dry rosé wines at all cost, unless you feel you deserve a heavenly experience!

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Lbs chopped onion
  • 1 Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, and 1/2 bay leaf, tied in washed cheesecloth)
  • 2 Cloves unpeeled garlic
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pâte Brisée Tart Crust, partially cooked (recipe follows, below)
  • 16 Stoned (pitted) black olives – the dry Mediterranean type
  • 1 Pinch of ground cloves
  • 8 Anchovy fillets, whole

Preparation
Cook the onions very slowly in the olive oil with the herb bouquet, garlic and salt for about an hour.  Discard the bouquet and garlic.  Stir in ground cloves and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the onions in the pastry shell. Arrange anchovies over the onions in a sun-burst shape.  Distribute the olives evenly across the tart and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Bake in top third of oven for 10-15 minutes or until bubbling hot.

Pâte Brisée (Short Crust Pastry)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
  • Scant ½ tsp Salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 6 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Chilled Crisco, Lard or other
  • 6 Tbsp ice water

(Ratio for a “short” crust = 2 parts Flour to 1 part Fat)

Julia’s recipe was written 25 years before the food processor, but I think she’d have found it a useful addition to her kitchen.  So I recommend its use to simplify the making of your pie crust and assure fool-proof results!

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of your processor and pulse briefly to combine.  Add the cold butter while pulsing repeatedly just until it combines with the flour and resembles small gravel or clumps of oatmeal.  With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water just until the dough comes together in your bowl – stop as soon as it forms a ball.  Remove everything from the bowl, dust with flour, kneed twice or thrice and then form into a ball, flatten to about an inch thick, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.

Remove your crust and let it warm for just a few minutes.  Unwrap it and sprinkle four over a flat surface and begin rolling out your crust, working from the center to the edge, turning ¼ turn, roll, turn, roll, turn…and repeat until dough is sufficiently thin and well shaped (add flour to rolling surface as needed.)  Place crust in an 8” tart pan, and bake at 400 (F) for ~9 minutes.  Remove and cool completely before filling.

Wine Pairings
When I first tasted this dish, it was paired with a Rhone wine.  I have difficulty imagining a more perfect pairing, but this first wine is a bit pricey for many budgets, so I’ve also included a very food-friendly Merlot (and no, I don’t need to hear the old joke again) as an affordable alternative.  I’ve also suggested a blush wine, one of the sign post wines of Southern France, and perhaps the most versatile of the still wines when paired with food!

2006LaBrumaPeay Vineyards, 2006 Estate Syrah “La Bruma”, $47″
I’ve selected this subtle, cool-weather syrah to go with the pissaladiere recipe.  Its subtle aromas and flavors of pepper, lavendar and just-ripe blackberrry are intriguing on its own, but also provide a nice foil for a wide range of medium-to-heavy dishes.  From the talented hands of Winemaker Vanessa Wong, formerly of Peter Michael Winery, the Sonoma Coast appellation is undoubtedly proud of this iconic example of their vineyard’s capabilities.  (If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Andrew Lane, 2005 Merlot, St. Helena  $18
Like Miles Raymond in the movie “Sideways”, I am not a big fan of most Merlot.  They can be the dumb blondes of the wine world, wallowing around in the shallow end of the pool with the likes of sweet white Zinfandel.  Not this one.  A relative Rhodes Scholar.  An impressive wine in its own right, I’d dare say you’d peg its price tag well above its modest tarif if tasted in a blind tasting. (Sorry, no image available!  If sold out, click here for alternative suggestions)

Rose bottle shotElkhorn Peak, 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir, $19

Though this wine was not included in our club shipment, that is not a reflection of a lack of quality.  In fact, it’s the only blush wine in my portfolio this year.  Which is saying something.  It’s just that, after four years of evangelizing blush wines, then being stuck with excess inventory after their purpoted popularity exceeded the reality, I finally realized that these wines were best relegated to the specialty shelf.  For those of us who enjoy these great, dry wines, you’ll not be saddened once the cork is separated from this bottle!

A saignee from Elkhorn Peak’s estate pinot production, this wine is relatively deep in color, despite just 8 hours of skin contact at relatively cool temperatures.  It’s flavor is true to type – red fruit notes of strawberry and cherry, with enough acidity to evoke a squeeze of lemon over the whole fruit pile.  See if you don’t also find a bit of sassafrass in there!

A Note On The Recipe
40Th Anniversary, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking

This recipe originally appeared in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” Volume One, P. 171 (picture on right).  Published in 1961 by Knopf and 1966 by Penguin Books.  It’s available through ecookbooks.com for $24 (as of tonight, anyway) at http://tinyurl.com/qedfru

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Quote of the Day
The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook
~ Julia Child, American Gourmet Food Pioneer, Author and TV Personality (8/15/12 – 8/13/04)