Chardonnay-Friendly Recipes

Label image - Seebass Family Reserve ChardonnayChardonnay, the top-selling wine in America by FAR, has fallen out of favor with a certain group of avid wine drinkers.  That certain group would be those in the industry – Sommeliers, retailers, distributors, and many producers. Of course, none of them will admit it, as Chardonnay pays many of their salaries.  But when it comes to selecting a wine they want to drink… different story.

I suspect this is the result of over-exposure (ask any parent about the effects of “Dora the Explorer Immersion Therapy”).  

Or maybe it’s the “Rombauer Effect”, wherein a white wine is so big and bold you taste nothing else for days.  These are Chardonnays designed to shout, to shove their way past all other distractions, grab your tastebuds and shake them until you’ve taken notice.  In other words, not wines one gravitates toward if your business is the thoughtful sniffing and sipping of fine wines to discern each fine and elegant nuance. 

Wine label - Hanzell Sebella ChardonnayBut Chardonnay fans, Fall is your season to rejoice.  Even those on the fence about these wines will have to admit they pair quite well with the sage-scented foods of fall – squash, baked pasta, pumpkin, turkey, carrot soup, yams/sweet potatoes, and etc.  So here are a collection of links to some great fall recipes that will pair well with your Chardonnay.  Oh, and if you’re short on Chard, here’s a helpful link to the Chardonnay “aisle” in my online wine shop.

Recipe Link - Easy Butternut Squash SoupEasy Butternut Squash Soup – “Once Upon a Chef”. these recipes from blogger and ex-chef Jennifer Segal are home-tested and feature her excellent photographs.  That so many talents should find their way into a single amateur blogger is the beauty of the internet.  If you’re a foodie, and even if you’re not, you really should subscribe to her email feed – you’ll be pleasantly teased by her photos in your inbox.  They just might inspire you to enjoy a meal at home, whether on your  own, with family, or a whole group.  And encouraging such communal dining is a good thing.  Put down your devices.  Pick up your spoons.  And dig in.

Image - butternut squash risotto and ChardonnayButternut Squash Risotto – “Big Oven”.  A ton of great fall recipes can be found here.  Try them all.  They’re easy.  On this one, I prefer to include some bite-sized chunks of cooked squash to give the dish a bit of a toothsome, al-dente feel.  And one can never go wrong if you give it a little Bam! of freshly crushed, dried thyme and/or sage (or better yet, the fresh version, roughly chopped before Bamming).  Best as a side dish, as a little goes a long way.

Image - cedar plank salmon with ChardonnayCedar Plank Salmon – “AllRecipes.com” – People often think Pinot Noir is the natural pairing for salmon.  But in my experience that pairing can be like a bad Match.Com date.  It all depends on the depth of the wine and the preparation method for the salmon.  To play it safe, Chardonnay is a safer bet.  

My Vancouverite brother was the first person to introduce me to this method of cooking salmon.  For hundreds of years, this most iconic fish of the Great Northwest was traditionally fire-roasted atop a well-soaked cedar plank.  Those native peoples knew what they were doing when it came to salmon, but when it comes to wine, you’d best leave it to me. The smoke and cedar/foresty aromas and flavors of this dish demand a wine of sufficient heft to match, so I recommend a new world Chardonnay with a good amount of oak, or a bit of time in the bottle, or both, such as the Diatom 2011 Hamon ($42), or the Pont de Chevalier, 2009 Knights Valley ($44).

Cheers!

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Pork “Stew” with Andouille Sausage, Lardon and Mushrooms

Alain Geoffroy 2010 Chablis - wine club selectionMost winter stews feature beef and pair with red wine.  This refreshing alternative features pork and pairs with a Chablis or unoaked Chardonnay (see all my available Chardonnay’s here).  Equally warming during cold winter months, but less fatty.  

Ingredients (6 Servings)
– 3 lbs Boneless pork shoulder
– 2 Andouille sausage, cut into thirds
– 6 Ozs Lardons or thick bacon, cut into 1/4 inch squares
– 12-16 Ozs Mushrooms (washed and trimmed and roughly chopped)
– 12 Baby onions
– 1/3 Cup flour
– 100 g of butter
– 1 Large carrot
– 5 Ozs Water
– 1 Bottle of Chablis or un-oaked white wine
– 1 Bouquet garni (2 springs ea. tied in cheese cloth: Parsley, Thyme, Bay leaves)
– 3-4 Tbsp of butter
– 12-18 Small Red or Yukon Gold potatoes as accompaniment.

Procedure:
Cut the pork into 1″ pieces (or save time and have your butcher do this after de-boning the shoulder).  Place an empty stew pot over medium heat for three minutes, add some olive oil, count to five,  then add the meat, carrot and the baby onions. When the meat is browned on all sides sprinkle in the flour, stir well, then add the butter.

Stir to integrate and then add the bottle of wine, the water, and then the bouquet garni.  Simmer for ~50 minutes, then add the lardons, salt and pepper and the mushrooms, increase the heat slightly and simmer another 10 minutes without the lid, allowing the sauce to reduce. Add the sausage pieces and simmer for another 5 minutes.  If still not thick enough, combine 2 Tbsp flour and 1Tbsp butter by hand, then stir into the pot, increasing heat to maintain a steady simmer (small bubbles on the side only).

Serve with steamed potatoes splashed with your best olive oil and a pinch of coarse sea salt.

To Serve – spoon the pork into the center of a shallow dish and surround it with the sausage, then carefully pour the thickened sauce over all. Place a bunch of parsley at one side and the potatoes at the other, then sprinkle with finely chopped parsley as a final garnish.

Recipe adapted from Madeleine Berthier, Auberge du Barrage, Le Coudray-Montceaux.

Nacho Mama Surprise – Guest post

Part of my meandering career path found me in Chicago for several years, where I came across a direct marketing wiz named Elizabeth “Sunny” Heyer.   Little did I know she was also known as Naco Mama.  Here’s why.

Here’s a different take on nachos . . .  I used to make this when I lived in Boulder . . .from leftovers initially.  Take a baking dish and line with refried beans – a thin layer . . . then make ‘stripes’ across the beans using everything and anything that’s left over.  We started with a small piece of steak from a doggy bag, sliced, it made our first stripe.  Then we laid down some slices of leftover chicken next to it, then a stripe of sour cream, then a stripe of salsa, then some chopped veggies (any kind will do), and then… you get the drift!! One layer was different types of olives, then peppers – roasted or chili . . . depends on your taste. Once we added a stripe of rice and topped the whole dish with shredded jack cheese.  It’s fast, easy and you can put anything in it . . . I added cubed tofu to the rice and no one was the wiser – given that it was a meat eating, sprout stompin’ crowd.

Pop it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes and serve with chips on the side . . . or spoon it directly into the mouth. . .  I named it ‘Nacho Momma Surprise’  and it became a huge hit at parties . . .

I always had it with wine. . . but it goes well with beer too!

Thanks Sunny!
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

Roast Chicken with Orange-Honey Glaze

I’m a huge fan of honey.  And this recipe was posted by some online wine friends currently on an extended tour of Australia.  Not only am I thoroughly jealous of their travels, but they also had the chance to don bee suits and inspect the world’s last genetically pure strain of bees. Pair this dish with some nice vegetables sautéed with sliced garlic and it makes an easy mid-week meal.

A Chardonnay works well with this dish, particularly if the oak is moderate and the acidity is good,  because it bridges across to the orange-and-honey glaze, the salt of the chicken and the vegetables, and, well, everything.  If your palate leans towards wines with a bit of sweetness, try a dry muscat or Riesling.  I think Viognier would work quite well, though look for one with alcohol below 14.5% if it’s to work well with this bright dish.

Ingredients
* Whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces
* Juice of one orange
* 2 Tbsp honey
* 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce

Procedure

Pre-heat oven to 400℉.  Stir together the orange juice, honey and soy until the honey is dissolved.  Wash and thoroughly dry the chicken (some chefs recommend letting the skin dry out for a day in the refrigerator).

Baste both sides with the honey liquid. Place a rack inside a roasting pan, chicken on the rack (not touching, if possible and roast for ~50 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 185℉.

This next step is a royal pain in the patootie, but if you can baste the chicken pieces with the pan drippings every 5-10 minutes, you’ll be thrilled with the crispy skin that it creates.  Make sure the skin doesn’t burn – the sugars in the honey make it easy to do!

Cheers,
Dave the Wine Merchant
866-746-7293

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Caramelized Shallot Sauce

Early in my nascent bachelor days, when I was living on my own and on a very limited budget, this was my go-to dish whenever I needed to impress a guest. Although I’ve paired it here with a new world pinot noir, I also like the higher acidity of Burgundy or New Zealand pinots, or even an unoaked Chablis or California Chardonnay, which works better with the sharp Swiss cheese than does an oaked version of same.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

6 (~ 4-Oz) skinless, boneless chicken breasts For The Sauce:
6 Slices prosciutto, fairly thick 1 Cup thinly sliced shallots
6 Slices Gruyère cheese 2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 Cups arugula, stems removed 2 Cups dry white wine
1/2 tsp ea. salt and ground black pepper 2 1/4 Cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kitchen twine (i.e., food grade) 1 1/2 tsp Water
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tsp Cornstarch

Procedure

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place a shallow baking pan in the oven for later.

To prepare the chicken, place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap (tip, sprinkle the wrap with water to prevent sticking and splitting).  Using a meat mallet or any heavy, flat item, pound each breast to 1/4-inch thickness.  Top each chicken breast with 1 slice prosciutto, 1 slice cheese, and 1/4 cup arugula, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Fold in half (the long way) and tie with string to form a cylinder.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper as most will remain in the pan. (The chicken can be prepared up to a day ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat for three minutes.  Remove from heat, and cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil, then add the shallots and sauté 4 minutes or until browned. Stirring constantly, add the tomato paste and after 1 minute add the wine as you continue to stir.  Increase heat to high (you can stop stirring now) and bring to a boil, cooking until reduced to 1 cup (about 6 minutes). Stir in the broth and bring to a boil again. Cook until reduced by half (about 8 minutes).  Turn heat to low and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for three minutes. Remove from heat and coat the entire bottom with a thin layer of olive oil, then add chicken and return pan to heat, cooking until golden brown, <9 minutes total.  When ready to move the chicken to the baking pan, turn off the oven and keep warm while you finish the sauce.

When sauce is reduced by half, dissolve the cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add to sauce, bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

To serve, remove strings from each breast, top with sauce and serve with polenta, a steamed green vegetable.  I like to lean the chicken half way onto the polenta to break up the symmetry.

Bon Appétit!
Dave the Wine Merchant

866-746-7293

dave@sidewayswineclub.com

“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

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine)

40Th Anniversary, Mastering The Art Of French CookingThis month, our wine club is celebrating Julia Child’s birthday (August 15th, 1912) and giving a nod to the hit movie “Julie & Julia” which I think will do wonders for reviving interest in Julia and her message.

This classic dish from Julia Child (P. 287 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking) can be made with either white or red wine, though red is traditional.  For this dish to be more complimentary to white wines, simply replace the red wine ingredient with white.  In general, chicken is a versatile accompaniment to most any type of wine, depending on the chicken’s preparation, seasonings or sauce.

Ingredients

  • 4 Ozs Lean bacon
  • 1 Oz Butter
  • ~ 3 Lb Frying chicken, cut into pieces
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ¼ Cup Cognac
  • ½ Bottle red wine
  • 3 Cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp Tomato paste
  • 2 Cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1/3 tsp Thyme
  • 1 Bay leaf (very small if California bay)
  • 12-24 Small white boiling onions
  • ½ Lb mushrooms, sliced medium
  • 1 Oz Flour
  • 1 Oz Butter, softened
  • Parsley, chopped

Procedure
Bring 2 Qts of water to a simmer.  Cut the bacon into ¼ inch lardons and simmer for 10 minutes, then rinse in cold water and dry.

Over low heat, melt butter in Dutch oven or casserole dish, then add bacon.  Sauté until lightly browned.  Set bacon aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

Increase heat to medium high.  Dry the chicken’s skin before placing it in the hot fat.  When lightly browned, season with salt and pepper, add the bacon and cover.  Reduce heat to medium and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.

Add the cognac and light it (it WILL flare up to 2+ feet, so take precautions!), then shake the pan until it goes out.  Add the wine and then just enough stock to cover the chicken pieces.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out two sauté pans.  In the first, brown the onions in butter and then add some of the remaining stock or red wine, simmering until very soft.  In the other, melt butter and oil (~1 Tbsp ea) over high heat and brown the mushrooms for about ten minutes, turning only once (don’t crowd the pan, otherwise they steam).

Remove chicken to a side dish, and simmer its cooking liquid as you skim off the fat (tip the pan).  Raise heat to a rapid boil and reduce liquid by half.  Discard the bay leaf.  Blend the soft butter and flour until smooth, then whisk into hot liquid and simmer for ~2 minutes.  Arrange chicken in dish with mushrooms and onions, baste with sauce, top with chopped parsley and serve at table!

Wine Pairings
As mentioned above, this chicken dish spans a wide variety of dry table wines – just be sure to use the same type of wine in the dish as you serve at the table.  Here are some of my favorites:

pinot noirChronicle Wines, 2006 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast $35
This is one of my favorite new discoveries.  They have employed different winemakers for their pinots and their Zins (like the Chronicle ’06 Old Vine Zin from Russian River Valley – $28) – both of which  are nicely nuanced and intelligent wines.  A very tiny producer, this may just be the poster child for the sorts of wines I seek!

store_chardbottleElkhorn Peak, 2006 Chardonnay, Vineyard Select $28
I definitely prefer Coq au Burgundy to Coq au Burgundy Blanc, but for white wine lovers, this medium-weight Chardonnay goes well from stove to table.  You may prefer a white wine with a bit less oak, which can sometimes conflict with food.  But I’d avoid Sauvignon Blanc, which I think would reduce down until its grapefruit or grassiness would be turned up to eleven on the volume meter.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
866-746-7293

Quote of the Day
In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport
~ Julia Child, Food Visionary, Author and TV Personality (8/15/1912 – 8/13/04)

Review: 1997 Kistler Chardonnay, Cuvee Catherine

SNC00067Caramel and toasted nuts and more nuts.  And almost the color of an amber ale.  Not much fruit left, and none of the verve and subtle minerality she had in her youth.  Such was the 1997 Kistler Chardonnay (Cuvee Catherine) we opened last night.  At least, that’s my story, and I’m stikin’ to it.

The wine was still very much alive, thanks to its acidity.  But I did not care for it, making me the oddity among the four of us at the table (not including our daughter, who did not partake).    A 12 year-old Chardonnay, even an age-worthy one from a prestige producer such as Kistler, has lost most of the attractive fruit and freshness that make Chardonnay so attractive in its youth and even in its middle age.  But after 12 years in the bottle, this elegant lady is cashing her first Social Security checks.

Yet the other three at our table insisted the wine was fine, if not even beautiful.  And it WAS.  For THEM.

We must get over insisting our opinions are right or wrong when it comes to wine.  I know this, though the knowledge comes more easily than the practice of that knowledge.  But somehow, I managed to sit in silence, pleased that they were enjoying this valuable bottle (which still sells for ~$60, if you can find the rare cuvee) while they sat in barely concealed glee that there was more wine for them.  I’d have done the same, of course, had the shoe been on the other foot.

Prime Drinking Age for Kistler Chardonnay
Generally, I enjoy premium Chardonnay (those made in a style to that can stand up to some bottle age) after three to seven years of age.  But this may not help you determine whether you’d enjoy a 12 year-old bottle of Kistler “Cuvee Catherine”.  So I turned to the Kistler Website to see what they said about the longevity of their Chardonnay’s…

There is unquestionably a trade-off between early drinkability and longevity, with the longest distance runner often being the most austere and least expressive wine in its youth.  We are always striving to strike the right balance between these attributes, combining the early appeal one expects from a California chardonnay with the staying power of a white Burgundy.

For our newer members, a good rule of thumb to remember for drinking our chardonnays is that all are delicious as young wines in the year of their release; in most vintages all wines will reach a window of optimum enjoyment between the ages of 4 and 6; for some wines the window will extend to 8 years, and for a few to 10 years or longer.

Fish Restaurant, Sausalito

SNC00064

By the way, our bottle of Kistler was shared with some great friends who ferried us to dinner in their boat – a relaxing way to spend a summer evening.  The wine accompanied some great sustainable seafood, prepared and served by the folks at “Fish” restaurant in Sausalito (motto: “Sustainable is the new black”).  I can’t recommend this place.  Not because it’s not great (my detractors would be few if I rated it among the top casual seafood restaurants in the Bay Area), but because the lines are too long already and if you start eating there too they’ll grow intolerable.

If you choose to ignore my advice, just be sure to bring cash – they’re old fashioned that way, over at Fish.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
Wine appreciation, like love, cannot be done by proxy”  ~ With apologies to Robert Henri (American Artist, 1865 – 1929)

Tapas Recipe – Chardonnay with Steamed Clams

07CHARD-bottleIn June, 2009, this recipe was paired with the Bonneau Wines, ’07 Los Carneros Chardonnay, Catherine’s Vineyard ($28), which was sent to members of our Maya’s Collectible Selections sampling program.  Click here to find alternative wines.

The richness of fresh clams provides a great foil for chardonnay, especially when white wine is used in the clam pot.  But please don’t use this great wine for cooking!  Its beautiful nuance would be cooked off, and that would be a shame. Instead, pick up a bottle of the $8 or $9 stuff for the clam pot – the less oak influence the better, as oak will concentrate and dominate the dish.  Just be sure it’s something you would actually put in your mouth – cooking with bad wine just amplifies its flavors!

Ingredients
3 Pounds fresh clams, well scrubbed.  Throw out any that do not close when cleaning.  They be dead.  Bad to the bone*.
1/3 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 Ozs diced Serrano ham (a dried ham similar to prosciutto, with a somewhat sweeter taste)
½ tsp Red pepper chili flakes
1 Pinch paprika
4 Cloves garlic, minced
¾ Cup dry white wine
½ Cup water
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Procedure
Heat a large (wide bottomed) skillet over medium heat, add the oil, then the ham.  Cook until almost crispy, stirring often.  Add red pepper flakes, paprika and garlic and stir constantly for about a minute, just until the garlic is gives up its aromatics. If you take a call from your mother and the garlic burns while you’re gabbing, ya gotta start over.  Focus.

Add the wine and reduce for about a minute, scraping up any brown bits from the pan.  Add the water and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the clams and cover.  Increase the heat to high and cook until the clams begin to open – they get tough if cooked too long, so be ready with tongs in hand and a serving bowl at the ready.  They only take about five minutes.  Throw out any clams whose shells are not open and reduce the broth for another couple of minutes..

Pour the broth over the clams in the serving dish (or place four clams on individual appetizer dishes, if using as tapas!), sprinkle with parsley and serve with a side of toasted bread.

Happy Merchant

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
866-746-7293

Quote of the Day:
Researchers have found that clams reproduce at 10 times their normal rate when Prozac is introduced into their aqueous environment.  Apparently, Prozac is an effective mussel relaxer!

*Yes, I KNOW clams don’t have bones.  It’s just an expression.  Would you rather I said “bad to the mantle?”  or “Bad Quahog”??  Sorry, neither works for me.

What is your tax type?

Adtaxtime According to a very recent and brilliant social theory *, the U.S. population is made up of just three types of people:

Tax Creditors – Those who have paid too much, and look forward to a refund upon filing their return.  Not surprisingly, these people tend to file early.  They also tend to purchase wine with which to celebrate their windfall.

Tax Debtors – These are citizens who have chosen to use their funds themselves instead of letting the fine folks at the National Treasury hold onto them for a few months.  For these folks, it is time to pay the piper.  This painful reality tends to make them seek the comfort of friends and family with which to share a good bottle of wine.

Tax Delayers – A temporary state often visited by Tax Debtors, who stay for as long as possible.  This temporary state of reprieve is best enjoyed with a good selection of wine.  I have just the thing…

Continue reading “What is your tax type?”