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.

Honey & Soy Glazed Carrots – Guest Post

Thanks to FaceBook, my wine shop and wine-friendly recipes have been rediscovered by some of the people who helped steer my career ship in this direction.  Here’s a great side dish from my old friend “Sunny” Heyer – it brings the earthy tang of carrots along with a little sweetness to your chosen main course.

Adapted from Food & Wine, Oct. 2009

Honey and Soy Glazed Carrots
2 Lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 2 1/2 inch strips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey

Procedure
1.  Bring large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the carrots and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain.

2.  In a large skillet, melt the butter.  Stir in carrots AND soy sauce and cook over high heat until the carrots are browned in spots, about 2-3 minutes depending on the BTUs of your stove.  Stir in the honey and cook until the carrots are glazed.  About 2 minutes.

I found it took a little longer to glaze nicely but I wasn’t in a hurry . .. when the carrots were glazed, I tasted and added more honey and sprinkled toated sesame seeds on top.  Served with a nice fluffy rice (bet you thought I was going to say rabbit!) and boneless pork chops piccata.  I love anything with capers and the pork chops picatta were wonderful with this . . .  just pan saute in canola oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  When the chops are nicely browned on both sides, remove from the pan, add butter, lemon juice and a little white wine to reduce  . . . add the capers until nice and frothy, then added the pork chops on a low heat to cook just a little more . . . Serve on a warm platter and you’re good to go !!

PS, love reading your posts. . .
Best, Sunny

Recommended Wine Pairing
To maximize the wine pairing, think about a wine with a little sweetness (or a high level of ripeness) or one with some earthy minerality.  If paired with anything “picatta” (such as the pork chops recommended here, or my old favorite chicken picatta) you’ll find the highest satisfaction comes from a wine that reflects the tanginess of the white wine and lemon sauce, one that can stand up to the salty capers. Such a wine can be found in a cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc, though I think a dry (or off-dry) Riesling or other aromatic white (even an unoaked Chardonnay) would prove less prone to demand the center stage. Good bets – whites from the Loire, Alsace, Germany, Austria, or New Zealand.

Cheers!
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

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

Perfect Pairing – Pinot Noir with Roasted Squash Risotto

Every chef I know makes risotto differently.  And it seems they each believe their way is THE way to make it.  The only thing they can seem to agree on is that a good risotto should be creamy but not mushy – cook it too long and it turns to a glop best used to affix wallpaper.  And though this recipe is not simple, neither is it difficult to do – and the time required to make it is well rewarded by the pleasure it brings.

Ingredients (Serves 4 as main course, or 8 as first course)
6 ½ Cups low-sodium, Organic chicken stock
4 Ozs pancetta, chopped fine (1/4” square)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Large onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ Cup Arborio rice
2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
½ Cup white wine, not heavily oaked
2 tsp garlic, micro-minced
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, destemmed and chopped
4 Ozs fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
¼ – ½ Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 Ozs fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
Salt and Pepper

Procedure
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (F).  Set a large sauce pot on a back burner over low heat and begin warming the chicken stock.
Heat a large, oven-proof stock pot or Dutch oven over med-high heat for 2-3 minutes. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and when the oil is hot enough to shimmer (but not smoke), add the squash.  Sauté until it starts to brown – about 5 minutes – stirring so each side of the squash makes contact with the pan.  Move your pot from the stove to the oven for 8 -10 minutes or until the squash is tender but not mushy.  Remove from oven, transfer squash into a bowl (set the pot aside, we’ll use it again in a minute) and gently stir the minced garlic into the squash.  Set aside.
Heat a 12” sauté pan over med-high heat for two minutes, then stir in 2 Tbsp of the butter.  As soon as the foam subsides, add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and fresh pepper and sauté for ~5 minutes without touching.  As soon as the bottom mushrooms show good browning, begin stirring and continue cooking for a minute AFTER the mushroom liquid has all cooked off, then set aside.
Increase heat to high under chicken stock.  Heat your large, empty squash pot over medium-high heat, add another Tbsp of the oil and sauté the pancetta until brown.  Add the onion and sauté until soft, ~5 minutes.  Add the Arborio rice and begin stirring (for the next 30 minutes!)  But first, after a full 2 minutes of stirring the hot rice, add the white wine and simmer until nearly absorbed.
Add the first cup of hot chicken stock to the rice.  Stirring often, add more liquid as soon as it is nearly absorbed – more frequently at first as the rice gets saturated after about 20 minutes, when the rice will be “al dente” tender. Gently stir in the thyme, squash and mushrooms.  Add another ½ cup of stock, the parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter and gently combine.  Taste for salt and pepper.  The rice should be creamy and tender.
Enjoy!
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

Macadamia-Encrusted Tilapia in Orange-Cream Sauce

sfw_map

For those concerned about the quality of their food supply, a valuable information resource is available at Seafood Watch (see map, above).  You’ll be pleased to note this recipe is not only delicious, but that Tilapia is recognized as one of the most sustainable sources of protein in the ocean.  Pair this recipe with a floral white wine such as Viognier, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer  or even an unoaked Chardonnay.  Even a lighter off-dry Rosé works well here, though the wrong one will fight with the orange sauce.

Ingredients (Serves 6)
1 Small tilapia fillet per person (V-shaped)
¾ Cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ Cup buttermilk (or Half-n-Half)
2 Cups panko or toasted bread crumbs
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp finely chopped dill
½ Cup+ finely chopped macadamia nuts
2+ Tbsp olive oil

Sauce Ingredients
2/3 Cup orange juice
1/3 Cup half-and-half
1 Tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in ~ 1 Tbsp cold water
1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill

Procedure
Rinse fillets and set on rack to drain – pat dry. Get out two large plates and a medium mixing bowl and create an assembly line in the following order:

–       Station #1 – on the first plate, mix together the flour, salt and pepper,
–       Station #2 – Pour the buttermilk in the bowl and place in the center,
–       Station #3 – On the last plate, mix together the panko, butter, dill and nuts.

Dredge each fillet in station #1, dip it in station #2, then dredge again station #3.  Refrigerating your breaded fillets for 30+ minutes will set the coating.  Discard any remaining flour and milk, but reserve the panko mixture for pre-frying touch-ups.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat for ~3 minutes, add the olive oil and coat evenly (I like to add a Tbsp of butter to the oil.  It browns better but is less healthy!)  Pan-fry the fillets until golden brown on each side (about 4 minutes per side for every inch of thickness).  Remove to a warm oven until ready to plate.

The Sauce – In a saucepan, whisk together all the sauce ingredients and heat over medium heat until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serving Suggestion (see photo) – Serve on a bed of sautéed spinach (in a wide pan, warm some olive oil, dissolve 1-2 anchovies in the oil, mashing until liquefied, sauté spinach until just beginning to wilt, finish with lemon zest and toss).  Place fillets atop the bed of spinach.  Add sauce to plate beside fillets.  Enjoy!

DSCN0417Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Note: This recipe originally appeared as an insert with my October, 2009 shipment to members of my wine sampling program.  It was customized to showcase a floral white wine, such as those you’ll find here.

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.