Category:Wine and food pairings

Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken

roast chickenThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with perhaps the most classic of all dishes, roast chicken.

When I taught wine to culinary students, they always asked what my favorite dinner was — no doubt expecting some over-complicated, over-sauced French haute cuisine adventure to pair with $300 wine. My answer always surprised them: Roast chicken served with a simple pan sauce, green noodles, a green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette, and crusty French bread.

Because when it’s a top quality chicken and the skin is brown and crisp, what else do you need but terrific cheap wine?

The catch, of course, is finding an affordable quality chicken. Most supermarket chickens don’t have any flavor to begin with, and they’ve often been frozen and defrosted and frozen again as they go through the supply chain. Hence, the meat gets almost crumbly after it’s cooked. Find a chicken that has avoided that, usually at a specialty grocer, and you’ll be stunned at the difference.

The other key: Finding the best roasting method. I’ve tried almost all of them, including smothering the skin with gobs of butter, roasting in a rack, and stuffing the cavity with lemons and herbs. But nothing seems to work as well as Jacques Pepin’s Chicken Roti. It’s simple and direct and delicious. You brown the chicken on each side in a hot oven, and then finish the bird on its back, basting with the pan juices occasionally. Yes, it can cause an undue amount of smoke in the kitchen, and flipping the chicken during roasting takes some getting used to. But it’s well worth the effort

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These three wines will do justice to the chicken — and not a chardonnay in sight:

Zestos Old Vine Rosado 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%): This Spanish pink is one of the world’s great cheap roses — bright and fresh and almost minerally, but with more fruit than a Provencal rose (strawberry?). Highly recommended. Imported by Ole & Obrigado

Terre del Fohn Muller-Thurgau 2017 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): A beautiful white Italian wine that is made from muller-thurgau, an uncommon grape. It’s almost spicy, a little oily, and offers some light lime fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Tricana.

La Cornada Crianza 2015 ($5, purchased, 13%): I bought this Spanish temprnaillo at Aldi in February, and it was enjoyable. I’ve since bought a half-dozen more, and it keeps improving with age — more Spanish in style, less oaky, and cherry fruit that stays in the background. There’s even a little earth.

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil
• Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy

Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

shrimp boilThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a traditional Louisiana-style shrimp boil.

My adventures in south Louisiana as a young newspaperman taught me more about the world than I will ever be able to explain. Like a shrimp boil.

I’m 23 years old and the only thing I know about shrimp is that they’re served only on special occasions, maybe once a year. And that they’re boiled in salted water, and if they taste rubbery and bland, that’s OK, because they’re served only on special occasions. And then another reporter took me to Gino’s in Houma, La.

It was a revelation. This was food, and not Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. This was not something for a special occasion, but something people ate regularly. It opened my mind to the idea of food that wasn’t what I grew up with, and that opened my mind to the idea of other cultures, and that made it possible to open my mind to wine. And I’m not the only one who experienced this kind of revelation: The same thing happened to Julia Child when she went to a boil at Emeril Lagasse’s house.

There are really only two rules for a shrimp boil. Everything else is a suggestion, and any recipe is just a guideline. First, use shrimp from the Gulf of  Mexico and avoid imported shrimp at all costs. The latter have as much flavor as Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. Second, use the boxed pouch seasoning called crab boil from Zatarain’s or Louisiana Fish Fry. And make sure the boxes are nowhere near their expiration date; otherwise, all their flavor is gone. Both companies make other styles of seasoning, but this is the easiest to use. And the less said about Old Bay (which is mostly celery salt), the better.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. No red wine with a shrimp boil — there’s no way to get the flavors right:

St. Hilaire Crémant de Limoux Brut NV ($13, purchased, 12%): This French sparkling wine from the Languedoc, mostly chardonnay but also chenin blanc and mauzac, is crisp and bubbly, with pear and apple fruit. Exactly what the shrimp needs. Highly recommended. Imported by Esprit du Vin

Celler de Capçanes Mas Donís Rosato 2018 ($11, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink is a little soften than I expected, but that’s because it’s made with garnacha. But it’s still well worth drinking — fresh, ripe red fruit (cherry?), and an almost stony finish. Imported by European Cellars

Hay Maker Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): The marketing on this Big Wine brand from New Zealand is more than a little goofy –“hand crafted goodness,” whatever that means. But the wine itself is spot on — New Zealand citrus, but not overdone; a little something else in the middle to soften the citrus; and a clean and refreshing finish. Imported by Accolade Wines North America

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Wine and food pairings 5: America’s Test Kitchen pizza

America's Test Kitchen pizzaThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a thin crust America’s Test Kitchen pizza

Pizza is as much a part of the Wine Curmudgeon’s being as wine and the Chicago Cubs. How could it be otherwise, growing up, going to college, and starting my career in the Chicago area?

But leave Chicago, and pizza becomes something to miss. In the three decades I’ve lived in Texas, I’ve had a handful of great pizzas (not including Louie’s, since Lou was from the Chicago area as well). Hence, I usually make my own, and the thin crust America’s Test Kitchen pizza works much better than I hoped.

This recipe, adapted from from ATK’s Christoper Kimball days (and no, we don’t want to go there) is about as close as you can get to top-notch professional pizza in a home oven. Yes, it’s thin crust, but that’s because it’s almost impossible to replicate authentic Chicago-style thick crust at home. And believe me, I’ve tried.

Plus, it takes just one rise by using Rapid Rise yeast; there is a minimal amount of kneading; and no special equipment is required other than a full-size sheet pan. In all, from taking the ingredients out of the cupboard to eating it, the process takes less than 90 minutes – or about as long as it takes pizza delivery on a rainy Friday night.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These wines will get you started on pairings:

Azul y Garanza Tempranillo 2017 ($10/1-liter, purchased, 13.5%): This vintage of the Spanish red is a little tighter and not as soft as previous vintages; so I enjoyed it more. But there is still lots of cherry fruit balanced by refreshing Spanish acidity, making it’s one of the great values in the world. Imported by Valkyrie Selections

Three Thieves Rose 2017 ($8, purchased, 13%): Never doubt Charleis Bieler, rose maker extraordinaire who contributes to this pink when he isn’t making the Bieler Sabine or the Charles & Charles rose. It’s another terrific value, sitting somewhere between Bota Box and the Charles & Charles — not too heavy, a little tart strawberry fruit, and a clean finish.

Familie Perrin Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge 2016 ($10, purchased, 12%): This French red Rhone blend is pleasant enough, with dark, Rhone-like fruit (not too ripe berries?), centered around the idea that it’s a value-driven, professionally made wine. Imported by Vineyard Brands

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-friend chicken and gravy
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut
• Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles

 

Wine and food pairings 4: Oven-fried chicken and gravy

oven-fried chickenThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with oven-fried chicken and gravy

The Wine Curmudgeon can’t fry food. At all. In any way. No matter what I do, it’s under-cooked or overcooked – and greasy. Which is why this oven-fried chicken recipe works so well.

Marinate the chicken in plain yogurt, roll it in seasoned flour, and roast it in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes. No splattering, no burning, and no mess all over the top of the stove. I’ve used this recipe, or a variation, since my mom gave me a copy of the legendary Campus Survival Cookbook, where it first appeared..

What makes this recipe work? Because it’s as close to traditional fried chicken as I’ve found. The key is that the chicken is cooking more or less the same way as if you fried it. Yes, the crust isn’t quite the same, but it’s as tender and juicy as if it was fried. And the leftover cooking oil, with all the fried bits, is just begging to be turned into gravy. Mix a couple of tablespoons of flour to make a roux, stir for a couple of minutes, and add stock, water, or milk to reach the desired consistency.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. These wines will get you started on pairings:

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Blanc 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The French white blend is always well made – refreshing with bright green apple and pear fruit and a clean finish. If you can find it closer to $12, you’ve got a bargain. Imported by Sera Wine Imports

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): Mostly what it should be – a French red wine made with gamay from the Beaujolais region. No ripe banana flavor, which happens too often these days, but soft cherry and a little (not much) spice. Imported by Kobrand

Mont Gravet Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12%): This French pink does just what $10 rose should do, and that’s why it’s rarely necessary to pay more. It’s fresh and juicy, with barely ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit. And it’s made with cinsault, which I’m beginning to think is the perfect grape for rose. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut
• Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles
• Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo

The new U.S. Pizza Museum is missing just one thing – wine

u.s pizza museum

My Old Style days are a thing of the past — today, it’s wine and pizza.

Four wine-related exhibits for the U.S. Pizza Museum

The new U.S. pizza museum – in Chicago, of course – is a wonderful idea. The only thing that seems to be missing is wine.

Which we can’t have if the museum is to be taken seriously (despite the usual pizza whining from Manhattan). The Wine Curmudgeon knows this because, before I wrote about wine, I wrote about pizza. Those were the halcyon days of Pizza Today magazine, working for the great Bruce Allar and knowing the joy that was the annual Pizza Expo trade show. Where else could anyone get so excited about flour and yeast but at Pizza Expo in the Las Vegas convention center?

I also lived pizza, growing up in Chicago and understanding the symbiosis between cheese, a proper thick crust, the correct tomato sauce, and Italian sausage. Those were the days of Dave’s Italian Kitchen, the pre-chain Giordano’s, the Silo in Lake Bluff, and cold, leftover Rosati’s pizza for breakfast. And yes, I used to drink Old Style with pizza, but I write about wine now, don’t I?

So if the museum doesn’t have a wine and pizza exhibit, then the Wine Curmudgeon will do something about it. Consider these possibilities:

• Always pink: rose with pizza. A French chef, long before the rose boom, told me the only proper wine for pizza was pink. So why not Cuvée des 3 Messes Basses Rose ($10, purchased, 13.5%), a solid, well made southern French rose with tart berry fruit, some minerality, and the necessary freshness and crispness. Imported by Kindred Vines

• Chianti, tomato sauce, and pizza. Any of our cheap Chiantis would work, as would any sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany in Italy. The Monte Antico Toscana, a sangiovese blend, offers fresh cherry fruit and the Italian earthiness I so enjoy.

• Regional pizza and regional wine. One of the things that surprises me about pizza is someone somewhere always seems to be doing something new with it (though you can probably guess how I feel about pineapple as a topping). Given the success of Drink Local, a top-quality Missouri norton like the St. James Estate Norton ($15, purchased, 13.5%), full of spice and dark black fruit, would complement even the unique St. Louis style of pizza.

• Why not seafood? I first saw shrimp on pizza at Gino’s in Houma, La.; despite my Chicago roots, it took me just 12 seconds to accept it as legitimate. In fact, seafood is a common topping in much of the U.S., like the clam pizza popular on the east coast. Seafood-friendly white wine, like the Fantini Farnese Trebbiano d’Abruzzo ($8, purchased, 12%). It’s less tart and crisp, but more spicy and chalky than ugni blanc (the French version of the trebbiano grape) as well a little citrus fruit. Imported by Empson USA.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Pizza Museum, using a Creative Commons license

Wine and food pairings 3: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Wisconsin-style bratwurstThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this new, occasional feature. This edition: three wines with Wisconsin-style bratwurst and sauerkraut

There are bratwurst, and then there are local, butcher-shop brats prepared in the Wisconsin bratwurst style. That means brats poached in beer with onions, peppers, garlic, and spices. Yes, you can use grocery store brats, but it’s that much better with the local product. Can I recommend Lake Geneva Country Meats, a long-time pal of the blog?

Since this is a wine blog, I poach the bratwurst in wine instead of beer. Use one-half bottle of a fruity, dry white wine; almost anything but an oak-infused chardonnay will work. The other key? Add a well-drained can of sauerkraut to the poaching liquid after you take the bratwursts out and simmer. I use 69-cent grocery store kraut, which works as well as the more expensive, plastic-bag version. The sauerkraut picks up the flavors from the poaching liquid, and becomes something other than just sauerkraut. Plus, you don’t waste all the flavor in the bratwurst-infused poaching liquid.

A tip o’ the WC’s fedora to Nick Vorpagel at Lake Geneva, the third generation of the family business and a fine wine guy, too. Who else would hold a cava and Wisconsin-style bratwurst tasting? Hence, cava works with this dish, so enjoy the blog’s legendary $7 Cristalino. Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe.

But consider these wines, too:

Falesco Vitiano Bianco 2017 ($12, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is one of the blog’s all-time favorites, and pairs with sausage as if it was made for it. Imported by The Winebow Group.

Foncalieu Le Versant Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): One more $10 French pink that does everything rose is supposed to do. Plus, it doesn’t cost as much as  bottle of white Burgundy. The Foncalieu is crisp, has a hint of red fruit, and ends with a pleasing, almost stony finish. Imported by United Wine & Spirits

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): This Italian red is usually one of the best of the cheap Chiantis, though I noticed some bottle variation this vintage. Otherwise, competent as always — lots of tart cherry, earthiness, and soft tannins. Imported by TWE Imports

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles
Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo
One chicken, five dinners, five wines

Wine and food pairings 2: Roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles

roast chicken saladThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this new, occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a roast chicken salad with Chinese noodles

Technically, this isn’t chicken salad, not the kind that Americans know all too well – leftover, dried out chicken glopped with too much mayonnaise. Rather, it’s a way to take ingredients as simple as chicken thighs and lettuce and turn it into a dinner more interesting and more fun to eat during the week – yet still easy to do.

This dish has its roots in late 1980s nouvelle cuisine, where the goal was to pile as little food as possible as high on the plate as possible while charging as much money as possible. So, given my sense of humor, why not do the same sort of thing, but that was cheap and enjoyable? In other words, make a simple green salad, top it with the Chinese noodles, and then top the noodles with the roasted chicken thighs. Drizzle with vinaigrette (made from the chicken fat and liquids from roasting, even), and you have one dinner, one plate, and minimal cleanup.

There are two keys here: marinating the chicken thighs in lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and fresh rosemary; and using the odd Chinese noodles that are dyed yellow. You can substitute rice noodles or even ordinary thin egg noodles, but the Chinese version seems to work the best. Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe.

Pairing wine with this is not nearly as complicated as it may seem:

GrooVee Grüner Veltliner 2012 ($10, purchased, 12%): Gruner is an Austrian grape that has been touted by the hipsters and the sommeliers as the next big thing for a decade. This is a Hungarian version that turns most Austrian gruners on their heads, despite its age and silly name. Look for a petrol aroma and peach and lime fruit. Imported by Quintessential. Highly recommended.

Zestos Garnacha Old Vines 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Spanish red is a little heavier and more Parker-like this year, but still well worth drinking and neither hot nor too flabby. Lots of red cherry fruit, almost candied, but backed with a peppery finish. Imported by Ole Imports

Arrumaco Rose 2016 ($8, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish wine is pink. You’re having chicken. What else needs to be said? Look for lots of almost sweet strawberry fruit, though the wine is bone dry. Imported by Handpicked Selections

More on wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 1: Chicken, okra and sausage gumbo
One chicken, five dinners, five wines
One pork shoulder, five dinners, five wines