Drink and eat beyond the usual old red / white accords
Originally published September 9, 1984
By Tom Stockley, Former Associate Editor of Pacific Magazine
A FEW YEARS AGO, a New York wine writer, tired of wondering which wine went with which dish, recorded this message on his phone: “I’m away from the phone right now. But if it’s an emergency, it’s white wine with fish and red with meat.
Funny as it may sound, it was typical of the advice available on food and wine pairing with meals. Even wine books are so generalized that the information is sometimes useless.
Suggesting a chardonnay with seafood, for example, ignores the fact that salmon, a rich, oily fish, pairs well with light red wines. Or, white wine with chicken, a universal suggestion, skips the fact that the chicken might have been prepared in a port sauce and therefore calls for a red wine.
Enter a new booklet, “Wine and Dine,” written and published in Washington State. It focuses on the food and wine pairing, and it’s right on the mark. Captioned “A Culinary Guide to Washington State Wines,” the paperback was written by Lynn Crook, owner of a cooking school in Eastern Washington, and was funded by the Department of agriculture in Washington State.
“Beyond the maxim of pairing red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat and seafood, there were two sources of inspiration for these recipes,” writes Crook in the preface to the delivered. “First, wine flavor associations, food terms used to describe the smell or taste of wine, recipe suggestions. For example, the hint of green olive in a cabernet sauvignon inspired a recipe for braised duck with green olives, while the apple scent of a chardonnay inspired a dish of chicken with apples.
In addition, Crook studied the natural affinities of wine, those classic food and wine pairings that have worked well over the years, such as trout riesling or roast beef or lamb cabernet sauvignon. But rather than accepting proven combinations, she discusses the reasoning behind the choice, taking into account the acidity, components and flavors of each wine.
Finally, and this may be a first, she discovered new food associations for our local wines, such as merlot with grilled salmon, and semillon with veal and scallops. As for this age-old question, she concludes that with higher acidity and stronger varietal character, Washington State wines pair well with delicate and spicy Chinese dishes.
But, because the book is first and foremost a cookbook, there are innovative ideas for combining flavors in recipes. Here is a sample of its orientations:
“Any chicken dish made with ginger, apples and cream is meant for a chardonnay,” writes Crook. “Try this recipe and see how the fresh ginger enhances the wine, the apples take over the apple flavor combination of the wine, and the cream balances the acidity of the chardonnay while complementing its richness.”
Of the following Red Snapper with Merlot recipe, Crook writes: “As with most fish or chicken dishes served with red wine, this wine is used in the preparation of the dish. Tomatoes give the fish the acidity necessary for the wine, while the seasoning emphasizes the spiciness of the wine. It makes a very attractive presentation if prepared with a whole fish.
Red snapper with merlot
4 to 6 servings
1 pound of red snapper, whole or in fillets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups canned tomatoes, drained and diced
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed sweet basil
½ cup of merlot
1½ teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, sliced
Italian parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
1. Rinse the fish and pat dry, then sprinkle with flour. Arrange the fish in a lightly oiled oval dish. Put aside.
2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan.
3. Add onion, celery and garlic and sauté, stirring, until onion is just translucent and celery is still crisp.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients except the sliced lemon and garnish, and bring to a boil.
5. Pour this mixture over the fish and arrange the sliced lemon over the fish.
6. Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 25 minutes for fillets, and up to 40 minutes for whole fish. Check doneness by crumbling with a fork.
7. Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice. Garnish with Italian parsley and lemon wedges.