Wouldn’t it be great to walk into your grocery and know - Bam! - instantly which wine to pair with your ingredients?
You can, with a little help from your friends at The Chopping Block.
It’s not that chefs and sommeliers (yours truly) sit around tasting delicious food and wine all day. But while we scour greasy grills, lug loads of wine and other daily duties, we’re probably thinking about tasting delicious food and wine.
Here are three tried-and-true pairings, thought-through with guiding wine and food principles, taste-tested by Chef Sam Goldbroch, guests and me during our How to Pair Food and Wine classes, and approved delicious!
Mushrooms and Chardonnay
TCB’s pairing: Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Tart with Bourgogne Blanc, Caves de Buxy (Burgundy, France).
Guiding principle: Look for common denominators in wine and food.
An inherent earthiness exists in the Chardonnay grape. While not overt in day-to-day quaffs, fine producers use winegrowing and winemaking techniques to coax mushroom- or truffle-like flavors from Chardonnay, like a coach guides a youngster with inherent talent to All-Star status.
Even before coaching, the talent is in the kid; likewise, before techniques elevate Chardonnay to stratospheric flavors and prices, potential earthiness lies in the grape.
Let Chardonnay meet its potential by pairing with mushroom or truffle dishes of all sorts, including mushroom pizza and omelettes, truffled risotto or mac ‘n cheese. (Ritrovo Truffle & Salt, available at The Chopping Block, makes truffled dishes easy and affordable.)
Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Tart
Yield: 8-10 servings
Active time: 25 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
1 sheet puff pastry
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium-size onions, sliced or diced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, rough chopped
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, rough chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the sheet of puff pastry on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover with another sheet tray. This will help keep the pastry from puffing too much.
- Bake the pastry until golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the top sheet tray, and allow the puff pastry to cool.
- While the pastry is baking prepare the topping. To caramelize the onions and mushrooms, heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Sauté the onions and mushrooms until they are nicely caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. If browned bits form on the bottom of the pan while caramelizing add a splash of water to deglaze.
- Once the onions and mushrooms are fully caramelized to a rich golden color, deglaze with the wine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat, and transfer to a medium-size bowl.
- Stir the heavy cream, egg yolks, thyme and cheese into the onion-mushroom mixture.
- Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the baked puff pastry.
- Bake until the topping is hot and bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Transfer the tart to a cutting board, and cut into squares. Top with a sprinkle of parsley, and serve warm or room temperature.
The Bourgogne Blanc, Caves de Buxy (100% Chardonnay) added bright refreshment to the dish. Next, I’ll experiment with a richer L’Oliveto Chardonnay (California), to enrich the tart’s earthiness.
Greens and Sauvignon Blanc
TCB’s pairing: Kale and Grapefruit Salad with Toasted Pistachios with Sauvignon Blanc, Babich Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
Guiding principle: Ditto above, common denominators.
Hard science supports pairing Sauvignon Blanc with green cuisine. The grape contains methoxypyrazine, a flavor compound shared with green foods including bell peppers, herbs, green olives and olive oil.
So, think Sauvignon Blanc when you see green, in dishes including salads with olive oil dressing, herbed chicken or stuffed bell peppers.
A revelation during our summertime pairing class was Sauvignon Blanc’s deliciousness with Roasted Beef Tenderloin, as soon as we dolloped the meat with herbal chimichurri verde sauce.
Red Meat with Red Wine
TCB’s pairing: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Dried Fruit-Red Wine Reduction with JaM Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
Guiding principle: The biochemistry of Bacchus.
Sure, a meat dish can pair with white wine (see above), but this guideline has its own science, based on the chemical bond formed between fat, protein and tannin – the mouth-gripping element in red wine. Just like cream softens tannin-rich coffee, meat softens the “tannic grip” of red wine. To return the favor, red wine’s tannin helps the body digest rich meats.
The question is: How red is red?
Cabernet Sauvignon needs the reddest red meats to bind with its firm tannin, so Chef Sam served our Pork Tenderloin rare.
Give your Cab, Syrah, Chianti or Bordeaux plenty of protein to gnash and tear, in simply-prepared, red meat dishes, like Chicago-style steak, served rare.
For higher meat temperatures and lighter meats or cuts, turn to lighter-tannin wines, like Pinot Noir.
You may also join Chef Sam as he and guests get sauced in his Sauce Boot Camp classes.
Currently, chefs and I are thinking about the following pairing for our upcoming Valentine's Day themed wine and food class:
Sautéed Beef Tenderloin with Crumbled Blue Cheese, Red Wine Reduction and Truffled Potato Puree
J.K. Carriere, Pinot Noir “Provocateur” (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
Reunion, Malbec (Argentina)
Join chef, me and guests as we test the tannin principle and more during our Sensual Wine and Food Pairings on Saturay, February 17 at 7pm at The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square. While six tasting-courses mixed-and-matched with five wines, you’ll be able to test the “rules” of food and wine, and decide on rules of your own. Sign up now.
Good wine and health until then! You can also download our Wine and Food Pairing Guide for more tips on marrying the two.