Category Archives: Pairing Wine With Food

Celebrate International Italian Cuisine Day With Wine and Risotto!

Saturday, January 17th is International Italian Cuisine day. I thought we should blog about great food from the “old country”.  While there are tons of great Italian dishes out there, I have been craving that specialty of northern Italy, risotto.  Traditionally served as a first course, this creamy and delicious rice dish can work as a satisfying entrée.

Risotto can range in variety from the exotic Risotto Milanese, which is enriched with saffron, to light and delicate seafood riosotto, to the dark and dusky risotto al Barolo.  Regardless of the condiment or flavoring, great risotto begins with great rice. You need a short grain rice which is high in starch content.  Arborio or carnaroli varieties are readily available in most grocery stores.  It is well worth the effort to search for a specialty store that carries the vialone nano variety.

The next important trick to great risotto is mastering the method.  Instead of steaming, risotto is made by the timely addition of broth or water.  There are 2 tricks to this… First, make sure that the liquid and the cooking rice are at the same simmering temperature. Secondly, gently stir the liquid into the rice, and only stir as much as you need to. If the grains break, your risotto will become gummy and pasty.

Here is a base recipe and some ways to change it up:

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups homemade broth   OR   1 cup canned broth diluted with 4Ingredients cups water.  (I actually heat extra because it would be a disaster to be caught without enough cooking liquid.)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion or shallot chopped very fine
  • 2 cups Arborio OR other imported Italian risotto rice
  • 1/2 heaping cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • Salt, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. In a sauce pan, bring the broth to a simmer. Make sure that it is close to the pan where you are making the risotto.
  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan that has high sides (2” or so) and add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and cook gently until the onion is translucent.Making Risotto
  3. Add the rice to the sauté pan and stir gently so that all the grains are coated with the butter and oil.
  4. Now you will begin adding the broth from the sauce pan to the sauté pan one ladle at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. When the rice absorbs one ladle of broth, add another ladle of broth.  Repeat this process until the rice is tender but al dente. It should take about 20-25 minutes and the rice will look moist and creamy, not runny.
  6. When there is about a minute or 2 to go, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
  7. Remove the pan from heat and add all of the cheese, folding gently in order to even distribute.
  8. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately with additional shavings of parmigiano. Serves 6

Risotto Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Variations:

White Truffle Risotto: Shave a half ounce of white truffle all over the top of the risotto right before serving. For those of us like me who are on a budget, you can always drizzle a bit of white truffle oil over the top.

Mushroom Risotto: In a separate pan, sauté about a pound of your favorite mushrooms in some butter and olive oil. I add a clove or 2 of garlic and some salt and pepper to taste. I deglaze the pan with a bit of wine and continue to cook until the mixture is dry. Before I add the butter and cheese to the risotto, I stir in about half of the mushroom mixture. I pour the finished risotto into a platter, top with the remaining mushrooms and chopped chives.

Butternut Squash Risotto: Cook and finely dice some butternut squash, about 2-3 cups. Instead of adding that last ladle of broth, add a ladle of heated heavy cream and fold in half of the squash. Finish the risotto with the butter and cheese. Top the finished risotto with the rest of the squash and some fried sage leaves.

 

Some WINES to try with these Risottos:

 

 

 

Setting Wine Goals for the New Year

The end of December is a time for reflection on the year that has come and gone, as well as a way to set our sights on the brand new year before us. Many of us use this as a time to set goals for ourselves. Whether these goals are financial, fitness focused, or lifestyle in general, this period of our lives are beneficial towards cleansing us of the bad habits, ruts, and routines of the past, and helping us refocus our wishes, hopes, and desires for who we are as individuals.

Why not take this same outlook and apply it towards your wine journey? Take just a moment to reflect on where you’ve been and where you would like to take your wine journey from here. Are you new to wine but not quite sure where to begin? Are you eager to break yourself of your daily “go-to” Cab/Malbec/Pinot Grigio?  Are you a seasoned wine connoisseur who can speak proficiently on Burgundian wines, but feel like you are lacking perspective and knowledge of other up and coming wine regions?  What are your goals, wishes, and desires for this forthcoming year?

For me, I started my wine journey with focusing on Santa Barbara wines, as I had easy access to some great boutique wines from the region. I then moved on to being a world explorer of various new varietals and styles – whether it was a great Santorini from Greece, a Pinotage  from South Africa, or a Viognier from Australia.  For this coming year, I plan on settling my focus towards old world wines, an area where I am admittedly lacking.

How I anticipate expanding my knowledge is through research, tastings, and asking for advice from my colleagues. I look forward to picking their brains to learn more about what make a great Pinot Noir (Wilfred list here), Spanish Rioja , and Chablis (Gwendolyn List here).

But I am not the only one who can easily gain access to the wealth of knowledge that Wine.com’s experts are eager to provide. Whether it’s following Wilfred Wong’s reviews and communicating with him via Social Media, seeking out advice from Anne Pickett and Gwendolyn Osborn for recommendations via our latest online chat feature, exploring the Wine Notes blog for their deeper insights and first-hand experiences, or trying your hand at one of our 3 Wine Clubs  in an effort to expand your horizons, Wine.com provides a variety of tools and a wealth of information just at your fingertips.

So, I encourage you to set your sights on all that the future has in store for you. Don’t forget to set goals, and ask advice if you need help along the way. Happy New Year’s to all!!

Food & Wine Fridays: Wine & The Late Night Supper

PastaStop! Put down that Cap’n Crunch! Yes, it’s tempting to just make a bowl of cereal when you get home late from work or the movies or when you want a midnight snack. For just a few minutes more, you can whip up a terrific (and even romantic) little meal and serve it with a glass of easy-drinking wine for a satisfying supper. Here are some recipe ideas and wines to go with!

The “Anything Out if the Fridge” Omelette
Omelettes are a very satisfying meal at any time of day and can be great with many wines. The keys to making a good omelette are a splash of water to keep the eggs loose, keeping the pan at a moderate temperature, and always using butter. For my omelette, I used 4 eggs since we were 2, and I found left over grilled chicken breast, an avocado, and some Havarti cheese. Total meal prep time (including opening bottle of wine) was 10 minutes. I had the Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Blanc 2011 with mine, but the WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Gris 2012 or the Cave de Lugny Macon Lugny Les Charmes Chardonnay 2013.

The “Dagwood” sandwich
How can anyone forget the image of Dagwood standing in the kitchen with a sandwich stacked a mile high? After rummaging through the fridge, I created a turkey breast, prosciutto, provolone, lettuce, and tomato, topped with a fried egg and served on sliced sourdough. Total meal prep time was 12 minutes, and the wine of the night was the Henry Fessy Morgon 2010. The Commanderie de la Bargemone Rose Coteaux d’Aix en Provence 2013 or the Bouchard Aine & Fils Pinot Noir 2012 would have been equally tasty.

Caccio e pepe   
This classic Roman pasta dish can be made even when there is next to nothing in the fridge. The name translates to “cheese and pepper” which are the only condiments adorning the pasta. To begin, make enough spaghetti for 2 (buccatini also works, too). In a saute pan, melt a hunk of butter and add a couple of tablespoons of fresh ground black pepper. Toast for a bit until the butter turns a light hazelnut brown. Add a ladle of the pasta cooking water to the saute pan, a pich of salt, and then the cooked pasta. Toss to coat and remove from heat. Finish the pasta with another hunk of butter and 2 big handfuls of grated cheese. The traditional cheese to use is pecorino romano, but in a pinch I have used grana padano and parmigiana. Toss the pasta again and top with some more cheese and a grind or 2 of pepper. Total meal prep (including pasta cooking time, grabbing 2 forks and hunting for a bottle of wine) was 15 minutes. We had the Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico 2011, and it was awesome.  Monte Antico Rosso 2009 and Hauner Salina Hiera 2012 would also be great!

Buon appetito!!

Food & Wine Friday: Beef & Bordeaux – it’s what’s for dinner

For many people Bordeaux is a collectible, a wine for old-fashioned wine drinkers. It wasn’t that long ago that Eric Azimov wrote in the New York Times, “Bordeaux, once the world’s most hallowed region and the standard-bearer for all fine wines, is now largely irrelevant.” This great red wine from the Atlantic coast of France is, however, more affordable and more accessible than ever. Whether it is a cheeseburger on a Tuesday night or the finest filet mignon, there is a Bordeaux for every occasion.beef

Wines with the general appellation of Bordeaux are famous for being great values. The 2010 Saint Sulpice represents one of the best wines this level of Bordeaux has to offer. Located near Saint Emilion, this winery has some prime vineyard land to make great red wine. This easy drinking red has aromas of tea and black currants with soft, round cranberry and currant flavors on the palate. Enjoy the St. Sulpice with a flat iron steak and mashed potatoes.

Looking to the North, we have the region of Saint-Estephe. Wines from the cooler zone have a brambly and earthy character, which make them a great accompaniment to any hearty meal. One of my favorite go-to wines over the years has been the Chateau de Pez. This 2008 is dark and brooding with aromas of cedar and cigar box. The cassis fruit is supported chunky tannins. The big, chewy de Pez would be great with a rib eye steak.

Pessac-Leognan is the most southern region of Bordeaux. The creative and innovative winemakers of this growing area are making great wines for a very fair price. Ch. Haut Bergey is a great example of this innovative spirit. Purchased in 1991 by Sylvaine Garcin-Cathiard, every effort is made to create a hand-crafted wine of high quality. All of the improvements and hard work have paid off in this amazing 2010. In a vintage full of great wines, the Haut Bergey is a shining example of high quality for a fair price. Aromas of roasted coffee, vanillin, and tobacco lead to ripe black currant fruit on the palate. The sumptuous flavors are supported by fine tannins and bright acidity to the finish. Keep this wine in the cellar for another 5-10 years. I would pair the Haut Bergey with a standing rib roast…now that’s a great Sunday supper!

makingbeefAll this talk of Bordeaux has me yearning for some beef. One of my favorite local places to shop (in the Bay Area) is Schaub’s Meat, Fish, & Poultry in the Stanford Mall. They are famous for their “Fred steak,” which is a special dry cured beef that is amazingly delicious. Don’t be alarmed by the dark and blackened exterior— it’s just covering the yummy, beefy inside. Below, is an example of a top sirloin roast that my friends and I shared with a bottle of 2000 Grand Mayne, St. Emilion.

Kicking off California Wine Month with Zin!

PicMonkey Collage

Though Zinfandel is often called the “California grape,” its origins are slightly further away. Where is origin of Zinfandel? In 2000, Carole Meredith, co-proprietor of Lagier-Meredith and American grape geneticist, published findings that suggested Croatia was the origin of this varietal.  Before this, many in the industry believed Zinfandel was possibly a descendant of Primitivo, the Southern Italian grape. It’s true that Zinfandel and Primitivo are related, but they are both clones of Crljenak,  a native variety of Croatia.

Zinfandel has become “California’s own.” Since the early 1970’s the state’s wineries have produced some of the world’s finest red wines from our beloved Zinfandel. While the research continues, it is clear that California producers have made a stake in the Zinfandel sweepstakes. Whether it is called Primitivo or Crljenak Kaštelanski, California Zinfandel is the prize that is finding itself more often at the dinner table.

“The name Zinfandel was first used in 1832 and established a separate identity for the grape and one unique to America.” (Source: Zinfandel, Producers and Advocates, April 2002). It was not until the early 1970’s that Zinfandel emerged to become the superstar varietal that it is today. Ushered into the limelight by the 1968 Sutter Home Deaver Ranch, a flood of marquee players from the outstanding class of 1973 Chateau Montelena, Ridge Geyserville, Dry Creek Vineyard and others changed the varietal’s place in history forever. Zinfandel was now becoming one of the prizes on the runway.

I drink Zin all the time. My favorite match is pairing it with grilled pork chops. Pork tenderloin with a wine sauce reduction has been one another go to combination. But the ever popular grilled steak with fries works well too. Celebrate 10th Annual California Wine Month and pop the cork on the delicious 2012 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel. The golden state, family and friends will be happy you did.