Friday, March 17, 2006

Matching Food and Wine

To my knowledge, we are the only animal that drinks while eating; once again, lucky humanoids! I am not sure when this transition happened, but one amongst my ancestral namesakes decided that perhaps a goblet of water diluted ‘bronto blood’ might be a refreshing accompaniment with his giant turtle brochette. Quelle idée.

Now, fast forward to pre-jesus times and our first wines. Even then I am sure that there were all types of drinkers. This list includes the casual drinker who isn’t too picky about what’s in his or her glass, to those who seeked out the best and most interesting cuvees, to the ‘Caligulites’ who simply wanted to get blasted prior to the evenings orgy. Well, times haven’t changed all that much.

I started as a type 1 drinker, but have evolved into a real type 2 (probably with deep-seeded fantasies of being a type 3). But more importantly, I have come to look upon wine as an accessory to my meal. Good wine and food will always be that, but the experience is doubly fun when the two work together in harmony. This is the area of wine appreciation that freaks most people out and interestingly enough, what drives most new readers to this site (and the occasional 5:00 emergency phone call). But relax, there is a logic here. I have baptized next week as food and wine week here in caveman land, and to begin it in grand Friday style….

The RossoRosso Chicken with a Sweet Spice Grape Salsa (the acidity tune-up)

So with a ‘grapey’ Fruili merlot opened and drinking well, I had to figure out something to do with the chicken breasts. I had the idea of a warm red grape salsa, but needed a bit of help with the spicing. So a quick call to l'eau and chef Phil helped refine the concept.

The key was the sauce as chicken breasts, well, can be the most innocuous of meats. Our Merlot had a very bright fruit profile, bordering on slightly candied dark plums, with a hint of sweet spice on the finish. I wanted the sauce to add some depth to the fruit, but mostly I wanted flavor and depth from the spices. The result was exceptional and took a wine that at first I found a bit thin, with just a bit too much acidity for it’s body (another case of the weak 2002 vintage), and turned it into a wonderful compliment.

The key was that the natural acidity of the grapes were a touch more than what I had in the wine. This had the effect of ‘flattening’ out the wine, in effect, negating it's acidity. Try drinking some acidy juice like apple juice and then drink it after you bite into a lemon, you'll see what I mean. Next post, when you want more acidity in your glass than on your plate.

Grapes (cut in half)
Ground roasted fennel, coriander and cardamom seeds
Spring onions
Salt and pepper

I warmed the grapes with a bit of grapeseed oil until they became soft. Deglazed with a bit of the merlot and some chicken stock, Added a tablespoon of my spice mix, the spring onions and let it reduce (making sure the grapes stayed intact). Finish with salt and pepper.

Serve with broiled chicken breasts, cloved rice and roasted asparagus.

Colli Orientali del Friuli 2002, Rossorosso, Banear ($20…saq)


ThursdayNext said...

It is a pleasure finding this website and reading. As a novice wine taster, I am always looking to learn from those who know wine. I live in Long Island, New York, and enjoy many Long Island wines. The wine tasting experience out there is so much fun. My favorite winery is Channing Daughters in Sag Harbor - they have an amazing white called Scuttlehole Chardonnay!

g58 said...

Bill, I can't find Rossorosso on the saq site. I need to find a good Fruili Merlot to replace the Vistorta Conti Brandolini d'Adda 2000, which is now out of stock. I don't suppose you would suggest any 2002 for that. Any other ideas?

beau said...

I'm making this tonight and am also considering trying it with a rather thin, fruity Cab Sauv from Long Island. Whaddya think? Too much tannin?