Friday, August 27, 2010

Bold Food with Bold Wines: Main Dish Salads

For the August 10 show, Jane wanted to cover Main Dish Salads, which is yet another challenge for the Southwestern Wine Guy. Salads can be a complex food and wine pairing choice. Many salad dressings have enough vinegar in their ingredients to clash with most wines. A vinaigrette dressing is a prime example. So the first rule is: do not drown your salad!

If making your own salad dressing, substitute balsamic for part of the vinegar component. Choose rice wine vinegar for a mellower flavor. Alternately, substitute fruit juices such as lemon or lime. When you do use wine vinegar, mix it with that bottle of red wine chilling in your fridge. At the bare minimum, let the dressing settle for a few hours before using. Jane disagrees with some of this so make sure to check out the show for her take on things.

The type of oil can also help or hinder. Fruity olive oils or oils derived from nuts will pair better. Spanish olive oil is one of Jane’s favorites, and I agree, it’s loaded with flavor.

Jane wants the salad to be bold and bright. Well that fits us to a “t” and in so doing she offers up various taco salads. Bold and bright also applies to the salad greens. Spicy greens dress up a salad and give it a nice zing. That also works with many wines, including dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, which pair with their citrusy notes. The wine should always have good acidity, of course so look for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Alsace Riesling.

Here are some salad additions and types of wine that will pair well with them. Mushrooms add an earthy, woodsy note that works with many wines including earthy, leathery French reds from Bordeaux and Loire Valley. Grilled Portobello mushrooms are meat in flavor and texture, so reds that work with steak can pair here also.

Adding meat, be it chicken, beef, or fish will be a focal point for wines that typically go with those meats. Wines with herbal notes will work better with similar herbs added to the salad.

Croutons or crispy tacos will also add buttery components that are at home with an OB (oaky-buttery) Chardonnay. In fact, throw out the salad and just suck on the croutons. Alternately, try a Viognier or French-style Chardonnay and leave the salad alone.

Fruits can also help, fresh or dried. Anything from mandarin orange slices for citrus-based wines such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, to dried cranberries for a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, can wake up the salad and the wine. Nuts, such as walnuts also add a nice earthy hit to a salad.

Grilled chicken in a salad, particularly with added spices expand the wine pairing palate to embrace red and white wines. The reds should not be overly tannic or heavily-bodied. Many Italian wines work well with chicken as it is a prime ingredient in many dishes.

Jim’s Wine Recommendations: Italian Reds from Piedmont

Barolo/ Barbaresco: These towns in Italy’s most northwestern province are home to the Nebbiolo grape, which makes very age-worthy wines. Sadly, these are often pricey. Dolcetto and Barbera grapes are also used in many Piedmont wines.

Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo delle Langhe 2008 ($20-25): Medium bodied, with nice spice notes of white pepper, anise and violet. Perfect with sausages, ham and salami, pizzas and pasta with simple sauces, spicy food. A good entry into the world of Nebbiolo without breaking the bank.

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti 2007 ($16): This one uses the Barbera grape – not to be confused with Barbaresco, which does not. In this case the name of the grape precedes that of the town of Asti. Barbera is one of the premium red wine grapes for food-pairing.

Jane then reviewed another chicken salad; this one Chicken Rice Salad with Jalapeno Lime Crème Dressing. I knew I should have eaten before the show, yum!

Jim’s Wine Recommendations: White Wines

Let us all now sing the praises of this food-friendly grape. It seldom is paired with other grapes, or aged in oak, certainly not new oak. It has great acidity to handle many types of food; Asian Fusion should adopt this grape as its own. The lack of manipulation means the terroir of the grape will shine through. German, Alsace, Washington or New Mexico states all produce excellent versions.

Sauvignon Blanc: Another food-friendly grape that rises to the task when not bludgeoned with oak. The grassy, citrusy, herbal notes work with many types of salads. New Zealand varieties use no oak and have razor sharp acidity. Sancerre has mineral qualities that work with many salad ingredients. Pouilly Fume has just a kiss of French oak to go with its smoky quality and will harmonize with grilled veggies.

Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet 2005 ($48): The central part of the Côte de Beaune comprises an area predestined to produce great white wines, and Puligny-Montrachet is certainly one of its most glorious examples. A Montrachet can age up to 12-15 years. I know, a bit pricey, but once you’ve tried a good Montrachet there’s no turning back.

For Jane’s Terrific Scallop Salad, I suggested Muscadet, a wonderful seafood wine and Pouilly Fume, both from the Loire Valley. Finally, try New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Oregon Pinot Gris a fuller, richer wine than the Italian Pinot Grigio versions.

Jane’s Grilled Vegetable Salad with Warm Herb Oil Dressing would be at home with French Chablis. Also, Murphy-Goode Sauvignon Blanc, which is labeled “The Fume” to emphasize its crisp, smoky quality, which is a very dependable, reasonably-priced wine.

For Jane’s Summer Vegetable and Quinoa Salad, the nuttiness of the quinoa can work with Viognier or an earthy Pinot Noir, such as a Russian River Pinot. Enjoy cooking Jane’s delicious recipes and try some of my wine recommendations for a meal greater than the sum of its parts. Salut!

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