Thursday, March 22, 2001
The divine 89-year-young Mrs. Julia Child was charismatic and inspirational as she carried forth at last month''s Highland''s Inn Masters of Food and Wine. I love her line, "I always cook with wine--sometimes I even add it to the food." European recipes may occasionally call for wine as well, but whether or not it is added to the preparation, it will end up on the table.
Even the most ordinary lunch or dinner in European households includes wine. Water is something only Americans ask for. Why? Tradition. But what is the tradition based on? Well, in my exhaustive research I have learned that water actually inhibits digestion, whereas wine facilitates it.
Tradition also dictates what wine to serve with what dish. We are still finding our way here. Our relatively young wine industry is forming ties with the culinary world. Chefs are learning more about wine. And wineries are learning more about food.
This is good news for those of us who may need a little extra guidance in this department. We can call fresh Dungeness crab and a chilled bottle of local chardonnay or grilled Monterey Bay salmon and local pinot noir a new American culinary tradition, but we have a long way to go. Kudos to Livermore Valley''s Wente Vineyards, which created a "Seasonal Exploration of Wine and Food." Each season, Wente releases a seasonally inspired package of wine, cooking ingredients and a recipe. The "Winter" box ($30, 925/456-2405) offers a just-released Wente Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection San Francisco Bay Livermore Valley 1998 along with dried cherries, flageolet beans, a lavender salt rub and a recipe entitled "Lavender & Thyme Scented Lamb with Flageolet Beans & Swiss Chard." Recipes come from Carolyn Wente and Wente Vineyards Executive Chef Kimball Jones'' book Sharing the Vineyard Table. The spring box will feature sauvignon blanc and fresh spring ingredients.
Here is a recipe to try at home that incorporates wine into the preparation. It is from Signature Dishes, Wine and Food of California''s Central Coast Wineries by Tricia Volk and Mary Tartaglione.
Chicken Gewürztraminer Casa de Fruta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chicken (1-1/2 to 3 pounds), well rinsed, cut into 8 serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups peeled tiny pearl onions, or 1 10-ounce bag frozen pearl onions
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 9-ounce box frozen artichoke hearts
1 cup Casa de Fruta Gewürztraminer
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 bay leaves
Serves fourIn a large, heavy skillet heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat until the butter stops foaming. Add the chicken pieces and brown well on all sides. Remove chicken from the skillet and place in a large casserole. Season the chicken to taste with the salt and pepper.
Add the onions and sugar to the skillet and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, and the onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Place in the same baking dish with the chicken.
In the same skillet, add the lemon juice and sauté the artichoke hearts until they are cooked slightly. Add them to the baking dish with the chicken and onion.
Add the wine, chicken stock and bay leaves to the casserole and bake in a preheated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when pierced with a fork.
Weekly Wine Recommendations
Kuentz-Bas Pinot Blanc Alsace France 1998
Unlike most California wines, Alsatian wines are fruit straight up without a chaser of new French or American oak. The grapes are treated to an extended growing season, and the wines achieve incredible richness on their own. At the same time, their cool climate origin instills a heady, exotic perfume into the blend that would be lost with overt oak influence. This musky, apple-y little gem is easy to enjoy and is an excellent aperitif. [$11]
Ventana Gold Stripe Chardonnay Estate Bottled Monterey 1998
Bite into a ripe, flavorful golden delicious apple, and savor that combination of sweet ripe fruit and mouthwatering tartness. Then bite into a piece of cinnamon toast with crushed hazelnuts sprinkled on top. Imagine those flavors, or pick up a bottle of this chardonnay and drink in the experience. Delicious with crab cakes. [$14]
Tenute Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1997
Another home run from the fantastic 1997 vintage in Tuscany, this ruby red wine offers exotic aromas of earth, stewed tomatoes, red licorice, black cherry, cigar tobacco and orange zest. The palate is brawny, concentrated and dense, and the wine is tart and closed on the finish. This is one for the cellar. [$35]