Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Match game

New book takes much of the mystery out of pairing wine and food

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SURE, we've all heard the rule that white wine goes with fish and red with beef, but beyond that, most of us can't be bothered trying to pair the right dish with the perfect wine.

Truth be told, we often defy the rules altogether, and just open our favourite bottle of red or white to drink with whatever we happen to be cooking.

But James Chatto -- a Toronto restaurant critic and food/wine/spirits writer, says that food and wine pairing isn't as complicated as we might think.

"It should be fun to experiment, choosing and tasting different wine," he says.

"You don't have to take it too seriously."

But once you learn the basic principles, he promises that even a novice will find not only the meal, but the wine itself, will taste better if you put some thought into creating a good match.

Chatto offers a beginner's guide to the basics of food and wine pairing in the recently published cookbook A Matter of Taste, Inspired Seasonal Menus with Wines and Spirits to Match.

The book is a collaboration with Lucy Waverman -- a Globe & Mail food columnist, writer and author, who provides more than 150 recipes, organized into complete dinner menus for each season, so you can make the most of fresh produce.

Among the menus are special themed dinners for just about every special occasion you can think of -- from a spring brunch and a summer garden party to a fall book club get-together.

Alongside each dinner menu, Chatto supplies lengthy descriptions of the possible wines to be served with each course -- from the aperitif that will greet guests at the door, to the dessert wine that finishes the meal.

More akin to a wine and spirits encyclopedia than a cookbook, Chatto includes numerous essays where he introduces the reader to the many varieties of wines and winemaking regions, their particular nuances and identifying flavours, and his thoughts on why these wines work with certain dishes.

There are also sections devoted to various spirits, such as brandy, scotch and gin, as well as unique cocktail and aperitif recipes.

"The best way to match wine to food is by trial and error," says Chatto. "Through practice you learn what works and doesn't work, and most importantly what you like."

But there are a few basic rules to get you started. The basic rule of thumb when it comes to food and wine pairing is that the wine should balance the dish.

The taste of the wine should never overwhelm the flavours of the meal, Chatto explains.

So a rich, heavy meal should be served with a full-bodied wine, and lighter dishes with light-bodied wines.

For example, if you are serving a roast chicken, a very heavy red wine would be overwhelming, while a light white wine wouldn't have enough weight. So you would opt for a full-bodied white or a medium red.

When it comes to dessert wines, the wine should be as sweet or a little sweeter than the food, otherwise it will taste weak.

As you navigate your way through the world of food and wine pairings, don't worry if you are sometimes unsure if a dish would be better paired with a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

When this happens, Chatto suggests opening both. That way you and your guests can experiment and have a lively discussion on what works best.

Most likely you won't all agree, he says, but that's all part of the fun.

"The whole food and wine matching process really is a matter of taste."

An autumn dinner party menu from A Matter of Taste (serves six)

Squid pasta with tomato mint sauce

-- serve with a Chianti Classico

6 large squid, cleaned (about 1/2 pound)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp slivered fresh mint
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Slice squid lengthwise into long, thin strips (about as wide as a linguine noodle).

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovies and sauté until garlic is softened, about two minutes.

Add tomatoes and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until mixture is thickened and flavourful (to remove the skins from the tomatoes, bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the tomatoes for one minute. The skins will slide off easily.)

Stir in hot pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in mint.

Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add squid, season with salt and lots of pepper and sauté for one minute, or until whitened. Immediately add to tomato sauce and stir together. Cook for one minute longer. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Umbrian slow-cooked lamb with pecorino

-- serve with a red Chateauneuf du Pape

3 lbs boned lamb shoulder, cut in six-ounce pieces
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves, crumbled
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese

Toss lamb with rosemary, bay leaves, garlic, hot pepper flakes and 2 tbsp. oil. Refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Remove garlic and reserve.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in an ovenproof casserole over high heat. Brown lamb in batches for about two minutes per side, or until meat is a rich brown colour. Remove to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium and add onions and reserved garlic slices to casserole. Sauté for two minutes. Pour in wine, scraping up any little pieces from bottom of pan. Bring to a boil. Add stock and combine well.

Return lamb to casserole, cover and bake for one hour. Uncover and continue to bake for one hour longer, or until meat is tender and glazed with sauce. Depending on size of your casserole, sauce may reduce too much; add more stock if necessary. Sauce should be rich and slightly thickened.

Remove lamb and keep warm. Skim any fat from sauce. Strain sauce into a pot, pressing on any solids. Reheat, and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve lamb with a little sauce. Liberally sprinkle lamb with cheese.

White beans with garlic and sage

(sidedish for lamb)

2 cups dried white beans (cannellini, navy or pea beans)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
salt and freshly ground pepper
garnish
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Soak beans overnight in twice the amount of water. Drain beans and rinse. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes or until softened. Stir in garlic cloves, sage and beans.

Add enough water to cover beans by one inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered for 30 minutes.

Uncover beans and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until beans are soft and a thick sauce has formed (you may need to add water if beans are too dry. Stir beans vigorously to break up garlic.

Season well with salt and pepper. Before serving, drizzle each portion with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Dried pears, Taleggio and caramelized walnuts

-- served with Tamaya, a late harvest Muscat (a sweet fortified white dessert wine)

Sugar syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

pears and walnuts:
4 Bartlett pears
1 cup walnut halves
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz Taleggio or Gorgonzola cheese

Combine water and sugar in a pot over high heat. Bring to a boil and boil for three minutes, or until a light syrup forms. Add lemon juice and reduce heat to low, or until syrup is barely simmering.

Preheat over to 200 degrees F.

Cut pears into slices 1/8-inch thick with a sharp serrated knife. Add to sugar syrup and poach for 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly translucent. Remove slices with a slotted spoon and drain any syrup back into pot. Syrup can be frozen and reserved for another use.

Arrange pear slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in centre of oven and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until slices are firm. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Prepare walnuts by preheating oven to 325 degrees F. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden.

Combine honey, water and oil in a skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in walnuts. Cook, stirring frequently, until all liquid has evaporated, about one minute.

Toss nuts with sugar and salt. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool and dry. Arrange cheese, pear slices and nuts on individual plates to serve.

Lemon Tart

-- serve with a Late Harvest Riesling

Sweet tart pastry
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. granulatd sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, diced
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp lemon juice

filling:
3 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food process or by hand. Scatter butter over flour. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Beat together egg yolk and lemon juice. With machine running, pour egg mixture through feed tube. Pulse just until liquid is incorporated into flour. If dough seems dry, add a little lemon juice.

Turn mixture into a bowl and knead together gently until lit forms a ball. Flatten into a disc.

Wrap pastry in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Roll out pastry on a floured board and fit into a 9-inch tart pan. Cut away excess pastry. Prick pastry base with a fork, line with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans and bake for 5 minutes longer or until pale gold. Cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together eggs and sugar. Stir in melted butter, lemon zest and juice. Pour into pastry shell. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until just set. Cool on a rack.

Serve with licorice ice cream (let 2 cups vanilla ice cream sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Combine softened ice cream with 1 tbsp Sambuca or Pernod and 1/4 cup finely chopped black licorice candy. Refreeze for at least four hours.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2004 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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