Posts Tagged ‘pinot noir’

Basa Fillet in Wine Sauce: A French Recipe with a Peruvian Twist

October 6, 2010

 

A while ago (I’d rather exclude definite time references to avoid feeling old-er) I met with delight a simple yet delicious seafood dish. My friend in her  Coquitlam home made this salmon fillet in Pinot Noir sauce. I loved it so much that she made it a couple times more for me. Then one day I figured I would try a similar recipe changing ingredients, which is the best way to create new recipes and have a lot of fun. So I replaced the salmon for white fish, in this case, Basa, although I have used rockfish (aka snapper) and halibut also. It works out great with all of the above. I am not fond of precise recipes, just because that is the way I cook and also, I believe that every person has a different appreciation for each ingredient, so bare with me. I would suggest try to interpret the recipe in the way you would like the final product to taste like. Here it goes.

Grab a couple 200 gram Basa fillets. For those who don’t like grams or measurement units, grab a couple fillets, each enough to satisfy one person. That would be the average person. Which means nothing really, because the “average” is a figment of one’s imagination. Pretend the average person to be you then and grab those fillets.

The Salmon Pinot Noir recipe included shallots. In this case, just for fun I used red onions. I highly recommend Peruvian red onions from Arequipa province, with no doubt, the best ever. Since they are hard to find, I used Washington State red onions of medium size. They are phenomenally good. Chop one onion fairly fine. Put a dash of vegetable oil in bowl shaped frying pan, wok or similar. On low heat melt a couple spoonfuls of salted butter. Sautee the onions for 2 minutes. Here comes the tricky part. You need to find this product called AJI PANCA. Aji (a-hee) is the word for hot pepper or chili in Peru and in most of the South American Andes. This Panca one is a truly delicious condiment, a little bit like Chipotle but less pungent and not smoky at all. It doesn’t have that bit of bacon like aroma that the Chipotle does. You can buy this Panca pepper paste in Latino shops, there are a few in Metro Vancouver. If you google them up you will find them easy. Slather the fillets with this paste, you can use quite a bit of it. Do not be afraid, this aji is at most mildly spicy but oh, so flavorful. Place said fillets on frying pan or wok and add a quarter of a glass of white wine. This can be dry or off dry. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 6 minutes. I sometimes throw a few capers for that briny, zingy acidity that always seems to enhance fish and seafood flavors. Probe the fillets with a fork; they should flake nicely although Basa will not flake like salmon. It is firmer. You will have to learn this by experience. Serve on fresly cooked basmati rice. I have enjoyed this fish with Alsatian Gewurztraminer or a Torrontes with personality, like the Andeluna.

If you make this you will love it. Let me know what you think. Aji Panca paste is usually sold in little jars like the one shown above. It sells in Vancouver for about 5 dollars. You can also buy it in plastic sachets for a little less.

Advertisements

Seafood + Wine = Perfect Pairing

July 25, 2010

Summer has arrived in Vancouver. Although the sun has not shown up as much as we would love it to, temperature is creeping up and with it comes the need for lighter, fresher meals to keep the heat at bay. And when it comes to light, cold dishes, nothing like seafood! Lucky for us, we live right on one of the cleanest maritime areas of the world and the quality and diversity of our fruits de mer is second to none. Seafood is still a bit of terra incognita for a large proportion of consumers and when it comes to choosing the best wines to pair with a fish or shellfish dish, the subject can be outright obscure. “White wine with seafood, red wine with meat” goes the old saying, and for the most part it is a solid guideline. Having been raised sea side in Lima, and having worked for my family’s ceviche restaurant, my diet relies heavily on seafood. After moving to Canada, and being a wine apasionado, I have had no alternative but to test and try wines and local seafood in my adoptive homeland, findings that I now share with Everything Wine blog readers.

First of all, and before the season is over, get your hands on some spot prawns, sustainably harvested off the coast of British Columbia. Garlic butter is one of the most popular sauces to accompany this beautifully tender, naturally sweet tasting crustacean. A classic match is a lush, full flavored Pinot Gris, like New Zealand’s Sileni (15.99), Argentina’s Lurton (13.99) or Hungary’s Dunavar, which, at 9.99 offers tremendous value. More adventurous seafood lovers may like to add some wasabi and soy sauce to their garlic butter, which results in a delicious mélange. The cooking temperature takes away some of the wasabi’s aggressive heat but keeps its flavors. In this case a wine with more weight on the palate is in order. Kettle Valley’s Pinot Gris (24.99) is a good call. Even better, try Alsace’s Hartenberger (23.99) or Pierre Sparr Reserve, which at 29.99 has a massive presence on the palate and abundant, flavor-packed fruit that stands up to the spot prawn challenge.
 

Oysters deserve a post of their own. The mind boggling diversity and their aptitude to reflect the “sea-rroir” make the bivalves analogous to wine. East and West coasters taste different, and within the West Coast, they will have different taste and texture depending on whether they come from farms in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. Keep in mind that in the case of oysters, farmed is better than wild for a number of reasons that would take too long to discuss here. Suffice to say that environmentally farmed oysters take the pressure off natural stocks, besides the fact that they are fed only clean ocean water and nothing else, no vitamins, hormones, antibiotics or dyes. Although Chablis (the real thing, from France, not the spurious sweet plonk made in California) is the classic match, we will look here at the best pairing for West Coast slimes: Sauvignon Blanc. Effingham oysters have a distinct savory taste, which calls for a wine that reflects that character. Wither Hills Rarangi, from Marlborough (26.99) comes immediately to mind. For the budget minded, Southern France’s Tariquet (15.99) will rise up to the job. Kumamotos and Kusshis have a sweeter, fruitier profile. Riper fruit is what you should look for in your Sauv Blanc. Napa Valley’s St Supery (37.99) is an excellent choice. A bit pricey, point taken, but then you are slurping the aristocracy of mollusks. Not convinced? Go for Argentina’s Mapema (20.99) or Paula (16.99). If you are rooting for Chile and not Argentina in the World Cup and don’t want to buy a Tango wine, then grab Casas del Bosque (17.99), a delicious Sauvignon of high fruit profile and persistent acidity.

Dungeness crab is another critter that British Columbians love to have on their table. The white, firm meat is packed in both legs and body. It is so tasty that for the most part all you need to do is cook it in boiling water (crustaceans have well developed nervous systems so please put them to “sleep” in the freezer for 20 or 25 minutes before you scald them). Dungeness, like King Crab, has a distinct touch of sweetness sparkling over the rich flavor and texture. Find a wine of analogous fat character, like a good Chardonnay. Los Alamos (14.99), Liberty School (23.99) or Oyster Bay (19.99) will do the job. For those who don’t mind a touch of sweetness in their wine, the Madrone (which is blended with 8% Muscat) should be the perfect match at 18.99.

Before closing this note, how can you write about West Coast seafood without mentioning the king of our waters, the mighty salmon? Here is when you can bend the white-for-fish-red-for-meat rule. Barbequed or poached salmon will be enriched by a fleshy Chardonnay but it has enough flavor to stand up to lighter reds. First in line, C’est la Vie, an idiosyncratic Southern French blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah is a great candidate at 16.99. A soft Pinot Noir, like the Tabali Reserva (29.99) or the Coldstream Hills (33.99) are also great picks. For the budget minded, the J.P. Chenet Limited Release (1.99) or the Morande Pionero (15.99) are the ones to look for. Look for troll caught salmon, as it is the tastiest and the fishing method is environmentally responsible.

 Grenache (aka Garnacha) is another red that enhances strong flavored fish. Seared Albacore tuna, which is harvested sustainably in British Columbia (barbless hooks minimize bycatch of other species) pairs wonderfully with a light Grenache like Vive La Revolution or Spain’s No Time Garnacha (both at 15.99). Not into light reds? No worries. You would still have a good pairing with something like the Wallace Shiraz Grenache (29.99).

Seafood and wine pairings are a bit tricky but when you find the right match, they are so terroir oriented that the synergy is rarely found in other pairings. And when you go seafood shopping, don’t forget to look for sustainable harvested fish and shellfish. That is the only way to keep the bounty of our oceans healthy and available for us and for future generations.

Give Chablis a Try

March 3, 2010

Chablis is one of those appellations that nobody seems to care about. Pronounced shah.blee, its white wines appear to be too obscure and rather expensive to be worth trying . Why buy Chablis Chardonnay when you can buy Burgundy? Why pay 30 dollars for an entry level bottle when a solid Californian or Argentinean Chard can be bought for less than 25? (I’m thinking Liberty School or Catena here).

 

Poor Chablis, has a problem of  image and communications. A lot of people still link Chablis to those harsh whites from California that flooded shelves back in the 70’s and 80’s. Who would like to pay money for those? To compound the problem, Chablis is not an emblematic French appellation in the way of Bordeaux, Burgundy or Rhone. And then, the average run to the wine shop is about good value and good value these days is a good white under 20 or a great red under 30. Most people hesitate about spending $30 for a white wine unless already proven.

 

So, Chablis has everything against it and may well never be on top of the consumer’s mental list of wines to take home. Which is rather sad, because some of these Chardonnay varietals can be just plain delicious and deliver a fresh minerality that will satisfy experts and neophytes alike. The acidity in these wines chisels their fruit flavors, making them memorable on the palate. And these days there are a few products from the appellation that can do all that without sending you running to the closest ATM for extra cash.

 

Geographically (or enologically) Chablis is part of Burgundy, although looking at a map it lies a little far north and east of its most famous cousins, i.e., Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits (which can also read “world’s best Chardonnay and best Pinot Noir”). Like the rest of Burgundy, you may get lost in the hierarchy of appellations, so for ease of reading, and of drinking, let’s make clear that you may want to stay away from Petit Chablis, and that serious Chablis start at the Premier Cru level. Having said that, I should bite my tongue, as one of the white wines I have enjoyed the best lately has been precisely a Petit Chablis.

 

The thing with Petit Chablis is that it lacks the strong limestone content that characterizes the best of the region’s vineyards. There is always an exception to every rule and I am sure there must be many exceptions here. But the one I would like to mention is William Fevre’s Petit Chablis 2007. Fevre is an important producer all across the board, with truly awesome Premier Cru and Grand Cru products. This lesser relative has a strong marine breeze of a nose, followed by punching acidity underscoring its apple and citrusy flavors. At $28, it is a great way to become familiar with the appellation. This is real value, brought to Vancouver by Grady Wine Marketing. Good job there, boys.

 

The next echelon above has the Chablis denomination proper. In Vancouver you will easily identify the La Chablisienne line of wines. This is a large cooperative, which, in spite of its size has been delivering good quality through the years. The Vancouver Wine Awards annual show picked the La Pierrelee Chablis 2006 in its 100+ best wines of the year. For a mere 28 dollars you get a vibrant combination of well balanced lemony apple and chalky minerality. Unflagging acidity and lovely staying power on the palate, make this one a winner. I love these Chardonnays on their own but they surely compliment nicely a dozen Kumamoto oysters on the half shell. By the way, if you are into shellfish, keep in mind that farmed oysters –unlike farmed salmon– are good for the environment and for your health.

 

Next time you are looking for a thirst quenching, bone dry, steely and rich Chardonnay but you don’t want it harsh or austere to the point of boredom or overwhelming with butter, try the fruits of Chablis. In a future posting I will visit a few Premier and Grand Cru, which, with the addition of oak (no new oak, only second use or older barrels) will give you new insights into what wonders the Chardonnay from this appellation can deliver.

 

The wines mentioned above are listed and can be found both in LDB and private stores.

Hasta la vista.

Ivan Alfonso

 

 

Peruvian Cuisine: Aguadito

November 2, 2009

As it is the case of many other Peruvian dishes, this soup is the result of the combination of creativity and necessity. 851_1The word Aguadito translates literally as “little thin stew”, the diminutive form being common in Peru when talking about food. Economy has never been strong for long hauls in that part of the world and the custom of adding water to soups and stews was born spontaneously, as families grew larger and pockets shallower.

At the beginning of the Republic, around the 1830’s, the country’s political life was in complete turmoil and the Caudillos –warlords- fought one another for a chance to place their behinds on the Presidential Chair. On occasion, there were two –and even three- different presidents occupying the Palace of Government in a single year. Conspiracy and intrigue saturated the main cities, in which gun and sword battles full of sound and fury and galloping horses became the order of the day. Each Caudillo had his own personal army, as well as a wife and a number of mistresses, a fact that was not hidden but rather celebrated as an unequivocal sign of manliness, the full expression of the ancestral macho, condition considered indispensable for the exercise of power. More affluent Caudillos could meet their personal armies’ needs. Those less fortunate found hard to pay and feed their soldiery, and frequently they had to stretch their budgets to unimaginable limits.

It is said that one of such leaders, alien to the most basic military training, appointed himself as Mariscal –Marshall- and gathered a ragtag army to fight for a chance at becoming the President of Peru. To feed his ill-prepared troops, he hired a black cook known as the Negra Josefa. The woman was the owner of both extraordinary culinary talent and an indomitable nature. Her mouth was foul and her body, although shapely, was of planetary dimensions. Her hands concocted the most sublime flavors but rumor ran that the Mariscal was not only attracted to her culinary prowess.

From the very beginning, the woman had to find solutions to the scarcity of means that was the hallmark of the Mariscal’s operation. One good day, tired of having to do miracles to feed one hundred men with just a sack of rice and a few chickens, the Negra Josefa took the matters in her hands, and defying all advice given by friend and foe alike, crossed the military camp in a straight line toward the Mariscal’s tent. Full of resolve and anger, she pushed aside two guards who stood by the tent’s entrance. The camp fell silent and everyone listened intently for the oncoming shouting contest. The woman broke into a continuous rant that grew louder and louder, complaining of how she had to work wonders to feed the men and how the Mariscal never gave enough money to buy more groceries and that all she had for the day was two cauldrons full of Arroz con Pollo, and that would never suffice for the whole brigade.

The Mariscal listened to her in silence, and for the first time, overwhelmed as he was with his inability to get more funds to wage a losing war, he exploded in a tenor voice that until then had not been heard by anyone. “Carajo!” (the most sonorous Spanish expletive) he shouted. “Si no te alcanza echale agua!” (why don’t you add water to it!). He looked so menacing and the thunder of his voice was so unexpected that the proud cook cowered, and whispering “Yes, sir” she took off. The Mariscal did not mean what he said, as he knew nothing about cooking.

But the Negra Josefa, seeing the hungry faces of the soldiers took the idea into practice and eked out the Arroz con Pollo with plenty of water. She shredded the chicken and simmered the diluted dish, ending up with a thick soup, which she readily served to the troop, after squeezing a few limes on it and sprinkling it with chopped up aji peppers. When the starving soldiers asked what were they having for their meal the Negra Josefa answered dryly “watery (aguadito) Arroz con Pollo”. The soldiers loved the new preparation and the aguadito portion of the name stuck.

Curious like any good cook, Josefa tried different ingredients and perfected the recipe, which became a well known soup all on its own. The poor Mariscal eventually lost his war for power and was incarcerated for seven long years. During that period his loyal cook visited him every weekend with a pot full of the steaming dish, which he shared with other inmates and with the prison guards. After release, he married the Negra Josefa and helped her roll her cart on the streets, where they sold the best aguadito in town.

Today, the dish is very popular in Peru as a winter meal, but also among revelers who, after an exhausting night of drinking, search for good nourishment. The soup also gained a rather somber notoriety for being served at funerals, after long vigil nights. In its present form it is made with chicken, leftover Christmas roasted turkey or assorted seafood.

Click on link for Recipe

Wine for Aguadito

Pair with a copita (or more) of Peruvian Pisco. Red wine to match this dish: Pinot Noir or a lighter Southern Rhone. For white wine, Alsatian Pinot Gris or a rich Loire dry Chenin Blanc.

New Zealand Red Wine Terroir

August 28, 2009

Better known by the tremendous success of its white wines,new zealand wine regions particularly Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand’s red wines are off the radar for the global market, with the obvious exception of Pinot Noir. The “heart break grape” has made its home in Martinborough, at the southern tip of North Island, and in Otago, in the southern end of South Island.

Central Otago has the only true continental climate in the country. Unlike the rest of New Zealand, its soils show heavy deposits of mica, schist and silt loams. Pinot Noir wines from this region have received accolades due to their purity of fruit, intensity and vibrancy.

Martinborough, in the Wairarapa region, also offers excellent Pinot Noir. Climatically is closer to Marlborough: maritime, cool and with less extremes of daily and seasonal temperatures. The top Pinot Noirs produced there exhibit richness and opulence.

Although little known, New Zealand also produces high quality Bordeaux and Rhone blends, mostly in Waiheke Island and Hawke’s Bay. The former is located in the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland. Its hilly terrain produces Bordeaux blends that have good reputation, though production is rather small.

Hawke’s Bay, on the eastern central coast of North Island, is the nation’s capital when it comes to Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. The Bordeaux blends produced there show finesse and restrain. Syrah is the new buzz, producing wines that are fresh, long and peppery, reminiscent of the northern Rhone reds.

Good Pinot Noir Without Breaking the Piggy-Bank

June 10, 2009

The cool evenings of the Limarí Valley in central Chile provide an excellent setting for growing Pinot Noir. tabaliTabalí takes advantage of this terroir to give us an elegant Pinot for the money. The nose is classic with strawberry, floral and light herbaceous tones. Tannin and acidity in check with the fruity, earthy and slightly jammy medium body, leading to the finish, which has a bit of cloves and is just a tad too alcoholic (mind that this quality of Pinot, coming from Burgundy would be $30-35). In its price range, Tabalí performs more than satisfactorily against popular Pinots from New Zealand, namely Mudhouse and Oyster Bay.

Product: Tabali

Variety: Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2007

Winery:

Origin: Limarí Valley, Chile

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 24.99 (Everything Wine)

Waitiri Creek, Pinot Noir from Central Otago

June 3, 2009

I missed the Vancouver’s New Zealand wine event of May 28, for which I am still kicking myself, but

waitiri creek

waitiri creek

fortunately, tasted this delicious Pinot by Waitiri. Rather Burgundian in style, this garnet broth smells heavily of barnyard, cooked red berries and earth. Full bodied, balanced and with soft tannins. Good structure and depth, a long finish, loaded with fruit and very pleasing. Great job by the Waitiri Creek gang, albeit, the 2008 product was not as exhilarating.

Product: Pinot Noir

Variety: Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2004

Winery: Waitiri Creek

Origin: Central Otago, New Zealand

Alcohol: x.0%

Price: 49.99 (www.everythingwine.ca)