Nigella’s Mughlai Chicken Pilaf with Trimbach Riesling

Chicken and rice and zippy, zippy spice!

Chicken and Jasmine rice; cardamom, clove & cinnamon spice.

You have to treat yourself good. That was the mid-week subplot for me taking an impromptu day off from my action-packed consulting business. Besides the personal benefits of sleeping in, reading the entire newspaper while enjoying some Mystic Brew coffee and brunch and getting to take a beautiful hike, the self-imposed day off meant that my bride got to enjoy having an aromatic and very tasty dinner waiting for her when she got home.

Nearly 400 years of vineyard dedication.

Nearly 400 years of vineyard dedication.

I was channeling some good friends whose culinary feats are nearly irreplaceable and decided to pull up some familiar recipes from Nigella Lawson. The featured dinner is a combination of two different recipes that play well with one another, Nigella’s Mughlai Chicken and her pilaf for a curry banquet. You can probably do both in about two hours. But I recommend adding an extra dried chili and cooking the chicken a little bit longer.

Paired up with a classic and cool Riesling like the Trimbach 2010 Riesling from Alsace, this spicy and flavorful Indian dish is complimented by the wine’s juicy apple flavors and delightfully sleek finish.

Soul satiating Southern fried chicken and Riesling ala Alsace

Beauty lies in the tongue of the eater; it's not pretty but it is oh so good!

Beauty lies in the tongue of the eater; it’s not pretty but it is oh so good!

Earlier this week, I wrote up a quick review on pairing Mahi-Mahi with an Alsatian Riesling sample. Towards the end of that blog post, the Meyer-Fonné Riesling that I was waxing about got me thinking about how I’ve almost always enjoyed and paired such Rieslings (both from Germany and Alsace) with the conventional Thanksgiving cornucopia of flavors. There’s so much going on between the dark and white turkey meat, the sweet potato casserole, the cranberry sauce, et cetera, that you truly need a wine such as an Alsatian Riesling to meander through the totality of the meal.

The next day, one of my favorite chefs was at the house cooking up an annual soul satiating Southern style dinner. Besides getting to enjoy buttermilk battered fried chicken thighs, skillet cornbread, cheesy macaroni, sliced beefsteak tomatoes and fresh-cut fried okra, my only assignment was to pair and provide a wine to enjoy with it.

Domaine Weinbach Riesling Cuvée Théo

Domaine Weinbach Riesling Cuvée Théo

If you’ve ever read Dr. Vino’s wine blog by Tyler Coleman, then you probably came across one of his “impossible food-wine pairings.” His latest had to do with what pairs with anchovies. Good luck with that! And after first thinking that a fried plate of Southern love might be impossible to match a wine with, I soon remembered the Meyer-Fonné, the Thanksgiving foreshadowing and the way a great Riesling magnificently traverses over varying flavors. Likewise I was now speculating that when it came to this quintessential Southern stable, a solid Riesling from Alsace would be the ticket to ride. My premise became palate positive.

So let me introduce you to one of Domaine Weinbach’s Riesling, the amicably dubbed Cuvée Théo. Another great representation of what the wines of Alsace have to offer, the 2011 Weinbach Riesling Cuvée Théo exhibits an apple joy aroma with a silky rendition of cider that is both delicate and indulging. A picnic basket of Southern fare with some fresh fruits has no greater friend.

Sink you teeth into this midweek masterpiece of Mahi-Mahi and Meyer-Fonné Riesling

Mahi Mahi with Orzo

Mahi-Mahi with Orzo

Hump day is tomorrow and here are your marching orders dinner plans.

Pop in on your local fishmonger (like the Shrimp Dock) and request some Mahi-Mahi. Season it with some fresh Meyer lemons, S&P, and a nice olive oil before sliding the broiler pan into the oven. Boil up a little orzo that you’ll drain and mix with peppadew goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, lemon juice, olive oil and fresh cut spinach.

Meyer-Fonné 2011 Reserve Riesling -

Meyer-Fonné 2011 Reserve Riesling

VOILA! Your mid-week masterpiece is ready for the world, or at least your belly.

And don’t forget the vino! After a short hiatus from having some great wines from Alsace, I sunk my teeth into an elegant and juicy Riesling last night. The Meyer-Fonné 2011 Reserve Riesling is a great all-rounder for first time inductees into the wonderful world of Alsatian wines. Its lovely, spicy aromatics and liquid gold color are all the bait you’ll need to become fast friends. The plush pear and racy apple flavors are pleasantly approachable and make for a likely candidate to pair with lighter fare like the Mahi-Mahi as well as dinners in which you have a smorgasbord of flavors and components. You’ll want to remember this around Thanksgiving time, when you have that symphony of flavors playing out your traditional Turkey Day plate.

Meyer-Fonné is part of the Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants portfolio, whose French imports never disappoint.

The right wine completes the Thanksgiving feast

I’ve enjoyed quite a few Thanksgiving feasts and completely appreciate that this is one holiday where tradition rings true. It’s easy to put on that “Thanksgiving Thirteen” over an extended four-day, gluttonous weekend of white turkey meat, brown turkey meat, gravy, sweet potato casserole, oyster stuffing, homemade buttery bread, tasty cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, pecan pie, chess pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie and, of course, the long string of leftovers and sandwiches.

The one trap in all of this tradition and “deadly sin” exercise is falling prey to the wine ideologues. These are the ones with the all-too-repetitive suggestion that one should drink boring French Beaujolais Nouveau for another Thanksgiving holiday just because Lafayette happened to show up at the American Revolution. Instead, do as Clark Griswold did in the movie “Christmas Vacation” when the squirrel attacked inside his home. After telling his son, Russ, to get a hammer, Clark’s wife questioned what the hammer was for. “I’m gonna catch it in the coat, and smack it with the hammer.” This year do the same with Nouveau – before it ruins another holiday.

Some may ask: Why not Nouveau? Simply put, there are a lot of flavors going on in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: the many fruits like cranberry and pumpkin; the sage in the stuffing; the savory and saltiness in the gravy. So, if a traditional Thanksgiving feast is on tap this Thursday, then don’t be fooled by the lure of a bright and colorful label of houses or flowers that looks more like an Easter appropriate watercolor than a fall harvest wine. Instead, go with something that can not only complement those flavors but also offer up some style. No one wants that turkey to split open and ruin the night like it did at the Griswold family Christmas dinner. And no one wants to smile and pretend that Nouveau tastes good with anything other than fruitcake.

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Great Whites for the Dog Days of Summer

My border collie, Layla, reminded me the other day that the dog days of summer are here. She laid out back under her favorite shade tree for about 30 minutes. Then politely, Layla camped just outside the back door in anticipation of re-entering the air-conditioned Mecca that is her house. I don’t blame her. With these hot, summer days, I’m also always looking for something cool and refreshing. Luck has it for me; there are plenty of faithful old white wines to do the trick and a few new whippersnappers as well.

n 2007 Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($11.55)

After visiting quite a few local restaurants with some hot and spicy food on the menu, I discovered there was a new wine in town that all the restaurants were promoting and that “everyone was Kung Fu Fighting” over. The 2007 Kung Fu Girl Riesling is a new creation from Washington State. It’s a semi-sweet Riesling with a honeysuckle bouquet, a touch of viscosity and a host of apple and pear flavors. Kung Fu Girl matches well with spicy Pan-Asian fare and an array of other hot-tongued dishes. The label may be “a little bit frightening,” but the truth is it’s so good that you’ll guzzle down this little bottle as “fast as lightening.”

n 2007 Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul ($9.55)

One of my go-to, old faithful companions is the Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul. From the Languedoc, this French value is soft and simple with sleek mineral notes. It’s been a tried-and-true value in the market for some years now and consistently impresses consumers both in price point and quality. Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, the 2007 Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul is a spot on match for a bowlful of fresh shellfish and a sky full of hot sunshine. Just ask for picpoul.

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Ring in the New Year with new bubbly

Wine consumers and aficionados alike are left with one burning question at the end of December: What should I celebrate the new year with? Most likely, wine drinkers turn to their familiar standbys, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you’re looking for something that’s just as good but perhaps a little different, you’ll be excited to know that there is sparkling French wine that goes beyond Champagne and sparkling Italian wine that goes beyond Spumante.

This New Year’s Eve or anytime this month is an ideal moment to sample some new sparkling wines. The following selections are from Germany, France and Italy.

- Hansen Lauer Brut Riesling 2007 (Germany)

The 2007 Hansen-Lauer Brut Riesling is a unique bubbly that has similarities to both French Champagne and Italian Prosecco. The aromas display fine notes of wheat and crisp breadiness, which Champagne often demonstrates, while the flavors have enjoyable fruit notes of peach, lemon zest and grapefruit, that are typical for most Prosecco.

Made from 100% Riesling, this Brut bubbly is a solid performer whose light yeasty bouquet also intermingles with a powdery aroma of fresh cotton. It’s great for first time sparkling wine drinkers who want something refreshing as well as experienced admirers of bubbly who want something unique.

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