With the heat of summer behind us, we welcome the balmy days and cool nights of autumn and harvest season! And, what better theme for September’s 5 Star Makeover Challenge and this beautiful time of year than cooking with wine!
But, I cannot tell a lie – somehow, over the past month, I got it in my head that the theme was a wine pairing dinner – don’t know exactly how that happened – maybe it was the wine tasting we did in Paso Robles on the way back from dropping College Girl off in Santa Cruz or the Girls Day Out in Temecula wine country that has been in the works for the past month, but it happened and I never thought to refer back to Lazaro’s email (or Facebook) to double check.
So allow me to introduce you to my new favorite wine: Grüner Veltliner [GROO-ner Felt-lih-ner] is a white-wine grape grown principally in Austria and is their most widely planted variety. This grape produces pale, crisp, light to medium-bodied, slightly spicy wines of good to very good quality. It can be fresh and lively to concentrated and intense and typically shows nuances of grapefruit and citrus, with a touch of fresh cracked pepper.
In my online reading, Grüner Veltliner was referred to as THE hip wine (a blog post from 2007) and my Total Wine Guide to Wine and Spirits noted that Austrian white wines have become the darling of sommelier’s across the country. Years ago a few sommeliers thought to offer it as a creative pairing with Asian cuisine – it’s now considered a classic pairing. Dr. Vinny at Wine Spectator says, “Grüner Veltliner’s bright acidity and appealing spicy quality pair it very well with all types of food. The most eye-popping match is how well it goes with Asian food—anything from Vietnamese to Thai to spicy Chinese flavors. Next, try it with seafood. Grüners also go very well with bitter greens and salads. Then have your favorite pork tenderloin dish. And finally, enjoy how that acidity can cut through salt and fat, like in a smoked ham.”
While there are many expert tips on pairing food with wine, a good basic rule that I’ve learned in various wine classes is that the wine of a particular region pairs well with the foods of the region. Sure there are other pairings that are more inspired and exciting because they bring together more unusual tastes, but if you’re a bit tenuous and still learning about the characteristics of wine, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to the classics.
As Ray Isles states in An Expert’s Pairing Advice: “there’s a kind of default logic at work here: The wines of a certain region go well with the foods of a certain region because they’ re both from the region and everyone has always eaten and drunk them together. That said, climate and culture do seem to work together to create felicitous food-and-wine combinations; the rosé wines of Provence do taste awfully good with bouillabaisse, and Tuscany’s arista di maiale(pork loin roasted with rosemary and garlic) is a natural with Chianti Classico—the wine’s firm tannins and slightly herbal character just seem to go naturally with the herby roasted meat.
In part this is because these are regions that have hundreds of years of culinary and viticultural history, where the cuisine and the wine have grown up together, in a sense. Saying that the wines of Napa Valley are particularly suited to the cuisine of the Bay Area is, on the other hand, probably a bit more of a reach. But in general, it’s hard to go too wrong matching the wines of a region to the cuisine of that region.
Although, I’ve been enjoying Gruner Veltliner since tasting several in the Wines of the World Class I took at UCI last winter, I decided to cook a classic Austrian dinner of Wiener Schnitzel to pair with a bottle of Heidel 2009 Grüner Veltliner which was included in a wine tasting of German Rieslings at Wine Lab Newport. For the makeover I served classic Wiener Schnitzel with a warm potato salad and a fresh, seasonal (apples) take on sauerkraut which added a bright acidity and lovely crisp freshness to each bite 🙂
Crispy Wiener Schnitzel
(Wolfgang Puck recipe at Food & Wine)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs*
4 thinly pounded veal cutlets, about 4 ounces each
Salt and freshly ground white pepper*
Canola oil, for frying
Ligonberry preserves for serving*
1. Put the flour, eggs and bread crumbs into 3 shallow bowls. Season the veal with salt and white pepper. Dredge the cutlets in the flour, then dip in the egg and coat with the bread crumbs; press to help the crumbs adhere.
2. In a very large skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the cutlets and fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve the Wiener schnitzel with lingonberry preserves.
* Note: I adapted this to serve 2 and used panko in lieu of bread crumbs and a combination of dried cranberries, currants, cherries, and pomegranate seeds steeped in hot water (to plump) as garnish and a condiment since I didn’t have ligonberry preserves. Also, as always I don’t add salt due to Don’s sodium restriction and used mixed peppercorns instead of white pepper. With very little saturated fat (canola oil and olive oil are both monounsaturated fats) in the two sides and a lean protein, our wine pairing dinner was heart healthy, as well as low-sodium.
Potato Salad with Champagne Vinegar
1 pound fingerling or Dutch yellow potatoes
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parlsey
1 shallot, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and peel the potatoes, then cut them into 1/4-inch coins.
2. In a bowl, whisk the Champagne vinegar with the mustard. Gradually add the oil, whisking until smooth. Add the scallions and the shallot and season the dressing with salt and white pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead: The potato salad can be refrigerated overnight.
Apples and Cabbage Slaw with Caraway
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
half red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup green cabbage, thinly sliced
2 small Gravenstein, (or Pink Lady or Granny Smith) apples, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Place cabbage and apples in a glass bowl. Toast caraway seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Whisk oil, salt and pepper, thyme, and apple cider vinegar together in a glass bowl. Pour the oil and vinegar mixture over the cabbage and apples and toss to coat, add caraway seeds and toss again.
Enjoy 🙂 Thank you for visiting and don’t forget to check out all of the other cooking with wine creations done by the group by clicking the 5 Star Makeover link above.