Rhone wine complements roast squab dish
June 12, 2007
In order to demonstrate just how complicated food and wine pairing can get, we thought we would share with you a wine description and recipe from the latest edition of Wine Spectator magazine.
James Milesworth (senior editor) described a Cotes Du Rhone (grenache, syrah and mourvedre) in this fashion: “Tangy up front, with grilled herb, tobacco and red plumb fruit. This lets the grilled herb edge take over on the finish, which shows a nice grip.”
The wine was then paired with a five-spice roast squab served western-style with a light braised lettuce and a layered cake of red and yellow bell peppers.
Why this pairing works is as complex as it gets, because the dish is a combination of French and Asian flavors uniting in a summer fusion cuisine recipe. This cuisine borrows from every culinary tradition and encompasses every type of flavor. The pick-and-mix nature of the menu can make it difficult to find a bottle of wine that will work.
We shall explain the pairing briefly, but generally the best thing to do with fusion cuisine is to take advice from the experts, take our food-and-wine class at the college, or just order wines by the glass at a restaurant and see which one does it for you. Your best bets are sauvignon blanc, pinot noir or barbera. If the food is spicy-hot, then you are in a different ballgame. Five-spice powder is made up of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and pepper – spicy, but not very hot.
The Rhone blend has moderate alcohol and tannins (a good thing if there are Asian spices), and a lively acidity (also a positive). Higher tannins and alcohol combined with lower acid levels would create a real bust with this dish.
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The Rhone wine is fairly light, soft, brisk, peppery, with ripe fruit and little tannin – actually a perfect match with the entirety of the squab and side dishes.
Roast squab with peppers
2 whole squabs, a little over a pound each
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon peanut oil,
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
Rub squabs inside and out with five-spice powder and let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 475, brush squabs with oil and roast on a rack in a roasting pan 15-20 minutes for rare, 25-30 minutes for well-done. While the squabs are resting, strain the fat from the juices in the pan and add the red wine, boil over high heat until there are 3-4 tablespoons left, swirl in butter and season.
Layered sweet peppers:
2 red bell peppers and 2 yellow peppers, roasted for 10 minutes, peeled and cut into two-inch pieces
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped basil
salt and pepper
Cook onions in olive oil slowly for about 20 minutes. In an 8-inch cake pan, layer the peppers and onions and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place a layer of plastic wrap over the peppers. Place another cake pan over the peppers and press down for 15 minutes, using some heavy canned goods to compress. Cut the pepper cake into 4 slices.
2 small heads butter lettuce, cut into quarters then crosswise into 1-inch slices
1 tablespoon butter,
2 tablespoons chicken broth
Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and heat gently until the lettuce wilts; cover pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Carve squabs and serve a breast and leg quarter per person on a plate with a slice of layered sweet peppers and a spoonful of braised lettuce. Drip sauce over squab and on the plate for color. Serves 4.
— Steve and Pamela Adams write a regular column for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Steve teaches history, political science and culinary arts at Lake Tahoe Community College, and Pamela is an assistant in a wine and food pairing class at the college. They can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.