Sunday, August 6, 2017

Appetizers for Another Wine Tasting

Each year, for the past few years, the Aberdeen Boys and Girls Club has been holding a large fundraising event. Wines are available to try and many people bring foods in, myself included, to eat while walking around tasting wines. My stance on this is to make particular foods that will pair the best with the wines I am serving at my table, and this has made my table sought after. I believe this has much to do with the fact that if a wine and food are properly paired, both the wine and the food will taste better.

Four of the Appetizers Served
Four of the Appetizers Served: Clockwise from top left: Lemon Artichoke Pesto Crostini, Smoky Beef and Currant Empanadas, Spanakopita Cups and Potato and Pea Samosas with Green Chutney
A few years back, in with the auction held each year for a wine tasting for 20 to 25 guests at someone's home, my appetizers have been included as a part of the auction. This year, the people who won the auction held their wine tasting this past Friday evening. Generally, I am not informed of what particular wines the wine distributor will be bringing, so I go about creating appetizers that will possibly pair with at least a couple of wines, and ensuring that things will taste good.

At this wine tasting, the couple hosting chose to try each appetizer with wines I suggested might be best, and then taking it a step further and testing others, to see how they paired. I was extremely happy to see this approach, and there turned out to be some exceptional pairings. 

Rosemary & Parmesan Wafers
Rosemary & Parmesan Wafers
All the 6 appetizers I made were ones I had made before, minus the Rosemary Parmesan Wafers (recipe below). For example, I had made the Smoky Beef and Currant Empanadas a few years ago, originally to pair with a Malbec at the B&GC fundraiser. While they also went well enough with the Malbec at the wine tasting on Friday evening, it was an amazingly "smoky" flavored Zinfandel (Predator Old Vine Zinfandel, 2015) that really stole the show as a pairing for the smoky flavors of the empanadas.

Another surprise was the wines that paired with the little Potato & Pea Samosas. For the Samosas, I originally made them as Chicken and Raisin Samosas, to serve with a White Conundrum wine. They are easily made into Potato Pea Samosas by increasing the amount of potatoes in the recipe to 1½ pounds and again, eliminating the chicken entirely. A White Conundrum blend was also served at the wine tasting on Friday, and that was the direction I steered people. But while it was really a lovely pairing, I got thinking about a Carmenere wine I had researched years ago. The distributor had brought a different Carmenere (and the second I have ever tried) to this wine tasting, and I recalled how the articles I read on Carmenere stressed that it went well with things that contained cilantro. Since the green chutney I served with the samosas was made with cilantro and mint, I wondered. . .

And again, this was a most fantastic pairing, far better than even the Conundrum White. A total surprise and just perfect. The Carmenere was Casillero del Diablo Reserve, 2015. 

Other appetizers went well with the wines I suggested, such as the Hoisin Pork with Blackberry Chutney, which I wrote about when I tested the recipe on July 14th. I figured that its best match would be a Pinot Noir, and it certainly was. Anything more forcefully flavored just did not work at all, and I tasted it with a Cabernet, a Merlot, and also with a red blend. None of these did the appetizer any favors. The Joel Gott Oregon Pinot Noir 2012 was perfection with this appetizer. 
Rosemary & Parmesan Wafers
Rosemary & Parmesan Wafers

It was a really wonderful opportunity to taste and test wines with appetizers, particularly since I do so much of this king of food and wine pairing. At the last minute, I decided to add in one last appetizer, little Rosemary Parmesan Wafers, thinking it might just pair well with a Chardonnay. At home, I happened to have a Cabernet Sauvignon open, so I tasted one of the little wafers with that Cab, and it went wonderfully well. I was anxious to taste them with the Folie a Deux Russian River Valley 2014 Chardonnay, and this also did not disappoint. 

I omitted the chicken from two appetizers, mainly because at least one of the attendees at the wine tasting on Friday was vegetarian. The recipes themselves are easily made without the chicken. In the case of the Lemon Artichoke Pesto, when I made it originally, I first made the Lemon Artichoke Pesto and then sauteed the chicken in a pan and then pulsed it in the food processor, before adding it to the Pesto. I had tasted the pesto to see if the flavors were good on their own, which they were. Once adding the chopped chicken, it made more, of course, and it tasted good, but it tasted good both ways. If choosing to make this recipe (click the link to the recipe title above), simply omit the chicken and the next couple of ingredients, and proceed. The recipe was originally created to pair with a Pinot Grigio, and it paired nicely with the New Zealand, Peter Yealands Pinot Gris 2014, as well as with the Folie a Deux Chardonnay mentioned previously.

The Spanakopita Cups I made are such a tasty little treat and so very simple. I used the recipe as the Bonus Recipe in my February Newsletter. With the flavors of spinach and Feta cheese, they pair excellently with a Sauvignon Blanc wine. In this case, it was Decoy, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Interestingly though, there was a rosé that also paired well, having just enough acidity to work with the flavors. It was a Jean-Luc Colombo 2014 Cape Bleue Rosé.

Rosemary Parmesan Wafers
Rosemary Parmesan Wafers

Rosemary Parmesan Wafers

Makes about 55 to 60 wafers

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
½ cup almond meal
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated finely 
½ teaspoon salt
½ - 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 sticks (½ pound) cold, unsalted butter
2 egg yolks, lightly whisked 

In a small bowl, rub together the sugar and rosemary. Or, pound with a mortar and pestle. Pour this mixture into a food processor and add in the almond meal, flour, Parmesan and salt. Pulse to distribute ingredients. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add them all at once to the bowl of the processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle the egg yolks into the bowl and pulse until the mixture begins to come together into a ball. Turn the mixture out onto a greased surface and divide in two halves. Roll each half of the dough into a long, narrow cylinder, the length of a paper towel roll. If you have an empty paper towel roll, or two, these will make excellent tubes to house the dough later. 

Once each half of dough is rolled into a neat cylinder, set two pieces of plastic wrap onto a counter and set the dough roll at one edge. Roll tightly and twist the ends to seal. If the paper towel roll is handy, slide the dough into the tube. Repeat with the other roll of dough.

Place the rolls of dough into the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to two days. If in a rush, freeze the dough for about 30 minutes. If the dough is left in the freezer for longer, it will have to be slightly thawed in order to slice them and bake.

Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment. Remove one roll of dough from refrigerator or freezer and unwrap from the plastic film. Set the roll on a cutting surface and slice into ¼-inch thick slices. Set the slices of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1-inch apart. Bake the wafers for about 15 minutes, or until very lightly browned at the edges. The wafers will seem quite soft at first, but will firm up once cooled. 

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

These wafers make a wonderful pairing with a Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc wine.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.