Compare and contrast: Creativity abounds when pairing flavorful dishes with wine

2014-04-23T00:00:00Z 2014-05-01T18:22:04Z Compare and contrast: Creativity abounds when pairing flavorful dishes with wineEloise Marie Valadez, (219) 933-3365

When chefs develop standout recipes for special wine dinner menus, a blend of artistic and even scientific factors come into play.

Flavor, balance, temperature and intensity of ingredients are some of the things taken into account in addition to the desires of the diner when pairing wine and food.

"A lot of it is preference and what (the diner) likes," said Mark Angeles, executive chef of Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. "There are really so many different things you can do."

Angeles lends his diverse culinary experience to blending the flavors of food and drink on the casino's regular restaurant menus as well as for the menus of the Perfect Pairings events, held monthly on select Thursdays in the casino's LakeView Room.

"A lot also depends on the seasons," Angeles said.

To pair wines with the casual style of grilled foods, which often tend to be lighter, the chef said wines with brighter and fruitier flavors are best.

And "to help cut through fatty items," he suggests choosing crisp-flavored wines, such as Santa Margherita's Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc.

The chef said he'll come up with pairings for special menus months in advance or even a few weeks in advance if called upon to do so.

If diners are enjoying a multi-course dinner, Angeles said he'd begin with serving a Sauvignon Blanc with a light appetizer such as seafood, then progress to a Chardonnay with a salad. For a steak or other grilled meat, he'd choose a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec and then go lighter with a Reisling for dessert.

During a recent Perfect Pairings event, Angeles matched a variety of dishes with assorted libations from local and regional spirits makers. Among items starring on the menu were roasted ramps with sweet lemon vinaigrette paired with Tabor HIll's Demi Sec Red, Demi Sec White and Chardonnay; Stuffed suckling pig with fresh blackberries paired with St. Julian Winery's Cock of the Walk (a red blend) as well as Blue Herron and Forbidden Fruit Moscato; a Charcuterie Station with meats, cheeses and breads, paired with Cupcake Wines' Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Moscato D'Asti, Riesling and Chloe Wines' Red Blend, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. A mushroom-crusted salmon with braised salsify root and buerre rouge, was paired with Oliver Winery's Red Blend, Moscato and Chardonnay.

For Tammy Pham, executive chef/owner of Asparagus restaurant in Merrillville, pairing wine with her menu of Vietnamese/French and Thai-inspired foods is an interesting feat. Pham's husband Sam, who is the eatery's spirits expert, is always tasting and presenting new and vibrant beverages, she said.

At Asparagus, special wine nights have been held occasionally for the last year.

"I don't always just pair the wines with meat, seafood or other entrees, I pair them with sauces, too," Pham said. Sauces are a focal point for her Asian-inspired menu and something she enjoys creating.

The chef, who's a fan of white wine, said her husband prefers various red wines.

"I like to experiment with the dishes and the wines," Pham said, adding she'll try matching a red wine with a red curry dish but then also match it to a white wine such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to taste test a different profile.

Pham's 5 Spice and Ginger Duck dish, as well as Duck Confit or the To Die For Pork Shank on her menu, she said, can be paired with either a red or a white, depending on a person's preference. With the various flavors in all those dishes, she said certain reds or whites will pick up on different aspects of the dishes.

Her spicy creation Soldier on the Red Sea, Pham explained, would work well with a Reisling, which balances the heat factor, or even a Moscato, which is on the sweeter side.

Patrick Higgins, executive chef of Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, enjoys experimenting when it comes to pairing.

"Anytime you pair wine with food, they should always complement one another and should never overpower each other," Higgins said.

For a fish dish, Higgins suggests going with a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

According to Patrick Cullars, restaurant and beverage manager of William B's Steakhouse at Blue Chip Casino, diners should also order "what they enjoy" when it comes to pairing. He suggests, though, that a nice filet mignon, with its thick texture, would pair nicely with a good red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

A Chilean sea bass, Cullars and Higgins agreed, blends well with a German Reisling. The wine's sweetness complements the hearty texture and mild flavor of sea bass.

Higgins said people should "have fun" while testing wines with various dishes.

"Be creative and experiment. It's really up to your palate. There are many great options," he said.

Diners and cooks interested in finding out more about the pairing process can visit to learn about creative pairing options.

The following recipe for strip steak with wild mushrooms, salsify root and fava bean blooms from Mark Angeles at Horseshoe Casino pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc or Malbec.

40-Day Dry Age Wagyu Strip Steak and Foragers Harvest Wild Mushrooms, Salsify Root and Fava Bean Blooms

Wagyu Steak:

4 -5 ounce Center Cut Steak

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

3 sprigs Fresh Thyme

1/2 Sprig Fresh Rosemary

3 Sprigs Fresh Oregano

3 Crushed Fresh Garlic Cloves

Sea Salt, to taste

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

4 ounces Whole Butter

DIRECTIONS: Have a completely trimmed 10-ounce steak cut in half to create two portions. Remove steaks from refrigeration and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. This will allow the fat to relax and will help the steak cook evenly. Season the meat generously on both sides with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Preheat a sauté pan and add olive oil. Note* (the pan needs to be very hot in order to create a good sear on the steaks, wait till the pan begins to smoke prior to adding the Wagyu Strip Steak). Sear well on both sides; add all fresh herbs and garlic. Allow garlic to cook until light brown. Add whole butter to your pan. Reduce heat by half; with a large spoon, baste the steak using the butter in the pan. Turn the steak and continue to baste until medium rare. Take the steak out of the hot pan and set aside to rest. Add a little of the butter from the pan on top of the steak while resting. Resting the meat is very important to help hold the natural juices inside the meat.

Foragers Harvest Wild Mushrooms:

8 ounces Mixed Wild Mushrooms

1-ounce Small Dice Carrot

1-ounce Small Dice Onion

1-ounce English Peas

1-ounce Clarified Butter

2 tablespoons Whole butter

2 fluid ounces White Wine, to deglaze

Chopped Fine Herbs, to taste

Sea Salt, to taste

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat a sauté pan and add clarified butter. Add the mushrooms and carrots, cook over a high heat until light golden and carrots start to caramelize. Add the onions and sauté until onions are translucent. Deglaze pan with white wine. Reduce until white wine is almost gone. Add the peas. As soon as the peas are hot, remove the pan from the heat. Add in the whole butter stirring continuously to create a nice butter sauce consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and fine herbs to taste.

Salsify Root:

2 Washed and Peeled Salsify Roots

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

2 each minced Garlic Cloves

1 each minced Shallot

2 fluid ounces White Wine

4 fluid ounces Chicken Stock

4 fluid ounces Heavy Cream

1-ounce Grated Parmesan Cheese

Chopped Fine Herbs, to taste

Sea Salt, to taste

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Cut salsify into 1/2-inch sections, sauté lightly in olive oil with garlic and shallot. Add white wine and reduce by half. Add chicken stock and heavy cream, simmer until salsify is tender and liquid is reduced to a thick coating consistency. Fold in Parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and fine herbs to taste.

For the Fava Bean Blooms:

8 Fava bean blooms

Olive Oil

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: This step should be absolutely last before serving. In a small mixing bowl, add the fava bloom. Add a very small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mix gently and serve. If you do this step too far ahead of time the blooms will wilt and absorb the oil.

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