Entertaining | How to create a dish to match a wine

Entertaining

How to create a dish to match a wine

Signe Johansen recently competed in - and won - a food bloggers challenge to come up with the perfect dish for a Casillero del Diablo Chilean Cabernet. Here’s how she went about it. (You can find the recipe for the winning dish, Pigeon breast and chocolate mole with redcurrants and parmesan mash here.)

Matching a wine to food is not uncommon these days but matching food to wine?

I'd argue any cook worth their salt embraces the task of tasting and deconstructing a wine, then inventing a dish to match its distinctive characteristics however daunting that challenge might be. I relished the opportunity to do so when asked along with two other bloggers, Linda Williams of With Knife and Fork and Louis Villard of Spiltwine to take part in a recent wine and food matching challenge as part of a tripartite social media experimentorganised by Casillero del Diablo, Robert McIntosh of Wine Conversation and Chris Mitchell of Cube PR.

The idea was to test the boundaries of new social media using digital technology such as live video streaming and engaging our respective followers for food and wine pairing ideas on Twitter.With Casillero winemaker Marcelo Papa over from Chile, and live recording of the experiment, the two other bloggers and I were set the task of creating a bombshell of a dish, whilst admittedly running the risk of bombing out altogether

Thankfully all the dishes created met with the approval of the judges Marcelo Papa, Thierry Laborde of The Kitchen and Carol Emmas of Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review. A fun day was had by all and I'd do it again - in fact given that I won the competition I've now been instructed by my mates to recreate the winning dish for them, the recipe for which you can find here.

Tasting the wine and creating the dish:
The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon with its ripe, yet mellow hit of red berries, hint of spice and rounded structure is a bold but not bombastic wine so I decided to channel all my autumnal yearnings for game, umami-rich jus reductions and a comforting carb to match this wine. The obvious solution might have been to go for a juicy steak or roast lamb but I set off with pigeon in mind and Elizabeth King on Parsons Green provided glorious, crimson pigeon breasts which formed the backbone of the dish.

But what else would work with Cabernet Sauvignon? During a live radio tasting of the wine Joe Wadsack suggested crystalline cheese such as parmesan and that set me thinking. If I could somehow harness the umami hit of parmesan without crudely plonking a big block of the stuff on a plate then parmesan was definitely going to feature.

I was tempted to leave the dish at meat and cheese but knew there had to be some acidity to balance the richness of the pigeon and off-set the parmesan's pungency which I was planning to incorporate in a pomme mousseline, or luscious creamy mashed potato. Voila! Another umami-rich component in the form of a red wine reduction, given extra zing from crisp crab apple jelly and added depth from grated 100% cocoa. To add a bit of Scandinavian flair I garnished the dish with fresh redcurrants, one of my favourite late summer berries.

As Marcelo Papa said in his judgement of the dish, it was the combination of all these constituent ingredients that made my pigeon breast and chocolate mole with red currants and parmesan mash a perfect partner for his wine. And who’s to argue with the winemaker ;-)

For more on how the experiment unfolded have a look at http://casillero.posterous.com/

Signe Johansen is a food anthropologist and cook and blogs as Scandilicious

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