I was talking with a wine colleague recently at a tasting (of course) and after sniffing, swirling and occasionally spitting the wine into a bucket filled with other people’s wine spittle, (boy do we look professional throughout that whole process) we talked about how to get our customers to not fear the Riesling. That got me to thinking.
Riesling is the white grape that has always been revered by sommeliers and the like for decades. But it never quite made the jump to the American dinner table. How could this be? How could one of the greatest white varietals in the world be treated like its sports equivalent American soccer?
Now I’m not saying it’s the only white you should ever drink. I just want the Off the Vine wine-loving community to understand this majestic grape that is grown all over the world. It can be grown in warmer climates where it tends to ripen too quickly which creates a forgettable wine; however it seems to thrive in colder climates where it can reach peek ripeness.
Riesling can range from bone-dry to a lush, sweet and very expensive dessert wine which can be cellared for decades. Riesling is not always sweet. In fact if you buy a Riesling from Alsace, France it will almost always be dry. The nose and taste profile can range from petrol, peach and mineral. When you buy Riesling from Germany all you need to know for now is Kabinett and Trocken (four to five years bottle age, and the driest of German Riesling, respectively) and Spatlese and Halbtrocken (five to seven years of bottle age, and slightly sweet or off-dry, respectively). Now I know you’re probably thinking how the heck am I going to remember German? You don’t have to, just come down and see me at the store and I’ll guide you through these wines.
As far as food pairing goes Riesling is excellent with spicy foods, from Mexican to Thai and Chinese. The high acid in Riesling cleanses the palate without over-powering the flavor of the food. Another classic pairing for Riesling is roast chicken and my personal favorite… Turkey. Acid with a touch of sweetness my wine and food loving friends is why Riesling works so well cutting through the cornucopia of flavors on your plate. It works with the Turkey, sweet potatoes, the green bean casserole that someone always brings, creamed onions, and of course gravy, not against it. Riesling really is one of the more perfect wines to have with Thanksgiving dinner.
So Chef Repp of Splash restaurant in Westport and I were discussing what recipe’s would be great for this column and we decided to upon two classic sides–mashed potatoes and gravy. That’s right folks, you’ll get no turkey roasting recipe here. We figured that your mother-in-law would provide you with instruction on cooking a turkey while she stands over your shoulder micro-managing you to make sure it’s done right. (Just kidding.) The two “Super Sides” that Chef Repp has set forth before you are sure to be instant family classics.
Some Riesling’s I would recommend are Seven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2007 $15.99. Dr. F. Weins-Prum, Mosel Valley, Germany 2007 $15.99. Cuvee Emile Willm Reserve, Alsace, France, 2005 $20.99. Belle Pente, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2005 $22.99
Restaurant Style Mashed potatoes
8 russet potatoes peeled and cut into 3rds
1.5 cups heavy cream
¼ cup unsalted butter
Note: The secret to great restaurant mashed potatoes is working with the potatoes while they’re hot and using a food mill or potato ricer. These are the mashed potatoes and gravy we will be serving on our thanksgiving buffet
Boil the potatoes until very soft , almost overcooked
If you want to make garlic mashed potatoes just take:
½ TBL Minced garlic and heat over medium-low heat with a pad of butter to sweat for about one minute.
Add, and melt ¼ cup of the butter with the cream in the pot with the garlic and keep warm until the potatoes are ready
Check the potatoes by sticking one with a knife. It should go right through
Strain the potatoes and place in a food mill. Grind the potatoes into a large bowl
Add the hot cream butter mixture and gently mix in with a rubber spachula
Season with kosher salt to taste ,do not over mix or the potatoes will become gummy
1 Tbls tomato paste
½ cup red wine
3 cups low sodium turkey stock including the pan drippings. (Measure the pan drippings then add canned or fresh turkey stock to equal 3 cups)
3 Tbls flour
2 Tbls unsalted butter
2 Tbls heavy cream
Assuming the turkey has been cooked and now you have a pan of roasted vegetables (carrots, onions, celery) and drippings. If you do not have the roasted vegetables sauté 1 cup of each in canola oil until caramelized and add to the roasting pan
1) Strain the liquid into a container and skim off any fat. then return the vegetables to the roasting pan and place on a stove top burner on medium heat
2) Add the tomato paste and sauté until it starts to brown, then add the red wine and reduce
3) Add the turkey stock and simmer for 5 minutes then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a container and reserve warm
4) In a medium size sauce pan on medium heat melt the butter then slowly whisk in the flour to form a roux.
5) When the roux is lightly brown slowly whisk in the hot turkey stock and simmer until you reach your desired thickness.
6) Stir in the cream and check the seasoning