Friday, September 2, 2011

Chicken & Squash Curry with Riesling, a Summer of Riesling Pairing

Food and wine pairing is fun to do in an experimental way because you never know what is going to happen and you have to be ready for both success and failure. Luckily a came out on the success side with this pairing for my enjoyment of the 2011 Summer of Riesling.

I included the Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve 2009 Riesling based on my past experiences with their Grand Reserve Chardonnay and expectations that they produce equally enjoyable Rieslings. That’s a risk in itself, but one that as I alluded to above, I was prepared to be on either side of. As it has been with quite a few of my Summer of Riesling wines, the wine is accessible to many and has a reasonable price point, $11.99 at my local store, making it a solid everyday recommendation.

Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve 2009 Riesling

Dry stone, apricot and tropical notes in the nose. Very light on the palate, sweet but not very at all. On the palate I picked up citrus flowers and a spicy element that moves back and forth between spices (ginger, cinnamon and the like) and minerality. The finish is smooth and clean. Overall none of the elements of the wine are pushy so a balance is there making it a very approachable wine.

The wine is not a 100% varietal bottling, and has Chardonnay, Gewurtraminer, Viognier and Muscat Canelli also in the mix. An interesting blend to be sure. KJ doesn’t bottle a straight Riesling which if available would be interesting to contrast with this wine.

The next chance I took was attempting a pairing without having had the wine yet. That’s where the fun comes in. I knew it had some residual sugar so using spices in the dish it would be paired with was the first thing that came to mind.

How about a Chicken & Squash Curry? The Indian spices would offer that zippy vector and the creamy, slightly sweet squash would get a boost from the fruit and sugar in the wine. Here’s the recipe I pulled together from several ideas and some of past experiences with making Indian food at home.

Chicken & Squash Curry

For chicken preparation:
1 lb boneless chicken, cubed
½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp olive oil
Dash of salt
Dash of black pepper

For the curry:
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
½ jalapeno, minced
4 Tbps butter
½ Orange Buttercup Squash, peeled, cleaned & cubed
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 can light coconut milk
4 oz pineapple juice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp cornstarch & water to mix
2 Tbsp cilantro paste

6 servings of Basmati rice cooked with water and 2 Tbsp cumin seeds

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Begin to brown the chicken in the oil. Add the spices and cook until no pink is visible and spices are fragrant. Remove from heat

Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onion, pepper, ginger, and garlic. Sautee until the onions begin to brown. Add the jalapeno, squash, curry powder, Garam Masala, fish sauce, lime juice and toss to coat. Add the coconut milk, pineapple juice and broth. Increase the heat to bring the curry to a boil. Once boiling add the chicken and reduce the heat to med-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Some of the liquid will boil off and the curry will begin to thicken. Add the cornstarch and water and increase the heat to continue to thicken it. Cook for another 10 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and mix in the cilantro paste. Serve over the hot rice with Indian flatbread and/or appetizer items like Pakora and Samosa.

The pairing of the curry and the wine really did work. Here’s why. Both the wine and food retained their unique attributes when taken together with neither of them getting smothered by the other. The spices in the curry and the sweetness in the wine were balanced against each other. The amount of black pepper (in the Garam Masala too), use of standard non-spicy curry powder and restraint on the jalapeno produced a mild curry where a good deal of spice came from the ginger. I think the limited residual sugar of the wine found a good home here. The fruit in the wine tasted great up against the meaty flesh of the squash which had gotten soft but wasn’t outright falling apart. The manageable acidity and clean finish of the wine helped with the creamy density in the curry from both the coconut milk and the squash.

A success! I was very happy with this pairing experiment and even if it hadn’t gone well, both the food and the wine have considerable merit on their own so nothing would have been lost in this.

Are you enjoying the Summer of Riesling? If not, consider taking a Riesling for a spin over the Labor Day Weekend. There are so many to choose from and quite a few aren’t the simple plonk that Riesling’s reputation often suggests.




Viviane Bauquet Farre said...

Yum! You have a spectacular arrangement of flavors in this dish - busy, but not too complicated to thoroughly enjoy! Well done.

Tastemonials said...

I'm going to try your recipe. We opened a bottle of Reisling last night and need something to go with the rest of it. This sounds like a good pairing.