Many of us grew up in households where wine was served strictly on special occasions. Master sommelier Andrea Immer's latest book, "Everyday Dining With Wine" is directed toward changing our approach to wine and showing us that wine need not be saved for a special meal. It can spice up an average weeknight meal, too. She showed how on The Early Show.
Immer believes that the Europeans have one up on us. Unlike Americans, the French, Italians, and Spanish believe in enjoying wine on a daily basis. She believes that the American idea of saving wine for special meals is antiquated...and results in Americans being intimidated by wine. Her latest book provides recipes that are designed to make a persuasive argument that wine can be enjoyed with almost every meal.
Most of the recipes were created with busy people in mind; most require about 30 minutes, which will leave you a little bit of time to savor your meal and wine. Most of the recipes also feature affordable, easy-to-find ingredients, but she does throw in the occasional foie gras and lobster for those who are looking for a special meal for your loved ones.
SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH CORN TORTILLA STRIPS AND MONTERY JACK
SERVES FOUR The toasted corn flavor of the tortillas make this classic Tex-Mex dish a natural with Australian and New Zealand Chardonnays that have lots of ripe fruit but not too much oak. It just goes to show that even the simplest of dinners can be improved on and enjoyed with wine. Canned chipotle chilies, available at many supermarkets and Latin groceries, give these eggs a hint of smoky heat, but fresh jalapeno may be substituted if you like.
Wine Recommendations: New Zealand Chardonnay, Brancott, Kumeu River, Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford "Un-oaked"; Australian Chardonnay, Lindenmans Bin 65, Rosemount Diamond Label, Omrah "Un-oaked"
Three 6-inch corn tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 canned chipotle chile, finely chopped, or
1/2 jalepeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 small plum tomato, cored and finely chopped
3 ounces Moterey Jack or mild Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut each tortilla in half and then cut each half into 3 triangles. Brush a baking sheet with the vegetable oil. Spread the tortilla wedges in a single layer on the sheet and bake, turning once, until pale golden and just beginning to crisp, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Break up the triangles into smaller bite-size pieces.
- Crack the eggs into a medium bowl. Add the salt, pepper, and milk and beat with a fork until the eggs areare a uniform yellow color with no streaks of white.
- Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and chile and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Pour in the eggs and cook, slowly pushing them from one side of the pan to the other with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, lifting and folding the eggs as they cook. When the eggs begin to form curds, but have not yet cooked through, about 1 minute, stir in the tortilla pieces, tomato, cheese, and cilantro, if desired. Continue to cook until the eggs are solidified but not dry and the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Serve immediately.
SERVES SIX AS A FIRST COURSE Here is a festive first course or one-plate meal, simple and fun but special because it's made with bubbly. Mussels and sparkling wine are natural partners: The crispness of the wine brings out the briny-sweet taste of the shellfish. But the mussels are not the only wine-loving ingredients here. A humble garnish of crushed sourdough pretzels toasted in browned butter has a yeasty-toasty flavor, similar to the yeasty-toasty flavor that traditionally made bubbly acquires from aging on yeast cells after the second fermentation.
Considering that mussels are among the least expensive items at the seafood market, you may not want to spend a fortune on bubbly. A value choice is Spanish Cava, a sparkling wine that is especially suited to this dish because its herbaceousness (provided by the Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo grapes) picks up on the chervil/tarragon in the mussel broth.
Wine Recommendations: Spanish Cava, Freixenet Carta Nevada, Paul Cheneau Brut; California Sparkling Wine, Domaine Carneros Brut
2 pounds mussels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sourdough pretzel crumbs, crushed in a blender or food processor
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 cup Champagne or sparkling Wine
1/2 cup fish stock or bottled clam juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil or tarragon
- Clean the mussels by scrubbing their shells with a brush while rinsing under cold running water. If necessary, use a paring knife to tug and cut out the weedy beards coming out of the bottom of the shells. Pick through the mussels and discard any with broken or open shells that won't close when you tap them.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides and the butter just begins to brown, add the crushed pretzels and toss to coat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the crumbs are crisped, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Heat a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mussels, shallot, garlic, and tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes and then add the Champagne and the fish stock and continue cooking and stirring until the shells open, about another 4 minutes. Transfer the mussels to serving bowls with a slotted spoon and continue to simmer the liquid to reduce it slightly, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
- Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Stir in the chervil. Pour the broth over the mussels, sprinkle pretzel crumbs over each portion, and serve immediately.
SERVES SIX You can use leftover Shiraz to roast the pears, but to drink with the dish, try a big, gamy Australia), because they offer a lot of complexity for the money. I typically serve this as a cheese course in a multicourse meal, which is the point at which I'd serve the biggest wine of the night. (If you'd like to go all French, I've included some Rhone recommendations, too.)
If good-quality French Roquefort is not available, Stilton and Maytag Blue are good alternatives. The pears may be poached in advance, removed from their liquid, and stored in an airtight container. To serve, bring the pears to room temperature before stuffing with the cheese, and reheat the poaching liquid before spooning it around the pears.
Wine Recommendations: Shiraz-Cab Blends, Penfolds Koonunga Hill, Penfolds Bin 389; Shier-Grenache-Mourvendre Blends, D'Arenberg Red Ochre, Rosemount GSM; French Red Cotes du Rhone, Jaboulet Parallele 45, Guigal, Chapoutier
2 cups Shiraz
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 small, ripe pears such as Forelle, French butter, or Bosc
1 1/2 ounces Roquefort, or other creamy blue cheese
- Combine the wine, vinegar, sugar, and pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.
- While the liquid is reducing, using a sharp paring knife or a vegetable peeler with a swivel blade, cut in a circle around the blossom end of each pear deeply enough to remove the core while leaving the pear intact.
- Place the pears upright in the poaching liquid. The liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the pears. Return to a simmer, and poach until the bottoms of the pears are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 20 minutes. The tops of the pears will remain fairly firm.
- Remove the pears from the liquid with a large slotted spoon and place on a platter. Leaving the stems intact, cut a 1/2-inch-deep vertical slit into the top of each pear. Cut another slit perpendicular to the first to make a cross-shaped opening. With the tip of a knife, gently pry open the slits and tuck about 1/2 teaspoon of Roquefort cheese in each opening. The cheese will poke through the opening a bit, like a filling.
- Place 1 pear on each of 6 rimmed plates or bowls, and spoon some of the poaching liquid around each pear. Or arrange the pears on a large, rimmed serving platter and spoon the liquid around them. Serve immediately.