Alsatian whites love a big entree
Date: Tuesday, February 20 @ 07:05:02 MST
Follow the Froggies: Alsace gastronomy.
Except for late-harvest dessert wines, the white wines of Alsace are almost always very dry and medium- to full-bodied with palate-coating flavors. They have flowery aromas of apple, yellow plum, peach and citrus, coupled with deeper notes of mineral, petroleum, stone and chalk.
The wines are moderate in alcohol, but not as low as the neighboring German whites, nor are they as bracingly crisp. The Alsatian white wines in our tasting included Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner and Riesling. These wines are austere when young but much fuller and fruitier when aged.
According to Alsatian tradition, Sylvaner is appropriate for sausages and shellfish, while Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are best for appetizers, chicken cooked in sauce, pork and game birds. Gewurtztraminer's best matches are very rich foods such as foie gras, quiche, goose, duck and sausages. Riesling is considered the lord of Alsatian whites and may be served throughout the meal. Its crisp acidity stands up well to rich foods such as smoked fish, shellfish and game birds.
Alsace, on France's northeastern border with Germany and bordered by the Rhine River, is known for freshwater fish like trout, carp, perch and crayfish, poultry and game birds such as pheasant, as well as excellent ham, pork and sausages. The esteemed classic of the region is choucroute garni, wine-cooked sauerkraut embellished with smoked pork and sausages. It can be a pretty substantial dish, ideal for cold weather.
I wanted a menu that would work with all of the wines on the table. We started out with smoked trout paté, a perfect match for our Pinot Blanc. Then a celery root soup topped with crumbled bacon. Next came baby leeks with hazelnut, citrus and balsamic vinaigrette, scattered with chopped hard-cooked eggs and a few nuts, which was well set off by a Sylvaner.
For the piece de resistance, I resurrected an old recipe from my cooking school days for choucroute cooked in Riesling with raisins, carrots and pineapple, and paired with game birds.
I used Clausen's sauerkraut found in the refrigerated section of the market and added the fresh pineapple to the traditional marinade in order to pick up the fruit and acid in the wine.
Originally the recipe was for pheasant but I used Cornish game hens instead, as they are easier to find at the market, and less costly. (If you wanted to go crazy you could add mild sweet sausage and chunks of ham to the dish as well, but we were trying to keep the recipe a bit lighter.)
The slow cooking of the choucroute with the bacon pairs well with the wine's fruit. The tart-sweet pineapple bridges the richness of the poultry and bacon and echoes the tartness in the wine and sauerkraut. Both the Riesling and Sylvaner worked well with this dish.
Friday, January 26, 2007