As nights lengthen and temperatures drop, many of us find that our tastes adapt to the season. We seek comfort and warmth in hearty foods and warming beverages. Here are some suggestions for dishes and wines that will add cheer to your winter evenings.
Chicken and Dumplings – Monterey Chardonnay
Among the most underrated dishes in America, we’ve all had chicken and dumplings – but when was the last time you made it? With the right recipe and quality ingredients, you can make a one-pot meal that will blow your dinner companions away and leave you feeling satisfied and comforted. Pair the classic dish with Chardonnay from Monterey County in California – home to vineyards with an increasing reputation for excellence. These wines have the full body and oaky, buttery characteristics you’d expect from California Chardonnay but remain vibrant due to slightly elevated levels of acidity. Monterey experiences cool evenings and nights that lead to a fresh, crisp style of wine.
Southern-Style Collards – Cabernet Franc
For many of us, soft-cooked greens call to mind the mushy, bland green stuff we used to try to avoid as kids. I’d argue that’s because those greens weren’t cooked the right way. If you can find an old southern recipe with plenty of fat and salt, you’ll discover what these greens are all about. Some of the best recipes call for a ham bone or bacon and an all-day simmer. Given that collards are grown year-round in most of the country, they can provide vegetable nourishment and culinary pleasure even in the dead of winter. Pair collards with the grape Cabernet Franc – a genetic parent of Cabernet Sauvignon that features a purple color and dark berry flavors with a hint of vegetable greenness. You can find excellent Cabernet Franc in France’s Loire Valley and New World sources like California and Australia.
Deep Dish Pizza – Brunello
Chicago-style deep dish pizza has been controversial in the food world, with New York pizza fans denying that it can be considered pizza at all. Some argue that, with all of its layers, it’s more like lasagna. I’m not here to weigh in on the debate except to say that I enjoy both styles. Winter weather makes me hungry for filling, satisfying deep dish pizza in particular. Normally, I would recommend saving Brunello for expensive, “fancy” meals since it’s relatively expensive and collectible, but in this case, I think you should go for it. Pull out one of your special bottles of Brunello for this occasion. For those not already familiar, Brunello is a wine from Tuscany made from the Sangiovese grape. It’s often referred to as the “king of wines” and boasts an impressive reputation for complexity, richness, and ability to age well. Brunello features a vast array of flavors including dark and red fruits, exotic spices, herbs, aromatic woods, and earthy, forest notes. If you keep any eye out, you can occasionally find great deals on Brunello allowing you to stock up for your mid-winter pizza party.
Salisbury Steak – Bordeaux Supérieur
The salisbury steak is named for a medical doctor, James Salisbury, who served Union troops during the Civil War. He believed that meat was the most important part of a healthy diet and developed the salisbury steak in an effort to maintain the health of his patients. Fortunately for us, salisbury steaks are delicious regardless of culinary philosophy. The classic version features ground meat – primarily beef – cooked in gravy and served with mushrooms and mashed potatoes. A slow simmered pot of salisbury steak is irresistible on a cold winter’s night. Serve along with a bottle of Bordeaux Supérieur, a French designation for basic wines from the Bordeaux region. They are among the most affordable red blends from the area and can be found in a wide range of styles. Many producers of Bordeaux Supérieur offer quality far beyond the price tag. Generally, they are made from a blend of grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in a dry, tannic style that will provide an excellent counterpoint to your salisbury steak.
Ribollita – Bolgheri Red Blend
This Tuscan soup is made from a variety of ingredients but usually features dark greens like kale, beans, and winter vegetables like carrots, parsnips, potatoes, etc. The most iconic ingredient in ribollita is bread. Traditionally, people would continue to add stale, dried bread to the soup over multiple days, reboiling it each time – thus the name “ribollita,” or “reboiled.” The texture becomes thicker each day until the dish is consumed and a new batch is made. Few vegetarian dishes are as hearty, filling, and economical as ribollita in the cold winter months. Serve this classic Tuscan dish with a Tuscan wine from the Bolgheri area where they make Bordeaux-style blends from red grapes. Look for the term “Super Tuscan,” and you’re likely to find a full-bodied wine with plenty of structure and intense flavors, from berry and plum to baking spice and oak.
Hopefully, these ideas for winter food and wine will help you to celebrate and savor the cold season to get you through until spring. Enjoy!