Escaping With Flavor
Harvesting pairing insight (and a recipe) from the Great Wine Escape Finale.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Amid the cornucopia at Sunday’s Grand Finale of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association’s Great Wine Escape Weekend, I was on a mission: to unravel the mysteries of pairing Asian cuisine with wine. And I had no better accomplice than Chef Kevin Boyle of Umalu Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, who was flown in specially to showcase Pacific Rim flavors.
A profusion of Monterey County wineries plus a dozen local restaurants packed two ballrooms at the new Hotel InterContinental, The Clement Monterey. There on a stage, Boyle was busy plating samples of lavender-seared pork tenderloin with Maui gold pineapple chutney and Okinawan sweet potato mash. Each bite of faintly floral pork was delicately enrobed by the tart and spicy chutney; the multiple flavors went down delightfully with the creamy, coconutty sweet potato mash (see recipe, this page).
And the perfect wine to go with this dish? “Pinot Noir is at the top of the list,” said Boyle, lifting his glass. “But this dish could hold up to any light red or a big, bolder white like Chardonnay, Fumé Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc.”
With this dish, the tannic acid in a heavier red wine would compete with the vinegar and the vegetables (fresh vegetables contain tannins as well), he continued: “The tannins will beat each other up.”
In the same vein, robust Asian flavors like pungent fish sauce, tart lime juice and palate-scorching chilies are culinary forces to be reckoned with, so white wines are often recommended over tannic reds. But not always.
Thanh Truong, chef-owner of An Choi, an Asian fusion restaurant in Pacific Grove, recommended Pinot Noir with their peppery shaken beef and Cabernet Sauvignon for their house crispy duck with orange sauce. Gewurtzraminer is one of Truong’s overall favorites.
I sampled Ventana Vineyard’s Gewurtzraminer with An Choi’s Vietnamese chicken salad (green and purple cabbage slaw tossed with Thai basil, mint and a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice and cilantro). The wine and the citrus in the salad played sweet-and-sour see-saw in my mouth until they settled into a nice balance.
Morgan Vineyards’ Highland Chardonnay also got rave reviews. “We don’t do too much oak,” Morgan’s Jan Neilson explained. Only 25 percent of each batch is fermented in new oak barrels, while two-thirds undergoes malolactic fermentation, the process where tart-tasting malic acid (naturally present in grape must) is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. Malolactic fermentation causes wines to lose acidity and finish, the very characteristics that complement Asian flavors. “[Our winemaking process] results in a clean, crisp flavor and a good acidity that pairs well with Asian flavors such as cilantro,” Neilson said.
She also suggests their Sauvignon Blanc for a variety of Asian dishes. “You can taste more richness than a regular Sauvignon Blanc,” she said. “Sémillon adds interest with different pretty, floral aromas.” Or one of their Syrahs – which “exhibit notes of violet, clove and cinnamon” – with a spicy curry.
LAVENDER PORK TENDERLOIN with Maui Gold Pineapple Chutney and Okinawan Sweet Potato Mash
Courtesy of Chef Kevin Boyle, Umalu Restaurant, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa. Chef Boyle recommends using organic pork or, better yet, Kurobuta or Berkshire pork from a superior breed of black hogs. Estimate 1 pound of pork for 2 people.
Gourmet Lavender Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried culinary lavender buds 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
Pineapple chutney (recipe follows) Okinawan Sweet Potato Mash (recipe follows)
Rub pork with the lavender seasoning.
Sear pork in a stovetop grill pan (or a nonstick skillet) until lightly browned on all sides, turning occasionally with tongs. Transfer to an oven at 200°F and roast until a meat thermometer inserted into center registers 140°F. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes.
When ready to serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick medallions. The center should still be pinkish. Drizzle with pineapple chutney and serve with sweet potato mash.
1 red pepper, finely chopped 1 red onion, finely chopped 1 jalapeño, minced (or to taste) 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 1 small Maui gold pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into medium cubes 2 cups rice wine vinegar 1/2 cup sweet Thai chili sauce, strained to remove chili flecksIn a medium saucepan, sauté peppers, onion, jalapeño and ginger in a little oil until soft. Add pineapple followed by rice wine vinegar and chili sauce and simmer until pineapple has softened up and the mixture has cooked down to a thick, jam-like consistency, about 2 hours.
Okinawan Sweet Potato Mash
Okinawan sweet potatoes are a unique Hawaiian root vegetable. The purple tuber is not so easy to find on the mainland, but sweet potatoes are a worthy stand-in.
5 pounds sweet potatoes, steamed until tender and peeled 1 pint coconut milk 1 cup heavy cream 4 ounces butter salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer with a wire whisk attachment and whisk until smooth and creamy.