Whether it’s a simple dinner to serve the family or a more sophisticated dish to prepare for company, using a little wine to add rich flavour can turn an uninspired dish into something very special.
These are both simple recipes, enlivened with the use of a dollop of fine Okanagan wine and fresh herbs.
I’m loving the chives that have popped up, as well as the new, baby leaves of tarragon, oregano, parsley, thyme and lemon balm. I do miss the fresh herbs through winter.
Wine, however, is not seasonal, so we can enjoy it both with and in our meals throughout the year.
This week marks the beginning of the 10-day Spring Okanagan Wine Festival, May 2 to 12, with dozens of events around the valley, including many wine and food pairing opportunities.
It kicks off with the Best of Varietal Awards in Penticton May 2 and continues the next two evenings with the Westjet Wine Tastings at the Rotary Centre in Kelowna, 7 to 9:30 p.m.
In the Central Okanagan, there are a number of wine trails, where a group of wineries can be visited during a day to taste their offerings and see how they grow the grapes and make wine. They range from Lake Country to East Kelowna, the Mission area to West Kelowna and include some world class wineries, a number of which offer either full meals as well, or light food to enjoy with a glass of wine.
Many local restaurants have also hopped on board to highlight local B.C. VQA wines paired with their food.
Sommelier Paul Clark is an entertaining and knowledgeable guide into pairing wine with food, and he’s offering a series of sessions at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort, beginning with Sinful Pairings of Chocolate and Wine May 4 and 11; Tour of the Valley May 5; Art of Pairing Cheese and Wine May 7; Sweet and Savoury May 9 and a Sunday Bubbles Brunch May 5. Contact the Grand Bay Cafe at the hotel for details.
For entertainment and wine, try the Gourmet & Grapes with an Iron Chef Throw Down at Cabana Bar and Grille May 5, featuring some of the valley’s best wineries and chefs.
Or, on May 10 support aspiring chefs by attending the The Cheesiest Sweet and Savoury Competition at Okanagan College to taste and sip, then vote for your favourites.
For more fabulous food, join celebrity chefs Ned Bell and Matt Batey at Mission Hill Family Estate for a Spring Epicurean Dinner featuring local foods; or eat amongst the barrels of aging wine at Quails’ Gate for delicious local food and wines, and a winemakers’ tour and barrel tasting.
Nearby, a new restaurant opens at Volcanic Hills with East Indian cuisine at Lazeez Saturday afternoon, May 11.
Alternatively, make your own wine-paired meal from recipes in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, available at many local wine boutiques as well as bookstores, and including wine pairing notes by esteemed wine writer John Schreiner.
Chicken in Wine
This is my simplified version of a French classic. I generally use chicken thighs because they’re so tasty and can be purchased at a reasonable price. Don’t be intimidated by the use of wine; use more or less wine and chicken stock, depending on your taste. This would be excellent paired with a B.C. VQA cabernet sauvignon.
2 lb. (1 kg) chicken parts
drizzle of olive oil
1-2 tbsp. (15-30 ml) butter
1/2 lb. (227 g) mushrooms
8 small onions
1 stalk celery
2 tbsp. (30 ml) flour
1 1/2 c. (375ml) red wine
1/2 c. (125 ml) chicken stock
1 tsp. (5 ml) tarragon
1 tsp. (5 ml) thyme
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh parsley
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Remove all skin and visible fat from the chicken parts.
Briefly brown them in a skim of oil flavoured with a dab of butter in a Dutch oven or deep frypan.
Meanwhile, cut large mushrooms into quarters, but leave small ones whole. Leave tiny onions whole, but cut larger ones into chunks. Trim and chop celery and carrots.
Remove the chicken from the pot.
Soften the onions and mushrooms in the oil remaining in the pot and add flour, stirring for a few minutes until it’s bubbly.
Add a robust, dry, red wine and stir over medium-high heat until it bubbles, is reduced by about one third and thickens. Add hot chicken stock.
Return chicken to the pot and add herbs, garlic, celery, carrots and salt and pepper, to taste.
Cover and put into the oven for about half an hour, or simmer, covered, on top of the stove, stirring regularly, for the same length of time.
Check chicken for doneness, taste for seasoning and serve over brown rice, whole wheat pasta or small whole, steamed potatoes.
Codfather’s Lobster Risotto
This recipe of chef Tyler Groenestyn’s is rich and creamy and delicious. Codfather’s lobster stock is really yummy and would be lovely in a chowder too. Master of Wine Rhys Pender of WinePlus recommends pairing this with the Quails Gate chardonnay, and he knows his wines!
2 lobster tails
4 c. (1 l) Codfather’s lobster stock
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
1 c. (250 ml) arborio or carnarolli rice
1/2 c. (125 ml) white wine
4 oz. (114 g) butter
1/2 c. (125 ml) fresh parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh tarragon
Cook the lobster tails in simmering salted water for six to eight minutes. Remove the meat from the shells and cut it into one-inch pieces.
Heat lobster stock and keep it warm over low heat.
Mince shallots and garlic.
Heat a pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Cook shallots and garlic until translucent.
Add rice and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, turning about in the pot.
Add half the lobster stock and cook, continuously stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Add the remainder of the stock a quarter-cup at a time, continuously stirring, until all the stock has been used.
Taste the rice to ensure it is cooked all the way through.
Add the cut-up, cooked lobster meat, butter and grated, fresh parmesan cheese. Fold it all together until it is fully mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish with chopped fresh tarragon.