Stump the Sommelier

Chefs create dishes with flavors that bedevil even the most knowledgeable sommelier.

Today’s ground-breaking chefs are dreaming up dishes with wide ranging flavor profiles that can bedevil even the most knowledgeable sommelier. Christopher Kostow’s Cod Roasted in Nori seaweed at Meadowood Napa Valley combines minerality, salinity, even a creamy sensation in the foam. That means sommelier Rom Toulon is free to “make a gut call on what he wants to play up and play down,” Chef Kostow acknowledges: “A chardonnay to focus the cream element, or something dryer to bring out the mineral quality.”

When A Voce sommelier Olivier Flosse pairs a summery Sicilian white with Chef Missy Robbins’ Crab and Sea Urchin Pasta, it highlights the brininess of the sea urchin and the sweetness of the crab. If he chooses a Sangiovese from Tuscany, “it creates a creaminess without ever using cream,” Chef Robbins observes.

Our “Pairings” sommeliers admit they sometimes test more than a dozen vintages with a new dish. The fun is in the long shots, so follow their lead by tasting several wines with each of these recipes: Focus on different ingredients; try wines that harmonize, then wines that contrast. True, this can open a door to disaster, but as Olivier Flosse discovered, it may also be an unexpected gateway to heaven.     

Chef: Missy Robbins 

Restaurant: A Voce
Funghi al Forno
Roasted Trumpet Royale Mushrooms with Fontina Fonduta

Serves 6

For the Fonduta:
1 quart cream
8 ounces fontina cheese
1 tsp truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the mushrooms:
12 Trumpet royal mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 sprigs thyme
16 slices truffles
8 bunches mache lettuce 

Prepare the Fonduta: Very slowly reduce cream to ¾ its original volume and thickened. In the meantime, grate fontina cheese on the large side of a box grater. Gradually begin to whisk cheese into the reduced cream. Continue whisking until all the cheese is melted and dissolved into the cream. Whisk in truffle oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a warm place.

Prepare the mushrooms: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel the outer layer from mushrooms and cut them in half lengthwise. Score the inner side of mushrooms with a knife in a crisscross pattern. Heat a large sauté pan to medium for about a minute and add olive oil. Place mushrooms in pan with scored side down and slowly cook until they begin to turn golden brown. Add butter, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to oven and cook until mushrooms are tender: 8-10 minutes.

 To Serve: Spoon fonduta onto a plate and place mushrooms on top. Garnish with mache and slices of preserved truffle.

Spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchin and crab
Serves 4

1.5 lbs. fresh pasta dough
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
6 ounces leeks, cut into small dice
2 ounces vermouth
½ cup chicken stock
8 ounces sea urchin
8 ounces Jonah crab meat, legs only
3 ounces butter
½ lemon zested and reserved for juice
1 pinch dried Calabrian chili

Equipment: Chitarra*

Prepare the Spaghetti: Roll out pasta dough into thin sheets using a hand cranked machine or kitchen aid attachment. Using a chitarra —a wooden stringed tool from Abruzzo—and a rolling pin, lay the sheets over the chitarra strings and “cut” the pasta into strands. Set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still slightly firm to the bite, 2-3 minutes.

Prepare the sea urchin and crab: Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil followed by the garlic. Sweat garlic lightly, then add leeks. Cook on low to medium heat until tender, then add vermouth. Add chicken stock immediately after vermouth and reduce slightly. Add sea urchin and break it up slightly. Add crab at the very end when dish is off the heat.

Combine spaghetti and sauce: Add cooked pasta to sauce with a touch of the pasta cooking water. Add butter and emulsify slowly into the sauce. Finish with lemon juice, lemon zest, chives and Calabrian chilies.

To serve: Divide pasta amongst the bowls and serve.

*Buy a chitarra from Sur La Tabla

Chef: Michael Mina

Restaurants: Mina Group
Miso-Marinated Black Cod
Shiitake Mushroom Broth
Shrimp Dumplings

Serves 4  

For the Fish and Marinade:
4-6 Ounce Black Cod Fillet Portions
¼ Pound Brown Sugar
¼ Pound Granulated (White) Sugar
½ Pound Yellow Miso Paste
¼ Cup Soy Sauce
1 Cup Cooking Sake
1 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar

For the Broth:
4 Pounds Button Mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 Large Yellow Onion, Peeled and Chopped
1 Cup White Wine
2 Quarts Quality Chicken Stock
2 Ounces Dried Shiitakes

For the Dumplings:
1 pound raw, peeled and deveined Shrimp
8 sprigs Cilantro, minced
2 Scallions
2 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package Wonton Wrappers
1 Egg, Beaten

For the Garnish:
8 Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms, quartered
¼ cup Mirin
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce

For Serving:
4 Baby Bok Choy, halved
1 Package Daikon Sprouts
1 Package Enoki Mushrooms, trimmed
Small handful fresh basil leaves, julienned

Marinate the Fish: Blend the sugars, miso paste, soy sauce, sake and vinegar. Pour this over the fish fillets. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the Broth: Preheat a 4 quart stockpot on the range. Add a small amount of cooking oil, when hot add button mushrooms and onion. Stir to coat vegetables with oil. Maintaining medium heat, stir frequently until vegetables are well caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. Add wine; cook until wine is nearly gone, about 10 minutes. Add chicken stock and dried shiitakes, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until a rich mushroom flavor develops (at least 2 hours). Strain stock through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Reserve.

Prepare the Dumplings: Purée shrimp, cilantro, scallions and Hoisin sauce in a food processor until fairly smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Dust a work surface lightly with flour. Lay out several wonton wrappers and coat with beaten egg using a brush. Spoon 1 teaspoon shrimp filling into the center of each wonton wrapper, fold dough over filling to make a half moon, pull both edges together and seal with a dab of egg to form a classic tortellini shape. Repeat with remaining ingredients and reserve.

Prepare the Shiitake mushroom garnish: De-stem and quarter Shiitake mushrooms, discard stems. Heat a small sauté pan with a bit of cooking oil and sauté mushrooms until some color is achieved. Deglaze pan with mirin and soy and reduce until cooking liquid coats the mushrooms and the pan is dry. Reserve.

Cook dumplings, put ingredients together and serve: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water well with salt. Place the top oven rack as high as possible and preheat the top of the oven to high heat. Place the four fish fillets on a baking sheet and spoon some marinade over each. Place the sheet on the top rack of the oven and with the oven door open, brown the fish under the broiler until a rich golden brown color is achieved. Place baking sheet on lower oven rack, reduce oven temperature to 350, and close oven door. Allow fish to bake until just cooked through, 5-10 minutes more. (If tail pieces are almost cooked by the broiling process alone, set them aside before transferring other pieces to the oven.) Meanwhile, bring the prepared broth to a boil in a clean stock pot. Toss tortellini dumplings and bok choy into boiling water. Cook three minutes. Drain and divide amongst four large, preheated bowls. Place a piece of cooked fish into the center of each bowl. Garnish with daikon sprouts, enoki mushrooms, cooked shiitakes and basil julienne. Pour 6 ounces of hot shiitake mushroom broth over each dish and serve.

Chef: Christopher Kostow

Restaurant: Meadowood Napa Valley
Cod Roasted in Nori with Ocean Froth
Serves 4

4 portions Black Cod
2 sheets Nori, crumbled in a food processor
1 qt cream
1 dozen clams
1 dozen oysters
Sea salt to taste
2 large leeks
1 tablespoon butter

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for cooking Cod (Chef Kostow favors Olave brand): Season the Cod well with crumbled Nori. Allow to ‘temper’ or sit until it loses its refrigerator chill. Combine cream, clams, shucked oysters and their liquor in a small pot. Allow to simmer until clams open. Strain, season with sea salt and reserve. Slice leeks into very fine rounds and blanch quickly in boiling salted water. Melt butter in a small pan and sauté leeks. Heat another pan, add oil and cook cod until done. (About three minutes on each side, depending upon thickness.) Divide leeks into four portions and place in the bottom of four bowls; place one portion of cod on top of each. Using a frother, froth the cream and spoon it around each portion of cod.

Chef : Alain Ducasse; Chef : Didier Elena 

Restaurant: Adour Alain Ducasse at The St. Regis New York
With his executive chefs around the world, Alain Ducasse uses local and seasonal ingredients to create versions of this vegetable dish unique to each restaurant.
Braised Savoy Cabbage Cookpot
Serves 4

For the Mushroom Duxelles:
1 Medium white onion, chopped (for whole recipe)
2 lb white mushrooms, cleaned and cubed
2 ounces Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for whole recipe)
1 garlic clove, crushed
A few turns of freshly ground pepper 

For the cabbage:
2 large Savoy cabbages
8 cloves of garlic, 7 sliced, one left whole
4 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
2 pinches of salt
A few turns of pepper
14 ounces white wine
16 ounces pork jus (pork stock)
2 lbs fresh raw pork sausage
8 ounces chicken stock

Equipment: 4 covered baking dishes, approximately 8”-10” in diameter if rectangular, 10”-12” in diameter if round. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the Mushroom Duxelles: Fry ½ of the chopped onion for 2 minutes in a sauté pan with a little olive oil and a crushed clove of garlic. Cover and let cook for 3 minutes, keeping some of the moisture. Remove the clove of garlic; add a few turns of freshly ground pepper and reserve.

Prepare the Cabbage: Remove outer leaves and blanch cabbages in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Shock in ice water and reserve. Remove cores from cabbages and chop the inner leaves. In a cast iron pot, sweat olive oil, 7 cloves of garlic and the other 1/2 onion over medium heat for 4 minutes. (Be careful not to allow them to take on any color.) Add chopped cabbage, thyme, salt, pepper and white wine; cook until wine has been cooked off: approximately 15 minutes. Add 8 ounces of pork jus, cover, cook for approximately 25 minutes. Remove sausage meat from its casing and combine with cabbage mixture. Form mixture into four even balls. Wrap each portion with a blanched outer cabbage leaf. Reserve in refrigerator.

Prepare the Cookpot or Baking Dishes: Rub bottoms of the four covered baking dishes with the last clove of garlic and add mushroom duxelles. Place one cabbage leaf covered meatball into each baking dish, then divide remaining pork jus and chicken stock evenly between all four dishes.

To Cook: Cover and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.

* Cookpot. For his signature dish, Chef Alain Ducasse has designed a Cookpot with Pierre Tachon of the historic French porcelain company Pillivuyt. While authentic Cookpots are available for purchase at Alain Ducasse restaurants, home cooks can substitute any covered baking dish.

Published on September 7, 2010



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