Pairings: Hors D'Oeuvres That Sparkle
Because everyone loves snacking on finger foods while sipping a glass of Champagne, we offer an array of bubbly-friendly hors d'oeuvres that are perfect for any occasion.
Hors D'Oeuvres That Sparkle
Delectable bites to munch while sipping the bubbly can range far beyond oysters and caviar.
My idea of a great cocktail party does not include cocktails: It calls for Champagne, and plenty of it, along with an interesting range of tantalizing hors d'oeuvres. Oysters make a nice match, especially small sweet ones like Kumomotos. Wide curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are another classic pairing, as is caviar, which is particularly nice on whole-wheat blinis with crème frâiche. But it's fun to explore other options as well.
Traditional wisdom tells us what not to serve with the sparkling stuff: anything too strongly flavored, with lemon, vinaigrette, garlic and strong spices being major culprits. The real key to making food compatible with Champagne is subtlety. You can put a little lemon in a marinade or add in a touch of garlic without ruining the pairing. Adapt a recipe that calls for peppers by using only a quarter of the pepper amount called for, then replace another half with celery for crunch, and round it out with some chopped mild fruit.
For flavors that are compatible with sparkling wines, read the descriptors used by experienced tasters (see this issue's Buying Guide for a good selection) and incorporate those flavors—vanilla, mango and bread, among others—into your cooking. Keep in mind, however, that as with any food and wine pairing, using too much of a flavor will overpower and mask the wine.
This summer I was one of the judges in a Champagne-and-hors-d'oeuvres pairing competition aboard some spectacular yachts in Newport, Rhode Island, sponsored by Showboats International magazine and Charles Heidsieck Champagne, and it yielded excellent examples of what to do—and what not to do. Chefs from the dozens of yachts arrayed for the annual show—all of which are available for charter, some for upwards of $100,000 per week—were asked to suggest menus, with eight dishes chosen for the competition. A few of the chefs developed their recipes based on wine descriptors they'd been given by event organizers rather than their own tastebuds, which yielded some odd combinations (e.g., jerk pork with lavender) that totally wiped out the Champagne.
The winners, on the other hand, called on some ingredients one might not normally think of, in combinations that were palate-pleasing and ever so appropriate with the libations: lamb chops with balsamic vinegar and mango chutney; tuna tartare with radish, mango and parsley potato chips; a "Nantucket Bucket" of lobster, shrimp, asparagus, Gruyère cheese, mushrooms and pignoli, served on toast. The judges' favorite was a combination of shrimp, mango, green chilies, cilantro, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pignoli and blue corn.
Ultimately, the size of the yacht didn't relate to the winning recipes (a cheery thought for those of us without mansions and kitchen staff). Third-place winner Bridgett Campbell is chef and first mate aboard the motor sailer Blue Eagle, which has three small cabins and an eat-in kitchen, and is captained by her husband. Second place went to Daniel Escarament of the $35,000-a-week yacht Cookie Monster, a broad-beamed comfortable boat with rooms the size of what you'd see in a house. And winning chef Kimberly Hicks was on her maiden voyage aboard Eastern Star, a converted commercial boat with houseboat-like looks that charters as a floating inn (recipes follow).
Tradition calls for the lightest nonvintage Champagnes and sparklers to be served before dinner: usually fresh and elegant nonvintage brut, blanc de blancs or Prosecco. But using livelier ingredients in your hors d'oeuvres—especially if your Champagne party is an end in itself rather than a means of passing the time until dinner—lets you bring in more powerful vintage Champagne and blanc de noirs. And, if you emphasize sweeter flavors, some rosés and demi-secs work well. Cheers!
From chef Daniel Escarament of the yacht Cookie Monster
One dosen't often think of lamb chops as hors d'oeuvres, but properly frenched rib chops do come with their own handles. (Ask your butcher to do this for you.) The combination of slightly sweet and sllightly sour flavors in this recipe suits it perfectly to dry yet slightly fruity Champagnes.
|Green Chili and Cilantro Pesto with Shrimp and Mango in Blue corn Cups|
From chef Kimberly Hicks of the yacht Eastern Star
Preheat oven to 350Â°F. Spread shrimp mixture evenly on a sheet pan and bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. When it reaches room temperature, mix in diced mango.
To make cups: In a standing mixer or by hand, beat cream cheese and butter until soft. Beat in dry ingredients, but be careful not to overwork. Coat three mini muffin tins (36 cups) with nonstick cooking spray. Place 1 level tablespoon of the blue corn mixture into each prepared cup; press to coat the bottom and sides with dough. You should have enough dough to make at least 36 cups. Bake in a preheated 350Â°F oven for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. To assemble: Roll shrimp mixture into small balls and place into cups (or simply spoon the mixture into the cups). Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs. Makes about 36.
Adapted from a recipe in Hors d'Oeuvres by Eric Treville and Victoria Blashford-Snell (DK Publishing, NY, 1999)
These rich sables—a cross between cookies and crackers (what the British would call savory biscuits)—allow you to bring together Parmesan and Champagen, a match made in heaven.
Preheat oven to 350Â°F. Brush sables with egg mixture and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake til golden brown, approximately 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 40.
|Tantalizing Tuna Tartare with Parsley Potato Chips|
From chef Bridgett Campbell of the yacht Blue Eagle.
This recipe, which will work with a range of Champagnes, can be used as an hors d'oeuvre toping, a dip, or even a lunch salad.
For the chips:
To make tartare: Cut tuna into 1/2-inch cubes. In a medium-size bowl, mix together tuna, celery, radishes, chicken stock, parsley, onion, salt, pepper and mango chutney. Refrigerate.