Alternative Thanksgiving Wines

Alternative Thanksgiving Wines

The tried and true pours of Thanksgiving—Zinfandel, Beaujolais—have a rightful place alongside the traditional dishes of the season. Fruity and aromatic, they’re a beautiful complement to poultry, vegetables and more. But consider these other exceptional wines in your holiday planning this year, along with some bolder recipes beyond turkey to shake things up at the 2009 table.

Wine: Herdade do Esporao 2008 Verdelho (Alentejano); $16
Recipe: Crispy Fried Artichoke

This recipe is adapted from Anna Dente Ferracci’s recipe for whole fried artichokes served at her restaurant, Osteria di San Cesario, outside of Rome, Italy. Known as Sora (“sister”) Anna, this celebrated chef and her mother, Sora Maria, are queens of the Italian fried artichoke.

10 tender, small artichokes with stalks
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
4 cups (1-liter bottle) extra virgin olive oil
Flour, for coating

To prepare the artichokes: With the artichoke on its side, cut off the top half and discard. You should see tender yellow leaves and the pink spiky choke at the center. Snap off the tough dark green outer leaves until you reach the tender ones. With a knife, slice off the woody skin on the outside of the stock, leaving about two inches from the base. Cut the artichoke into halves, then quarters and remove any thistly parts. Cut into eighths or thin wedges and place in a large bowl of water with freshly squeezed lemon juice. (Artichokes oxidize when cut and putting them in lemon water will stop them from turning brown.)

To fry the artichokes: Pour the olive oil into a fryer or heavy pot and place over low heat. Coat a ceramic plate with a layer of flour. Gently press the moist artichoke wedges directly into the flour so they are covered evenly. The oil is ready when a drop of water crackles and fizzles to evaporation: Never let the oil get so hot it starts to smoke. Add the floured artichoke wedges to the oil, in batches to avoid overcrowding, and fry until crisp and golden. With a slotted spoon, transfer the artichokes as they are done to paper towels to drain briefly. Arrange the artichokes on a serving platter and serve at once, with salt.


Wine: Parducci 2006 True Grit Petite Sirah (Mendocino); $30
Recipe: Vella’s Pasta alla Campagna (Penne with Bacon, Swiss Chard, Dry Jack Cheese, and Pecans)
Serves 4 to 6

Cheesemaker Ig Vella created this exuberant recipe for the first edition of A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma. If you can get California Gold Dry Jack—the same as Vella’s other Dry Jacks, only aged longer—this is a great place to use it; its nuttiness and depth of flavor is perfect in this complex (but easy to make) dish.

1 pound bacon, diced
1 pound Swiss chard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces penne (quill-shaped pasta)
3 garlic cloves, pressed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more
to taste
Black pepper in a mill
8 ounces Vella Dry Jack cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup shelled pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted

Cook the bacon in a large saucepan or sauté pan until it is just crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer it to paper towels to drain. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Set the pan aside.

Wash the Swiss chard, dry it thoroughly, and remove the stems. Trim and discard the base of the stems, and cut the stems into thin slices. Cut the leaves into 1/2-inch-thick crosswise strips. Keep the leaves and stems separate and set both aside. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard and vinegar and set the mixture aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and cook the pasta according to the package directions until just tender. Drain thoroughly but do not rinse.
While the pasta cooks, heat the bacon fat and the olive oil over medium-low heat and, when it is hot, add the chard stems, garlic, and pepper flakes and sauté until the chard stems are tender. Add the chard leaves, cover the pan, cook until the leaves are wilted, about 4 or 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Place the hot pasta in a large bowl, pour the mustard mixture over it, and toss thoroughly. Add the chard mixture, the cheese, and three-quarters of the pecans and toss again. Top with the remaining pecans. Serve immediately.

Wine: Laetitia 2007 Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir (Arroyo Grande valley); $40
Recipe: Grilled Salmon with Olive Butter and Orzo
Serves 4

Olive butter is an excellent way to infuse a dish with an olive’s rich flavor. You can make it ahead and refrigerate for up to five days. It’s wonderful with this grilled salmon dish, but you’ll find other uses for it as well.

For the olive butter:
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small shallot, peeled
About 18 oil-cured olives, pitted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt, as needed
For the salmon
Kosher salt
6 ounces orzo, acini di pepe, or other small seed-shaped pasta
1 medium (about 2 pounds) wild king salmon fillet, scaled and cut into 4 pieces of equal weight
Ground black pepper
Small Italian parsley sprigs, for garnish
¼ cup small olives, such as niçoise or Umbria, for garnish

To make the olive butter: Put the garlic, shallot, olives, and parsley in a food processor and pulse several times until the mixture is evenly chopped. Add the butter and mustard and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Season with black pepper, taste and, if the flavors haven’t quite come together, add a pinch or two of kosher salt and pulse again briefly.
Transfer the butter to a sheet of parchment paper and shape into a log about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in the parchment and then again in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To use, unwrap and slice into 1/4-inch coins. (Makes about 1/2 cup.)

To make the salmon: Heat an outdoor or stove-top grill to medium heat while you fill a medium saucepan half full with water, add a tablespoon of kosher salt and bring to a boil. When the water boils, add the pasta, stir, and cook according to the package directions until just tender. Drain thoroughly (do not rinse), transfer to a warm bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive butter. Cover with a tea towel to keep warm.

Meanwhile, season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Grill skin side up for 8 minutes, rotating once to mark. Turn the salmon over and grill (2 to 3 minutes for a 1-inch fillet, longer if the fish is thicker) until it is just cooked through. Just before removing the salmon from the grill, top each piece with a round of olive butter.

To serve, divide the pasta among 4 warm plates and set a salmon fillet on top, skin side down. Top each piece of salmon with another thin round of olive butter, garnish with olives and parsley, and serve immediately with Golden Roasted Beets with Olives.

Wine: Wallis Family Estate 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (Diamond Mountain); $85
Recipe: Slow-Cooked Rack of Lamb

So traditional it is almost a cliché on restaurant menus, rack of lamb deserves its lofty status for one reason: it is delicious. Yet it is also very easy to prepare at home. Lowering the temperature and cooking it more slowly than is traditional results in juicy, succulent meat. If you prefer well-done meat, select a less expensive cut.

1 rack of lamb, trimmed and frenched
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1 fresh thyme sprig, plus additional sprigs, for garnish
1 small rosemary sprig, plus additional sprigs, for garnish
1 cup meat stock (lamb, beef, or duck)
2 tablespoons butter, chilled

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Season the rack of lamb all over with salt and pepper. Set a small roasting rack over a heavy pan, set the lamb on the rack, and place on the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the temperature in the center of the middle rib reaches 125 degrees F. for rare, 130 degrees F. for medium-rare, or 140 degrees F. for medium. Transfer the roasting rack to a work surface and cover loosely with foil.

Set the roasting pan over a high flame on top of the stove, add the wine and herbs, and cook, stirring to loosen any bits of meat, until the wine is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Add the meat stock and cook until rich and thick. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat and discard the herb sprigs.

Warm dinner plates. Whisk half the butter into the sauce and when it is completely incorporated, whisk in the remaining butter. Taste and correct the seasoning. Cover the pan and set aside briefly. Carve the rack of lamb between the rib bones. Spoon pools of sauce in the center of each warm plate, set the lamb on top, garnish with herb sprigs, and serve immediately.


Wine: Longboard 2007 Late Harvest Semillon (Sonoma Valley); $35/500 ml.
Recipe: Crema Catalana with Bay Leaf Buñuelos (Catalan Flan with Bay Leaf Fritters)
Serves 8

In this match-up, buñuelos, what Spaniards call doughnuts or fritters, provide Catalan-inspired flan with a crunchy, sweet sidekick. Andy Nusser, chef and co-owner of Casa
Mono, New York City, has chosen to form his buñuelos around fresh bay leaves, which turn crackly when fried—an ingenious touch.

For the custard:
1 quart (4 cups) heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
8 egg yolks
4 sheets gelatin

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place 8 cazuelas or ovenproof ramekins in a cake pan large enough to hold them without touching.

To make the custard: In a saucepan, heat the cream with the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean over medium heat until it is almost at a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until smooth.

When the cream is almost at the boiling point, add the gelatin, a sheet at a time, directly to the cream, stirring constantly. Pour half the hot cream into the large bowl with the egg yolk and sugar mixture, whisking together. Pour the yolk-cream mixture back into the saucepan of remaining heated cream and “cook” while stirring with a wooden spoon. At this point you should be achieving a nap, where the back of the spoon is coated with the custard. Do not overcook; turn the heat off if necessary. (At this stage you are only melding the cream, egg yolks, sugar, and gelatin together.)

Strain the mixture through a chinois (a fine-mesh strainer), pressing the vanilla bean against the strainer for full flavor. Pour the mixture into a pitcher, then fill each baking dish three-quarters full. Carefully add cold water to the cake pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dishes, then cover the cake pan with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil to check for a skin layer on the custards, which indicates that the custard has set. Remove the baking dishes to a rack and let cool. When cool, dust with sugar and using a household blowtorch caramelize the sugar. Serve with Buñuelos.

Bay Leaf Buñuelos
Makes 48 fritters

The first bite is all sugar and addictively crisp batter. The inside, however, is mildly herbal and undeniably satisfying.

For the batter:
1½ quarts flour
1 cup sugar
1 quart (4 cups) milk
3 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks

For the fritters:
2 quarts extra virgin olive oil
4 dozen fresh bay leaves
2 cups sugar, for dusting

To make the batter: In a large bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Whisk in the milk until combined. Fold in egg whites.

To make the fritters: In a large, deep-sided pot, heat the olive oil to 360 degrees F on a deep-fat thermometer. Dip the bay leaves in the batter and coat liberally. Delicately place the battered leaves in the hot oil and fry until golden all over. With a slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain and cool. When cool, dust with sugar. Serve 6 buñeulos with each custard.


Wine: Sandeman 2007 Vintage Port; $75
Recipe: Frontera’s Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

For these bars, Chef Rick Bayless recommends that you line your baking pan with a carefully flattened piece of heavy-duty foil to help remove them. And chilling the bars first will make them easier to cut.
2½ cups (about 10 ounces) pecan halves 1 cup (about 6 ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra) 6 ounces (about 6 to 8 slices) fresh white bread, preferably cakey sandwich bread, broken
into large pieces 1 cup (8 ounces) butter, melted  A generous 3/4 teaspoon salt 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces not larger than ¼ inch 3 tablespoons flour 4 large eggs 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 1 cup dark corn syrup (or you can use a mixture of corn syrup and molasses, sorghum, or
Steens cane syrup) 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract Powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake until richly browned and toasty, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then scoop into a food processor and coarsely chop by pulsing the machine on and off. Remove about 1 1/2 cups of the nuts and put in a large bowl to use in the filling.

Add half of the Mexican chocolate to the nuts in the processor and pulse the machine to mix. Add the bread; process until everything is chopped to fairly fine crumbs. Add 1/3 cup of the melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Process just to moisten everything. Liberally butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, then pat the crumb crust mixture evenly into the buttered pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling.
Add the remaining Mexican chocolate, the chopped semisweet chocolate, and the flour to the bowl with the reserved pecans.

In the food processor (you don’t even need to clean it), mix the eggs and sugar until well combined. Add the corn syrup, pulse a couple of times, then add the remaining 2/3 cup melted butter, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the vanilla. Process to combine thoroughly. Pour the egg mixture over the pecan-filling mixture in the bowl, stir well, and scrape into the crust-lined pan, making an even layer
Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until the bars have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan. Let cool to room temperature (and chill, if desired) before cutting into 2-inch squares.

To serve, dust the pie bars with powdered sugar and arrange on an attractive serving platter.
Recipes excerpted from The Wine Enthusiast Wine & Food Pairings Cookbook (Running Press; $29.95). To order the cookbook, go to



Published on November 16, 2009
Topics: PairingsRecipesThanksgiving