A Rioja Guide to Holiday Cooking

Wines of Rioja

The holiday season is almost here, and you are pondering what creative meals you’ll be whipping up to share with family and friends. More importantly, you’re considering what styles of wine will pair best with your culinary creations. Wines from Rioja are some of the world’s best food wines and pair well with most styles of food. We’ve compiled several festive holiday recipes from four gourmet chefs, each accompanied by a Rioja wine pairing. Try one, or all of these amazing recipes and wines from Rioja to satisfy your dinner guests this holiday season!

Chef Brian Malarkey

Chef Brian Malarkey’s Butternut Squash Lasagna
Rioja Pairing: Rioja Rosado (Rosé)

Favorite Pick of Wine Director Cassandra Brown, Hakkasan Group:
Bodegas Patrocinio “Zinio” Rosado 2014

Chef Brian Makarkey: In just four years, Chef Brian Malarkey has created seven wildly successful restaurants across the United States with more expansion plans next year. Under the management of Hakkasan Group, Malarkey’s restaurants include Searsucker (San Diego, Del Mar, Austin) and Herringbone (La Jolla and Los Angeles). Alongside Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Ludo Lefebvre, Malarkey was the winning judge/mentor on ABC’s “The Taste” Season 1. A past “Top Chef” finalist (Season 3, Miami), Malarkey has guest-starred and judged several series on the Food Network.

Wine Director Cassandra Brown: “My wine pairing is the 2014 Zinio Rosado from Bodegas Patrocinio. When I tasted this wine, I was blown away! I drink rosé year-round. I’m always on the hunt for stunning rosés, the more interesting the better! So when I heard this beautiful Rioja Rosado was ready to hit the US, I jumped right on it! It’s 100% Tempranillo, and the grapes come from some of the highest vineyards in the region, lending to incredible acid and minerality. A true year round dry rosé, it’s pale pink in color with aromas of fresh watermelon, strawberries and rose. The palate is silky, dripping with flavors of blood orange and raspberries. This is my new ‘hot button’ wine!”


  • 2 each butternut squash
  • 6oz. wild mushrooms ‘hedgehogs or king trumpet’
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale
  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1c. parmesan cheese
  • 2c. ricotta
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Slice butternut approximately 1/8 inch thick and coat with 2 tbsp. of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes or until soft. Sauté mushrooms until just soft for approximately 2-3 minutes and slightly caramelized. Remove the leaves from the stems of the kale, blanch in a pot of salted boiling water for 5 minutes or just until soft. Slice the Roma tomatoes and slow roast in a 250 degree oven for one hour, when cooled remove the skins and reserve. Crush the San Marzano tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To build the lasagna, put a small layer of the crushed San Marzanos on the bottom of a 12”x12” baking sheet, put a couple of dollops ricotta, kale, mushrooms and two halves of the roasted tomatoes. Then follow by covering with slices of the roasted butternut squash. Repeat the layers until all of the ingredients are gone and filled almost to the top of the Pyrex. Top with parmesan cheese and cover the Pyrex with foil, Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, uncover and finish baking for another 20 minutes.

Chef Norman Van Aken

Chef Norman Van Aken’s Pork Havana Key West
Rioja Pairing: Crianza
Chef’s Favorite Pick: Vivanco Crianza 2010

Chef Norman Van Aken is the author of “My Key West Kitchen”(2012) and is the Chef-Founder of “NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando.” His new ventures are a Cooking School named, “In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken” and new restaurants in Mount Dora, FL. He is the only Floridian inducted into the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage.” His restaurant “NORMAN’S” was nominated as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Restaurant in America.” He has been a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America.”

Chef Norman Van Aken: “We made this the first Christmas I worked at The Pier House. I felt quite far away from my Midwestern home celebrating a holiday usually marked with steady snowfall, glowing fireplaces and a great, fragrant roasted prime rib of beef on a long table at my Grandmother’s home. But in our tropical kitchen at the end of Duval Street in 1978 we also felt we were uniting with cultures different than ours and the spirit of Christmas should be that every year. Waiter Tom Goetz brought in a bottle of rum and we made punch. By the end of service we sang Christmas carols as we cleaned up the kitchen. Home was near again.”

Yield: Serves 4

For the pork and the marinade:

  • 4 bone rack of pork (like pork chops but still all attached)
  • 2 sour oranges, cut in half, (or regular oranges with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar when squeezing them into the marinade bowl) 
  • 2 oranges, cut in half 
  • 4 limes, cut in half 
  • ½ cup pure olive oil 
  • 8 whole, bruised black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, broken
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ of a red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 more cloves garlic, peeled and cut into small “nail-like studs”

Squeeze the citrus into a large bowl and toss the rinds in as well. Mix all of the ingredients above together into a large bowl.  Place the pork in the marinade, turning it a few times. Now marinate it for up to 24 hours, turning it a few times.

When ready to cook, take the pork out of the marinade and gently scrape off the oil and such and discard. Pat it dry with paper toweling.

Now take a knife and puncture the pork pushing slices of garlic ‘studs’ into the holes. The holes can be a bit big so that the marmalade mixture to come can seep into it as it cooks. Once you have the garlic studded into the pork slash the pork crosswise (like a ham is sometimes done) to allow for more penetration of the onion/fruit mix.

For the glaze and bacon:

  • 1 tablespoon blended olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped medium small
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste 
  • 1 tablespoon freshly toasted and ground cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup orange marmalade1 ½ tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
  • 5-6 bacon strips

Heat a heavy medium sized pan on medium heat. Add the blended oil and butter and swirl it around to melt it. Now add the garlic and onion and cook slowly and steadily to caramelize them adding the salt, pepper and cumin about halfway in the process. (Lower the heat to promote even cooking).

Chop up one of the orange halves into small pieces and reserve. When the onion mixture is caramelized, squeeze the one orange half remaining through a strainer (to catch the seeds) into the onion mixture. Now add in the chopped orange, rind and all. Add the vinegar and allow to reduce. Now add in the orange marmalade and let it melt and then turn off the heat. Place this in a small mixing bowl and allow to cool a bit.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pat pork roast dry. Season pork roast with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sear pork on all sides until browned, about 10 minutes total. Remove from heat. Discard the fat and clean out the pan. Allow the pork to cool some.

Spoon the orange marmalade and onion mixture on the pork allowing it to seep into the punctures. Lay the bacon on the pork, overlapping the strips slightly. Wrap the pork roast securely with a section of aluminum foil to keep the bacon from falling off. You only need to wrap the part where the bacon is laying on the rack, not all over. Put the pork roast in the oven and cook 45 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and return the roast to the oven. Now cook another 35-40 minutes or until an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at least 10 full minutes before carving.

Chef Steven Satterfield

Chef Steven Satterfield’s Grilled NY Strip Steak with New Potatoes, Roasted Mushrooms and Red Pepper Puree
Rioja Pairing: Cosecha wines
Favorite Pick of Neal McCarthy, General Manager/Co-Owner, Miller Union: Bodegas Artevino Orben Rioja 2008

Chef Steven Satterfield is the author of “Root to Leaf, A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons” and is the executive chef/co-owner of Miller Union in Atlanta, GA. He was nominated for Food & Wine magazine’s “People’s Best New Chef,” following Miller Union’s placement on the “Best New Restaurants in America” lists from Bon Appetit and Esquire, as well as Atlanta magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year.” The James Beard Foundation chose Chef Steven as a top five finalist for Best Chef: Southeast in 2013 and 2014. Miller Union was recognized as a semifinalist for the national award of best new restaurant in 2010.

Yield: Serves 4

For the olive oil confit potatoes:

  • 2 pounds new potatoes
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 3 cups extra virgin olive oil

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water.  Add salt and place pan on burner over medium heat.  Let potatoes cook just until tender.  To test, insert the tip of a paring knife into one of the potatoes.  If it yields easily, the potatoes are ready.  Drain hot potatoes into a colander, discarding the cooking liquid.  Let cool.  In the meantime, prepare the roasted pepper puree and roasted oyster mushrooms (see recipes below).

When potatoes are room temperature, cut them in half and place them face down in a wide skillet.  Add the olive oil and turn heat on very low.  Let cook again until potatoes are very tender and slightly browned.  Remove potatoes from olive oil and set aside.  Strain oil when cooled and reserve for future use.  To reheat, place potatoes in oven for 3 to 4 minutes or until hot before serving.

For the roasted pepper puree:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

In a small skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until onions turn translucent, then add sherry vinegar. Reduce the liquid by half. Transfer ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.

For the roasted oyster mushrooms:

  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, toss mushrooms with olive oil and salt and stir well to coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast in oven on middle rack until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. To reheat, place mushrooms in oven for 3 to 4 minutes or until hot before serving.

For the watercress-orange pistou:

  • ½ cup watercress, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine watercress, garlic, orange zest and olive oil.  Set aside.

For the grilled NY strip steaks:

  • 4- 6 to 8 ounce portions NY strip steak (ask your butcher to cut these for you if you like)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

Heat your grill to high heat.  With a pastry brush, coat steaks with olive oil on both sides then season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place steaks on hot grill and let sit for 2 to 4 minutes.  Turn them 90 degrees with the same side facing down and cook 2 to 4 more minutes.  Turn steaks over and repeat last two steps until desired temperature: Rare 125-130F, Medium Rare 130-140, Medium 140-150.

To assemble, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the roasted pepper puree in the center of 4 plates.  Reheat potatoes and mushrooms then toss together and divide amongst the 4 plates. On a cutting board, slice each steak into several slices, then transfer sliced meat to individual plates.  Finish with a teaspoon of the pistou over each steak. Serve immediately.

Chef Bradley Herron

Chef Bradley Herron’s Porterhouse Steak, served with Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onion Panade
Rioja Pairing: Reserva
Favorite Pick of Eric Larkee, wine director of The Genuine Hospitality Group: 
Lopez de Heredia, Vina de Todonia, 2003 Tempranillo, Reserva, Rioja 

Chef Bradley Herron is executive chef of The Genuine Hospitality Group of James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, overseeing the kitchens of his Miami restaurants. Herron began his career at 13 in his hometown of Laguna Beach, California in a taco shop, where he prepped and washed dishes. Herron worked on the line at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink for five months before being promoted to Chef de Cuisine.  He now leads the kitchen staff and menus at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Harry’s Pizzeria and The Cypress Tavern.

Chef Bradley Herron: “So you feel like steak? This one is a monster! For all of the card-carrying carnivores out there, this dish will turn you on. Porterhouse is a great cut because it’s like two for one – on one side of the steak you have the tender filet and on the other the firm New York strip. Grilling with wood chips is a common way to infuse flavor into meat, but for extra oomph, I turn to herb-infused smoke instead. Tossing damp woody herbs like thyme (rosemary would work here as well) directly onto the fire lends a distinctive earthy essence, redolent of aromatics. The intoxicating smell makes your belly grumble and always instigates the “wow factor” with guests.”

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the steak:

  • 1 3 to 4 pound porterhouse steak, 3 to 4 inches thick
  • 1 big bunch (1/4 pound) fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the grill

Let the steak stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Take 6 sprigs of the thyme and strip the leaves from the stems. Finely chop the leaves; you should have about 1 tablespoon. Set aside. Put half of the remaining sprigs of thyme in a small bowl. Cover with cool water and soak for 10 minutes while heating up the grill.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-low. Pat the steak dry and rub both sides with the chopped thyme, salt, and pepper, pressing to adhere.  Drizzle both sides of the steak with oil and rub the grill grates with oil to prevent sticking. Put the steak on the grill, close the lid, and grill for 8 minutes for medium-rare. Using tongs, carefully lift up the grill grate and toss a third of the soaked thyme sprigs directly onto the gas burner or coals so they smolder, imparting an amazing aroma and flavor. Rotate the steak a quarter turn to “mark” it. Close the lid, and continue to grill the steak for another 8 minutes. Open the lid and again, carefully lift up the grill grate and set the remaining smoked thyme directly on the fire.  Turn over the steak and cook for 8 minutes, rotate, and cook for 8 minutes more. Check the internal temperature of the steak with an instant read thermometer; it should be about 125°F for medium-rare.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes so the juices can settle before carving.

To serve, cut the meat away from the bone and set the bone on a serving platter. Cut the steak into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Shingle the slices around the bone. Scatter the remaining thyme springs on top. Serve with Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onion Panade (see below).

For the Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onion Panade:

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced 
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 1 crusty sourdough baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the dish
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Cut the ribs out of the Swiss chard and set aside. Roll the leaves into a bundle and coarsely chop into 1-inch ribbons. Put the chopped leaves in a colander and rinse well. Set aside to drain.  Cut the ribs crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

Put a large pot over high heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the onion is golden brown and caramelized, about 8 minutes. Add the chard ribs and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, give it a stir, and cook for a minute until fragrant. Toss in the chard leaves. Turn the leaves over until the chard wilts, releases its moisture, and cooks down, roughly 3 minutes. Season again with salt and pepper. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and dump the Swiss chard on top.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Also butter the dull side of a piece of foil large enough to cover the dish. Return the pot (no need to clean it) to medium heat and pour in the stock and cream. While they are heating, whisk the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl until they increase slightly in volume. Gradually whisk the hot stock mixture into the yolks (do not add too quickly or the eggs will scramble). Pour the mixture over the bread and chard. Add the Fontina, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Pour the bread mixture into the buttered dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly on top. Cover the baking dish tightly with the foil, buttered side down. Fill a roasting pan with 1/2-inch of water.  Carefully place the baking dish in the water bath. Bake for about 1 hour, the center should jiggle slightly.  Remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil. Switch the oven to broil. Stick the panade under the broiler for 3 minutes to brown the cheese. To serve, scoop the panade out with a spoon.

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Published on December 10, 2015
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