6 Mexican Food and Wine Pairings
Put down that cerveza. In the last few years, wine lovers have discovered that they can pair their favorite bottles with their favorite Mexican foods, from pupusas and flautas to the country’s quintessential tacos. Here at Wine Enthusiast, we’ve gathered our favorite South of the Border recipes and hooked them up with some tasty pours. Get ready for a flavor fiesta.
This zesty but sweet guacamole from New York’s acclaimed Mexican restaurant, Toloache, is both easy to prepare and delicious when paired with a freshly made margarita.
- 1 Hass avocado from Mexico
- 1 tablespoon diced sweet onion (Vidalia or cippolini)
- 1 tablespoon diced mango
- 1 tablespoon diced peach
- 1 tablespoon diced apple
- ½ teaspoon of chopped jalapeño
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Kosher salt to taste
Scoop the flesh out of the ripe avocados and mash in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients with a pinch of salt. Once well mixed, check the seasonings. Serve with warm corn tortillas or chips. Serves 4.
Adapted from Bayless’s Mexico: One Plate at a Time (Scribner, 2000) by Mexican food authority, Chicago chef-restaurateur and cookbook author Rick Bayless, this unusual stew of tomatoe-y broth with spicy shrimp skewers calls for ingredients that are easy to find but deliver lusty, authentic flavor.
- 1 small white onion, cut in 1/4-inch slices
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds (9 to 12 medium plum or 3 medium-large round) tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing or spraying the shrimp and vegetables
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 to 2 large sprigs fresh epazote (or a small handful fresh cilantro or parsley)
- 2 pounds (about 48) medium-large shrimp
- 12 (7-inch) bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained
- About 2 tablespoons pure ground ancho or guajillo chilies
- 3 medium (about 1 1/2 pounds) sweet potatoes (or the purple-skinned Mexican sweet potatoes called camotes morados), peeled and sliced ½ inch thickFresh herb sprigs, for garnish (optional)
For the flavored stew base: In a blender or food processor, combine the onion and garlic with the tomatoes. Process to a smooth purée.
In a medium (4- to 5-quart) Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it’s hot enough to make a drop of the purée sizzle, add the tomato mixture all at once and stir continually until it darkens in color and cooks down to the consistency of tomato paste, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and the epazote (or one of its stand-ins). Partially cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.
To prepare the shrimp: While the broth is simmering, peel the shrimp, leaving their final joint and tail intact. Devein the shrimp and thread them on the skewers (4per skewer), being careful not to bunch them too tightly. Lay them out flat on a tray and sprinkle them on both sides with salt and the ground chile.
To finish the dish: Heat a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with gray ash and medium-hot. Taste the broth and season it with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon; keep warm, covered, over low heat. Generously brush or spray the sliced sweet potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle both sides of each piece with salt, and grill, turning occasionally, until soft through, 10 to 15 minutes. Divide evenly among soup bowls.
Lightly brush or spray the shrimp skewers with olive oil and lay on the grill. Cook until just pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Ladle the steaming broth over the vegetables in each soup bowl. Lay one (or two) skewers in each bowl (they’ll rise from the broth). Garnish each serving with an herb sprig, if desired, and serve.
The tomatoes and spice in this dish call for a wine with pronounced acidity, such as a Mencía from Bierzo, Spain; recommended producers include Descendientes de J. Palacios, Dominio de Tares and Luna Beberide.
This recipe was adapted from Chef Richard Sandoval’s book Modern Mexican Flavors (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2002). The original calls for traditional hominy, but for summer, Sandoval says, fresh corn, grilled right on the cob, makes a delightful substitution.
- For the pozole
- 8 ears fresh corn, shucked
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup chopped white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 dried guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
- 4 cups duck or chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon honey
- For the duck and cabbage salad
- 1 cup shredded green cabbage
- ¼ cup shredded red radish (about 4 radishes), plus additional radishes, sliced, for garnish (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 boneless duck breast halves, with skin
- Chile powder, for garnish (optional)
To make the posole: Grill the shucked corn on a preheated charcoal grill, turning it a few times, until the kernels start to color. Remove the ears from the grill and allow them to cool. When cool enough to handle, scrape the kernels off the cobs with a knife and set aside. Discard the cobs.
In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the chilies and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds, or until slightly darkened. Add 2 cups of the stock and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the chilies are softened.
Pour the chile mixture into a blender and purée. Strain the purée through a medium-mesh sieve back into the saucepan, pressing on the solids with the back of a ladle or rubber spatula. Discard the solids in the sieve.
Add the corn to the saucepan along with the bay leaf and remaining stock and keep warm.
To make the salad: In a large bowl, stir together the cabbage, radish, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the duck breasts, skin-side down, and sear for about 5 minutes, until crisp. Turn and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until cooked through. Transfer the duck breasts to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice each breast diagonally across the grain into 3 thin slices.
Add the honey to the pozole and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, divide the pozole among 4 shallow soup bowls. Spoon ¼ cup of the cabbage salad into the center of each. Then, in each bowl, arrange 3 pieces of duck breast angled upright around the cabbage. If desired, garnish with radish slices and sprinkle the rims of the bowls with chile powder. Serve.
The smoke and spice flavors of the pozole are best mirrored by the rich, smoky flavors of a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir; recommended producers include Loring, Sea Smoke and Au Bon Climat.
This recipe is an adaptation of Bayless’s Salsas That Cook (Scribner, 1998). An authority on traditional Mexican cooking, Rick Bayless is a Chicago chef and restaurateur, Frontera Grill being one of his renowned eateries. For these bars, Bayless recommends that you line your baking pan with a carefully flattened piece of heavy-durty foil to help remove them. And chilling the bars first will make them easier to cut.
- 2 1/2 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.
A classic pairing of like with like: Pair the sweetness and spice in this chocolate dessert with a sweet, spicy LBV (Late-Bottled Vintage) Port; recommended producers include Fonseca, Warre’s and Ramos-Pinto.
Grilled scallops are mixed with tomatoes, yellow corn and herbs, and placed in a crisp tortilla shell to create a scrumptious taco.
- 1 head cauliflower
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces raisins
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 8 cups canola oil
- ½ cup capers
- 12 medium scallops
- Salt, to taste
- 6 corn tortillas
To roast the cauliflower, preheat the oven to 300°F. Cut the head of the cauliflower into two pieces and reserve half for another purpose. Take the remaining half and cut out the stem and core. Cut the cauliflower into rough 1-inch chunks. Place the cauliflower chunks in a food processor and chop into small pieces. Place the chopped cauliflower in a bowl along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix until evenly coated. Season with salt and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the cauliflower for 20 minutes. Reserve the cauliflower in a container at room temperature.
Place the raisins in a bowl. Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour over the raisins. Allow the raisins to soak for 20 minutes, then transfer the raisins and their soaking liquid to a blender along with the lime juice and purée until smooth. Hold the purée in a container at room temperature until needed.
For the fried capers, preheat the canola oil in a fryer or pot to 350°F. Drain the capers of their brine and dry on paper towels. Place the capers in a small strainer with a handle, then plunge into the hot oil. Fry the capers until crisp (10–15 seconds). Turn the capers out onto a plate lined with paper towels. Hold the capers at room temperature until needed.
For the scallops, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and pour a light film of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) in the pan. Season the scallops with salt and sear them on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn the scallops over and sear for another 2 minutes. Remove the scallops from the pan and place on a plate.
To assemble, lay out six plates and place a warm tortilla on each. Place a spoonful of the roasted cauliflower on each tortilla and place two scallops on top of the cauliflower. Drizzle some raisin purée on each taco and sprinkle with the fried capers. Serve immediately.
With this taco’s mix of sweet and salty flavors, there’s no better match than the Galician white wine, Albariño.
Finally, check out the link below for an extensive list of left-field wine pairings and two more delicious recipes to try from Master of Wine Sheri Sauter Morano!
- 1Fruit Guacamole with Chips
- 2Caldo de Camarón Asado (Spicy Grilled Shrimp Stew)
- 3Pozole de Pato (Corn and Chile Stew with Duck and Shredded Cabbage)
- 4Frontera’s Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
- 5Killer Seared Scallop Taco Recipe
- 6Más y Más