Chinese Chicken Salad

I enjoy salads year round, but there is something about the summer that screams salad for lunch.  This delicious salad graces the cover of my copy of Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein and makes me salivate every time I pick up the book.

This recipe would pair well with an apple and apricot flavored, dry or slightly off-dry Riesling.

Chinese Chicken Salad

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

vegetable oil for frying (such as canola or olive oil)

Ginger-Soy Dressing

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

3 tablespoons finely  minced peeled fresh ginger

2 tablespoons hot mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons white or rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (such as canola, peanut or grapeseed oil)

salt to taste

Salad

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut on the diagonal into 1/4 inch slices

2 small heads romaine, coarsely shredded

1 cup bean sprouts

1/4 cup minced green onions (mostly green parts)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

For the chicken:

* Lightly pound the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap to a uniform thickness.

* Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

* In a large sauté pan, pour the oil to a depth of 1/4 inch and warm over medium-high heat.

* Add the chicken breasts and fry until golden and cooked through, turning once, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

* Drain the chicken on a plate lined with paper towels.  When cool, shred into a large bowl.

For the dressing:

* Puree the garlic and ginger in a small food processor.

* Add the mustard, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and pulse to combine.

* Gradually beat in the vegetable oil, a drop at a time, until the mixture emulsifies.

* Season the dressing to taste with salt.

To serve:

* Add the cucumber slices to the chicken in the bowl and toss with 1/2 cup or more of the dressing to moisten the mixture well.

* Combine the romaine, bean sprouts, green onions, and fresh cilantro in another bowl and toss with 1/2 cup of the dressing.

* Distribute the greens mixture evenly among salad plates.

* Place the chicken and cucumber mixture atop the greens.

* Drizzle with some of the remaining dressing if desired.

* Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Variations:

* You can broil or grill or poach the chicken breasts instead of frying them.

* You can try sweet sliced jicama in place of the cucumber.

* You can use toasted pine nuts as a sweeter substitute for toasted sesame seeds.

Recommended Riesling Wine Producers:

Everyday:  Dr. Burklin-Wolf, St. Urbans-Hof, Navarro

Premium:  J.J. Prum, Zilliken, Grosset Wines

Splurge:  Robert Weil, Franz Kunstler, Gunderloch

J.J. Muller Riesling

J.J. Muller

Riesling

2010

(Rheinhessen, Germany)

On Bottle/Website:

* Flavors of crisp apple, lime, passionfruit and honey

* Pairs well with pork, chicken, spicy dishes, seafood, desserts, salad, appetizers and fruit

* The climate from this area in Germany with rolling hills produces soft, elegant, medium bodied and lower in acidity than wines from other areas in Germany

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, day bright, straw, low concentration, no rim variation, medium viscosity

Nose: clean, medium plus intensity, youthful, citrus, lemon, grapefruit, lime, grass, asparagus, white flowers, green apple

Palate: Semi-sweet, medium bodied, confirms nose, citrusy without a lot of acidity, medium alcohol, medium minus acidity, medium minus finish, medium complexity

I enjoyed a glass of this wine before my meal.  I have been more and more intrigued by Rieslings as I taste different variations of sweetness levels.  I prefer the drier Rieslings and I am on the hunt for more dry or off-dry Rieslings that I like.  I was hoping this wine would be less sweet, but it still had an excellent flavor profile.

Tasting Exercise: Earth Presence

My goal while learning about different wines is to become proficient in all of the aspects of tasting.  There are a plethora of tasting exercises that can be completed to help accomplish this goal.  This week I will be focusing on learning about earth presence in wine.

 

* Pour a Chardonnay from Australia, California, Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet. Blind smell and taste them in a “Lazy Susan” fashion- in different order each time, trying to pick out which ones have “earth” notes.

* Repeat this exercise with wines in a different order five times in a day.

* Repeat the entire exercise for five days straight, at different times of the day.

*Start to try to define earth: chalk, slate, clay, schist, potting soil, dusty road, gravel.  Make notes.  Certain earth will start to define wine regions within countries with certain grape varieties.

Repeat with other grape varieties:

* Rieslings from Clare Valley, Washington State, Mosel and Alsace.

* Pinot Noirs from Oregon, Central Otago/Santa Barbara, Voinay and Gevrey-Chamberlin.

* Syrah from Australia, Washington State/Sonoma Valley, Cornas and Crozes-Hermitage.

* Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Chile, Coonawarra and Paullac.

* Extend to other grapes as you get more comfortable.

 

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Herbs

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

The summer is a perfect time to use a plethora of fresh herbs in every day cooking.  The following tips work for either fresh or dried herbs.

* Fragrant herbs (such as chervil, dill and tarragon) pair best with whites like Riesling and Chardonnay

* More pungent herbs (such as basil, thyme and rosemary) pair best with Sauvignon Blanc and many reds, especially Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

Salmon Run Riesling

Salmon Run

Riesling

2011

(Finger Lakes)

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On Bottle/Website:

* 12% Alcohol

* Konstantin D. Frank

* Accompany with fish and fowl

* http://www.drfrankwines.com

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, day bright, straw, low concentration, no rim variation, medium viscocity

Nose: clean, medium plus intensity, youthful, citrus, lemon, grapefruit, lime, grass, asparagus, white flowers, slate

Palate: Off dry, light bodied, confirms nose, citrusy without a lot of acidity, medium alcohol, medium minus acidity, medium minus finish, medium complexity

I have read a fair amount about Dr. Frank and was curious about his wines from the Finger Lakes.  He is credited with changing the landscape of New York vineyards and wineries from mediocre to a level that is highly regarded today. Dr. Frank was a professor of plant science and held a Ph.D. in viticulture.  He believed that proper rootstock, not the cold climate was the reason for the failure of vinifera grape varieties in the area.  The vines he established are the backbone for his well-renowned wines.

The first time I purchased this bottle, I drank it while visiting with my cousin in one sitting and didn’t take notes.  I knew that I enjoyed the wine immensely because the bottle was finished and she had been drinking cider beer.

I recently purchased it again and took notes this time.  To me it possessed a great balance of being crisp and refreshing with a hint of sweetness.  I think it would pair well with a lot of dishes, but I tried it with some fresh, homemade mango salsa and I didn’t think that they paired well.  I drank the wine alone and then switched to a Sauvignon Blanc to drink with the chips and salsa.

When I first heard someone speak of Riesling as their favorite wine, partially because itcould be paired with anything, I didn’t understand the concept because I thought of Riesling in terms of cloyingly sweet types of wine.  As my knowledge is being opened to  the drier types of Riesling, I am excited to taste more options and see what it has to offer!  With these types of Riesling, I can see myself becoming an avid fan!

Tasting Exercise: Sweetness

I read a wonderful article in Food and Wine Magazine last Autumn about different tasting procedures you can go through to help yourself understand the different properties of wine tasting.  I wanted to save these exercises and the wines used to go through them with friends in the future.

Sweetness

Residual sugar is the defining factor of sweetness in a wine.  This is the sugar in the liquid after fermentation.  Acidity can sometimes mask the sweetness in wines by balancing out the sugar.

Food Pairing

Sweetness in wine balances the spiciness in a dish. If the meal you are savoring incorporates spicy notes, it is beneficial to imbibe with something that has a cooling effect on your mouth.  This can be challenging because the alcohol in wines often antagonizes the heat of the hot spice, reducing the likelihood that your palate is able to cool down. Because of this, it is vital for wines that you drink with a spicy dish to contain a lower alcohol level.  Balancing the spice by drinking a wine with residual sweetness diminishes the perception of heat.

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Tasting Exercise

Equipment: 16 ounce glass filled half full, 2 lemons, 1 cup of sugar

Squeeze the juice of the lemons into the water and stir. Taste the mixture; it will be very tart.  Stir in sugar, one teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition.  You should notice when the juice achieves the right level of sweetness and balances the acidity of the lemon.

Wines

The following wines will help illustrate the concept of sweetness.  A type of wine is listed, followed by a specific vintage and brand that would work well. Each are listed in order from driest to sweetest.

* Dry Riesling (2010 Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg Trocken)

* Off-dry Riesling (2011 Hexamer Kabinett)

* Sweet Riesling (2010 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese)

(The wines in parenthesis were not necessarily the wines I found and used when first doing this experiment. They are wines suggested in Food and Wine Magazine.)

Scharzhof Riesling

Scharzhof

Riesling

2011

(Mosel, Germany)

Scharzhof Riesling 11 LAB

On Bottle/Website:

* Lime, acid, distinctive petrol note

* Egon Muller Scharzhof

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, day bright, straw, green rim variation, medium minus viscosity

Nose: sound/clean, medium plus intensity, aroma/youthful, pear, green apple, lime, apricot, peach, pencil eraser, dusty, chalky

Palate: off-dry, medium bodied, confirms nose, medium alcohol, medium plus acidity, medium plus complexity, medium plus length

Riedel Wine Glasses

Financially, I am in no position to own a complete set of Riedel wine glasses.  But if I were given the opportunity to win the lottery and prove all of the doubts about money not buying happiness wrong, I would be enjoying fabulous wine every evening out of a proper Riedel wine glass.

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Riedel wine glasses are shaped according to the characteristic of the wine.  Each glass is hand-crafted and made from crystal.  According to http://www.wineenthusist.com, the luxury Riedel Sommeliers collection is the benchmark against which all other wine glasses are measured.  “The upper bowls are blown into a mold customized to concentrate the wine’s aromas and direct the flow of the wine to the optimal areas of the mouth.”

I still remember the first time I tasted wine out of a Riedel wine glass.  I was hesitant to believe that a simple wine glass could make a significant difference in the taste of the wine, but I was proven wrong.

Within the next year, I would like to start a basic set and collect The Key to Wine Tasting Set.  It seems like the best investment for me, mostly because it is the most economical.

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This set includes one chardonnay glass, one riesling/sauvignon blanc glass, one pinot noir glass, one cabernet sauvignon/merlot glass and one shiraz/syrah glass.  Clearly I would be buying this set simply for myself, so it feels a bit selfish because I would never pull any of these out with guests because I would only have one glass for each type of wine.  So I’m not really sold yet.  Also, I like having a stem on my wine glasses, but the Riedel stemless glasses are much less expensive so I would have to compromise.

I love reading the descriptions online about how the shape of the glass aids the tasting process.  For example, the Riedel website states that the cabernet sauvignon/merlot glass is “perfect for young, full-bodied, complex red wines that are high in tannin.  This glass smoothes out the rough edges, emphasizing the fruit, allowing wines to achieve a balance that would normally take years of aging to acquire.  The generous size of the glass allows the bouquet to develop fully.  The shape directs the flow of wine onto the zone of the tongue which perceives sweetness, thus accentuating the fruit and de-emphasizing the bitter qualities of the tannin.”  Doesn’t that make you just want to go out and buy the glasses immediately to test it out?

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Sweet Balances Spicy

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I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

If the meal you are savoring incorporates spicy notes, it is beneficial to imbibe with something that has a cooling effect on your mouth.  This can be challenging because the alcohol in wines often antagonizes the heat of the hot spice, reducing the likelihood that your palate is able to cool down. Because of this, it is vital for wines that you drink with a spicy dish to contain a lower alcohol level.  Balancing the spice by drinking a wine with residual sweetness diminishes the perception of heat.

The next time you find yourself ordering or preparing Thai or Indian food, try pairing them with a Riesling, Moscato or Gewurztraminer.

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Choose Wine Based on Body

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I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

One of the most common wine and food pairing tips is to pair white meat with white wine and red meat with red wine.  This concept refers to one of the most commonly used approaches when pairing food and wine: choosing wine based on its body.

The body of a wine refers to the mouth feel and tannin structure.  Tannin is perceived as the dryness in wines.  I compare it to the after effects of coffee on my tongue.

One comparison that I have found helpful when determining the body of the wine is to think of milk.  There is a definitive difference in the feel on your tongue between skim milk and whole milk.  The lightness and thinness of skim milk can be compared to similar traits in a light bodied wine.  The heavy and thick feel of whole milk can be equated to a full bodied wine.

Wines organized by body from lightest to fullest might look like: sparkling wines, white wines, oaked white wines, light reds, medium reds and full bodied reds.

Proteins organized from lightest to fullest might look like: flaky white fish, oily white fish, fatty fish, poultry, pork, beef and wild game.

You can use these spectrums to pair food and wine. Overlap pairings work as well. For example:

Riesling & Tilapia

Chardonnay & Sea Bass or Chicken Breast

Pinot Noir & Chicken or Pork Chops

Merlot & Filet Mignon or Sirloin

Cabernet Sauvignon & Venison