Food and wine pairings on a budget

August 11, 2008 5:04:48 PM PDT
Wine expert David Mirassou offers some affordable food and wine pairings during tough economic times.

Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon
(Pairs with Mirassou® Monterey County Chardonnay)

Preparation time, 30 minutes
Baking time, 45 minutes
Serves 6 as an entrée, 8 as a side dish

½ pound macaroni or small shell pasta
4 ounces thick-cut bacon
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 1/2 cups whole milk
2 shallots, minced
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water as directed on the package. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, cut the bacon into ¼-inch pieces, and sauté in a small pan until crisp and golden. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings, and return the pan to low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and thyme to the bacon drippings, and toss to coat evenly. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and set the pan aside.

In a four-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour, nutmeg and dry mustard, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to work the dry ingredients into the butter. Continue to cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Whisk in the milk in ½-cup increments, making sure to work the mixture smooth each time. Whisk in the shallots, and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Turn off the heat and whisk in ¾ of the grated cheddar. Season the cheese sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the macaroni and bacon, then pour into a greased 2-quart baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle over the breadcrumb mixture and bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are golden.

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Quick Chicken in Tomato & Olive Braise
(Pairs with Mirassou® California Pinot Noir)

Preparation time, 15 minutes
Cooking time, 30 minutes
Serves 6

6 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin, 6-7 ounces each
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced about 1/8th inch thick
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 pinch hot pepper flakes, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
¼ cup Mirassou Pinot Noir
1 large can (1 pound 12 ounces) excellent quality diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, rinsed
1 cup whole pitted green or black olives, rinsed
1 loose cup whole parsley leaves, plucked from the stem

Heat a large, deep skillet over a medium-high burner. While the pan is heating, season the chicken with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet, allow it to heat through, then add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes, then turn and brown equally on the other side, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet, and return it to the stovetop over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir often for 3 minutes, or until it smells sweet. Stir in the pepper flakes and fennel. Deglaze with the wine, stirring against the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the browned juices. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives, and bring to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Return chicken pieces to pan, skin-side up. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through, 180ºF on a thermometer.

Garnish the dish with parsley leaves. Serve with soft polenta or your favorite short pasta, and a crisp green salad.

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Grilled Steak with Italian Salsa Verde
(Pairs with Mirassou® California Cabernet Sauvignon)

Preparation time, 10 minutes
Cooking time, 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

For the salsa verde:
2 packed cups Italian parsley leaves
12 mint leaves
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 medium clove garlic
2 oil-packed anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

To finish the dish:
2 romaine lettuce hearts, about ½ pound each, cut in half lengthwise
3 small lemons, cut in half
Extra virgin olive oil as needed
1 London broil, about 1 ½ pounds
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients for the salsa except for the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very finely chopped, then add the olive oil and pulse to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. The salsa can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

Brush the cut side of the lettuce and lemons with olive oil and season with salt. Brush both sides of the steak with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill the lettuce cut side down for 2 minutes, or until it is wilted and browned on the cut side, but still crisp on the other side. Remove it to a large serving platter and cut the core end off to separate the leaves. Arrange the leaves on the platter as a bed for the steak. Grill the lemons cut side down for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are well marked. Grill the steak for 4 minutes per side, or until a thermometer registers 130 degrees in the center for medium-rare. Allow the meat to rest for at least five minutes, then slice thinly against the grain and arrange in the center of the platter.

Garnish the platter with grilled lemons. Drizzle the steak liberally with salsa verde just before serving, and bring the remaining salsa to the table in a bowl.

Shortcut salsa verde: Add juice of one lemon, 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint and 1 tablespoon capers to a 6 ounce container of prepared pesto.

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Grilled Chicken & Orange Spiedini Over Couscous with Pine Nuts and Currants
(Pairs with Mirassou® California Pinot Grigio)

Preparation time, 20 minutes
Cooking time, 10 minutes
Serves 4-6

For the couscous:
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups/10 ounces couscous
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
Zest of 1 Valencia orange, minced
Juice of 1 Valencia orange
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the spiedini:
8-10 metal skewers or bamboo skewers
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs
3 Valencia oranges, cut in 1/3-inch rounds
Extra virgin olive oil as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To prepare the couscous:
Bring the water or vegetable stock and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to a rapid boil over a high burner. Put the couscous in a stainless or heatproof mixing bowl. Stir once with a wooden spoon and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the couscous to sit for 8 minutes, then fluff with a fork and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the red onion, currants, pine nuts, orange zest, orange juice, parsley, mint and cilantro. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the couscous and toss well to combine. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and arrange the couscous on a platter or shallow bowl. Set aside at room temperature.

To prepare the skewers:
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 20 minutes. Cut chicken into 3-inch pieces or about the size of the orange slices. Skewer the chicken and orange disks from edge to edge, creating a row of flat pieces on the skewer. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through, 170ºF on a thermometer. Remove the skewers from the grill and arrange over the couscous. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

About David Mirassou:
He represents the sixth generation of America's oldest winemaking family. These days, David serves as Mirassou Winery's spokesperson, and is involved in many of Mirassou Winery's daily activities. David has been touring the country celebrating Mirassou's more than 150 years of winemaking, as well as introducing the Mirassou Winery's new premium wines.

Applying the valuable hands-on experience he gained from working in every aspect of his family's original winery operations, David's first role outside the Mirassou family's winery was as a sales representative for a California wholesaler for two years. He then returned to work for the Mirassou family's original winery. David currently enjoys speaking and talking about his wines and has been a wine judge at several wine competitions, including the California State Fair, Los Angeles County Fair and Long Beach Grand Cru. He serves on the board of directors of the California Culinary Academy's Educational Foundation, an organization that helps students obtain an education in culinary arts and hospitality management, and is on the board of the University of San Francisco's McLaren College of Business.

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Event Info:
David will be in different Safeway stores conducting bottle signings and sampling events and meeting with people.

August 13th
Blackhawk Safeway, 3496 Camino Tassajara, 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m., call 925.736.0298 for details
Livermore Safeway, 4495 First Street, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., call 925.455.2526 for details

August 14th
Novato Safeway, 900 Diablo AVenue, 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
San Rafael Safeway, 950 Las Galinas Avenue, 3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., call 415.479.6111
Mill Valley Safeway, 111 Strawberry Village, 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., call 415.360.9016 for details


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