Around the World with Sauvignon Blanc
aka “Beurre in the Brrrrrrrrrr”
One of the reasons we live in Florida is so we can eat outside in the winter. Unfortunately, the arctic vortex affected even us, and as temperatures plunged to a bone-rattling 50 degrees, we moved Dinner Gang 11 indoors. The good news is that the chilly outside temperatures let us use the shelf outside the kitchen window to keep things cool.
For a while, we’ve wanted to do a white wine themed Dinner Gang. The obvious choice was Chardonnay, and we like to stay away from the obvious. We picked Sauvignon Blanc, because like two of the wines we’ve previously had (Pinot Noir and Syrah), there are at least three different expressions of the grape in at least three different regions of the world. We passed assignments out to fellow Dinner Gangers Jim & Neal and Kathryn & David, and here’s what we came up with.
FIRST COURSE: Creamy Crab Dip
I suggested “southern hemisphere” to David & Kathryn knowing that (since they hosted last time), they’d have the first course this time. I think southern hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc is more green and citrusy, so it makes a better leadoff hitter. The bright acidity tends to really get the mouth watering. I figured they’d explore either New Zealand or South Africa, but they surprised us with one of their choices.
We generally have our first course standing around the bar or kitchen of the host’s home, and the dip was the perfect kind of dish to gather around. I’m usually pretty skeptical about crab and cheese together, but Kathryn & David allayed those fears with a rich, round, and nicely piquant version of their own design. It disappeared pretty quickly as we chatted about everything and worked through the two different wines they brought.
The first was 2011 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It was exactly what I had expected—lemon grass and grapefruit on the noise, mouth-watering crispness on the palate. It was the right place to start. The surprise was 2011 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc from Chile’s Casablanca Valley. There was some grassiness to the nose, but the aromas were more like apples or stone fruit. At a blind tasting, I would have misidentified it as a Chenin Blanc. The palate had far more roundness than any Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had, which made it an outstanding pairing with the crab dip.
The first course down, food and wine winners all around, we moved to the table for course number two.
SECOND COURSE: Creamy Mushroom and Vegetable Soup
With France as their guideline for the wine, Jim & Neal decided to let the “wintry” conditions be their guide, bringing something to fight off the chill of the night. I raised an eyebrow at the choice of a cream-based soup to go with Sauvignon Blanc, and once again our friends showed us that they know exactly what they’re doing.
Most of the time, the vegetables in cream-based soups get cooked to within an inch of their life. Jim & Neal left them with a perfect amount of toothiness to be cooked but still have great texture. I’m not the biggest fan of soups, but this was wonderful, with rich herbal flavors balancing out the cream and earthiness. They brought a whole tureen of it, which meant they could leave us some extra to have during the week.
I had assumed that they would head to Sancerre for the wine and they kind of did, after a fashion, with 2012 Domaine de Chevilly Quincy, from the Loire Valley, where the appellation of Sancerre sits. The expressive minerality of the wine matched it up extremely well with the herbs in the soup. The flint on the nose contrasted deftly with the citrus on the palate—still acidic, but not nearly so much as to clash with the soup’s cream. Another nice pairing.
Congratulating ourselves on being two-for-two, we rested for most of an hour, finishing both bottles of Quincy, before moving on to the main.
MAIN COURSE: Broiled Scallops in Red Navel Orange Beurre Blanc with Broccolini and Medallion Potatoes
Going in, we knew we were making the navel orange beurre blanc after Gretchyn had found a guy selling the oranges on the side of the road. Twice the size of a blood orange and darker inside, the juice is sweet and powerfully intense. We decided to see what looked best at the seafood counter before deciding what to put under the sauce, narrowing it down to corvina, halibut, or scallops. They didn’t have corvina, and the 12-15 count scallops looked and smelled great. We had our winner.
We decided on a whim to broil the scallops. We love searing them, but it can be quite tricky to get the consistency right. No one wants jelly scallops, regardless of how deliciously crispy the tops and bottoms are. We were delighted at how they turned out. Tossed in some extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and few tablespoons of the red navel juice, they cooked to the right consistency—firm but not rubbery—in about 11 minutes under the broiler. What made the dish, however, was the beurre blanc.
RED NAVEL ORANGE BEURRE BLANC (serving six)
Juice from 2 large red navel oranges
Juice from 1 medium blood orange
Juice from 1 small lime
3/4 pound of butter, cut into 1 tablespoon squares
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Roughly 1 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
This one was all Gretchyn’s doing. I merely served as taster along the way. Juicing the oranges yielded right about a cup of juice. To that she added enough wine to make two cups of liquid. In this case, we used the very tasty and very affordable Graham Beck’s Chenin Blanc since we had opened a bottle the night before and not finished it, but any white wine with good, crisp acidity will do. On a low heat, she reduced that until it was about three tablespoons of liquid. Ticking up the heat to medium-low, she added the cream and then the butter, one square at a time, until they were all melted in. When the broccolini (steamed just under 11 minutes) and the medallion potatoes (roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper for half an hour) came out, we plated it all and then drizzled the beurre blanc over everything, lightly on the vegetables and potatoes, slightly heavier on the scallops. It was spectacular, and now we’re dreaming up a hundred other excuses to make the sauce.
Our wine assignment was California, so we chose 2012 Buoncristiani Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley on the recommendation of our friend Giovanni at the wine shop. I told him that I wanted a big, Robert Foley-like choice, and he didn’t disappoint. Interestingly enough, if I was drinking the Buoncristini just as a “cocktail” wine, I might have not been as pleased. The understated fruit character, acidity, and minerality were all in great balance, making it a fine pairing for the meal. As a wine for poolside, it just wouldn’t have had enough punch.
DESSERT: Orange Amaretto Parfait with Caramelized Pineapple
Another idea from the fertile mind of my lovely rocket scientist, she took the basis of one of her most popular creations, and orange cream roulade (featured previously on these pages), and turned it into a parfait, garnishing it with some fresh strawberries. The picture does all the work.
To go with it, we poured 2007 Inniskillin Ice Wine, a gift from my Monday Night Gamers. It was a sweet, sweet exclamation point on a sweet, sweet evening with four remarkable friends. Five and a half hours in, we closed the books on Dinner Gang 11 and laid immediate plans for number 12.