Thursday, September 18, 2008

Food + Wine = Music, An amateur's epiphany

Not being able to analyze wines like an expert, you know the type that spouts "exhibits gorgeous floral, cherry, tobacco, spice, and roasted Provencal herb-like notes"; I am forced to invent something else. My first attempt, "Computes elegantly along fractal fruit boundaries"; naah! too geeky and even I cannot decipher what it means. The next version "Widening spreads between expected and actual amortized time-variant alcohol contents"; sounds like I am constantly imbibing even while writing. Like a drowning man grasping at straws, and making no secret of my amateur status I finally proclaim ---"Food + Wine = Music". Ok maybe not as revolutionary as the theory of relativity, but it does express the sound principle of always pairing wine with food.

The question still remains, which music ?; and not being an expert at classical Western or classical Indian, the choice automatically reduces to English Pop/Rock or Hindi film songs. Take something like "We don't need no education" by Pink Floyd, I just cannot see this being paired with any food much less wine (maybe some narcotic substance, but I am not going there). Hence by elimination, I am left with Hindi film music; but as you will see it is not such a bad choice.

A) Grilled Vegetables + Champagne = Asha Bhosale's Aao Huzur Tumko
Bubbly, frothy, effervescent, is that Champagne or Asha Bhosale singing Aao Huzur Tumko. Never mind, the adjectives fit both and this is my reason for the pairing. Grilled Vegetables just add to the fun, the great thing about them is that you can select any of your favorites.
I start with chopped cauliflower and julienned onions , a little oil and just a few spices (you can add more if you like); throw them on a charcoal grill and cook for about 10 - 15 min. Then I add julienned red, yellow, orange, green peppers (capsicum); and cook 5 more minutes. Finally I throw in some coarsely chopped tomatoes and cook just a few more minutes. Take them off the grill, and serve with champagne as the appetizer; do not forget the song in the background. You may just roast these vegetables in an oven if you do not want the hassle of a charcoal grill, or even make them on the stove using a grill pan. Other vegetables can certainly be added or substituted; eggplant, green beans, mushrooms all go well.
Substitutes for Champagne --- a simple Chardonnay (Barton & Guestier appx. $12), Non-Alcoholic sparkling wine, fizzy apple juice.

B) Salmon Au Poivre + a Red Burgundy = Kishore Kumar's Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhaana
Kishore Kumar belts out youthful romantic songs that upon further inspection prove to have a lot of depth and cannot be easily copied. Same with a Red Burgundy, and when paired with that Salmon; your Zindagi will be a lot more Suhaana.
Squeeze the juice of a lemon on a 1 - 1.5 lb piece of Salmon, and add 1 - 2 tbsp Olive oil. Liberally coat with cracked fresh pepper and extremely thin slices of one garlic clove. Cut another lemon into thin discs, cover the Salmon leaving some space between them, and marinate for at least an hour. Then put it under a 400 deg. F broiler for 10 min or until you are satisfied that it is cooked. You may also grill it over charcoal or on a stove using a grill pan. The lemon slices ensure that the salmon remains moist and tender, and this technique can be used with chicken as well.
Substitutes for Red Burgundy --- any Pinot Noir from say California or Oregon, Beaujolais
Substitutes for Salmon --- Tuna, cod, sea bass, even mild tandoori chicken.

C) Dijon Lamb Chops + a Red Bordeaux/Chateauneuf du Pape = Mohd. Rafi's Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hai or Mukesh's Kabhie Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Khayal Aata Hai
Complex, multi-layered, amazing depth that improves with age; characteristics of a good Red Bordeaux or a good Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Do I need to further elaborate upon the pairing, I would argue that it is self-explanatory.
Marinate Lamb/Mutton chops in Dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, parsley (can sub a little coriander), salt & pepper, for at least a couple of hours. The adventurous may also add some dry red wine. Grill/Broil/bake to taste, I usually do about 5 -7 minutes each side.
Substitutes for the wine --- Australian Shiraz, any Syrah (Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a Syrah blend), any good dry red wine
Substitutes for the chops --- A mildly spiced mutton/lamb cutlet, even a good steak.

D) Alphonso Mangoes + Sauternes = Lata Mangeshkar's Lag Jaa Gale
What is sweeter, Lata singing Lag Jaa Gale, a fresh ripe alphonso mango or an excellent Sauternes ? I say go with all three together, this is possibly the best dessert combination.
Substitutes for the wine --- Canadian IceWines, possibly Sula's dessert wines.
Substitutes for the mango --- pears (fresh or poached), strawberries, with nuts & cheese.


Smita said...

wow! Lovely idea of linking the dishes with songs. And some lovely songs that you have selected.

Last month when we were in Goa I tried wine for the 1st time. Unfortunately I didn't like it :(

From ur list I guess am gonna try grilled veggies. You get Alphonso there??? Am sure they must exorbitantly priced.

Anyways loved the lyrical & the delicious post :)

couchpapaya said...

argh! where do u get alphonso mangoes ?? it's been years since i ate them and last i tried getting hold of them in utah they were $8 PER mango. much as i love them even i couldnt think of eating my money away that way :(

samir, fabulous post. am trying that lamb chops/wine combo v. soon. i make the same salmon quite often, often with a little rosemary, sometimes i even fry it up and make a sauce with lime+capers. will try ur wine pairing. do u watch giada de launrentis of everyday italian ... on her show once she made this salmon and then put it into these little foil pockets and threw those in the oven. apparently the fish retained a lot of moisture because of the foil....never tried it out though, just remembered it now when reading ur recipe !!

u know how they say white wines with white meat etc i never really got that ..... when i started experimenting with wine, i loved the whites but over time i find the reds just have more body, i prefer them and pair a red with just abt everything. i know, i know, v. unspohisticated palate :P

after i moved here i found out MN also makes ice wines, of the riesling variety. not that i wld recommend it, i remember it being v. sweet. it's a tad less expensive than the canadian ones tho ! :) must get my hands on a sauternes now :D loved the post, but i did say that already didnt i lol

samir said...

Smita :))
I made sure I selected at least one DA song and one veggie dish.
(Did you note the fizzy apple juice)
Now I still have to see some Sallu movies. :)))
No problem with not liking wine on the first try, takes a long time to develop a taste. Now that India is making better wines, maybe sooner and not that expensive either.

samir said...

Smita & cp :
Alphonso mangoes are/were still very expensive in NJ, something like $5 - 6 a mango; maybe more. I did get to eat one at someone else's house, they got them directly from India. I ate plenty when I was in Mumbai in May. Hope they get cheaper next year.

samir said...

cp :))
Now its my turn to say that your comment could be a post. :D.

That salmon with rosemary is excellent, in fact the person whose house I ate the mango makes a similar dish. She (my sister-in-law) also likes Georgette Heyer. Let me see if I can get her to comment on your GH reviews.

A big Yes to Giada De Laurentis, I remember the foil as well (do not remember if it was salmon or something else.)

Don't worry about white wine with white meat, that is just rule 101.
Wine and food combinations vary from person to person; and there is nothing wrong in your likes.

I did not know that MN made ice wines from Riesling. Thanks for the sharing that info. maybe I will look for one.
BTW --- Sauternes is excellent, but expensive; so be careful and enjoy.
Thanks for an extremely wonderful response.

samir said...

Smita : ))
I forgot to thank you for a wonderful response.

Ava said...

Food and wine..

sounds divine ..

music? ecstatic !

hehehe.. I like all your songs .. barring the Mukesh one. He has sung better, I admit the poetry in this one is superb.. but I prefer the Lata version.

samir said...

Avdi :))
Thanks for that poetic response.
I admit that that Mukesh pick was a little hurried, I was trying for that "Tuzko Banaya Gaya Hai Mere Liye"; i.e. Lamb for the wine region (he he he).

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I had breakfast not too long back (apple, raisin and cinnamon pancakes: what wine and song would go with that, I wonder?) but am already feeling hungry again...

samir said...

Thanks for appreciating the post, that breakfast sounds good.
Apples in the Bollywood context always makes me think of Kashmir/Himalayas; so maybe a nice Kashmir based song. What better than "Isharon Isharon Mein" from Kashmir Ki Kali; has that wonderful morning mist as well (at least I hope it was morning). Now the wine, the best at breakfast is Mimosa, i.e. champagne with orange juice. Although Asha Bhosale is the first choice for champagne paired songs, the addition of orange juice makes it suitable for a Lata-Rafi duet.
Other wines choices would include a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps some Indian whites as well.

Anonymous said...

Very nice! How original and clever.
All the best!

samir said...

Sita-ji :)
Thank you, I am glad you liked it.