HE SAID/SHE SAID: Fish & Wine Pairings
Even though this is our second He Said/She Said blog, we haven't properly introduced ourselves. Let's remedy that now!
My name is Aaron and I'm a classically trained French chef through Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado. I am also an advanced certified wine professional through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) based in London.
My name is Maggie and I'm an advanced certified wine professional through Wine and Spirits Education Trust as well. I've been in the hospitality business for 9 years now. I pride myself on service. I love helping people elevate their gatherings around the table to a special experience.
This blog is a fun way to share our favorite food and wine pairings. Every recipe and wine is tried and true, so it's a guaranteed success at your next gathering! Even better, we feature wines that can be found at Colonial Wines and Spirits. It's always such a bummer to read about a wine in a magazine and get really excited about trying it--only to find out it's not even available in the state.
Have any questions about a recipe or wine we feature on He Said/She Said? Just pop into Colonial and ask away! That's the great thing about supporting a local business, we are here for YOU!
Now that we're officially introduced, let's get to the good stuff; since we've covered steak pairings, we'll talk about fish. Red wine with steak and white wine with fish is probably the most well known "rule" for food and wine pairings. We're going to delve a little deeper and even pair a red wine with fish (gasp). So without further ado,
These Wines Can Swim
The three filets we're featuring are salmon belly, sea bass, and rainbow trout. Even though the weight and texture differ from fish to fish, the preparation starts with pan searing. The recipes here utilize a cast iron skillet, similar to prepping a steak. The most important part is getting your skillet very hot while utilizing a high heat oil, such as peanut oil or sunflower oil. Note: olive oil burns at a very low heat, so it is not ideal in this cooking method.
He Said: Seared Salmon Belly
Salmon belly is the thinner, fattier portion of the salmon filet. The higher fat content of this cut makes it melt in your mouth! Try king salmon belly for a decadent treat-it's definitely worthy of its name!
This part of the fish is so unctuous, delicate and small that I like to eat it on its own, typically as an appetizer.
To cook this fish, I like to add some smashed garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary. Lay the salmon belly (presentation side down) in the hot skillet and sear without moving for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, add a pat of butter to the pan and baste for another 30 seconds. Plate on a small bed of lettuce, grilled bread, or a la carte and enjoy!
She Said: Hahn SLH Chardonnay
I think king salmon deserves a wine that's decadent and weighty. Chardonnay is the 'king' of heavy white wine, so why shouldn't these two be paired together? Chardonnay is a full bodied white wine on its own, but there are ways that winemakers can add to this weight. One technique is called batonnage, or stirring of the wonderful leftover lees. Leaving the lees to mingle with the wine adds weight, fullness and complexity. Hahn SLH Chardonnay goes through lees stirring once a week for an entire year in barrel. Think of the aroma that rises out of a bowl filled with bread dough, right before it's time to knead it into a ball. That's the smell and flavor these yeast cells add to the wine! Makes sense, right? Don't worry, there's not going to be a quiz at the end of this blog. Just know that this Chardonnay is a great match for salmon belly!
He Said: Sea Bass
Fun fact: only a small portion of sea bass sold comes from from the coast of Chile, yet most sea bass is sold as Chilean sea bass! Also... it's not a bass! It's actually a type of cod. The term "sea bass" was created by a fisherman in 1977; before then it was known by its given name--the Patagonian Toothfish. (Catchy, right?) Now you know the real story! This is one of the more pricey fish fillets at your local market, but it's well worth the money. Cooked properly, this is a fish to wow!
Sea bass is meaty, fatty, buttery and can stand on it's own. It's so good that it doesn't warrant being covered up by a heavy hand of seasonings, garlic mashed potatoes or a lemon beurre blanc sauce. I like to stick to subtle side dishes that won't take the spotlight off the sea bass. Roasted vegetables, or pureed parsnip and carrot are always complimenting. Olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a sprig of thyme fresh from the garden. It's all about letting this beautiful piece of fish shine!
To cook the fish, I typically go classic and sprinkle the filet with coarse sea salt and pepper. Sear in the skillet for 2 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for 2 minutes more. Place in an oven preheated to 350 for 10 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 145 degrees. Remove and tent with foil until ready to eat. Note: If you find a fillet with the skin on still (our personal favorite way to enjoy) place the skin side of your fish in the skillet first and cook for 4 minutes. Once the fish is flipped, follow directions above.
She Said: Domaine Du Clos Du Fief Julienas Cru Beaujolais
That's right, I'm committing the cardinal sin--white fish with red wine! DUN DUN DUN!
Now that we've all figured out the world isn't going to end, let me tell you about this amazing pairing. What I'm looking for in this pairing is to match the weight of the fish with the weight of the wine. Since this is such a big, thick and meaty fish, why not go with a red wine? If you haven't discovered the 'hidden gem' row in the burgundy section of the store filled with Cru Beaujolais, you're in for a treat. Like many other Pinot Noir lovers, I enjoy red burgundy. Unfortunately, Burgundy is a region very well known for their wines and they charge a pretty penny for the good stuff. So instead of settling for a middling $20 bottle from the red burgundy shelf, look to Cru Beaujolais! Grown in the southern region of Burgundy, Cru Beaujolais is made with Gamay grapes instead of Pinot Noir. It's very easy to guess Pinot Noir if you were to taste them blindly. This Cru Beaujolais, specifically from the village of Julienas is known for its richness. Rich blackberry and earthy notes with a velvety finish is everything this fish fillet needs!
He Said: Crispy Skin Rainbow Trout
Oh, rainbow trout, how I love thee! Seriously, trout has a special place in my heart (and stomach.) Maybe it's my southern roots. Rainbow trout is light, flaky, buttery, mild and very versatile. You'll most likely find it butterflied with the skin on in the store. This is perfect! Season with salt and pepper and place skin side down in your hot skillet and cook, without moving, for 4-5 minutes. After that, throw some fresh dill and lemon peel on top and put 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Baste with the butter, lemon and dill for 1 minute more. Remove from skillet with a fish turner, making sure to keep that crispy skin intact.
She Said: Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris
Being lighter than the salmon and sea bass, rainbow trout deserves a wine that isn't going to steal the show. I went with a Pinot Gris, because it's a light white that doesn't overpower--remember our goal: match the weight of the food and wine. The minerality in Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris is reminiscent of standing next to the Little Red River (a haven for rainbow trout and the people who fish for them), coupled with a citrus profile that acts as a squeeze of lemon, this pairing has so many supporting factors.
We hope this has encouraged you to try some new pairings and has busted some myths! Red wine can indeed go with fish and not all fish is created equal, so each can be paired with a new and exciting wine. Bon Appetit and salut! If you have any questions or want to pick our brains for another pairing, Colonial is the place to find us!