Which wine with fish? In her book Great Tastes Made Simple, American sommelier Andrea Immer describes this fish recipe and its wine match as an ‘omigod’ moment. I have to agree – everyone in my family swooned over it…
This is basically a sauce that goes with any fish, but I chose to serve it on salmon fillets. Andrea advises that if you want to know ‘Which wine with fish?’, choose a particularly toasty oak Chardonnay and cook this recipe, then you will slide into wine and food matching heaven…
Wine with fish – the wine
I didn’t simply choose a Californian wine to play it safe with an American recipe – I picked it out because it seemed the toastiest Chardonnay I could find in my local supermarket.
Thankfully the days of American over-oaking their wines are now over and many producers today are more careful about how much oak influence they allow.
Hahn Chardonnay (Waitrose, £10.99) was described in store as showing very toasty oak, but when I got it home I found the oak was not too strong – more like a touch of brioche really. It also had a very unexpected sweet lemon sherbert smell, which sort of came and went between the ripe apple, pear and peach aromas and flavours. But when we took a swig along with a mouthful of this amazing recipe we had a real surprise.
Suddenly we were getting smokey barbeque flavours! It was still a thoroughly fruity and creamy wine, but the food amplified the smokiness in the wine fourfold, perfectly complementing the sauce. So now we knew the answer to ‘Which wine with fish?’ – it was an experience in flavour enhancement and I highly recommend it.
Wine with fish – the recipe
(Serves 4-6 people). Andrea Immer calls it Sweet Corn and Mozarella Fish, but I had to make a couple of adjustments to Anglicize her American version. She used smoked mozarella (there was no such thing in my supermarket) so I used a touch of smoked paprika instead, which was just heavenly with the wine.
4-6 salmon fillets
1 medium size tin of sweetcorn (in water)
1 shallot finely chopped
1 clove garlic
2 sprigs thyme leaves
250ml chicken stock (a dissolved cube will do nicely)
170ml double cream
1 small ball mozarella
half a teaspoon salt and half a teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
juice half a lemon
1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly lengthways
1 red pepper deseeded and cut into thin strips
Heat a tablespoon vegetable oil in a large saucepan, tip in the corn and shallot and crush in the garlic. Fry over medium heat for 5 minutes and then add the thyme leaves, chicken stock and cream and bring to the boil while stirring. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes and start boiling the new potatoes.
Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a knob of butter in a large frying pan and lay the salmon fillets skin side down in the pan. Fry them for about 15 minutes on the skin side only, shaking every now and then to make sure they don’t catch.
While the fish is frying, toss a nob of butter in a smaller pan and fry the leeks and pepper over a medium heat. While they are still softening, tip the cream sauce it into a blender and add the mozarella, salt, white pepper and lemon juice. Blend together, then taste and add maybe a quarter of a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Blend and taste again adding just small amounts more until you are satisfied you have introduced slight smokiness without it being overpowering (you only want it in the background – definitely no more than half a teaspoon).
Turn the salmon over to fry for a minute on the flesh side and then lay the fillets on plates skin side down again, pour over the cream sauce and top them with the softened leeks and peppers before adding the potatoes on the side. You will have more sauce than you need but keep it to one side because people will beg for more.