Confession time. I got the wine mentioned here for free thanks to the lovely people at Sopexa. They asked me if I fancied creating an interesting dish to match two bottles of Chablis. “And it’s a bit of a competition”, they said. I like competitions. Where do I sign? After all, I do like
free wine a challenge.
The question is, of course, what sort of interesting food can you create to go with wine? Yes, white wine goes with fish, with chicken yadda yadda yadda. But I wanted something a little different. A little less classic and more fun. And the first thing that popped into my mind was South East Asia.
Now, you have to be careful with SE Asian dishes and wine. Usually you need something like a Gewurtztraminer with it’s tropical flavours and severe acid edge to cut through the richly pungent and salty sauces. And then theres the chilli. The heat from a bird’s eye pepper can kill the best wine. On the other hand, there is beautifully fresh and herby side to it as well. All that lime and lemongrass, ginger and Thai basil.
Chablis Premier Cru, Les Vaillons 2007
My experience of Chablis is limited (mostly by price, both these bottles were around £14) but I have drunk a fair few Macon Villages which isn’t a whole world away. So with that in mind I decided to base my meal around scallops. Their firm rich flesh is a good match for the rounded but elegantly ripe flavours I expected from the wine. They also go brilliantly with Asian flavours. And I really really like them.
Chablis, like Macon Villages, is made from Chardonnay, but the end result is a word away from those creamy New World belters so beloved of the Nineties’ drinking classes. The French version is somehow better balanced and more elegant. Wine snob? Moi?
Well, maybe, but the first sip of Chablis Premier Cru, Les Vaillons 2007 bore out my prejudices. It was like Kristin Scott Thomas compared to Donald Trump. A pale grassy gold in colour, it was all subtle citrus aromas with a mix of crisp apple, white peach flavours and the merest hint of buttery oak. There was a real maturity and elegance to it. Overbearing and over rich it was not.
Les Domains Brocard Organic Chablis 2007 and scallops
The second bottle, a Les Domains Brocard Organic Chablis 2007 was leaning more towards its cousins down under. The first whiff slammed into my nostrils like a creamy fist. And it was a rich gold to look at, which worried me a little. Was this going to be a vinous Trumper? Happily not. On first
glug sip there was decent acidity to it, it reminded me of fresh lemon and honey, with a hint of ripe nectarine and papaya.
I concocted a pick-and-mix melange of Thai flavours to go with the wines, omitting troublesome ingredients like chilli and coconut. The end result was a green sauce that was fresh and herby with just enough chilli to add some warmth without killing the wine. Pungent fish sauce and salty soy gave it a bit some depth, while lemongrass, lime juice and ginger brought it to zingy life.
Thai style green sauce ingredients ready to blend
I served it tossed with in rice noodles alongside seared scallops. And it did the trick, complementing the subtle citrus and stone fruit flavours of the Chablis without overwhelming them. It also brought out a slightly sweet edge in both wines that complemented the smooth scallop flesh and fishy roes.
A Thai style green sauce
Makes about a jar
This would equally be great smeared over fillets of seabass and grilled, stuffed in a pork tenderloin wrapped in serrano ham and baked, or stirred through some puy lentils.
2 handfuls of basil leaves (use Thai basil if you can find it)
1 handful of mint leaves
1 thumb of ginger – peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic – peeled and chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass – out leaves discarded and very finely sliced
Juice of two limes
Quarter tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tblsp fish sauce
1 tblsp of oil (I used olive, but rape seed or even sesame would be as good)
Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until it’s the consistency of pesto.
I used 4 scallops per person with roes attached
King scallops with roes attached
Zest of one lime
Remove the collars, a lump of hard white muscle attached to the soft main bit, and wash thoroughly to remove grit.
Sprinkle over a little lime zest, a drop of soy per scallop and the smallest hint of ginger.
Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan and put over a high heat. When very hot add the scallops and sear for two minutes. Turn and sear for a minute more. Then serve.
On the plate