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Pinot Friendly Food for Two
© Sue Courtney
8 September 2002

Is it a shame to cook with Pinot Noir? No, I don't think so. These days we are told to cut down on our alcohol intake and if you want to try a different wine every night, you may as well cook with some of the wine, otherwise it will be wasted (in our house that is). So here's some of my recent food friendly pinot creations.

Spiced mushrooms in Pinot Noir.
This recipe started as a chicken and mushrooms in pinot noir, but I decided the dish was better without the chicken, although my husband liked it with chicken. Must have been my mood.

The spiced mushrooms in Pinot Noir actually turned out be a delicious dish for a Sunday Brunch as well as a fitting accompaniment to a main meal.

You will need

- 2 to 3 slices of onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 tablespoon of butter or oil
- 150 gms of mushroom - the small brown flats are good
- salt and pepper
- 2 to 3 sprigs of lemon thyme
- 2 to 3 cloves
- 1 star of anise
- 1 cup of pinot noir
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- water to mix

Melt the butter or oil in a saucepan.
Add the onion and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the mushrooms and pour the pinot noir over them.
Add a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper, the fresh sprigs of thyme from the garden, 2 to 3 cloves and a star of anise - it is the anise that really lifts the dish.
Bring gently to boiling point and lower heat to a simmer until the mushrooms are firm but cooked and the spice flavours have infused.
Mix the cornflour with enough water to make a paste. Thicken the sauce with this, stirring continually as you add it. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

To make this into a main meal with the chicken, here's what I suggest you do.
- Take 2 single chicken breasts and cut each breast into 4 or 5 strips.
- Marinate the chicken in a mix of the pinot noir, herb and spices for at least one hour.
- Saute the onion and garlic as above.
- Transfer to a casserole.
- Add the marinated chicken, the marinade and the mushrooms.
- Cook slowly in the oven at 175C for about 45 minutes - Thicken the juices before serving.

Serve with the remainder of the Pinot Noir. The reasonably priced Saint Clair Doctors Creek Pinot Noir 2001 ($23) or the Matua Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2001 ($27) were both used in the creation of these recipes. The Matua pinot has nice earthy flavours that go well with the mushrooms.

Salmon poached in pinot noir
Recipes for poaching salmon are plentiful, but why use a broth for the poaching liquid when you have wine. And what can be better than pinot noir?

Take one fresh salmon fillet and cut 5cm wide slices across the fillet, or buy already prepared.
Heat 1 cup of pinot noir in a pan.
Add the fish, skin side down and poach gently for about 5 minutes.
Turn and poach the other side for about a minute - you want the fish to be just cooked in the centre so it melts in the mouth and you eat it.

The flavours of the salmon and pinot noir combine very well together. If you use a spicy flavoured New Zealand pinot, perhaps a Marlborough pinot to match Marlborough salmon, you don't really need any other seasonings. There is enough flavour in both the salmon and the wine to make a flavoursome dish. I used the Lawsons Dry Hills Pinot Noir 2001.

A tip for enhancing colour when cooking with pinot noir
As the pinot noir cooks, the bright carmine colour of a youthful New Zealand pinot noir can fade to a dull brown. So last time I cooked my favourite 'Lamb Knuckles in Pinot Noir' I added a peeled and quartered beetroot. Although recipe books warn about peeling beetroot because it bleeds, I decided that the bleeding might preserve the colour of the wine. Indeed it did. And what's more, the flavours of an earthy pinot noir and freshly cooked beetroot are perfect together. Just don't dribble as you eat!

Lamb knuckles in Pinot Noir with beetroot
Lamb knuckle, lamb shanks - they are probably the same thing but my butcher calls them knuckles for whatever reason. At $2.50 each (where I buy them) they are cheap food as there is plenty of meat on a knuckle. Long slow cooking is the key to success, however.

Marinate 2 or 3 lamb knuckles (1 for me and 2 for him) overnight in 250 ml of pinot noir together with sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sliced cloves of garlic.
Transfer knuckles and marinade to a casserole dish.
Add one peeled standard globe beetroot that is cut into quarters or eights depending on size. Alternatively add 6 to 8 peeled miniature beetroot.
Cover dish and bake at 160C for 3 to 3.5 hours, turning knuckles during cooking.
If liquid evaporates too much, add more wine.
Pour the cooking juices and solids into a saucepan.
Skim off top layer of fat and remove herb twigs.
Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half.
Serve the shanks arranged over creamed potato or kumara mash.
Pour the sauce over and accompany with greens such as beans or broccoli.
Garnish with sprigs of rosemary or thyme.

Bon Appetit

© Sue Courtney
September 2002.

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