I used to be so intimidated by wine. I thought everyone around me knew more and that I’d look silly to go out on a limb and talk about how I felt the wine tasted. If I’ve learned ANYTHING over the years, it’s that nobody knows it all and taste is so different for each individual. So while I might taste one thing, another person might taste something totally different. This knowledge has totally opened me up to a world of experimentation with wine and encouraging my friends and those who I entertain to do the same. This past weekend, I hosting a little party to do just that.
I wanted to plan a meal that paired well with the Cambria's Benchbreak Chardonnay, but that was an easy, unintimidating experience. I kept the menu simple, I didn’t have too many bells or whistles, and I aimed to just let everyone taste and experience how they felt most comfortable.
I worked earlier in the week to figure out what I’d serve and based it on three things - 1) what was recommended for that wine on the wine’s website 2) what is typically paired with that wine out in restaurants and grocers and 3) what do I make that uses this wine in the cooking process. On Cambria’s website, I saw that milk cow cheeses were great accompaniments as well as shellfish. I also have a signature pasta dish that I use chardonnay in, so I thought it would make a great main course.
For apps, I always start every dinner out with a cheese platter because I love cheese and it’s so easy to make ahead. I served a few cheeses that pair well with chardonnay - comte, triple creme, and gruyere alongside some grapes and crackers. Also as a heavier appetizer, I served mussels in a (you guessed it) chardonnay broth. Mussels are crazy easy to make and if you’ve never tried it, you should definitely give it a go.
For the main course, I served my famous Italian sausage with kale and lemon pasta topped with gruyere and pine nuts. It went fabulously with the wine and the lemon flavor actually gave me the idea to use some lemons to decorate the table with as well.
A little side of asparagus offered another green at the table and is in season right now, so it worked great.
A lemon cheesecake really rounded out the evening with something slightly sweet and tart to counteract all of the butteriness!
Doesn’t it look like so much fun? You can grab the recipes here:
Chardonnay Pairing Made Easy
- Triple Creme
- White Grapes
- Rosemary crackers
Mussels in Chardonnay Broth
- 2 lbs mussels, cleaned
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 can drained diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chardonnay
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until soft and golden. Add wine to the pan and scrape up any browned bits. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper and stir together. Once the broth is boiling, add mussels and stir. Cover the pot for 6-7 minutes or until all mussels are opened. Give them another stir and serve hot with wedges of lemon and crusty bread. Makes 8 servings as an app.
Italian Sausage with Kale and Lemon Pasta
- 1 lb sweet mild italian sausage
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup chardonnay
- 6 cups chopped kale
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 lb bowtie pasta
- ¼ cup pinenuts
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Break sausage up in the bottom of a dutch oven and cook through. Add chicken broth, chardonnay, and kale, then stir and let simmer until the kale is soft 8-10 minutes. In the meantime, put a small saucepan with pinenuts and brown at medium-low heat until golden brown. This happens fast, so keep an eye on it! Cook the pasta accordingly to package directions, reserving one cup of the pasta water. Add zest and juice of the lemon to the kale and sausage mixture and stir. Mix the cooked pasta, the pasta water, the cheese, and the pine nuts into the kale mixture toss to cover. Serve with additional cheese if desired. Serves 8.
Lemon Swirl Cheesecake
- ½ package lemon Oreo cookies
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 8oz packages cream cheese
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- lemon curd (store bought)
Pulse the cookies a few times in a food processor until they are roughly ground. Add the butter and pulse just two or three more times until it comes together slightly. Press the cookie/butter mixture into the bottom and 1″ up the sides of a springform pan. In a stand mixer, cream the cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth. Pour half of the mixture into the cookie crust. Spoon globs of lemon curd into the cheesecake and swirl around to incorporate slightly. Then, top with the remaining cheesecake mixture.
Bake at 400 for 40 minutes, or until the top is browned and slightly cracked.