August 14, 2013-Sally James is co-creator and host of a weekly radio program called “Slow Living Radio” which is broadcast live every Monday night from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. PST. You’ll find it at CRN Digital Talk Radio www.crntalk.com. She is an award-winning Australian chef, author, educator, television and radio presenter. The author of 18 books, her best selling “Simply Healthy” won the prestigious World Cookbook Awards, Versailles, France in 1999 for the best health cookbook. She continues her work in the area of healthy living and eating and has been a guest chef and lecturer for the American Heart Association as well as many other high profile organizations.
Below is Sally’s interview with Jeff Prather, his ideas for wine pairings, and his recipe for a simple, quick but delicious scallop dinner guaranteed to impress your guests.
Jeff Prather, wine director, lecturer and author, was at first amazed when I placed an aromatic, plump black winter truffle in his hands. After all, it was 100F outside, in the unusually hot start to our summer.
Jeff was unaware of the spawning Australian Périgord truffle industry, but when he thought about the country’s success and excellence in olive oils, cheeses, wine and other “Euro-centric” products, it made perfect sense. And, impressed by the truffles’ pungent and fresh aroma, Jeff thought they were every bit as good as the European varieties he had tried.
His mind drifted to corn, peas, tomato, salad, risotto and asparagus – a whole new world! How wonderful to be able to add the deep earthy top note to light summery dishes!
Whisking his prize home, he first rustled up some King trumpet mushrooms with scallops and a tarragon butter sauce with the truffles. Then he played with some more flavor combinations. At Ca Momi Enoteca in Napa, where Jeff selects the wines and manages the bar, owner Dario DeConti suggested adding truffles to their simple buffalo mozzarella pizza, He tried. It worked, naturally. And then as he started to bring in a wine pairing, it was like a light bulb went on, and one that could open the door for lovers of “big” wines during summer months.
He reflected on the wine he had chosen for his scallops the night before, an unoaked Chardonnay. Yet while savoring the dish, Jeff and his wife really thought something with more depth, such as a Montrachet or Pinot Noir would be great.
Jeff realized that adding truffles to light and whimsical summer dishes gave them much more affinity with bolder wines than one would normally choose.
“For sommeliers with guests who prefer bigger wines, truffles are the perfect bridge”, proclaimed Jeff. “It really allows you to get more creative with wine pairings where, without the truffles, you’d be more limited to lighter varietals”.
Jeff suggested that with dishes such as the pizza, he would normally suggest a wine such as Verdicchio, Soave or Falanghina, but with the truffle, you could well pair it with a Valpolicella, Chianti, Barolo, Arneis or Pinot Noir.
A seafood risotto with truffles would bring lighter reds into the picture, and a grilled summer seafood salad with truffles could be just delightful with a Red Burgundy. This led us to salmon, a fish that is just beautiful with truffles and is frequently paired with light Pinot Noir with low oak and tannin levels. Adding truffles to the dish can bridge the palate divide to warmer climate, more heavily oaked wines, whereas most only suggest a Pinot Noir in the red field.
A summer staple, the classic Heirloom Caprese, is lovely with Verdicchio and Sauvignon Blanc. Add truffle, add a Beaujolais.
In a word, or should I say, in Jeff’s words, “the truffles add richness to wine choices for the whole summer menu – a real delight for Sommeliers”.
Here is Jeff’s scallop dish to enjoy with your own choice of wine.
Scallops with King Trumpet Mushrooms and Australian Truffles (Serve with some crusty French bread to mop up the rich, delicious sauce)
4-6 King Trumpet mushrooms, cut into pieces about the same size as scallops
Enough butter to cover scallops, plus a few tablespoons extra
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
Juice of ½ lime
Australian winter truffles, shaved
Place the scallops in a small saucepan pan that will hold them snugly in a single layer, and cover with water. Pour out the water and measure. This is how much butter you need to melt. Pat scallops dry and set aside.
Melt the butter in the pan over a low heat, add the scallops, cover and cook gently without boiling for 10-12 minutes or until opaque.
While scallops are cooking, heat the extra butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat, and add the mushrooms. Cook until browned then flip over and cook other side, adding more butter if necessary. Keep warm.
Remove scallops from pan and keep warm. Add garlic then the tarragon and lime, and stir over low heat. Simmer 3-5 minutes or until flavors have infused the butter and tarragon leaves are soft.
Arrange mushrooms and scallops on plates and surround with the sauce. Top with shaved truffles and enjoy with the wine of your choice – deep and aromatic or light and vibrant – experiment and find your own new favorite pairing!
Jeff discovered his new favorite with the dish ranged from a Chassagne Montrachet to a more delicate Pinot Noir from Central Ottago, New Zealand, or Tasmania. Or consider a rich Russian River Chardonnay or Viognier from Horton Vineyards in Virginia.
Recipe from Cal Staminov, Executive Chef, Bernardus Lodge and Marinus Restaurant, Carmel Valley
Cal uses the Australian Black Winter Truffle to make this cocktail during summer months.
Cal’s Black Truffle Martini
Grey Goose Vodka (750 ml bottle)
2 Fresh Australian Black Truffles, Finely Chopped
Two weeks prior to serving add the finely chopped truffles to the vodka. Allow the vodka & truffle mixture to gently infuse by standing the bottle in a cool, dimly lit room or a cellar for two weeks.
for two martinis
Fill the cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Pour four liquid ounces of truffle vodka over the ice. Shake or stir the mixture, depending on personal preference.
Strain the mixture into two chilled martini glasses and garnish with a miniature pickled truffle skewered on a tooth pick. Indulge.
Cal’s black truffle martini is available at the Truffle Dinner held annually each December at Marinus Restaurant at Bernardus Lodge. This martini is the signature aperitif for the dinner.