Going Beyond the Recipe

My favorite food writer Michael Ruhlman has a new book, and some very interesting thoughts on his blog including, "my conviction (is) that the world doesn't need more recipes, it needs deeper understanding of the fundamental techniques."

This is as true of wine, art and life as it is of food, and it does make me hungry for a roast chicken tonight.

I'm already committed to pan searing swordfish with tomatoes and olives -- I found an excellent line-caught, dayboat swordfish at my fish market so I know my protein's provenance, which is more than I can say for most chicken available in the U.S. Still, Ruhlman's thought is just as appropriate - living life well is not so much about following a recipe by adhering to a lot of rules (though it helps to be aware of them) as it is about knowing techniques (i.e. having standards and ethics) and applying them.

Thus, I don't have a recipe for the swordfish dish I'm going to make and I haven't yet chosen the wine to serve with it, but I know what I want to achieve and have a pretty good idea how to get there.

Need a guidepost, if not a rule, about food and wine? My friend and wine/food guru Jerry Comfort once told me, "Food without salt wants wine without tannin." There are some solid scientific principles behind this that I will go into in future posts (it's at the heart of my seminar series "Engaging the Senses" and will figure into the classes I teach for WSET in 2015), but suffice it to say for now that you don't want an oaky chardonnay with sushi (tannic wine, food without salt) and you don't want an unoaked riesling with a well salted roast chicken. 

By Michael Ruhlman

For my swordfish, I'd like a white wine but will wait to choose it until I see how salty my olives and sun-dried tomatoes are. Then again, an even niftier choice might be a beautiful rosé from Provence - it has the crisp acidity that will marry nicely with the olive oil I'll drizzle on the fish, and just a hint of tannin, and that should neatly balance the briny olives.

I just love the lab work of food and wine!