Archive for October, 2009

wine and cheese

For our wedding last year, we received a generous and creative surprise gift from my uncle and his family: a bottle of Dom Perignon. Folks, this tasty stuff was produced in 1999, when Craig and I were but high-schoolers. Needless to say, when we received it, we knew we’d save it for a special occaision to enjoy. Luckily, we knew we had many milestones coming up alongside our one-year anniversary – around that same time (May of this year), Craig would graduate from law school, and I would graduate with my Master’s. Well, May came and went in a whirlwind, and Craig immediately became focused on studying for the Virginia Bar. Instead, we made this celebratory meal in late July, when he finished the Bar exam and I (finally) finished off my Master’s thesis.

For this meal, I knew I wanted food that would allow the champagne to shine. For a first course, I decided on some simple cheese and crackers. I love cheese, and I especially love it with wine. I asked the nice cheese counter attendant at Whole Foods what cheese he recommended with champagne, and he suggested a Pierre Robert. I didn’t mention the specific champagne in question as I didn’t want to sound like a tool, but I ended up with a pairing that was not what I was hoping for.

Before I tell you why the pairing was not ideal, let me give you context by providing our review of Dom Perignon. This champagne is extremely dry. It has an earthy taste (almost mineral-y), and it is quite fizzy – fizzier than other champagnes we’ve had. It has a few fruity notes, but mostly it is dry. This makes it fun to pair with food, but makes for different pairings than those that would work with your everyday champagne. 

The reason it did not work particularly well with this cheese is that the funkier, earthy tastes in the cheese competed with the earthy, mineral-y taste in the champagne. This cheese needs a sweeter wine. I am not making this up – even Craig, who jokes that his ability to differentiate between wines is limited to “red” and “white,” agreed that this pairing was not ideal. It was no matter, though – we enjoyed a delicious glass of champagne, then ate the cheese separately.

Luckily, our entree made for an ideal pairing with the wine:

crab strudel

This is Ina Garten’s crab strudel, and it is delicious. I knew I wanted to pair the champagne with seafood, and there is something that is just so festive and special about crab. Plus, I like its texture a lot better than that of lobster. The strudel includes a touch of curry powder, which we loved, and it seemed to go especially well with the champagne. If you are a confirmed curry-hater, however, you can use Old Bay instead. I thought the strudel also needed a topping or sauce, so I made a spicy mayo by combining canola mayo with a touch of hot chili garlic paste, salt, and a little bit of water. This added a lot to the dish, in my opinion. Next time you want something to go with champagne, make this – it would be great on New Year’s. You can also slice it into small rounds for a party appetizer.

Crab Strudel

Lightly adapted from: Ina Garten, Food Network

ingredients (I made a half recipe, but this is the full recipe – halving it is more than enough for 2 entrees)

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, drained
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saute pan, add the garlic and cook over medium-low heat until soft, approximately 2 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir. Remove from heat.

2. Shred the crabmeat into a bowl (leaving some larger pieces) and mix with the lime juice, salt, to taste, and pepper. Add the garlic mixture.

3. Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Unfold 1 sheet of the phyllo dough. Brush the sheet with melted butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Repeat the process by laying a second sheet of phyllo dough over the first sheet, brush it with melted butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs until 5 sheets have been used. Spoon a 1-inch wide row of the crab mixture along 1 edge of the phyllo dough. Roll it up. Brush the top with butter and set aside. Repeat the entire process using the all the phyllo dough and crab filling.

4. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper (I used my Silpat). Score the crab strudel diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces and bake for 12 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown. Slice and serve.

Finally, for dessert, I made chocolate-dipped strawberries. These are easy to make just by melting high-quality chocolate chips in a makeshift double boiler. I recommend adding a healthy splash of vanilla to the chocolate. Dip the berries and place them on wax paper or a Silpat, then transfer to the fridge to harden. Take them out about 30 minutes before you want to serve them.


The berries also paired wonderfully with the last of the champagne. The contrast between the sweet berries and the dry wine was a winner. We had a wonderful evening enjoying this wine and food and celebrating the end of the taxing grad-school chapter of our lives!


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