Is it just me, or does meat always taste better when it’s served to you on a stick?
Whether we’re talking kabobs, skewers, souvlaki, brochettes, satay or any one of a myriad of regional food classics showcasing tasty morsels of meat, fish, poultry, game or the finest farm fresh fruits and vegetables, what was once tasty street food is quickly being elevated to a loftier culinary position.
Sure, these delicious dishes are easy to eat and fun for their playful, almost whimsical nature, but what is it about these ideas that makes them so compelling? In part, they seem to accomplish complete bites without the need to pull little bits of various components together in a single forkful. They often use gorgeous sauces or bold flavourful marinades to enhance the proteins or produce on display. And given their history, often times as street food, they seem to pack an authentic regional flavour punch.
For these reasons, the recipes featured today are also wonderful foods with which to match wine. The pungent, complex and layered flavours reward careful and thoughtful wine picks that showcase and draw out the sensational flavours in the food. Moreover, wine loves aromatic herbs and seasonings – not to mention meat! – so dishes, for example, featuring rosemary or thyme are enhanced by southern French “garrigue” influenced red wines.
Now some of these recipes are famous classics, but others will be culinary discoveries or less heralded regional dishes. In this same way, we’ve aimed to bring you a combination of wines including both familiar grapes from famous wine regions, but tried to spice things up with a few new discovery type wines whose acquaintance you will be pleased to have made.
Fire up the grill and get your skewers soaking, because it’s time to unleash 13 epic recipes and the perfect wine pairings for each:
1. Asian Marinated Salmon & Pineapple Kabobs – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Barrel Aged Chardonnay
Chardonnay has a special love affair with salmon, and a good barrel aged rendition offers the perfect interplay with the nutty sesame flavours and grilled pineapple on display in this dish.
2. Mahi Mahi, Key Lime, Jalapeno & Pineapple Skewers – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Txakoli
Have you heard of Txakoli? I like to describe it as Spain’s white answer to Beaujolais Nouveau; a young bone-dry white wine with fabulous acidity and a bit of spritz. Grown in Spain’s coastal Basque country, this is a perfect partner with fish or seafood, and a magical citrus-centric addition to this simple skewer.
3. Salt Prawn Skewers w/ Summer Vegetables – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Sauvignon Blanc
OK, so maybe this was one of the easier picks on the list today, but that doesn’t make it any less tasty. The lovely green lime, herbaceous and gooseberry notes in Sauvignon Blanc marry perfectly with the green summer vegetables, while bright citrus fruit finds itself comfortably at home with the salt prawns.
4. Sweet Mandarin Chicken Skewers w/ Spicy Peanut Sauce – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Off-Dry Gewurztraminer
Spicy food loves wine with a little sweetness. Add the aromatic Satay spices to the mix and this dish is desperately calling out for the kind of explosive aromatic fireworks that only a Gewurztraminer can offer. Once you try Gewurz with spicy Asian inspired dishes, you’ll never go back.
5. Chicken Skewers w/ Meyer Lemon Salsa – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Picpoul de Pinet
Picpoul de Pinet is one of the oldest wine grape varieties still cultivated in France. Though there are only about 2,500 acres planted in the Languedoc (ok – I grant you that sounds like a lot to drink in one sitting, but it’s relatively tiny from a commercial wine production standpoint), this heritage grape is on the upswing. Enjoyed by wine lovers for its floral citrus blossom and bright lemon/lime acidity and freshness, I can’t think of a better dish with which to discover this new/old wine than alongside chicken draped in gorgeous Meyer Lemon salsa.
6. Reshmi Kebab North Indian Style Chicken Skewers – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Muscat
These intensely fragrant and spicy (aromatic – not heat) chicken skewers require a wine pairing that delivers every bit the same complex intensity and fervor. Allow me to introduce you to the perfect wine pairing – dry Alsace Muscat. This wine showcases spring flowers, orange blossom and stone fruit within a broad, rich frame; perfect with this North Indian inspired dish.
7. Skewered Japanese Chicken Meatballs – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Bourboulenc
Bam – you’ve just been Bourboulenc’d! This white grape represents a discovery for many, but the delicate flavours and aromas of honey, melon and dried Provencal herbs create a sophisticated food wine and a perfect alternative to Chardonnay – particularly when barrel aged.
8. Chicken Livers on a Rosemary Branch w/ Pickled Radish – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Manzanilla Sherry
Chicken liver and dry Sherry are a classic pairing, and this more modern chicken liver preparation is not different. While we could easily enjoy this dish with a dry Fino Sherry, I want to introduce you the Manzanilla – which is kind of like Fino’s brother from another mother. Manzanilla is perhaps even a touch lighter than Fino – and is produced in Sherry’s coastal regions, about 15 km west of Jerez. The result? A Sherry with a touch of briny ocean influence, great freshness and the perfect amount of body to pair up with these rich chicken livers.
9. Skewered Bacon Wrapped Chestnut & Chicken Livers – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Dry Oloroso Sherry
So, if the pairing immediately above represents a modern rift on a classic pairing, Oloroso with this dish brings us back to basics. This rich, smoky, savoury dish is a magical match with the darker, more flavourful dry Oloroso style of Sherry. If you consider yourself a serious foodie, this is a food and wine match you must experience.
10. Beautiful Aromatic Herbed Lamb Kabobs – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Mencia
Mencia: Spain’s answer to Pinot Noir. The bright, red-fruit dominated mid-weight red is a seductive pick next to lamb or flavourful red meats. Add some fragrant spice to the mix, and this is quickly elevated to a world-class wine and food pairing. From the vineyards of Bierzo, in northwestern Spain, this wine has gone from discovery to trendy tipple in no-time flat.
11. Noto-Gyu Stcki (Salted & Grilled Beef) – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Fine Red Burgundy
Simplicity and elegance can be delicious. This is a place where I’d recommend looking at the pedigree of the ingredients in this dish in assessing the best possible wine pairing, and with that in mind, I quickly end up making a trip to the finer vineyards Burgundy. This gorgeous rare slice of salted beef is simply one of the finest things I can think to eat alongside a glass of mineral-laden, red fruit-oozing Pinot Noir from one of Burgundy’s more celebrated terroirs.
12. Classic Greek Lamb Souvlaki w/ Homemade Tzatziki – RECIPE
WINE PAIRINGS: Gigondas
From the lofty heights of subtlety and elegance, we take a detour and visit the land of the intensely herbal and meaty. And in this case, these descriptions apply in equally delicious measure to both the featured dish and its perfect wine companion. Just north of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in France’s Rhone Valley, we find the village of Gigondas. The vineyards surrounding this village produce Grenache dominated reds with a splash of Mourvedre and Syrah, which together conspire to produce one of the great under-valued red wines of France. And in case that value proposition wasn’t enough to get you up your of your seat, this stuff is stunning alongside lamb.