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Wine a perfect match for Hawaiian poke fish


The moment I tried our Wine of the Week, Ellipsis 2010 Russian River Valley Ros?of Pinot Noir ($15), I began thinking of Hawaiian poke, a traditional dish of impeccably fresh ahi tuna cut into cubes and tossed with a little soy sauce, a little sesame oil, some red pepper flakes and, if you are lucky enough to have some on hand, inamona (crushed and roasted kukui nut).

As I sipped a glass of this lovely wine, I continued to think about it; poke is the absolutely best pairing I can imagine, a match made in heaven.

The wine is bright and refreshing, with gentle, subtle notes of spice and suggestions of cool red berries, picked early in the morning before the sugars rise.

In the glass, the wine shows just the slightest blush, like the skin of a white peach.

Remarkably, there is still widespread bias against so-called pink wines, an assumption that they are all sweet and cloying.

It's not accurate, but in America the opinion persists, thanks in part to the widespread popularity of white zinfandel in the 1980s and 1990s.

Yet this wine is elegant and sophisticated, with an appealing restraint and balance and no sweetness. It can be enjoyed with a wide range of foods, though I think it is at its best when enjoyed with either raw or chilled fish and shellfish.

The fruit is subtle enough that it works beautifully with oysters on the half shell. It is fabulous with sashimi and sushi. The spicy bass notes allow it to engage well with traditional crab and shrimp Louis.

For today's recipe, I've turned to the tradition of escabeche, which can describe a huge array of dishes, from simple pickled jalape?s to pan-fried fish in a sweet-and-sour vinaigrette.

I've taken inspiration from two sources, Mexican-style escabeche and the fabulous Gulf prawns that Dave Legros sells at the Sebastopol Farmers Market, which I happened to have on hand when I was tasting the wine.

Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you off; the dish is simple to make and doesn't take long.

(For poke recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit Eat This Now at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.)

Gulf Prawns Escabeche

Makes 2 to 3 servings

6 fresh colossal Gulf prawns

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red onion, in ?-inch dice

1 medium carrot, in ?-inch dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small serrano, seeded and minced

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

— Pinch of ground clove

— Pinch of ground cinnamon

— Pinch of ground cumin

1 bay leaf

2 thyme sprigs

1 tablespoon dried currants or golden raisins

1/3 cup dry sherry or Madeira

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or cider vinegar, plus more as needed

5 green olives, pitted and thinly sliced

3 French breakfast radishes, in small julienne

1 pickled jalape?, stemmed, seeded and cut into small julienne

2 tablespoons torn cilantro leaves

Remove the heads of the prawns, leaving the shells intact.

Set a heavy medium skillet over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and when it is hot, add the prawns. Cook for 90 seconds, turn and cook for 90 seconds more, or until they are just cooked through. Do not overcook. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

With the heat on medium-low, pour the remaining olive oil into the skillet, add the onion and carrot and saute gently until the onions are translucent and the carrots are just tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and serrano and saute 90 seconds more.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add the clove, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaf, thyme sprig and currants or raisins. Pour in the sherry and vinegar, cover and simmer very gently for about 10 minutes. Stir in the olives, remove from the heat and set aside.

Carefully peel the prawns and remove any visible central vein along the backs. Return the prawns to the bowl.

Taste the sauce, correct for salt and if it is not quite tart enough, add a little more vinegar. Pour over the prawns, cover and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes.

To serve, remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Use tongs to transfer the prawns to individual plates and spoon sauce over each portion. Scatter radishes, jalape? and cilantro leaves on top and serve immediately.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.