Beef satay, Shafer red blend a delicious pairing

Fish sauce, soy sauce and ground peanuts mirror the wine’s concentration, and toasted sesame engages beautifully with its subtle suggestion of smoke.|

Our wine of the week, Shafer, 2018 Relentless Red Blend, Napa Valley ($90), is stunning. It’s supple and deep, with concentrated flavors and polished tannins. Ripe red fruit suggests wild blackberries warmed by the sun, black plums, black cherries and raspberries. As these flavors linger on your palate, notes of allspice, anise, black pepper, clove, lavender, rose petal and Szechuan pepper tickle your palate before giving way to hints of toast and tobacco.

This wine is deeply expressive and opulent. If it were clothing, it would be black taffeta and lace, worn by Jenna Ortega as Wednesday, spinning and twirling across a darkened room.

As I pondered pairings, my mind kept returning to steak au poivre, so I checked my archives. I have paired previous vintages of both this wine and a Shafer syrah with exactly this dish, varying it between rouge and blanc. It’s a marriage made in wine heaven.

Of course, there are other outstanding options, though beef is a common thread through many. Beef stew, meatloaf, skirt steak and farro with a simple soy sauce dressing, braised beef shanks and grilled ribeye with mustard butter are excellent partners. Vegetarians and vegans will enjoy this wine with red wine risotto, winter squash risotto, linguine with roasted cauliflower and black olive tapenade and sauteed mushrooms with polenta nera.

For today’s recipe, I’ve chosen something that’s not exactly intuitive, though it is delicious. Fish sauce, soy sauce and ground peanuts mirror the wine’s concentration, and toasted sesame engages beautifully with its subtle suggestion of smoke.

Beef Satay with Toasted Sesame

Makes 4 to 6 servings as an appetizer

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon fish sauce, preferably Thai

½ teaspoon tamarind pulp (available in Asian markets), dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water, optional

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 pound beef, such as sirloin or a similar mid-range piece, cut into very thin strips ½ inch wide by 2 inches long

Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for several hours

Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)

2 teaspoons lightly toasted sesame seeds

Put the garlic, onion, brown sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, dissolved tamarind pulp (if using) and sesame oil into the container of a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Set aside.

Thread the meat, ribbon-like, onto the bamboo skewers, putting 2 to 3 pieces on each skewer. Arrange the skewers in a dish in which they can lie flat, pour the marinade over the meat and let stand 30 to 60 minutes; rotate the meat now and then.

Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce.

Preheat an indoor grill or oven broiler.

Remove the meat from the marinade and cook quickly either on the grill or under the broiler. Turn the satay after 2 to 3 minutes; do not cook longer than 5 minutes total.

Tip the sauce into a small bowl and set it in the center of a serving platter. Arrange the satay around the bowl, scatter the sesame seeds on top and enjoy right away.

Peanut Sauce

Makes about 1 ½ cups

¾ cup roasted peanuts, ground in a food processor or mortar

1 small onion, diced

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cayenne

1 stalk fresh lemon grass, fat part only, minced

1 tablespoon fish sauce, preferably Thai

1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce (available in Asian markets)

Put the peanuts into a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in the onion, coconut milk, brown sugar, cayenne, lemon grass, fish sauce and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat, cover and keep warm until ready to use.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The Good Cook’s Book of Mustard.” Email her at

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