By definition, a pairing combines in sets of two persons or things that are mutually beneficial. With this in mind, I’d like to talk about wine and food pairing, which is the process of matching great food dishes with great wine. The main concept behind pairings is that certain elements (such as texture and flavor) in both food and wine react differently to each other, and finding the right combination of these elements will make the entire dining experience more enjoyable.
Fish and seafood figure prominently in Portuguese cuisine. Bacalhau or salt cod is far and above the most popular fish in Portugal and it is consumed almost everywhere in the country. Indeed, cod fish is so popular that there are at least 365 different cod fish recipes (one for each day of the year), and some say there are more than 1,000. Bacalhau À Gomes de Sá is perhaps the most common preparation—a salt cod, onion and potato casserole roasted in the oven.
Bacalhau À Brás (on the left) features scrambled eggs as a main ingredient. Bacalhau À Marinheiro (Sailor’s Bacalhau Gratin) is also very popular featuring cod cooked with potatoes, onions, egg yolks, cream, wine, bread crumbs and ilk.
For those who like all kinds of fish the Portuguese table offers a magnificent dish called the Cataplana de Peixe. This dish, which has its origins in the Algarve (see right), is actually a kettle of fish and seafood such as monkfish or red snapper, sea bass, grouper, shrimp, clams, sausage, bacon and herbs. These ingredients are cooked in a cataplana or domed metal cooking device that is clamped together to preserve the juice while cooking (see left). Sardinhas or Grilled Sardines is another very popular fish dish regularly served along Portugal’s coastal regions like the Setúbal Penininsula. Sardinhas are usually simply prepared on the grill with olive oil. Salmonete (red mullet) is also a speciality of the Setúbal Penninsula, while lampreia or lamprey eel and salmão (salmon) are more commonly found in the cuisine of Minho.
Wine Pairing Notes: The exciting new whites being produced in Portugal today offer several options for pairing with fish. Full-bodied whites and light to medium reds (if not too fruity) are both suitable for pairing with Bacalhau dishes. Arinto, Loureiro, Antão Vaz and other whites go well with these fish and seafood dishes, provided they are not oaked. A rich Viosinho or blends of Gouveio, Roupeiro ad Rabigato would be also work well. The fresh and crisp wines of Vinho Verde pair beautifully with most sushi. Lighter reds like the ones with Castelão grape or Pinot Noir would be excellent. Weightier reds would also work with Bacalhau dishes that are made with a tomatada (tomato sauces, olives and mushrooms). Try light to medium-weight styles Trincadeira, Castelão or Aragonez with grilled sardines, or pair Alicante Bouschet with well-seasoned codfish for a treat. And most of all Enjoy Yourself while doing it with friends and family.
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