In the late summer and early fall, the air in New Mexico is scented with roasted green chile enticing residents and visitors to give into their cravings of chile rellenos, enchiladas and other chile-based dishes.
But what should you pair with entrees brimming with chile goodness? Two food experts at New Mexico State University have offered their takes on what beers and wines pair best with chile.
Professor Stuart Munson-McGee, a faculty member in the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Family and Consumer Sciences Department, teaches food science courses and researches wine and beer making techniques. He prefers the flavor of chile over spice, which is why he reaches for a beer or wine that will complement the flavors in a chile entree.
“What complements something like that is a nice, malty beer, which also helps cut the spice because of the high alcohol content,” Munson-McGee said. “I like a Scottish ale that is wee heavy, or a dopplebock that is malty.”
If you prefer a beer that will contrast with the flavor of a chile entree, Munson-McGee suggests choosing a Northwest-style IPA that is very hoppy and bitter, as opposed to an East Coast IPA, which is more malty.
As far as wine is concerned, Munson-McGee said, it can depend on the social situation as well as the food, but he tends to disagree with many wine experts’ suggestions regarding chile and wine pairings.
“Drink what you like,” Munson-McGee said, “Traditionally, experts suggest a merlot to go with spicy food, but I like fruity, full-bodied red wines and blends. I have very good friends who like white, fruity wines that provide an interesting contrast to a chile entree. Red wine would be a complement.”
Chef John Hartley, an assistant professor in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at NMSU, has experience planning dinner menus based on chile dishes and wine or beer.
“Typically as a chef I will choose the food and then choose a beverage that would complement it,” Hartley said. “Green chile and beer go very well together, but it depends on the dish. If it’s something with a lot a cheese, then you need something fairly strong to compete with the oils and robustness of the dish. If it’s something like a steak Tampico, for example, I would pair it with milder selections.”
Hartley said the richer and stronger the flavors in a dish, the more robust the beverage has to be to compete.
“If the flavors of the food are stronger, then you don’t get to appreciate the flavor of the alcohol, and vice versa,” Hartley said. “When pairing foods and beverages, my first choice is to match the level of robustness of the food with the beverage. They need to be at the same level of intensity.”
Beyond wine and beer is up to the person. Munson-McGee said while he prefers to enjoy spirits and liquors after dinner, it depends on the social occasion, such as enjoying a margarita with chips and salsa after work. However, Hartley said most mixed drinks can be enjoyed with chile, but would not pair gin with chile-based entrees.
“The juniper in gin and chile are not complementary flavors, kind of like cilantro and rosemary don’t go well together,” Hartley said. “I have done a dinner with one of my favorite whiskeys. Vodka goes with everything. And the traditional is tequila.”
Here are some of Hartley’s favorite chile-based recipes, which can be paired with your favorite wine, beer or liquor.
8 cups chicken broth
1 1/4-pound whole chicken breast with skin and bones
1 onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thin lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 carrots, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
19-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cans whole chipotle chilies in adobo, drained, rinsed, seeded and cut into strips
1 avocado for garnish
8 lime wedges for garnish
In a large saucepan, bring the broth just to a boil. Poach the chicken in the broth at a bare simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and let the chicken cool in the broth. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, reserving the broth, and discard the skin and bones. Shred the chicken and reserve it, cover and chill. In a large heavy saucepan, cook the onion in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until it is softened. Stir in the carrots and zucchini, and cook the mixture, stirring for one minute. Add the reserved broth to the vegetable mixture with the chickpeas and simmer the soup for eight minutes, or until the carrots are just tender. The soup and the chicken may be prepared up to this point a day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Stir the reserved chicken into the soup with the chilies and salt and pepper to taste, simmer the soup gently until the chicken is heated through and divide it among 8 bowls. Garnish each serving with some of the avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced, and a lime wedge.
Veracruz-Style Fish (Pescado A La Veracruzana)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 6-ounce tilapia fillets or other white fish fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with juice
1 roasted green chile, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup pitted and halved green olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the fish fillets on both sides with salt and black pepper, to taste. Saute the fillets until they are opaque and just cooked through, about two minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a glass baking dish where they fit snugly.
In the same saute pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about five minutes. Add the tomatoes, green chile, bay leaf and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and let the sauce simmer until the chiles soften, about six minutes. Uncover the pan, add the olives and capers, and cook until the flavors combine, about four minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Pour the sauce over the fish in the baking dish. Bake until the fish is heated through, about five minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, discard the bay leaf and serve.
Yields: 4 main dish servings
1 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed with garlic press
1 pickled jalapeño chile
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup tequila
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 pounds pork spareribs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a blender, combine cilantro, onion, garlic, pickled jalapeño, lime and orange juices, tequila, oil, sugar, and oregano, and puree until smooth.
Place spareribs in nonreactive roasting pan just large enough to hold them in single layer. Pour cilantro mixture over ribs, turning to coat well. Roast, turning ribs twice, 1 hour 30 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F and roast ribs until very tender and richly colored, about 20 minutes longer.
Transfer ribs to warm platter. Skim and discard fat from sauce remaining in pan and spoon sauce over ribs. Makes 4 main-dish servings.
(Recipes courtesy of Chef John Hartley, NMSU)
Author: Adriana M. Chavez – NMSU