Like many Creole classics “Shrimp Étouffée” begins with a buttery roux.
One of our Twitter followers, @LibaryLady, recently asked about a wine pairing suggestion for Shrimp Étouffée, the classic spicy Creole dish from southern Louisiana. Admittedly, I had never prepared the dish and frankly couldn’t recall the last time I’d had it in a restaurant. After looking over several recipes, I replied, “depends on [how much] spicy heat is in [your] Étouffée . . . Bugey-Cerdon, Beaujolais, Alsace Pinot Gris, Riesling.”
My thinking behind these suggestions was: one, keep it French; and two, all of these wines offer reasonably low levels of alcohol, and are either dry and fruity or contain some degree of sweetness. When it comes to food with spicy heat, the last thing we want is a wine with 14 or 15 percent alcohol because high alcohol makes spicy food seem even hotter. As we’ve mentioned in the past, German Rieslings with Kabinett and Spätlese designations are imminently useful when it comes to spicy Szechuan dishes or Thai green curries. After seeing that almost all étouffées are flavored with cayenne pepper, white pepper, garlic, and salt, German Riesling crossed my mind.
The étouffée becomes a delicious stew with the addition of shrimp stock.
But étouffée means “smothered,” and begins with the holy trinity of onions, green peppers, and celery cooked in a buttery roux, and then you add crawfish, shrimp, or chicken. Whether or not étouffée should have tomatoes has been famously debated by chef icons like Paul Prudhomme and John Foise, but regardless, this stew is spooned over rice for a rich and substantial dish. With all of these bold flavors and rich textures, white wine started to seem out of place, so logically I turned to reds that had enough fruit, acidity, and possibly sweetness to counter the bold flavors and spicy heat.
Two wines from the Savoie region of France pair nicely with this dish.
We sampled a Beaujolais-like red from Côte-Roannaise in the upper Loire Valley as well as a delicious Maison Angelot Mondeuse from the Savoie. Both of these reds fit the bill of soft, fruity, and low in alcohol, but they still fought with the cayenne. We finally found a solution with Alain Renardat Vin du Bugey Cerdon, the softy, fizzy red with just 7.5 percent alcohol and just enough residual sweetness. We’ve previously mentioned this wine as one of our favorites to pair with spicy Indian vindaloos and curries for this very same reason.
posted on January 30 2010 by jesse