Some dishes can drink up a little wine

September 27, 1992|By Pat Dailey | Pat Dailey,Chicago Tribune

Wine and food have a special affinity. Though both are perfectly capable of standing on their own, the two are strengthened through their union at the dinner table.

Much is made about selecting the "right" wine to go with food -- red wines with red meat, white wines with chicken and fish. And while there are good reasons for following that dictum, the best ++ wine to select for a particular meal is the one that pleases you most.

The following menu is a simple one, designed to enhance wine and the pleasure that comes from pairing it with food. The natural choice is to serve the same wine with them that you use in preparing them.

Grilled herb-marinated

game hens

Makes 4 servings.

Removing the backbones and ribs from Cornish hens allows them to cook faster and more evenly. Because they are so small, it is an easy job to do. With this done, the hens lay flat as they cook for faster, more even cooking.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Marinating time: 2 hours or more

Cooking time: 30 minutes

4 Cornish game hens

1 small clove garlic

1/2 cup fresh herbs: cilantro, mint

1/2 cup sauvignon blanc wine

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

crushed red pepper flakes

1. With sharp kitchen shears or a boning knife, remove the backbone of each hen by cutting along each side of it. Working from the underside of the birds, slash the breastbone but do not cut through it. Remove the rib bones.

2. For the marinade, mince the garlic and herbs in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

3. Place the hens in a large plastic food bag. Add the marinade and seal tightly. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Remove from the marinade; reserve marinade.

4. Cook the hens over hot coals or in the broiler, turning once and brushing several times with the reserved marinade, until cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.

& Sauteed sweet potatoes

Makes 4 servings.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, unpeeled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt, pepper

1. Slice the sweet potatoes into 1/8 -inch or thinner slices.

2. Melt the butter with the oil over high heat in a 12-inch slope-sided skillet. Stir in the seasonings. Add potatoes; cook, turning often, until they are crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Almond butter cake with

' wine-poached nectarines

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

CAKE:

3 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tube (7 to 8 ounces) almond paste

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

5 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

NECTARINES:

1 cup sweet white dessert wine such as muscat or Sauternes

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 piece vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large, ripe nectarines, pitted, sliced

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter a 12-cup bundt pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the almond paste and sugar until the almond paste is crumbly and well mixed with the sugar. Add the butter and increase to high speed; mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.

3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

4. For the nectarines, combine the wine, sugar, honey, lemon juice and vanilla bean in a medium, non-aluminum saucepan. Heat to a boil; cook 5 minutes. Add the nectarines; cook just until they are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add vanilla extract, if using. Cool to room temperature before serving. The fruit can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Serve slices of the cake with fruit spooned over.

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