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Sep 2, 2014
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WINE WITH…Crab and Corn Curried Chowder

Of course we love autumn--doesn’t everyone? The cool nights, clear skies, hearty soups and stews, they’re all easy to love. But much as we look forward to fall we also feel a tug of regret at the passing of summer. Bare feet in the sand, icy gazpacho, a comfy seat in the shade of a plant-filled patio--these are among the multitude of summer’s small yet significant pleasures.

To mark this seasonal transition we wanted to make a soup that might use some of summer’s bounty to create the robust taste and texture of cool weather fare. Curried crab and corn chowder is the dish that satisfied our longing for an in-between seasons’ supper. While our recipe is not at all difficult to prepare, it does involve a fair number of separate steps, but many of them--cooking the potatoes, making the corn stock--can be done ahead of time. You obviously can add or subtract ingredients (leave out the limas, for example, add mussels, clams, and/or scallops if you wish). The most important thing is to use the best quality fresh crabmeat you can find.

Crab and Corn Curried Chowder

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon finely minced (or shredded) fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons curry powder (commercial or homemade)
red pepper flakes to taste
salt
1 cup white wine
4 ears corn
4 cups chicken stock
4 small or 2 medium potatoes (preferably waxy), cooked, peeled and diced
2 cups cooked lima beans
1 pound fresh lump crab meat
2/3 cup heavy cream
Optional garnish: minced parsley

Place the olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet. When the butter has melted and begins to foam, add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it is soft. Add the ginger, garlic and fennel seeds, cook for another minute or two, then stir in the curry powder. Add the pepper flakes and salt, turn the heat up to medium high, and stir in the wine. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, until the wine has reduced by about half. Turn off the heat and set the mixture aside.

Remove the corn kernels from the cobs and reserve them. Break the cobs in half, put them in a large kettle, and pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes. Discard the cobs. In a blender or food processor, puree about 1 cup of the corn kernels with 1 cup of warm broth. Add this mixture to the remaining corn broth.

To finish the chowder, reheat the stock. Add the remaining corn kernels, the lima beans, potatoes and crab. Stir in the cream, and simmer just long enough to heat all the ingredients through. Taste for seasoning, and garnish with parsley if desired.

* * *

This is a filling dish, more of a main course than an appetizer. Its heft calls for an equally substantial wine, but all its fresh, summery ingredients call for a wine that tastes vibrant rather than heavy. Thus it does not marry well with heavily oaked wines. And since oak is a hallmark of most full-bodied whites, choosing a wine to pair with it can be a challenge. Our tasting, in which we tried fourteen different wines, suggest that you can meet the challenge by opting for varieties or regions that naturally yield full but vivacious whites--Pinot Gris, for example, or Sauvignon Blanc when made in a ripe style. And don’t forget rosés. The one still example we tried seemed a bit tired, but the sparkler was delectable.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Blair Estates, Arroyo Seco (California) Pinot Gris 2012

$28

Tasting of pears and apples, with just a hint of sweetness, this wine had full flavor so was in no sense overwhelmed by the chowder. Its spirited fruity character served to accent the freshness of the dish.

Jean Claude Dagueneau, Domaine des Berthiers , Pouilly Fumé (France) 2012 (Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$25

With just enough body to hold its own in this pairing, this Sauvignon Blanc based wine from the eastern Loire Valley is wonderfully complete. It’s aromas and flavors proved so compelling that we kept returning to it in between spoonfuls of the chowder.

Schramsberg, North Coast (California) Brut Rosé, NV

$43

Ad a general rule, we love sparkling wine with soups of all sorts, as the bubbles provide a textural contrast to whatever is in the bowl. In this case, the bright berry fruit flavors served to lighten the chowder, bringing out its fresh, summery character.

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles (California) Roussanne 2011

$30

This California version of a southern white Rhône wine tastes full but not at all heavy. Its nutty character accented the more autumnal characteristics of the chowder without making the dish taste ponderous. It thus served a different, but equally delicious, function than the other wines we’re recommending, all of which more directly evoked summer.

Trione, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County (California) “River Road Ranch” Sauvignon Blanc 2012

$23

Emphasizing the melon and fig echoes found in ripe Sauvignon Blanc from warm climes (as opposed to the citrus flavors found in wines from cooler ones), this wine tasted luscious with the chowder. It definitely had sufficient body to proudly strut its stuff in the pairing.