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Jan 21, 2014
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WINE WITH…Sausage with Potatoes and Cornichons

Sausage is a traditional staple of rural French cuisine. One of the most popular dishes consists of spicy sausages served with potatoes and minced cornichons, the whole ensemble drizzled with olive oil spiked with cornichon brine.

Cornichons, of course, are the French cousins of gherkin pickles, but they are generally drier and less sweet than their American relatives. Cornichons and gherkins are not quite cucumbers, though they are cultivars of the cucumber family.

For this dish we generally use hot Italian sausages for their fennel seed and red pepper flavors, but almost any sausage will be fine as long as it isn’t too sweet. Keep side dishes simple: a little buttered spinach or broccoli make harmonious and colorful options. The sausage and potatoes can each be cooked in advance then reheated and assembled at the last minute.

Sausage With Potatoes and Cornichons

Serves 4

1 or 2 sausages per person depending on size (about 2-1/2 pounds total)
3 tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil
6-8 potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
½ cup cornichon brine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup coarsely chopped cornichons
1/3 cup minced parsley

Drizzle a couple of teaspoons of the olive oil in a large, sturdy skillet (we use a cast-iron pan). When the oil is warm, add the sausages in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Cook over medium-low heat, turning the sausages occasionally, until they are browned and just cooked through. (You can cover the skillet to finish cooking once the sausages have browned on all sides). Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and cook them, unpeeled, until they are tender. Drain and reserve until ready to use.

When you’re ready to serve the dish, slice the sausages and reheat them, then remove them to a serving dish. (Do not wash the skillet). Peel the potatoes, cut them in chunks and heat them in the same skillet along with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, pressing down on them with a potato masher or heavy spoon to mash them slightly. Meanwhile, whisk the half cup of oil together with the cornichon brine and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. When the potatoes are warm, add them to the sausage slices and sprinkle the chopped cornichons over the top. Drizzle the oil and brine mixture over everything and garnish with minced parsley.

* * *

We were unsure what sort of wine to choose with this fairly rustic preparation. The sausage by itself likely would call for a red, but the cornichons taste tart and lively, suggesting that white wines might pair well with the dish as a whole. We ended up liking wines of both colors, but had a slight preference for refreshing because acid-driven whites. We’re recommending three in this style, each made with a different grape variety, along with two reds. These couldn’t be more different, one being light and lively, the other rich and briary. Both, however, tasted great with the dish, proving yet again that as soon as you think you’ve found a formula for matching food and wine, a delicious outlier comes along to prove you wrong.


Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

La Closerie des Lys,

Pays d’Oc (France) Pinot Noir 2012

(Imported by Vintage 59 Imports)

$16

A light-bodied, lithe Pinot, marked by finesse rather than brawn, with nary a trace of off-putting sweetness and plenty of zesty, mouth-smacking acidity, this red wine had many of the same virtues as the whites we’re recommending. It enlivened the dish.

Indaba,

Western Cape (South Africa) Chenin Blanc 2013

(Imported by Cape Classics)

$12

Autumn fruit flavors encased in a fresh, almost racy structure make this value-priced South African a treat to sip. It made the dish seem fresh as well.

Dr. Konstantin Frank,

Finger Lakes (New York) Dry Riesling 2012

$18

A beautiful Riesling, with the weight of a good Alsatian rendition but the vivacity of a trocken from the Mosel or Rhine, this all-American was a consensus winner as it helped an otherwise rustic dish taste surprisingly suave and sophisticated.

Marietta Cellars,

California Old Vine Red Lot 60

$15

The outlier among the wines we are recommending, this full-fleshed red blend (primarily Petit Sirah and Zinfandel) helped our hearty meal taste even heartier and more satisfying. We did not expect it to pair so well, but it made for a delicious match.

Domäne Wachau, Wachau (Austria) Gruner Veltliner “Terrassen

“Federspiel”

2012

(Imported by Vin Divino)

$14

A refined and graceful wine, full of character, with plenty of acidity to keep it focused, this Gruner Veltliner added to our enjoyment of the dish by echoing the briny dressing and adding verve.