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Jan 24, 2017
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WINE WITH…Spicy Shrimp with Black Lentils and Lime Sour Cream

This dish is as pretty as it is tasty. Of course you can substitute rice, orzo or even regular brown or red lentils for the black ones--the flavors will be just fine, but the visual impact won’t be quite as dramatic. Another advantage to using black lentils (which are sometimes called Beluga lentils for their resemblance to caviar) is that they tend to hold their shape and texture better than other types of lentil. Lentils generally have plentiful amounts of protein, and the black ones derive their color from anthocyanins, the compounds that give red wine its color and possible health benefits.

These little lentils should not be pre-soaked, and they cook quickly, in 20 minutes or so. Their mild, somewhat earthy flavor serves as a good foil for the shrimp’s spice. Speaking of which, the degree of spiciness in the recipe can be adjusted to your taste. Our approach was somewhat on the milder side, not just to leave room for individual taste preferences, but also to allow the wine enough space on the palate for it to sing in harmony with the dish. We encourage you to bring a bottle of Sriracha to the table for those who want an extra punch of flavor. (We find that, up to a point anyway, the distinctive tang of Sriracha can be oddly compatible with wine, but if you have another favorite hot sauce by all means go with that one.)

Spicy Shrimp with Black Lentils and Lime Sour Cream

2 Servings

Marinate the shrimp for at least 10 minutes before cooking, but if you have time, bathe it for several hours in the marinade and it will taste even better.

For the Shrimp:

1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little more for cooking
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon finely grated lime peel

For the Lentils:

1 cup lentils
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
olive oil
4 cups water
salt and pepper

For the Sour-Cream:

½ cup sour-cream
2 teaspoons finely shredded lime peel

Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Mix together all the remaining marinade ingredients then stir in the shrimp. Let it marinate for up to 10 minutes, or for several hours.
Meanwhile, place the lentils in a strainer and rinse thoroughly in cold water, combing through them to make sure there are no small pieces of dirt or debris. In a medium sized pot cook the garlic and onion in a spoonful of olive oil until soft. Add the lentils and water and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Strain the lentils and taste for seasoning, then drizzle a little olive oil over them.

To cook the shrimp, heat a heavy skillet, ideally cast iron. When it is very hot, add a scant tablespoon of olive oil and the shrimp. Let it sit for a minute or so, then stir the shrimp around. Continue cooking, stirring frequently and lowering the heat if necessary to keep from burning. When the shrimp are lightly browned and just cooked through, remove immediately from the heat. Serve them with the lentils and garnish with sour cream topped by the grated lime peel.

* * *

We were unsure what sort of wine would work best with this dish. Red or white? Light of heavy? Earthy or fruit-forward? So we tried all types, and overall the ones that showed best were crisp, refreshing whites and rosés. Acididty proved the key. The lentils are soft, the shrimp spicy, and the sour cream, well, creamy. You’ll want a wine that can cut through all of that and sing on its own. If you insist on a red, and we’re recommending one as an example, look for similar characteristics—a fairly light body but plenty of refreshing acidity. The match promises to be harmonious.

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Approx. Price


Borgo san Daniele, Isonzo del Friuli (Italy) Pinot Grigio


(Imported by Siema LLC.)


Richer and more flavorful than most northern Italian Pinot Grigios, this is an enticing wine, with ripe apple and pear fruit flavors, distinct mineral notes, and a steely backbone. It more than held its own with the dish.

DeMorgenzon, Western Cape (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc “DMZ”


(Imported by Cape Classics)


Deeper in flavor than many Sauvignon Blancs, especially those made in a fresh New Zealand style, this wine’s vibrant citrus flavors cut right through the spice in the dish, making us eager for another bite—and then another sip.

Fontanafredda, Langhe (Italy) Nebbiolo “Ebbio”


(Imported by Palm Bay International)


The one red wine we’re recommending hails from the Langhe hills in Piedmont, where the elevation and proximity to the Alps give the grapes plenty of natural acidity. Its flavors resemble plums and dark berries, with echoes of savory spice and anise, but its structure remains firm, so that there is something almost steely about it.

Domaine Mittnacht, Alsace (France)



(Imported by Skurnik Wines)


A “gentil” or Alsatian blend, this wine was designed to serve with sushi, but offered plenty of enjoyment when paired with our cooked shrimp. The Gewurztraminer and Muscat in the blend provide intriguing floral notes, while the Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris give the wine depth and structure.

Prieuré de Montézargues, Tavel (France)



(Imported by Pasternak)


Very dry, yet full of red berry flavor, this Tavel not only complemented the dish nicely but also made us long for spring. When the seasons change, so too will the vintages for most southern French rosés. And as good as this wine was now, the fresher, more lively 2016s likely will be even better.