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Jul 26, 2016
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WINE WITH…Steak and Kale

We’ve resisted the urge to jump on the kale bandwagon until a couple of days ago…when we were trying to decide what to serve with two beautiful little skirt steaks we’d purchased at the farmers’ market. Of course, the obvious choice was potatoes, baked or fried, but we wanted something a little different on this occasion. We thought it might be fun to come up with a dish that would be somewhat more broad-based in terms of wine pairing. Instead of just letting the assertive flavors of the beef dictate what wine to choose, we wanted to introduce another forceful ingredient. Kale, wildly popular these days, came to mind.

Kale can be challenging to wine in terms of both texture and flavor (but not as challenging as, say, spinach, whose oxalic acid can have a negative impact on wine). Perhaps we could broaden the kale’s flavor profile by adding umami-rich ingredients such as black olives and mushrooms. The resulting dish was not only a keeper on its own, but it did indeed connect deliciously with a wider range of wines than the steak served with a more neutral partner would have.

Steak and Kale

Serves 2

2 small steaks, preferably skirt, sirloin tip or hangar
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
1 cup thinly sliced cremini, shitaki or other mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup vinegar, ideally Banyuls vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1 large bunch kale, preferably Cavolo Nero or Tuscan kale
½ cup coarsely chopped kalamata-style black olives

Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and set them aside.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a sturdy skillet large enough to hold both steaks. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are tender. Remove them to a bowl and reserve. Add the butter to the skillet and when it foams add the steaks. Sear them on both sides, adjusting the heat as necessary, until they are cooked to your preference. Remove the steaks to a cutting board and let them rest (do not wash the pan). Meanwhile, cut the kale into thin strips. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the kale for about 5 minutes, using tongs to toss it as it cooks. Stir in the vinegar, cook for another minute, then add the olives and cooked mushrooms. Cover the pan and turn off the heat, letting the kale sit while you slice the meat. To serve, arrange the slices of meat on top of the kale.

* * *

True to our expectations, this proved to be a quite versatile dish. A rosé performed very well, as did a fairly wide range of red wines. The dish’s acidity complemented virtually every wine we tried, and wines with a hint of sweetness performed especially nicely. This helps explain why, with one exception, we are recommending New World wines, a category that in general tends to include quite ripe and hence somewhat sweet red and rosé wines.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Approx. Price


Campiglio, Tuscany (Italy) Rosso di Montecito


(Imported by Visa Imports)


The exception to the pattern, this quite dry Rosso has all sorts of earthy flavors lurking beneath its primary fruit, and does not taste at all sweet. The earthiness, however, echoed the mushrooms and olives in the dish, while being a logical partner for the steak. Given how the other wines we tried performed, it was something of a surprise—but a very delicious one at that.

Frei Brothers, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County (California) Zinfandel “Reserve” 2014


A classic-tasting Zin, with sweet, briary flavors that were in no sense undercut by the vinegar in the dish. Instead, the wine held its own very proudly.

Lazy Creek Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Rosé of Pinot Noir 2015


This Pinot rosé tasted very refreshing and had just enough stuffing to stand up to what after all is a quite assertive dish. It outperformed a red Pinot we tried, primarily because it tasted so vibrant. Especially in warm weather, it and wines like it will make for a fine match.

Silverado, Napa Valley (California) Merlot “Mt George Vineyard” 2012


A very impressive wine, with sweet, ripe fruit and just a hint of something green and herbal, this Merlot harkens back to Californians of twenty years ago—when finesse was valued more highly than brawn. It was a great match for this particular dish and is so good that we recommend trying it with virtually any other dish that calls for a full-bodied red.

Saccade, Valle de Udo, Mendoza (Argentina) “Zeta” 2011

(Imported by Wine sellers Ltd.)


Primarily made with Malbec, this blend is a powerhouse. Filled with ripe dark fruit flavors, it shows a hint of anise on the palate and has a haunting floral note in the bouquet. It offers both muscle and subtlety, a rare combination.