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Feb 17, 2009
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Wine With . . . Veal Chops with Brussels Sprout Hash

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas       


In our experience, vegetables tend to be finicky wine partners.  We find that most vegetables, on their own, aren't great with wine, unless they're enhanced by something else--often fat (in the form of oil, butter, bacon, or chicken fat) but also sweet and/or acidic seasonings.  The palate usually needs these to make the vegetable and wine connection work.  Otherwise, like star crossed lovers, the two fail to meet, mingle, and settle into a pleasant marriage of tastes and textures. 


Part of the reason vegetables may clash with wine can be attributed to their chemical composition, which might include various terpenes, enzymes, sugars, acids, glucosinolates, and so on.  Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and other members of the cruciferous family are particularly difficult to pair with wine because they are distinguished by various sulfurous compounds.  A plateful of ungarnished Brussels sprouts, for example, is most definitely not going to lend itself to wine, because the wine will underscore the vegetables' intrinsic bitterness.  Yet combine those sprouts with a generous amount of chopped pancetta or bacon, or roast them with a liberal dose of olive oil, and their flavors will turn mellow and become eager to partner with wine.


Fat isn't the only thing that can make vegetables more wine-friendly.  Different combinations of sweetness and/ or acid can also make a difference.  In this regard, one of the most useful items on the pantry shelf is balsamic vinegar, which in small doses can lift a vegetable from dull to delicious, and at the same time make it a perfect partner for wine. 


We put all this to the test recently with hashed Brussels sprouts topped by grilled veal chops. No surprise that the veal was great with a variety of different red wines, but the shredded sprouts, their flavors tamed and smoothed by a splash of balsamic and a dash of olive oil, acquired a depth of flavor characterized by nuttiness and an enticing  mushroomy quality that added a further tasty link to the overall glorious mingling of food and wine.


Brussels Sprouts Hash


One pound Brussels sprouts

Two shallots, minced

Two tablespoons olive oil

Three cloves garlic, minced

Red pepper flakes

One tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the stem end off the sprouts and trim off outside leaves.  Cut the sprouts in half, and shred them with a sharp knife.  In a large skillet, cook the shallots in the olive oil until softened; stir in the garlic, and add about ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden- brown.  Remove from heat, stir in the balsamic, and taste for seasoning (adding a touch more balsamic if necessary).


If you have any food and wine pairings that you think are outstanding, or if you've encountered any glaring mismatches, we'd love to hear from you.  Drop us a line at winewith@winereviewonline.com




Approx. Price



D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale (Australia) Shiraz/ Viognier 'The Laughing Magpie' 2006

(Imported by Old Bridge Cellars)




A powerful red with a sweet, floral note in the bouquet (due, we suppose, to the small amount of Viognier in the blend).  That sweet note made the wine especially appealing with the chop and hash.




Domaine de Cassan, Côtes du Ventoux (France) 'Les Esclausels' 2007

(Imported by Country Vintner)






The earthy note in this Grenache-based Rhône red added depth to the match, while the sweet fruit flavors echoed the sweetness in both the charred chops and the balsamic in the sprouts.




Kenwood, Sonoma Valley (California) Merlot 'Jack London Vineyard' 2005





As with all the wines we are recommending with this dish, the succulent sweetness in this classy California Merlot is what made the wine work so well.




Museum, Cigales (Spain) Tempranillo 'Crianza' 2003

(Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons)




The overt taste of oak might have seemed excessive if we were drinking this wine on its own, but when we enjoyed it with the chops and sprouts, the vanilla and spice flavors only added to its appeal. 





Vina Maquis, Valle de Colchagua (Chile) 'Lien' 2005

(Imported by Global Vineyard Importers)





A proprietary blend of Syrah, Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, this wine displayed a hint of typical Chilean herbaceousness atop a bevy of opulent, sweet fruit.  That interplay echoed the flavors in the dish, making it a seamless partner.