Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The "Riesling Royale" Salad

When the last WBW was announced, I just chose to ignore it. "Riesling", I thought. "I don't drink that. It's white, and I think it's sweet, no, we'll give that one a miss". I looked in my fridge. There was a Riesling some one had left there at some party or another. "Phew", I noted, "it's German, not New World, so it won't count, still off the hook".
Two weeks ago my friend Ian came around to help me make candies and sweets for a Charity Bake sale. Bless his little cotton socks. He bought a bottle of 2003 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Johannisberg Riesling. He claimed it was his current favourite value wine and promptly left in the fridge leaving me no valid excuse for wriggling out of this particular wine tasting.
I was stumped. What should I do, what should I serve it with? I promptly started searching the internet for wine pairing ideas. I was pleasantly surprised. Riesling, it was claimed, goes well with an awful lot of different foods. An idea started forming in my head. I would make a stupendous salad, packed full to the brim with things that go well with Riesling. This salad would be so grand, I would christen it the "Riesling Royale"...

click on photo to enlarge

Riesling Royale Salad (serves 4)

First, in a pan:
poach 1 large seasoned chicken breast (first beaten flat with a rolling-pin) in 1/3rd of a bottle of New World Riesling, together with a generous grinding of 5-colour-pepper, a bay leaf and the chopped leaves from a celery bunch. Simmer for 10 mins til cooked through and turn off the heat once done.

Meanwhile, in a large presentation bowl:
slice, then make a bed, of two hearts of Romaine.

In another largeish bowl assemble the following ingredients:

2 chopped stalks of celery
1 cup of large white seedless grapes, halved,
1 cup of skillet-toasted walnuts
1 chunk of Neals Yard Raw Cheshire cheese, cut into little cubes,
1 Granny Smith apple, cubed (skin left on)
the warm, poached chicken breast, drained, deskinned and cut into bit-sized cubes

For the dressing

2 large tbsp dollops of Greek yoghurt (I used 0% fat)
1 large tbsp dollop of mayonnaise
1 large tsp dollop of creme fraiche
1 large tsp dollop spicy Dijon Mustard
1 finely minced shallot
1 glug of Olive oil
salt and pepper to season

Stir dressing into the mixed ingredients until they are all well coated.
Carefully place on the bed of chopped Romaine.
Serve with chilled New World Riesling.

How did it taste?
Well, it was actually a delicious, flavourful melange of soft and crunchy, crispy and creamy, savoury and sweet. It even passed the Fred Test. It should be noted here that Fred generally refuses to eat chicken, sweet things, celery, apples, grape and any cheese that either isn't cooked, isn't French, or isn't Parmigiano.

No, duh, this is a wine tasting! How did the wine taste?!
Well, errh, it was sweet. It was very drinkable, but too sweet for our tastes, especially with a savoury course, even though it did seem to match the food perfectly. I might have preferred it, simply, as a dessert wine or as a drink to accompany simple cheese and grapes after dinner.
Click here to read the extensive notes for this vintage on the Mondavi website.

I did read, somewhere, whilst doing my Riesling research, that American Riesling is nowhere near the quality of European. It was suggested that the only American Riesling worth drinking is the Johannisberg variety, so I was pleased that was the one that Ian kindly left us in our fridge.

The following night we finished the rest of our grand salad. This time I shaved some extra Cheshire cheese over the top to give it a more salty bite, and I cracked open the German Riesling to compare with the US variety. The bottle, that had been sitting, neglected, in our fridge for perhaps 6 months, was a Rudi Wiest Mosel River Riesling, 2001. It was slightly less sweet, and a touch more acidic than the previous night's Riesling, with a slight fermentation, or fizz to it. With the extra cheese on the salad and less sugar in the wine, I found the combination even more pleasing.

That said, I am no hurry to convert to a life of chicken salad and sweet white wines, in preference to rare steaks and Bordeaux, any time soon...

Original Recipe Copyright Sam Breach
The "Riesling Royale" Salad


  • At 2/12/04 11:41, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Great review. I'm always tickled by your writing. And impressive salad.

    I definitely think you have a cookbook concept in the making there: The Fred Test. ;-)


  • At 2/12/04 14:33, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Happy to amuse you, Alder.
    You can't imagine how I felt when i first met Fred, as an ENGLISH girl dating a FRENCH guy. It was about 3 months before I dared go into the kitchen to actiually make him something. The English dont have the best reputation for fine cuisine which made me more petrified. I poured over recipes books for hours trying to find something I thought he'd like (very fussy) that I could cook. I think i settled on pan fried veal with creamy mushroom sauce or something. It worked out ok, but we cant be eating food like that all the time, so slowly I have been trying to introduce him to the food he claims not to like, in sneaky ways, where he might not notice. The look of 'horreur' on his face when he saw me come home Monday with chicken, celery and English cheese. He'd been off work sick too, so really i should have been pandering to his whims, making him his favourite comfort food. Instead there I was, on a cold chilly night, making him a salad! It was then he said to me "I think you enjoy cooking for your blog, more than you do for me".Ooh, that cut sharper than his ceramic knife. But in all honesty, the blog would have no point without him.
    more "Fred Tests" in the future I am sure.


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