Cozy comfort food calls for rich red wine pairing

  • By Dick Rosano / Special to The Washington Post
  • Tuesday, October 3, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

As the weather turns toward the cooler side, stick-to-your-ribs cooking comes back into vogue – and so does red wine. The crisp air and cooler temperatures of autumn make such wines even more luscious.

This faux pot pie recipe, perfect for the season, calls for the richer textures and bigger flavors of red wine. Highlights in a dish often derive from the accent ingredients – the “flavor spikes” – which point to the right wine. But here the main ingredient is beef tenderloin, a natural for red. And if the beef doesn’t convince you, the fact that it’s cooked in red wine will.

The butter and cheddar cheese in the crust marry well with red wine, and the earthy flavors of mushrooms and yellow onions make the choice an easy one. Pinot noir works marvelously with this dish: Consider Cuvaison 2004 Pinot Noir (Carneros, $25), with blackberry flavors and licorice accents, or Gallo Family 2004 Pinot Noir Reserve (Sonoma County, $15), with dried fruit and tea leaf flavors. There’s also Buena Vista 2004 Pinot Noir Grand Reserve (Carneros, $20), with soft fruit flavors.

If not pinot, try Silverado 2002 Merlot (Napa Valley $30), with intense red berry flavors; Simi 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley, $23), a stylish wine with lots of blackberry and raspberry flavors; or Francis Coppola 2004 Rosso (California), a steal at $8 and perfectly matched to the flavors of this dish.

Another possibility would be the red wines of the Cotes-du-Rhone, such as Perrin &Fils 2004 Cotes-du-Rhone Reserve ($10), with spice and caramel accents to dark fruit flavors, or Paul Jaboulet 2003 Cotes-du-Rhone Parallele 45 ($10), featuring a core of blackberry flavors with black-pepper accents. There’s also E. Guigal 2003 Cotes-du-Rhone ($12), which focuses on cherries and has spicy accents, and Domaine Coste Chaude 2004 Cotes-du-Rhone ($10), with blackberry flavors and hints of black pepper and tobacco.

By Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

Special to The Washington Post

This dish is a playful interpretation of the traditional pot pie. It’s fun, it looks special, and it tastes great.

If you do all the dicing, slicing and cutting ahead of time, the dish can be assembled and cooked in about 30 minutes.

For the cheddar tops:

About 8 ounces pie-crust dough, store-bought or homemade

1egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1/4cup grated sharp cheddar cheese


2tablespoons vegetable oil

21/2tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and kept chilled

3/4cup finely chopped onion

10ounces small button, white or cremini mushrooms, quartered or cut as necessary to yield 3/4-inch pieces


Freshly ground black pepper

About 11/4 pounds beef tenderloin, first cut into 1/2-inch slices, and then each slice cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips

1cup red wine (use whichever kind you are serving with the meal)

1cup low-sodium beef broth, or more as needed

2teaspoons cornstarch

1teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

2tablespoons finely chopped parsley

For the cheddar tops: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the pie-crust dough until it is no more than 1/4 inch thick. Cut 4 approximate squares, each about 4 inches across, discarding the dough scraps. Brush lightly with the egg-water wash and then scatter 1 tablespoon of the cheddar cheese evenly on each square. Bake on the prepared pan on the lowest rack of the oven for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown and the cheese has browned. Cover loosely to keep warm and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until the onion pieces are soft and translucent. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring every minute or so, until the mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushroom-onion mixture to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Season the beef tenderloin strips with salt and pepper to taste. Working in batches, add just enough strips to the pan to fill it without crowding. Cook for a minute to brown one side, and then turn the strips and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer the cooked meat to the mushroom-onion mixture. Repeat with the remaining tenderloin strips.

Add the red wine and 1/2 cup of the beef broth to the skillet, and then increase the heat to high and cook about 5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half.

In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup beef broth with the cornstarch and mix well. Set aside.

When the liquid in the skillet has reduced, reduce the heat to medium; add salt and pepper to taste and whisk in the mustard. Add the broth-cornstarch mixture, whisking to combine. Cook until the sauce thickens; this will take only a minute. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Add the mushroom-onion mixture and strips of meat and mix well. If the sauce seems too thick, add beef broth as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Divide the beef tenderloin filling among shallow soup bowls and scatter each with the chopped parsley. Place a warm pie-crust square on top of each portion and serve.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 914 calories, 33g protein, 34g carbohydrates, 68g fat, 126mg cholesterol, 23g saturated fat, 567mg sodium, 2g dietary fiber.

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