Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
One thing you realize when cooking through various food and wine pairings is that, even though there are some solid rules of thumb about which proteins go with which wines—beef and Cabernet, lobster and Chardonnay—a lot can change depending on how you do the cooking and what you’re cooking with the main dish.
Take eggs—a near tabula rasa when it comes to wine pairings. You’ll see lots of advice about making the right choice of a Chardonnay or sparkling wine or Pinot Gris. But what really matters is what you do to the eggs. Scrambled with chorizo or mushrooms? A Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir might work. Stuffed with herbs? Try a Sauvignon Blanc.
I had in mind a frittata, an ideal weeknight meal for winter involving minimal prep time and, importantly, fillings that are easy to match to a wine. I was headed for the reds at my local wine shop when I passed the sparkling wines and found some post–New Year’s deals. A bottle of Korbel Brut for $9 had received a solid 87 points, which I remembered from my colleague Tim Fish’s pre-holiday recommendations. I looked up the tasting note on my phone while in the store, and my plans for a recipe started to come together.
A few things jumped out from the note—raspberry, citrus and spice—and the frittata idea took a turn toward another branch of the baked egg family tree: a tortilla española, a simple dish of potatoes, eggs, onions and olive oil. I thought that the earthy sweetness of the potato and the slightly caramelized onion filling could mesh well with the fruit and acidity in the wine.
And it did. The first trial went well, with the bubbly acidity of the wine nicely complementing the rich combination of olive oil and egg. The wine tasted softer and the dish more vibrant. The spice and fruit notes in the wine seemed to shine alongside the food too, becoming more apparent.
Was there anything I could add? I kept coming back to the raspberry element in the wine. Might it make a good foil to some sort of fruity-tasting condiment? I minced some jarred roasted red peppers as a garnish for another trial. Jarred peppers have a couple of advantages—besides convenience—over ones you roast yourself. The char is somewhat downplayed, and the vinegar in the brine can stand up to the acidity in the wine. The result? A win. The food and the wine were brightened by the addition, and it brought a pleasant touch of color to the plate.
Note: If you’re thinking about rounding out the meal with some veggies (some of us have resolutions to keep), a simple green salad with a lemon vinaigrette will work well with the wine.
Pair with a California sparkling wine, such as Korbel Brut California NV (87 points, $14)
Total time: 40 minutes
Approximate food cost: $15
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a large cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the onions and cook for 1 minute, or until slightly softened. Add the sliced potatoes and the garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, stir and continue to cook until the potatoes have slightly softened, around 10 minutes.
2. Turn the heat off, then add the eggs to the skillet. Stir to combine evenly, season with salt and pepper to taste, then place in the oven and cook until the eggs have set and browned slightly on the top, around 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly and serve with the minced red peppers as a garnish. Serves 4.