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Finding the Perfect Pairing

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Written by foodie pam   
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
ImageWhile lots of people talk about finding the right wine to pair with a meal I often think of the problem the other way around.  I've got some great wine - now what food should I serve with it?  

I admit that sometimes I simply play roulette; I grab a wine I know I love and make a meal I'm craving. Sometimes things go fine, but when they don't I feel I've done a disservice to myself (and that great wine).  

That's when a pairing guide can help. Jill Silverman Hough's "100 Perfect Pairings" recently caught my attention. Perhaps it was the interesting recipes such as Chicken Sandwichettes with Raisin Jam and Pickled Onions (see recipe below).  But more likely, it was the emphasis on small plates that made this pairing guide stand out.  Small plates take the emphasis off the food and on the wine as it should be when you have a great wine.  So if you've got a great Merlot handy crack it open and try it out and see how with these tasty sandwichettes that combine sweet and acidic make that Merlot shine!

Chicken Sandwichettes with Raisin Jam and Pickled Onions

From 100 Perfect Pairings by Jill Silverman Hough. Wiley 2010.

Many of my favorite easy meals start with supermarket rotisserie chicken. I absolutely love its roasty, rich flavors, and how well they're complemented by both sweet and savory side dishes. These small sandwiches, which get bright acidity from the onions and dark sweet-and-sour fruit flavors from the jam, would be a perfect centerpiece for an afternoon picnic.


  • 1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups raisins
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup Merlot, or other dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One 1 1/2- to 2-pound store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 8 whole wheat dinner rolls, split horizontally

In a small bowl, combine the onion, red wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of the salt, stirring to dissolve the salt. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (You can cover and refrigerate the onion mixture for up to 3 days, stirring occasionally.)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the raisins and sugar and process to chop the raisins, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and add the Merlot, balsamic vinegar, cloves, pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. (You can prepare the raisin jam up to 3 days in advance. Cool it, then store it covered in the refrigerator.)

Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces (discard the skin and bones). Drain the onion mixture.

Arrange the bottom halves of the rolls on a work surface. Spread with the raisin jam, then top with the chicken and pickled onions, dividing all evenly. Add the top halves of the rolls, cut in half if you like, and serve.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Friday, 11 June 2010 )
Thank you!
Jill Silverman Hough (Unregistered) 2010-06-17 11:47:40

Thank you for your kind words about my book, Pam! Happy pairings!
pam (Publisher) 2010-06-17 21:58:36

Thanks Jill - It's a fun book!
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