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Pepper Steak with Port, Zinfandel, and Mushroom Sauce

Pepper Steak with Port, Zinfandel, and Mushroom Sauce


  • 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1 1/4-pound top sirloin steak, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Recipe Preparation

  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and sauté until mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Add Zinfandel, Port, and broth. Boil until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon thinly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

  • Meanwhile, place steak between sheets of waxed paper. Using mallet or rolling pin, pound steak to 1/2-inch thickness. Coat both sides of steak with 3/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in another heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to work surface; do not clean skillet. Add mushrooom sauce to skillet; bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits.

  • Thinly slice steak; transfer to platter. Spoon mushroom sauce over and serve.

Reviews Section

Cooking Red Wine Demi-Glace Sauce With Steak (Recipe, Tips and Wines)

Meaty sauces with rich earthy undertones and accurate textures and viscosity are every meat lovers favorite. But, what happens when you pop open a bottle of red wine while making that savory sauce? It gets a hundred times better and turns into the classic Red Wine Demi-Glace Sauce!

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Red Wine Demi

Red wine demi is a popular accompaniment to a range of meats and has a rich, brown consistency. This sauce is known as Marchand de Vin or red wine reduction sauce in some regions and is simply delicious with roasts and steaks.

Purists may raise their eyebrows here, but once you see a few simple recipes here, your taste buds will be won over.

What is Demi-Glace Sauce?

If you have heard some popular sauces names like mushroom demi glace, peppercorn demi glace, etc., and are wondering what really is this constantly recurring ‘demi glace’, then I must tell you that is a big deal in the world of culinary sauces.

Demi-glace is basically a rich, concentrated yet viscous brown sauce that is simmered with patience and care until it turns into a beautiful glaze which has a meaty flavor in its backdrop and complements almost every main dish it accompanies.

It tastes amazing with red meats specifically and adds a signature next level to grilled steaks and roasts too. It is traditionally made by roasting meat bones, mainly beef and veal, and extracting the stock from them by constant simmering and reducing.

This meaty brown stock is then combined with Espagnole sauce in the ratio 1:1 and the mixture is slowly reduced to half its volume. A lot of care is taken so as to not burn over the sauce.

These days, however, one can cut short the steps and enjoy an equally rewarding sauce by combining available beef stock and the classic Espagnole sauce and reducing it to half. You absolutely do not have to make it from scratch, therefore. Demi-glace is, therefore, unofficially a classic French sauce, though not included in the 5 mother sauces.

Recipe Summary

  • ¾ pound shallots, halved lengthwise and peeled
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • ¾ cup port wine
  • 1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 pounds beef tenderloin roast, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 slices bacon, diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 sprigs watercress, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In 9 inch pie pan, toss shallots with oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until shallots are deep brown and very tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, combine beef broth and port. Bring to a boil. Cook over high heat until the volume is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Whisk in tomato paste. Set aside.

Pat beef dry sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. In a large roasting pan, set over medium heat on the stove top, saute bacon until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Add beef to pan brown on all sides over medium high heat, about 7 minutes.

Transfer pan to oven. Roast beef until meat thermometer inserted into center registers 125 degrees F (50 degrees C) for medium rare, about 25 minutes. Transfer beef to platter. Tent loosely with foil.

Spoon fat off top of pan drippings in roasting pan. Place pan over high heat on stove top. Add broth mixture, and bring to boil stir to scrape up any browned bits. Transfer to a medium saucepan, and bring to simmer. Mix 1 1/2 tablespoon butter and flour in small bowl to form smooth paste whisk into broth mixture, and simmer until sauce thickens. Whisk in remaining butter. Stir in roasted shallots and reserved bacon. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut beef into 1/2 inch thick slices. Spoon some sauce over, and garnish with watercress.

Recipe Summary

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 New York strip steaks
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup red Zinfandel wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat cook and stir red onions and mushrooms until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer onion-mushroom mixture to a bowl.

Coat hot skillet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Pat each steak dry with paper towels and season with salt and black pepper. Place steaks into hot skillet and cook until outsides are browned and insides are cooked to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium. Remove steaks from skillet.

Pour red Zinfandel wine into skillet scrape up and dissolve any bits of browned food in the skillet. Whisk beef broth and Dijon mustard into wine mixture and bring to a boil. Cook mixture, stirring often, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk cream into sauce and let stand to thicken, about 5 more minutes. Transfer mushrooms and steaks to sauce and serve steaks topped with sauce.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom-Wine Sauce

Melt 1 1/2 teaspoons butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and mushrooms sauté for 4 minutes. Add 1 cup wine and 3/4 cup consommé cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon place in a bowl. Increase heat to high cook wine mixture until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Add to mushrooms in bowl set aside. Wipe pan with a paper towel.

Sprinkle pepper over steaks. Melt 1 1/2 teaspoons butter in pan over medium heat. Add steaks cook 3 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to medium-low cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place on a platter keep warm.

Combine soy sauce and cornstarch. Add 1/2 cup wine and remaining consommé to skillet scrape skillet to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil cook 1 minute. Add mushroom mixture, cornstarch mixture, and dried thyme bring to a boil, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Serve sauce with steaks. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

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Best red wine sauce recipes

Ribeye steak and red wine sauce

Ribeye steaks served with a reduction sauce from red wine are bound to bring smiling faces to the dinner table. This easy red wine sauce for steak recipe uses a reverse sear method to ensure perfectly cooked, juicy beef. A simple pan sauce surely brings the entire dish together with incredible flavor.

Montrouge Cabernet Sauvignon is the ideal red wine option for the predominant notes of redcurrant and a stunning hint of pepper to balance the rich flavor of your steak.


  • 4 pieces of boneless rib-eye steaks (1/2-inch-thick)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Pat steaks dry, then sprinkle the meat with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (total).
  2. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large skillet over high heat until it shimmers, then sauté steaks in 2 batches. During the process, make sure to turn once about 4 minutes per batch for medium-rare. Transfer the meat to the prepared plate and cover it with foil.
  3. Pour off fat from the skillet, then sauté garlic in the remaining amount of oil over medium-high heat until they turn pale golden (about 30 seconds).
  4. Add wine and bring it to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until the sauce reduces by half (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add water, soy sauce, and any meat juices from the plate and boil until reduced by half in the next couple of minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low and add in butter, 1 piece at a time, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in parsley and pour it over steaks.

Masterchef level: Red wine sauce for steak Jamie Oliver

Jamie Trevor Oliver is a world-class British chef and restaurateur. He is known for his approachable cuisine, and today, you’ll stand a chance to roleplay him for a while with this steak and red wine sauce.

This mushroom red wine sauce steak recipe is exactly what you need if you're looking for a sophisticated addition to your normal dinner menu. It adds a savory flavor to beef steaks and is also equally delicious with pasta or fresh vegetable sides like asparagus, broccoli, or artichokes. You can use almost any mushroom that you like, or simply combine a few varieties for the gourmet touch.


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup shallots, chopped fine
  • 1 pound of mushrooms of any variety or a combination of them, thoroughly cleaned and cut into the desired bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup Port wine
  • 1 bay leaf (optional to enhance the aroma)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 14 oz can beef broth (alternatively: vegetable broth if you wish to have a lighter flavor)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1 tbsp cold butter (optional it is used for richer results)


  1. Melt two tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add and stir inside the shallots, and cook them until they start to soften.
  3. Add cut mushrooms and continue cooking until the mixture is tender. Spoon the mushrooms from the skillet into the prepared bowl and hang them aside for later use.
  4. Pour the Port wine into the skillet, add a bay leaf (optional), and bring the liquor to a boil over high heat. After six or seven minutes, the wine begins to reduce and undertake a syrup-like quality.
  5. Whisk within the mustard paste and broth. Dissolve the cornstarch into the water, and pour them into the boiling sauce. Stir gently until the sauce is thickened.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the remaining 1 tbsp butter, if desired, until it melts to the sauce.
  7. Stir the cooked mushrooms back into the skillet and the sauce is ready to be served.

Red wine sauce for steak grill

There is not much more a good steak needs than grilling and a bit of seasoning. This sauce recipe not only satisfies your palate but also does not get you any extra pounds - compared to pan-fried steaks.


  • 1 cup plus of red wine (separated). We highly recommend Yellow Tail Merlot as it has low alcohol content. This red option is ripe and appealing with red berry and cherry fruit flavors along with a hint of mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely crushed
  • Freshly and finely ground pepper and salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Steaks


  1. Combine 1 cup of Yellow Tail red wine and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over high heat, and cook the wine until it reduces by half (about 10 minutes).
  2. Remove the garlic, and season generously with pepper and salt.
  3. Return the temperature to low heat, and stir in some pieces of butter and the remaining uncooked red wine.
  4. Grill the steaks but do not add any seasons to them. When ready, let them rest for a while on a large plate, then gently pour the sauce over them.
  5. Drink the rest of the wine along with the meal.

Mouth-watering red wine sauce for lamb

Lamb is a delicious source of protein that carries a lot of great nutrition. And a rack of lamb always makes an amazing dinner and an elegant centerpiece for a special occasion. The sauce is also satisfying with side dishes like silky risotto or creamy mashed potatoes that soak up the sauce, making every bite simply delicious.


  • 2 racks of lamb
  • 2 tsp of salt and finely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion, or shallot
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as the elegant blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes - Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme, or a dash of dried one
  • 1 cup unsalted beef stock
  • 1 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter


  1. Prepare the lamb: season with pepper and salt.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet at medium-high heat. Put the racks in the skillet with meaty side down.
  3. Sear them until they turn nicely brown on all sides.
  4. Put the skillet in the oven and roast the lamb racks for about 20 to 30 minutes. After that, remove the racks to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and set them aside.
  5. Use the same skillet with the drippings to make the sauce. Add onion and stir for a couple of minutes until they are tender.
  6. Add wine, chives, rosemary, thyme, herbs to the skillet and bring it to a boil until the liquor reduces by about two-thirds.
  7. Add the beef stock and continue to cook over medium heat until it reduces to about 3/4 cup. Add some pieces of butter and stir. Season if needed according to your own taste with pepper and salt.
  8. Cut the rack of lamb into smaller portions and serve with the sauce.

Cacciatore: Chicken in red wine sauce Jamie Oliver

Chicken cacciatore seems to be reasonably well known because it’s the classic pre-packed Italian dish with the amazing flavor from red wine. The tender character of chicken drumsticks, along with the rich and bowl body from the wine - this simple combination of flavors works really well.


  • 2 kg higher-welfare chicken, chicken drumsticks are more preferred
  • Pinches of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 bay leaves, 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 3 cloves of garlic (2 sliced, 1 crushed)
  • ½ bottle Chianti red wine
  • flour or cornstarch for dusting
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 1 handful green or black olives, finely stoned
  • 800g tinned plum tomatoes


  1. Season the chicken drumsticks with salt and freshly ground black pepper and put them into a bowl.
  2. Add rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, and crushed garlic. Cover with the wine. Leave the chicken to marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight in the fridge.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Then, drain the chicken while reserving the marinade, and patting dry. You can dust the chicken pieces with flour/cornstarch and shake off any excess.
  4. Fry the chicken with olive oil until they turn brown lightly all over. Then take them out to rest for a while.
  5. Add the remaining sliced garlic, fry them until golden brown. Add olives, anchovies, tomatoes, and chicken drumsticks with the reserved marinade.
  6. Bring the pan to a boil, cover with a double thickness layer of foil or simply its lid, and bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Remove any oil that’s collected on top of the sauce, then gently stir, season this chicken in red sauce recipe if necessary.
  8. Remove rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, and serve the dish with a salad, or some cannellini beans, and plenty of Chianti.

Red wine sauce for beef Tenderloin

This Beef Tenderloin roast with sauce recipe is unbelievably easy and impressive at the same time. It’s intensely juicy, tender, and flavorful. The garlicky red wine sauce for beef is stunningly delicious, with a fruity aroma from the wine.


  • Beef tenderloin (3 to 5 pounds), cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh thyme, crushed garlic
  • 5 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Minced shallot or instead, onion.
  • 1 cup of the fruity with soft tannins - Jacob’s Creek Merlot
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour


Season beef beforehand with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat an oven-proof large pan until the oil in it is smoking hot. Then transfer it into the oven, preheated to 175F (80C), and slow-roast the beef for about 30 minutes.

After the roasting is done, let the beef rest on a carving board, but tent with foil, for 10-15 minutes.

Add the chopped onions/shallots, herb, garlic, and butter mixture to the cast-iron pan. Sweat over medium heat until the mixture is translucent for the next couple of minutes.

Pour the red wine and bring it to a boil until it is almost dry. Then add the beef stock, simmer the broth and let it reduce by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, thoroughly mix butter with flour in a small bowl.

Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the butter and flour mixture bit by bit until the red sauce reaches the desired consistency. Serve it with the perfectly roasted beef.

Gordon Ramsay’s recipe: Red wine sauce for beef Wellington

This classic renowned dish dates back to the 1800s but still feels current and special. It is meant for celebrating. Whether you’re gathering friends and family for Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, Beef Wellington with its red sauce surely makes an impressive and elegant presentation. Let’s see how our multi-Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay please our palate.


  • 2 pounds of beef fillets, stimmed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound mixture of wild mushrooms, cleaned
  • 2 pounds of puff pastry
  • 8 slices of Parma ham
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten, add water and a pinch of salt
  • Salt, black peppercorns, black pepper
  • Onions, peeled and sliced
  • Bay leaf, and some thyme sprigs, use leaves only
  • A splash of red wine vinegar
  • Bordeaux red wine
  • 3 cups of beef stock


  1. Wrap each beef piece tightly in a triple layer of cling film to set the shape, then chill overnight.
  2. Remove the film, then quickly sear the fillets in a hot pan with a little olive oil until they turn brown all over and rare in the middle. Leave them cool for a while.
  3. Chop the mushrooms and fry in a hot pan with olive oil, add thyme leaves, and some seasoning for about 10 minutes. Remove the mushroom paste from the pan and leave to cool.
  4. Cut the pastry in half, and roll each piece into a rectangle to envelop one of the beef fillets. Chill in the refrigerator.
  5. Lay a large sheet of cling film on the table and place Parma ham in the middle, overlapping them slightly to create a square. Spread half the mushroom paste evenly over the ham.
  6. Season the prepared beef fillets, then place them on top of the mushroom-covered ham. Using the cling film, roll the ham over the beef, then tie to get a nice, evenly thick log. Then, let each log chill for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Egg wash: brush the folded pastry. Remove the film from the beef, then wrap the pastry around each fillet. Brush all over two with the egg wash.
  8. Meanwhile, it’s about time to make the wine sauce. Heat the oil in a pan, then fry the beef trimmings for a few minutes. Add in the onions, bays, peppercorns, and thyme, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Cook until the chopped onions turn golden brown.
  9. Pour in a cup of vinegar and let it bubble for a few minutes until it is almost dry.
  10. Now add the red wine and bring it to a boil until almost completely reduced. Add the beef stock and bring to the boil again until you have the desired consistency. Check for seasoning and set the sauce aside.
  11. Brush the beef wellington with the egg wash again, then bake at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is cooked and turns golden brown and cooked. Rest for 10 minutes and serve the beef wellingtons sliced, with the red sauce as an accompaniment.

Best red wine sauce for duck: Seared duck breast recipe

You will never go wrong with a combination of duck and wine pairing in this recipe. It’s fancy enough for a family gathering, but relaxed enough that doesn’t feel like too much. You can make the dish any time you want something a little more special than your average so-so dinner.


  • 4 duck breasts
  • Pepper and sea salt
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 400 g potatoes
  • Butter (10g), flour, and milk
  • Orange zest, half an orange (for juice)
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup Zinfandel spicy red wine
  • 3 tsp cranberry sauce, 2 tsp honey
  • ¼ cup chicken stock


  1. Preheat your oven up to 180˚C (350˚F).
  2. Using a sharp knife to gently score the duck skin, remember not to cut through to the flesh. Season each side of the duck breast with salt and pepper.
  3. Fry the skin side down on medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes with rosemary and garlic. Flip and fry the meat side for 1 minute.
  4. Put the duck breast in the oven for around 6-8 minutes for medium-rare around 10 minutes for medium-well. Rest the breast for 5 minutes before serving.
  5. For the mashed potato, mix all the herb, milk, and butter ingredients with the boiled potatoes.
  6. For the wine sauce, use the pan in which you fried the duck breasts. Fry garlic for a minute or two on medium-low heat. Add in flour and fry until all the fat is bound to the flour.
  7. Add in orange juice, cranberry sauce, honey, and chicken stock at once. Mix well and keep simmering on low heat for 15 minutes or until it becomes your desired glossy thick sauce.
  8. Place the duck breast into a large plate, drizzle with the red sauce, add in mashed potato, and decorate with orange zest and rosemary.

Delighting red wine sauce for pork: Pork chops with garlic recipe

This pork chop dish with wine sauce and garlic recipe is different and divine. Whole garlic cloves burst onto the scene and make for a dramatic presentation, while the wine enhances our tasting experience even more.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • 16 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups of red wine ( Chardonnay or Pinot Noir)
  • 1 bay leaf, orange juice, orange zest
  • 1/2 cup of beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  1. Heat the butter and the oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. Season both sides of the pork with salt and pepper and sear them until they're nice and golden, about 2 minutes per side. Then, remove the meat from the skillet and set them aside.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-high temperature, then throw in the garlic. Gently stir them around and cook until they’ve got a golden brown hue brown. Pour in the desired red wine, then add the bay leaf. Stir the liquor around and cook, until the sauce is fairly reduced and thick.
  3. Stir in the prepared beef broth and add the pork chops back to the skillet, arranging them properly so they're swimming in the sauce. Cook the chops in the red sauce for a few minutes, then add the balsamic. Then cook for a couple more minutes
  4. Remove the pork chops from the skillet one more time, then let the sauce reduce until it's very thick and rich. Swirl in the remaining butter and sprinkle in a little pepper and salt.
  5. Arrange the pork chops on a large plate, then pour the whole skillet of red sauce (including the garlic) over the top. Serve with stirred lemony green beans if desired.

Tenderized venison steaks with deep wine sauce

The pan-fried venison steak recipe is rich, gutsy yet quick to prepare. Its amazing red wine sauce for venison arguably brings undoubtedly more ethical and sustainable flavors.


  • 2-4 pounds venison steaks, cut them thickly across the grain from the haunch
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil for frying
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 200 ml red wine (Merlot wine, for instance)
  • 2 tbsp. redcurrant jelly
  • 1 tsp. dried cranberries (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. cold and unsalted butter


  1. If possible, you should keep the steaks in the fridge unwrapped on a plate for a few days for them to age and tenderize. The meat will darken deeply as a result of oxidation.
  2. Heat up a pan to almost smoking, drizzle in a little oil. Season the steaks with salt and black pepper and cook them for 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Lift the steaks out of the pan and place them on a warm plate. Next, loosely covered with foil to keep them warm.
  4. Keeping the pan on medium heat, add in the garlic, pour in the balsamic vinegar and the red wine, and turn the heat up. It should ferociously bubble. Then, add the redcurrant jelly, cranberries and gently stir in. Keep it simmering for about 5-7 minutes. When the wine sauce has reduced by half or at least significantly thickened, it’s time to whisk in the butter.
  5. Turn the heat down a bit, return the medium-rare steaks to the pan and turn them in the sauce and cook for a couple of minutes. You can serve the steaks immediately, but if you want them more done, let them sit in the sauce on a small heat for a minute or two, turning over once.

Your Ultimate Guide to Steak and Wine Pairings

Nothing beats a great piece of steak. From well charred, melt-in-your-mouth filets to juicy rib eyes barely kissed by the flame, there’s something mouthwateringly primeval about cutting into a juicy hunk of beef. And while the simple wisdom of “red wine with red meat” certainly works, a little more attention to detail will ensure optimal wine-and-food synergy.

A steak’s cut, aging technique and accompanying sauces can change its pairing parameters, whether with a white, a red or a libation from the back bar.

We’ll help you match wine and steak with somm aplomb. Also, we tapped top chefs for their sizzle-worthy secrets, giving you the tools to re-create some of that steakhouse magic at home.

Photos by Aaron Graubart
Meats by Hudson & Charles
Food Styling by Victoria Granof
Prop Styling by Candace Clark

Though not particularly flavor-forward, filet mignon’s luscious texture amply compensates.

“Filets are the most tender and lean cut,” says Habteab Hamde, chef de cuisine at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, Florida.

To maintain that sought-after tenderness, Hamde says to trim any fat and connective tissue before cutting the filet to the desired size. Leave small filets in the refrigerator until just ready to cook, then brush the steaks with sweet, unsalted butter and season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Cook them on a very hot cast-iron grill over natural lump hardwood charcoal, using different concentrations of charcoal to create temperature variations on the grill. Relocate steaks if they are cooking too quickly. Large cuts require lower temperatures to avoid burning the exterior.

“Rotate the steak in slight angles, making sure to give the meat time to caramelize before each rotation, says Hamde. “This will allow an even crust across the whole steak. Turn the steak over and repeat the process.”

Let the filet rest for five minutes after cooking, and then serve solo, or with a rich sauce like Hollandaise or Béarnaise.

The Wine

Filet mignon’s understated taste lends itself to restrained reds, according to J. Michael Shields, a sommelier at Bern’s Steak House.

“I look for something that is not going to overwhelm the nice, delicate cut,” he says. “Skip the big, unctuous, heavy New World reds, and look more towards Old World aged wines.”

A moderately aged Burgundy works well, like Domaine Roumier’s 1999 Clos de la Bussière Premier Cru from Morey-St-Denis, says Shields. An aged Bordeaux from a bold vintage, like the 1989 Château Haut-Brion, can deftly stand up next to aged beef without overpowering the delicate filet.

“Bigger and fattier cuts can stand up to bigger, more tannic wines, but a nice soft-aged filet needs a more subtle wine,” he says.

Diners who attack a bone-in rib eye’s ample marbling are rewarded with mouthwatering, intense flavor.

“[Their] added layer of protection and the natural connective tissues do render a slightly more succulent finished product, depending on temperature,” says Gary LaMorte, corporate chef of the Mina Group.

The decreased surface area on bone-in cuts translates to slightly less caramelization. Bones slow the cooking process, however, so steaks end up tender and juicier—especially when grilled.

For boneless cuts, LaMorte recommends separating the cap from the eye, as their cooking times vary.

If dry-aged meat is unavailable, opt for a marinade or rub, says LaMorte.

Temper the steak in hot, clarified butter to decrease cooking and resting time. Sear the meat on a wood-fired grill over high heat before moving it to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.

“Brushing it with compound butter as you cook and while resting will increase the deliciousness factor drastically,” says LaMorte.

Remember that large rib eyes cooked over high heat need to rest much longer than smaller ones cooked at lower temperatures.

The Wine

When seeking wine to go with a rib eye, consider the cooking method, says Daniel Grajewski, beverage director for the Mina Group.

“Rib eyes handle smoke very well, so look for a wine that matches the flavor,” he says.

Wood-fired steak is made for the smoked-bacon-tinged 2010 Jamet Côte-Rôtie, whose generous tannins and acidity swiftly cut through the steak’s fat.

A more neutral cooking style allows the meat’s character to better shine through, and provides pairing options like a Napa Valley Cabernet, or a California Syrah like the 2011 Les Voisins Yorkville Highlands Syrah from Copain Wines.

Generally, rib eyes allow for full-bodied, unabashedly intense bottles.

“Look at the steak’s marbling and its protein level—a wine’s tannins won’t seem so aggressive if there’s protein on the palate,” says Grajewski.

Cut from an area of the short loin that does little work, the crowd-pleasing New York strip balances enticing tenderness and marbling-generated character.

“The filet is tender but not as flavorful the rib eye is full of flavor and very juicy, but not as tender,” says Thomas Dritsas, vice president and corporate executive chef for Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group. “The strip is the best of both.”

A bone-in strip offers enhanced appeal, but it does require an increased cooking time and its larger size can be daunting to some diners. Don’t be intimidated, says Dritsas, as you’ll cut away about five ounces at the table.

New York strip is a forgiving cut when it comes to overcooking, but Dritsas suggests preparing it to medium doneness. It will liquefy the internal fat, rendering an ultra-juicy final product.

Simply seasoned with salt and pepper is preferable, Dritsas says, but a compound butter, classic Béarnaise or robust Bordelaise sauces are nice accouterments, too.

The Wine

The perfect wine for a New York strip matches its substantial marbling.

“You need a wine with a good balance of acidity to cut through the fat and complement the flavors of the beef,” says David O’Day, wine director for Del Frisco’s.

The Robert Foley 2007 Claret from Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain has it all, he says.

“Power, structure, balance and complexity, all wrapped together with an elegant finish—this wine with a strip steak is a match made in heaven,” O’Day says.

Adding a drizzle of a shiitake mushroom demi-glace will pair with a blend that complements both the meat and the sauce, says O’Day. Try Tolaini’s 2006 Valdisanti, a Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc.

For cut-conflicted carnivores, the porterhouse offers the best of both worlds—tender filet mignon and juicy strip steak.

So what’s the distinction between it and a T-bone?

“Both are cut from the short loin, where a T-shaped bone separates the filet and New York strip,” says Sean Griffin, executive chef of Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. “The filet portion must be 1¼ inches thick or greater at its widest part to be classified as a porterhouse.”

To prepare, start with high-quality beef, wet-aged for 28 days, says Griffin.

“The intramuscular fat will produce a steak that eats well and has loads of flavor,” he says.

Cook it on a hot grill or cast-iron pan to caramelize the exterior. Move a thicker cut to a cooler section of the grill until it reaches the desired internal temperature.

Once it’s done cooking, let the steak rest for 10 minutes. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper, brush with melted butter and put it back on the heat until it sizzles.

To carve a porterhouse, follow the curve of the bone with a knife and slice perpendicular to it.

The Wine

How best to attack the wine pairing for two very different cuts of steak?

“Even though the filet side is a leaner cut, you still will want to have a full-bodied red wine as your pairing,” says Jason Smith, Bellagio’s wine director.

He’s partial to bottles like Domaine Faury’s 2011 Saint-Joseph from France’s Rhône Valley.

“This Syrah-based wine is known for its balance of black pepper notes, earthiness and meatiness,” making it a perfect partner for peppercorn sauce, says Smith.

Topping the filet with something rich like Béarnaise sauce will downplay its lack of marbling (which the strip has in spades). It allows the porterhouse to better hold its own next to fuller and more tannic reds like Lewis Cellars’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

From the right sauce to the perfect cocktail pairing, these expert tips will take your steak game to the next level.

Get Saucy!

Purists may eschew sauce, but others crave its added kick. STK steakhouses offer eight toppers, and Evan Puchalsky, corporate beverage manager for The ONE Group, says sauce definitely influences the sip.

“The goal for pairing anything—including wine and steak sauce—is to always make sure there is balance,” says Puchalsky.

Blue cheese butter is the most difficult to match, he says, as it overpowers many dry wines. He opts for a dry Riesling, sweet style of Port or a light Pinot Noir.
• Rich Béarnaise speaks to a full-bodied, oaky, unfiltered Chardonnay or a light-bodied red Burgundy.
• Shiraz will play off a horseradish cream’s spice, while a Sancerre or other Sauvignon Blanc will match its acidity.
• And bold, traditional steakhouse sauces scream for big Cabernets or Malbecs, says Puchalsky. “Not to sound clichéd, but something your father might have.”

Dry-Aged or Wet-Aged?

Wet-aged steaks become tender during their time in refrigerated, sealed vacuum bags, but taste milder than those hung to be dry aged, which take on nutty, earthy notes, according to Nathan Anda, chef and partner of Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Red Apron Butcher in Washington, D.C.

With wet-aged steaks, NRG Wine Director Brent Kroll reaches for New World wines with lush fruit. He opts for Rhône varietals or blends from Washington and California for rib eye, Chilean Carmenère with New York strip and Australian Grenache for filet mignon.

“Dry aging releases the water in the muscle, so it can handle powerful tannins, but doesn’t need the body a wet-aged steak needs,” says Kroll.

Old World wines with pronounced earth fit the bill, like Côte-Rôtie or Priorat for rib eye, Bordeaux for New York strip, and firm-tannin Burgundies from Nuits-St.-Georges for filet mignon.

Bringing the Steakhouse Magic Home

Paramount to preparing a great steak at home is buying one aged for about 28 days.

“I always befriend a butcher,” says Dritsas. “He is my go-to guy when taking on a steak dinner at home.”

Choose a thick cut, whose internal temperature is easier to control while you achieve color and caramelization on the outside.
Let steaks rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking, and season them with sea or kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Preheat the cooking source on its highest setting. Dritsas prefers a cast-iron skillet rather than a grill, as the steak’s entire surface touches the heat. For steaks 1–1½ inches thick, sear for eight minutes on each side, then remove from heat and rest it for five minutes.
Top the steak with a pat of butter, which will melt and glaze the meat.

I’ll Steak Manhattan

Grabbing the cocktail shaker instead of a corkscrew can lead to unexpectedly playful matches, but the pairing methodology is similar.

Think about the steak’s natural juices, marbling and accompanying sauces, says Eric Quilty, bar manager at San Francisco’s Smokestack. The Scotch-based blood and sand cocktail is a great partner for filet with Béarnaise sauce, with ingredient proportions tweaked according to the steak’s doneness.

Quilty says gin’s botanicals in a pearl onion-garnished gibson play well with pepper-crusted rib eye served with caramelized Cippolini onions. Skirt steak topped with chimichurri sauce screams for an agave-based libation like a paloma with mezcal, rimmed with salt and dried sage.

H. Joseph Ehrmann, proprietor of Elixir in San Francisco, believes the type of cut dictates the cocktail.

“A fatty steak like a rib eye would benefit from some acid, like a whiskey sour or a dry amaretto sour, while a lean New York strip can be lovely with a vanilla-rich Maker’s Mark old fashioned,” he says.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Demi-Glace

What is your traditional holiday meal? Maybe you always set out a buffet of appetizers -cheese balls and crackers, veggies and ranch dip, sausage balls…- for snacking on Christmas Eve.

Or maybe you have a traditional southern style Christmas Day dinner of a glazed ham or smoked turkey with garlic cheese grits or cheesy potatoes, green peas with mushrooms or green bean casserole, dinner rolls, fruit salad and an assortment of pie for dessert.

Or maybe you have a traditional Christmas Eve Italian seven fish dinner with seven classic Italian fish dishes, from linguine and clams, to mussels in marinara sauce, to shrimp scampi, fried calamari and lemon caper tilapia with a side of garlic bread, green salad and tiramisu.

Or maybe you go all out and make lamb or a beef tenderloin, like this Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Demi-Glace, with an elaborate spread of gourmet side dishes and a bottle of top shelf wine.

Not only is this Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Demi-Glace super elegant and perfect for a special holiday dinner, it is actually really easy to make, which makes it even more perfect for Christmas Day when you want to spend more time playing and lounging than fussing in the kitchen.

Pairings: Wild and Wonderful Mushrooms

With today’s broad palate of exotic and esoteric mushrooms, the traditional pairing with Pinot Noir is no longer the only way to go.

When you hear mushroom lovers describing their favorite fungi, their vocabulary sounds very much like the language of wine: Chanterelles are redolent of apricots, porcini are woodsy, shiitakes are smoky, morels are earthy, and portobellos taste meaty. Horse mushrooms smell of almonds, wood mushrooms have an anise scent, and the list goes on. For eons, if you asked which wine to pair with mushrooms, the answer would invariably be Pinot Noir. Today, however, the variety of exotic fungi that is, literally, mushrooming in your local produce department positively cries out for more creative matches.

According to Bruce Cass, executive director of the Pacific Rim Wine Education Center in San Francisco and mushroom forager par excellence, Pinot Noir’s reputation as the mushroom grape owes to the fact that colder climates give the wine an earthy or leathery quality that is often equated with the flavor of mushrooms. (The French call it sous-bois, or forest floor, which happens to be the incubator of some of the most delectable fungi.) Some Pinots are described as rich, almost feral, sauvage—characteristics also shared by some wild fungi. Portobellos are an ideal match for cool-climate Pinot, while porcini (called cèpes by the French and boletes by mycologists) are good with richer varieties.

The porcini, a strong-flavored and widely available mushroom with thick stems and caps that range in color from brown to taupe to red, are ideal with risotto, and good in stews, soups, and egg dishes, or brushed with olive oil, grilled and added to salads. Classic herbs often used with porcini mushrooms are marjoram, thyme, and Italian parsley. Because of their strong flavor, a little goes a long way, so many cooks like to mix porcini with blander white button mushrooms or cremini. When game birds such as quail or squab are cooked with porcini, vibrant reds such as Syrah or Cabernet Franc often show really well.

The portobello, another natural Pinot Noir partner, is milder than the porcini but still robust in flavor. This trendy, meaty mushroom is actually a larger, cultivated cousin of both the cremini and the cultivated white mushroom. White mushrooms, also called button mushrooms, are mild, with round beige caps. Cremini are typically bigger, darker in color, and more intense in flavor, but can pretty much be substituted for white mushrooms. Portobellos are the biggest member of the family, and their size makes them excellent for grilling, broiling or stuffing, but they’re also tasty sliced and sautéed in olive oil. Depending upon the recipe, portobellos can also work well with a range of Italian wines, from Chianti (when cooked with cheese and tomatoes) to Barolo (when herb-stuffed and baked in a bit of the same).

The delicate chanterelle is not a mushroom to eat with Pinot Noir—even a woody Chardonnay is too strong for it. Also called girolle, this golden morning-glory-shaped mushroom has a buttery, fruity flavor, and often smells of apricot. It’s wonderful sautéed in butter and served with chicken, veal, or eggs, or in cream sauces with pasta or polenta. Some cooks like to take advantage of the chanterelle’s fruitiness by cooking it with apricots or other fruit others like its synergy with nutmeg. Its cousin, the horn of plenty or black trumpet, is similar in flavor and shape but with slightly thinner, and sometimes tougher, flesh the two are popular not only for their flavor but for the color variation they provide in multimushroom dishes. Simple dishes featuring these mushrooms go nicely with a scantly wooded Sémillon, a Chablis, or a leesy, toasty Champagne.

My personal favorite is the morel. Nature made these conical fungi with honeycombed flesh just right for stuffing or soaking up sauce. The color of morels ranges from yellow to tan to brown or black. A distant cousin of the truffle, the morel has a flavor that is earthy, with a hint of nuttiness dried morels may have a touch of smokiness, owing to the fact that they are dried over wood fires. Accompaniments that work nicely with morels are cardamom and tarragon. Morels are typically cooked with poultry or tender vegetables, and in such cases work well with strongly flavored but bone-dry Rhône (or Rhône-style) whites.

If you love the flavor of mushrooms and can’t quite describe why, the word you’re searching for might just be umami. A concept developed in Japan nearly a hundred years ago, umami is posited as the fifth taste (after sweet, salty, sour and bitter). It’s described by some as “savoriness”or “the goodness of meat,” an apt description for mushrooms that are prized for their “meaty”flavor.

Tim Hanni, Master of Wine and president of Napa, California-based WineQuest, is an umami zealot. Umami, he says, is a quality of “deliciousness” found not just in meat and mushrooms, but in certain vegetables and dairy products. He explains that foods with strong umami (like mushrooms) are high in the amino acids called glutamates, which occur naturally in some foods, or as a result of aging, cooking, curing, smoking, pickling and fermentation. Glutamates often occur in tandem with another group of compounds called ribonucleotides. The combination of the two further ups a food’s umami quotient.

Umami is what makes food delicious and satisfying. But its presence can also affect the flavor of wine—for good or ill. We already know that wine affects the taste of food and vice versa. Umami acts much like bitter foods (especially greens), underscoring any bitterness in your wine.

Hanni says that a little salt or lemon juice can resolve the problem: “Once you reach the perfect balance of sweet and umami, mitigated properly with acidity and salt, the dish will be delicious, interesting and full of character.”—K.B.

Still other fungi, such as oyster mushrooms, are far milder and tend to take on the flavors of the foods they are cooked with. These cream-colored fungi have a delicate flavor and smooth texture some taste slightly of shellfish. For flavor, they can be used interchangeably with white mushrooms, although their graceful, fluted caps make for a more interesting presentation. Common wisdom has it that oyster mushrooms are best cooked with chicken, veal, pork, and seafood, or with cream sauces, but because they absorb flavors readily, they’re good with beef, too. Cass, who is also the general editor of the Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America (due out in November), says he often cooks oyster mushrooms with steak and pairs the meal with a Syrah or Merlot.

Just a little experimentation will prove that mushrooms present terrific opportunities for creative wine pairings. Pinot Noir, that old stalwart, is just the beginning.

Cooking the mushrooms and onions in the pan in which you have sautéed the steaks allows the flavors to meld and gives the mushrooms an irresistibly meaty flavor. Finish the dish with a little of the wine you’re going to serve with it.

Wine suggestions: Any classy red, be it Brunello, Bordeaux or American Merlot, will dance with this lusty meat and mushroom combination.

  • 2 boneless top loin steaks, such as New York strip or club,
    about 8 ounces each, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 10 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms,
    washed, trimmed and drained
  • 1/4 cup Merlot or other red wine
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Over high heat, heat a heavy skillet that is big enough to hold the steaks in a single layer. Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon salt.

While the pan is heating, slice any large oyster mushrooms in half.

Place the steaks in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until beads of moisture form on the top. Reduce the heat to medium and turn the steaks. Scatter the onion around the steaks, stirring them occasionally so they don’t stick. Continue cooking the steaks until done: for rare, about 7 minutes for medium, about 10 minutes and for well done, 12 minutes. Remove the steaks from the pan and let them rest.

Add the tomato paste and stir until all the onions are coated. The onions should be soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally for 1 to 2 minutes to let them release their liquid. Add the wine and cook for about 5 minutes or until all of the liquid has evaporated and any acidity from the wine has mellowed. Taste to check acidity, season with salt and pepper to taste, add the parsley and stir to incorporate.

Place the steaks on individual plates and divide the mushrooms and onions between them. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Marsala and mushrooms is an old Italian cooking favorite. Here’s a delicious new twist designed to accompany fish. (This recipe is adapted from Every Night Italian by Giuliano Hazan, Scribner, 2000).

Wine suggestions: Marsala’s sweetness makes for a difficult pairing try a ripe, oaky California Chardonnay with some sweetness.

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
    (sliced lengthwise)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 fresh tuna steaks, about 6
    ounces each, 3/4 to 1-inch thick
  • About 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons dry Marsala

In a large skillet set over medium heat, sauté the onion and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion turns a light caramel color.

Meanwhile, wipe the mushrooms clean with a soft mushroom brush or damp paper towel. Trim the stems and thinly slice the mushrooms lengthwise.

When the onion is done, add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms until all the water they release evaporates this can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. The goal is not to sear them but to let them cook slowly so that they become concentrated with flavor.

Remove the mushrooms and onion from the pan and set aside. Put the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the pan and place it over high heat. Coat the tuna steaks with the flour and shake off the excess. When the oil is hot enough to make the fish sizzle, carefully slide in the tuna steaks. Do not overcrowd the pan. They should fit comfortably in a single layer if necessary, cook them in two batches. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like your tuna. It should be at least pink in the middle, however, or it will be tough and dry. Set the seared tuna steaks on a platter and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the Marsala into the hot skillet while it is still over high heat. Keep your face away from the pan in case the Marsala flames up. Stir with a wooden spoon to loosen all the tasty bits on the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and return the mushrooms and onion to the pan. Heat them through, add the tuna steaks, and turn them in the sauce just long enough to reheat them. Remove from the heat. Serves 4.

This is an elegant special-occasion dish I’ve adapted from one that I learned when I studied at Le Cordon Bleu it is well worth the time and effort it requires. A pastry bag fitted with a small tip makes the job of stuffing both the chicken breasts and the morels easier. Disposable pastry bags make clean-up a breeze. Or make your own pastry bag by rolling parchment paper into a cone with a small hole at the end.

Wine suggestions: A strongly flavored dry white Rhône such as a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage or Condrieu.

  • 1 to 1-1/2 ounces dried morels
  • 8 to 10 ounces sliced white mushrooms,
    cleaned and thoroughly dried
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsely
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Port
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth

Soak the morels in enough water to cover for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the mushrooms again to remove any remaining sediment. Drain well and blot with paper towels.

Strain the mushroom liquid. Measure 1/4 cup for the sauce and if you wish, reserve the rest for another use.

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Cut the stems off the morels so that they are open at one end. Gather up the stems, loose pieces, and very small morels and chop them coarsely with the white mushrooms.

In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt 1-1/2 teaspoons butter in 1-1/2 teaspoons oil. Sauté the shallot for about 1 minute, until soft. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, pour in the lemon juice and toss well. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently for 5 to 7 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid they release has evaporated. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley, remove from the heat and cool a bit.

Meanwhile, using a very sharp knife, cut a pocket into each of the chicken breast halves: Place each breast smooth-side down on a cutting board, insert the blade into the thick, narrow end, and cut carefully, moving the blade first to one side and then the other. Try not to poke the blade out the other end.

Place the sautéed mushrooms into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the egg yolk, 1/4 cup cream. Port, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper (or to taste) and 1/2 cup bread crumbs, and process until smooth. If the mixture seems too liquidy, add more bread crumbs.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a narrow tip. Pipe the mixture into the chicken breast pockets. Gently pipe it into the morels, taking care not to tear them. (Note: This procedure can be a bit messy.).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt 1-1/2 teaspoons butter in 1-1/2 teaspoons oil. Season the stuffed breasts with salt and pepper and place them into the hot pan. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Lightly oil a baking pan big enough to hold the breasts in a single layer. Pour in 1/4 cup stock and place the seared breasts into it in a single layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and any juices run clear. .

Meanwhile, set the same pan over medium heat and melt 1-1/2 teaspoons butter in 1-1/2 teaspoons oil. Place the stuffed morels into the butter and oil and turn to coat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and remove from the heat. Five minutes before the chicken is done, add the morels to the baking pan. When the chicken is done, remove from the oven and let it rest..

To make the sauce, pour 1-3/4 cups chicken stock and 1/4 cup mushroom liquid into a pan set over high heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, cook for about 1 minute, and add 1/4 cup cream. Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and is reduced in volume to about 1 cup. Taste and season with salt and pepper only if necessary.

Place 4 of the largest morels on a cutting board, and with a sharp knife, slice them into rounds.

To serve, place the baked chicken on individual plates and scatter the whole morels around them. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, carefully place the morel rounds on top of each breast, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve. Serves 4.

Portobellos layered with Black Forest ham, smoked mozzarella, sautéed zucchini and a quick-and-easy fresh tomato sauce make a zesty first course, or a colorful lunch entrée to serve with salad.

Wine suggestions: This works nicely with a Chianti, Sangiovese or BarBera.

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped.
  • 8 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 8 whole portobello caps, cleaned and patted dry
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced on the diagonal to make at least 8 oblong pieces
  • 8 thin slices smoked mozzarella
  • 4 thin slices Black Forest ham

Season the inside of the quails with salt and pepper, then stuff with about one-third of the grapes. Truss with a piece of pork fat around each quail. Brown quickly on top of the stove in a heatproof pan big enough to hold 6 quails at once, without any other fat. Discard the melted fat and wipe the bottom of the pan.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in another skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the chopped shallot and sauté for 1 minute, or until soft and translucent, but not browned. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, scrape all the shallots from the pan and set aside. Place the zucchini slices into the pan in a single layer and sauté for 3 minutes, or until slightly softened.

Add another 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet, add 1/8 teaspoon tomato paste, and stir to incorporate into the oil. Carefully place the portobello caps into the skillet in a single layer if necessary, do this in two batches. Season with salt and pepper and cook the portobellos, turning a few times, for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are lightly browned and soft. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet, and lightly spread about 2
tablespoons of the tomato sauce over it. Arrange 4 portobello caps in the pan, smooth-side down. Place a slice of mozzarella on each. Spread equal amounts of the sautéed shallots in each mushroom cap. Fold each slice of ham in quarters and place the folded slices on top of the shallots. Top each with two criss-crossed slices of zucchini so that the edges drape over the sides of the portobello slightly. Spoon 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce over the zucchini, and top with a slice of mozzarella and a portobello cap. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce over each cap. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely melted.

To serve, divide the remaining tomato sauce between four serving plates. Using a metal spatula, carefully place a portobello napoleon into the center of each plate, and drizzle with the pan juices and any sauce remaining in the pan. Serve hot. Serves 4.

Wine suggestions: Try this with a light fruity wine like a Dolcetto d’Alba. Cass also suggests serving it with a fruity French-American hybrid such as Baco Noir or Chambourcin

  • 1 pound fresh or 3 ounces dried exotic mushrooms
  • 1/4 pound pancetta
  • 1 pound tagliatelle or fettucine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dry Sherry, optional
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

If you are using fresh mushrooms, wash, trim, drain well, and blot with paper towels. If you are using dried mushrooms, soak them in enough water to cover for about 20 to 25 minutes or until soft. (Chanterelles take 30 to 35 minutes.) Drain the softened mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid for another use, if desired. Rinse the mushrooms again to remove any remaining sediment and remove any hard stems. Drain well and blot with paper towels.

Meanwhile, fry the pancetta for 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Or microwave it at 60 percent power for 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels, blot any excess fat, and crumble or tear into small pieces.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

In a nonstick skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil. Add the celery and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds be careful not to burn it. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, pour in the lemon juice, and toss well. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently for 5 to 7 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid they release has evaporated.

Mushroom lovers often avoid washing fresh mushrooms because the fungi absorb water like sponges, and in doing so, lose flavor. In many cases, they can be wiped with a damp paper towel or brushed clean. Inspect mushrooms carefully for dirt, especially those with hollow caps and crevices where dirt can lodge, and if they need it, rinse them under running water. Avoid soaking fresh mushrooms in water for extended periods.

Dried mushrooms must be reconstituted by soaking them in water for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the variety (dried chanterelles are among those that take a long time). Follow package instructions. Once the mushrooms are softened, lift them out of the water and rinse once or twice to remove remaining sediment. If you wish, reserve the soaking liquid, strain it well through a coffee filter or paper towel, and use it as a base for soups, sauces and stews. About 3 ounces of dried mushrooms is equivalent to about 1 pound of fresh mushrooms. Dried mushrooms have richer, more robust flavors than the fresh or frozen versions, so some recipe experimentation may be called for when substituting dried mushrooms for fresh.

Don’t gather wild mushrooms unless you are absolutely sure you can identify them safely. If you want to learn how, contact your local mycological society many lead foraging hikes.

If your foraging is limited to the store, wild mushrooms can be quite expensive. (I recently priced fresh morels at $38 a pound.) To extend wild fungi in sautées, stuffings, soups and such, mix in some white or cremini mushrooms.

Mushrooms are delicious when simply sautéed in butter or oil with a little salt and pepper, and if you wish, chopped garlic or shallots. If you opt for butter, a little vegetable oil will keep the butter from burning and a drop of lemon juice will bring out the mushrooms’ flavor and maintain their color. (Some varieties can turn grayish when cooked.) Just resist the temptation to add too much lemon or it will overpower the mushrooms. While white mushrooms often appear raw in salads, many wild mushrooms do better when cooked the cooking process mellows any bitterness in the mushrooms. —K.B.

Karen Berman studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. She writes for newspapers and magazines and is the author of American Indian Traditions and Ceremonies.

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