Who Likes Soave? I Do!

Pieropan Soave ClassicoI know what you’re thinking: Soave? Isn’t that the flat, boring Italian white wine everyone drank in the 80s? Well, yes…but hear me out–because these days, it’s my kind of wine….

I’ll never forget the first time I tasted Soave. It was 1984. I was in the lounge of Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center’s north tower.

My date had ordered a bottle of Soave, a white Italian wine I’d never heard of. After a sip or two, I was smitten. What was this wine? I’d never tasted anything like it.

My enthusiasm, however, did not impress my date. “What’s the big deal?” he asked. “It’s just your average bottle of Soave.”

Something else, however, was going on: I suspect that was the moment that marked my passage from the flatly sweet wines of my early drinking days (Blue Nun and the like) and into the realm of dry wines. Previously, all dry wines simply tasted sour to me. I didn’t know wine could be so crisp, refreshing and elegant.

Throughout the ’80s, Soave was nearly everywhere; then, suddenly, it all but disappeared. The wine cognoscenti declared it “boring,” questioned its mass-market appeal (and, let’s face it, its mass-market production), and the rest of us moved on.

Recently, however, I tasted Pieropan 2014 Soave ($20), and I remembered why Soave had once captivated me so. There it was — that crisp elegance and more: I loved the way it tasted dry at first sip, then fruity on the mid-palate, then once again refreshingly dry on the finish, with a pleasing minerality throughout. Conveniently, its light body also makes it a great wine for spring and summer.

As I’ve often said, my kind of wines aren’t everyone’s kind of wines. But if, in the past, I’ve led you to a good bottle, you might want to take a look at this one too. Cheers!

Other examples of my kind of wine:

My Kind of Wine + My Kind of Place: Chinon

My Kind of Wine: Mionetto Il Ugo Elderflower Cocktail

My Kind of Wine: Savennières

My Kind of Wine (though not My Kind of Place): Saumur

My Kind of Wine + My Kind of Place: Pineau des Charentes

P.S.: This post is part of an occasional series called, “My Kind of Wine,” in which I detail a great wine that I’ve found. What makes this different than all the other wine recommendations out there? Hopefully, you’ll get to know my tastes, and you’ll know whether my tastes jibe with yours. Rather than reviewing for everyone, I’m reviewing for those of use who like a certain style of food-friendly, Old World wines. Also read my disclosures about wine samples and such, if this interests you. 

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Chicken and Dumplings -- In Your Braiser

It may not be French, but like many comfort foods, Chicken and Dumplings is a perfect recipe for your French braiser. Here’s my recipe for Chicken and Dumplings in the Braiser.

Chicken and Dumpligs. A terrific chicken recipe for the braiser.

Easy Chicken and Dumplings Recipe. A terrific chicken recipe for the braiser.

Bonjour mes amis! Is it cold where you are? It sure is here in Amerique profonde. I’ve been enjoying long stretches of time by the fireside, planning my summer foray to France. We’re headed to Ireland, then a little touch of Spain, and loads of the South-of-France—from Montpellier to Menton. More on that another time.

The most worthwhile five minutes you'll spend today is making those dumplings from scratch (versus using a mix or canned biscuits). You'll increase your pleasures exponentially!

The most worthwhile five minutes you’ll spend today is making those dumplings from scratch (versus using a mix or canned biscuits). You’ll increase your pleasures exponentially!

For now, I’m just trying to enjoy the best winter cooking. The other day, I pulled out my favorite recipe for Chicken and Dumplings. It’s based on an old Silver Palate recipe, which I updated and streamlined over the years. I think you’re going to love it.

A word about Chicken and Dumplings: Somewhere along the line, people started making it with those refrigerated biscuits-in-a-can. Now, I’m not judging, of course: If convenience products keep anyone from swerving into the drive-through, by all means, use them.

But dumplings are dumplings and biscuits are biscuits. And in this dish, I like dumplings better. These are dense and chewy and wonderful—and really good when you use them to soak up the liquid from the stew. Seriously—make the dumplings from scratch, and for about 5 more minutes of your time, you’re increasing the pleasure of this dish exponentially.

Other posts you might enjoy:

What is a braiser? What is a French oven? Should you invest?
Chicken Recipes for Your Braiser
Other Braiser Recipes on This Website
The Braiser Cookbook: 22 irresistible recipes created just for your braiser-great for Le Creuset, Lodge, All-Clad, Staub, Tromantina, and all other braiser pans.
Recipe and Review of Molly Steven’s “All About Braising” (a book you’ll really want to have if you’re serious about braising!

Chicken and Dumplings -- In Your Braiser
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 to 6
An easy braiser recipe for chicken and dumplings. Enjoy!
  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, smoked paprika, or Piment d'Espelette
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3 x ½-inch sticks
  • 2 leeks (white part and 1 inch green), rinsed and cut into julienne
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  1. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 3½-quart braiser. Add the chicken and cook, turning as needed, until the chicken is brown on all sides.
  2. Add the broth to the pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, leeks, and onion. Return to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy and the chicken is done.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dumplings: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, pepper, and the 2 tablespoons parsley. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk; stir until combined. Gather into a ball and knead against the bowl a couple of times. Then, cut the dumplings into 12 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables and chicken to a bowl; cover to keep warm. Bring the broth to simmer and drop the dumplings into it. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until they are puffed and cooked through (a toothpick test works here).
  5. Meanwhile, shred the chicken into 1 to 2-inch pieces.
  6. After the dumplings are finished return the veggies and chicken to the braiser (scoot the dumplings around so that they stay on top of everything else). Cover and heat through.
  7. Serve in shallow bowls, with three dumplings per person for hearty appetites; two dumplings for lighter appetites.


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French Valentine's Day Recipes

If you’re looking for a French Valentine’s Day menu or a romantic French menu for any day, you’ve come to the right place! Go traditional with a classic French bistro menu.


Steak with Brandy-Mustard Sauce. I know it sounds like a rank stereotype, but Men. Love. This. Recipe.

I love dining out as much as the next food lover, but for Valentine’s Day, I tend to avoid the crowds and dine in. And for some reason, I always go tout classique for the year’s most romantic meal, and star a beautiful Filet de Boeuf au Eschallotes, Moutarde, et Cognac (though any good brandy will do just fine here). This is the type of rich, luscious and traditional French recipe that made French cooking famous in years gone by—and I just love revisiting it once in a while, especially when I feel like cozying up and staying inside for the evening with Mr. Sportcoat. Serve it with simple pommes rissolées—French browned potatoes—plus some green beans, cooked French style.

Belgian Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. A great salad for winter. Photo by Richard Swearinger.

Belgian Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. A great French bistro salad.

Here’s my complete menu; the steak recipe appears below. You can click on the links for the other recipes. Enjoy!

• Appetizers: Keep in simple! Choose from My Happy Hour Crackers (scroll down just a bit for the photo + recipe), my Pâté Canapés, or Gougères (which of course, you’ve made ahead because you’ve followed my great advice and have kept some ready to bake in the freezer, right?
• First course: Endive, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Salad. It’s one of the best winter salads you can make!
• Main course: Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Shallot-Brandy-Mustard Sauce (recipe below), plus Pommes Rissolées (French Browned Potatoes) and Green Beans, cooked French style.
• Dessert: Crèpes. Again, you did follow my advice, and you have some in the freezer, right?

To drink?: You know I’m a huge fan of blanc de noirs sparkling wines, right? Especially those from Alsace. They’re made with Pinot Noir, and they go with everything! Pour it with appetizers and through dessert (yes, including with the steak–it works!). But if you must have a good French red to go with the steak, I love this Chateau Blaignan Cru Bourgeois Mèdoc.

Enjoy, mes amis!


French Steak with Mustard, Brandy, and Shallot Sauce
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 2 6-ounce, 1-inch-thick tenderloin steaks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
  • ½ cup low-sodium beef broth
  • ½ cup brandy, Cognac, or Armagnac
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  1. Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook, turning as needed, to the desired doneness (10-12 minutes for medium-rare). Reduce heat as necessary if the meat browns too quickly.
  2. Transfer the steaks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Add the shallot to the skillet and sauté briefly until translucent. Remove the pan from heat and add the broth and brandy, taking care not to let the liquid splatter.
  3. Return the pan to the stove and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring with a whisk to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil until the liquid is reduced to ⅓ cup, about 2-3 minutes depending on the stove and the pan size.
  4. Whisk in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Then, whisk in the remaining butter. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the steaks on 2 dinner plates, spoon the sauce over the steaks, top with the parsley, and serve.

PS: Your Best Steaks Deserve the Best Steak-Knives. Laguiole are my favorite for serving anything French–chicken, pork chops, beef, and more. 


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