Sunday, January 29, 2012

Red Wine Pepper Steak over Asian Potato Pancakes Paired with 2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc

Red Wine Pepper Steak over Asian Potato Pancakes-2

With Peking duck on the menu earlier last week, I decided to stick with the Asian theme for this pairing and prepare my interpretation of pepper steak and an Asian influenced potato pancake.  I am a huge fan of potato pancakes and appreciate them for their flexibility in adapting to nearly any ethnic cuisine with just a few amendments – your creativity is the only limitation.

My pepper steak preparation diverges from many of the recipes you will find by the addition of water chestnuts, three varieties of peppers, and substitution of stewed tomatoes and red wine for the more traditional beef broth.  The Asian influenced potato pancakes uses a common approach with the addition of scallions, cilantro, and wasabe powder.  These modifications led to a sauce intended to complement the wine pairing, and potato pancakes that add a distinct Asian flavor rather than the more pedestrian flavor of a plain potato pancake.  Our dinner crowd was pleased with the results. 

2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc-1

My pairing choice for this meal was the 2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc. And just for fun, Golf Buddy Steve brought a 2009 Rosenblum Cellars Vintner’s Cuvee California Syrah. With two wines to compare and contrast with the meal, our fun was easily doubled. Part of our delight came from dissecting the meal and all the possible combinations of food components and wine. But first, here are some tasting notes:

The 2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc starts with a bold perfume laden nose that belies the the full body and deep flavors of black cherry sprinkled with cracked pepper. The long and satisfying finish returns to the floral perfume found in the nose with a hint of smoke and oak.

The 2009 Rosenblum Cellars Vintner’s Cuvee California Syrah winemakers tasting notes: Dark and rustic, our 2009 Syrah Cuvée shows a distinctly old-world profile. Classic Rhône-style characteristics of meat, leather and spice are married with the native richness of California fruit. Black-cherry and currant aromas carry meaty soy notes and high spices in the nose. The intensity of the fruit comes through on the palate, with juicy layers of boysenberry, cassis, dark plum and a touch of anise. This smooth, succulent palate is wrapped up with grippy tannins that hold the flavors for a lengthy, satisfying finish.

2009 Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc

While both wines were an excellent choice for the pairing, as we looked at different components of the meal, we found the Cabernet Franc with a slice of beef was the best choice. On the other hand, a forkful of potato pancake (with peppers, onions, and water chestnut) paired best with the Rosenblum Syrah. With a fully loaded fork containing each of the dish components, both wines worked equally well.

If you care to view this pairing as a bi-coastal wine throw down, our conclusion was a pleasurable draw.  While many believe Virginia wines continue to seek a distinct identity, I am convinced there are plenty of gems to be found.  I plan to find each of these gems and have already discovered several wineries hitting home runs across their portfolio.

Red Wine Pepper Steak over Asian Potato Pancakes


Pepper Steak


  • 1 1/2 pounds top sirloin beef cut to roughly 2-3 inch strips 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 green bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 red bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 yellow bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


  1. Slice the beef.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high and add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is tender.
  3. Remove onions and add beef strips until browned.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, stir to incorporate all ingredients, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Asian Potato Pancakes


  • 4 large potatoes. I prefer to scrub them and leave unpeeled.
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons wasabe powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 9 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Using grater or food processor, coarsely grate potatoes and onion.
  2. Transfer to colander, allow to drain. Then press to force out remaining liquid.
  3. Transfer mixture to large bowl, add eggs, scallions, cilantro, flour, salt, wasabe powder, and pepper. Stir gently to combine.
  4. In large nonstick skillet over moderate heat, heat 3 tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking.
  5. Drop 1/2 cup portions batter into pan and gently flatten each into 4-5 inch diameter pancakes.
  6. Fry, turning once, until well browned on both sides.
  7. Fry remaining pancakes adding oil as necessary.
  8. Keep warm until ready to serve.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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