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Jun 26, 2020
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WINE WITH…Salmon Patties with Spinach

According to Global Seafoods North America, a major supplier and shipper of seafood, salmon is the second most popular fish in the US, with 918 million salmon consumed every year.  One reason for salmon’s popularity is its versatility at the table, from sushi and sashimi to smoked salmon to grilled salmon steaks.  Being high in protein and boasting a substantial omega-3 fatty acid content (which may be good for a healthy heart), salmon is one of the most nutritious fish we can eat.

While rice or potatoes are probably the most obvious sides to serve with salmon patties, I was looking for something a little different.  In this gloomy era of pandemic, I wanted an accompaniment that added color along with plenty of nutrition to the overall dining experience.  Spinach came to mind immediately.

That night, as I dished up the cooked chopped spinach--which I’d livened up with a generous amount of sautéed onions and drizzle of olive oil—I wondered whether this addition to the spinach itself might make the dish less wine friendly.  Well, there was only one way to find out….

Salmon Patties with Spinach

Serves 2

1 pound salmon fillet
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red curry paste (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup panko
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lemon wedges

If the salmon comes with the skin on slice it off and discard.  Using a sharp chef’s knife, chop the salmon into small pieces (approximately ¼ inch).  This can also be done in a food processor, taking care not to pulverize the fish.

In a bowl, thoroughly mix together the chopped salmon, ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, red curry paste, panko and egg yolk.  Form the mixture into two patties.  If possible, refrigerate the patties for two to six hours before cooking them.

To cook the salmon patties, pour the olive oil into a sturdy skillet, ideally cast iron.  Heat for a minute over medium-high heat then add the salmon patties.  Cook until they are golden brown on the bottom, then flip and cook them until browned on the other side.

*         *         *

The Wines:  Salmon generally pairs well with certain red wines, but the same cannot be said of spinach—and this dish was no exception.  I confirmed this by testing a light Pinot Noir and a modest Merlot along with it.  Not surprisingly, since the slightest hint of tannin in red wine will turn bitter when they bump up against the oxalic acid in spinach, both wines were merely drinkable with the dish, but did not add much pleasure to the experience.  Even white wine can sometimes be challenging with salmon, but three of the four I tried were excellent with it (the fourth was an over- oaked Chardonnay which, frankly, would probably have overwhelmed any food).  The spinach, whose flavor was softened remarkably by the sweetness of the onions, turned out to be a distinct plus with these three wines.

Shooting Star, Lake County (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($15):  A crisp California Sauvignon Blanc that contributes a distinctly refreshing taste sensation to both the salmon and the spinach akin, perhaps, to another zesty squeeze of lemon.

Pieropan, Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy) 2018 ($23, Imported by Pieropan USA):  The fruitiest of the three wines, this Soave brings out the natural richness of the salmon.  On a whim, I splashed a tiny dash of spicy Gochujang over the dish, which seemed to make everything—salmon, spinach, wine—come together beautifully.

J Lohr, Arroyo Seco (California) Arroyo Vista Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 ($25):  This Chardonnay was the boldest and most assertive of the wines, emphasizing sweet fruit and the spiciness of oak, both of which were like tasty condiments adding to the overall food-and-wine experience.

Editor’s Note:  Paul Lukacs is currently sidelined by illness, so this edition of “Wine With” is authored solely by Marguerite Thomas…who hopes to have Paul rejoin her at the table soon, as do all of us at Wine Review Online.  ~MF

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