This month I am joining the French #winophiles, a group of French wine loving friends, as we discover cross-cultural food pairings for French wines. Join the conversation every third Saturday on Twitter at 11:00 a.m. EDT using hashtag #winophiles.
The French West Indies are a Caribbean paradise under French sovereignty with a blend of cultural influences from France, but also Africa, Asia, India and America. These French Caribbean islands offer a cross cultural imprint on French cuisine.
Last year I vacationed in St. Martin, the French side of Martinique. I was introduced to a traditional island specialty called Chicken Colombo. Colombo is a Creole curry brought to Martinique and Guadeloupe by indentured laborers from India who worked the sugar plantations in the 19th and 20th century. Colombo is a mixture of various spices which can include coriander, cumin, yellow mustard seeds, fenugreek, fennel, pepper, turmeric and allspice. In St. Martin I purchased a pre-blended Colombo on the market place however, it is easy to mix up your own fresh blend and I recommend using fresh spices to create a more flavorful end product.
My memories of that paradise island and the many culinary influences on the French cuisine in the French West Indies came back when I purchased Tessa Kiros latest cookbook, “Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Faraway.” Kiros journeys to “faraway” places and explores French culinary influences. One of those “faraway” places is Guadeloupe and her recipe for Chicken Colombo. I have adapted her recipe slightly keeping in mind a French wine to pair with this traditional French West Indies specialty.
The elements in the chicken colombo that I considered for my wine pairing were; the colombo curry spice (not spicy), creamy coconut milk, citrus flavors, the herbs (parsley and thyme) and zucchini. After considering and tasting three different wines; a white burgundy, a dry Riesling from Alsace, and a southern White Rhône blend, the white Rhône was my favorite pairing with the chicken colombo.
2014 Château de Nages Vieilles Vignes, Costières de Nimes, White Rhône, 13.5% ABV, 40% Roussane, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Clairette and the balance Viognier and Bourboulenc
The wine is medium bodied, with nice acidity, notes of citrus and a beeswax smoothness on the palate. The acidity stands up to the colombo curry, the beeswax echoes the richness in the coconut milk and the overall weight of the wine and chicken colombo are well matched. I purchased this wine for $15, a great value for an everyday wine to pair with a rustic informal dish. Cheers!
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Juice of 1 1/2 limes about 2 oz.
- 3 garlic cloves peeled
- pinch of crushed dried red chili peppers
- 1 1/2 medium onions peeled
- a few sprigs of thyme leaves stripped
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 tablespoons colombo spice blend, divided see recipe below
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1- 14 oz. can of coconut milk
- 3-4 medium zucchini
- salt and white pepper
- Put the chicken breasts in a large glass dish just large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the lime juice. Mince one garlic clove and sprinkle over chicken. Slice half of an onion into thin slivers and distribute evenly over chicken. Add thyme leaves, 2 tablespoons of parsley, a pinch of crush dried chili pepper, and drizzle with one tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the chicken breasts to coat them and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Cut the whole onion into thin wedges. In a large sauté pan, that will hold the chicken breasts in a single layer, heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion wedges and sauté for about 5- 8 minutes over medium heat. Add 5 tablespoons of colombo spice blend and two minced garlic cloves and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chicken breasts in a single layer and the marinade from the chicken. Stir 3 tablespoons of colombo spice blend into 1-1/2 cups of water and pour into sauté pan with chicken. Add the 14 oz. can of coconut milk and stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes.
- Cut the zucchini into 1-1/2 inch pieces, add to the sauté pan. Make sure they are immersed in the liquid. Simmer covered for another 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Serve with rice and garnish with parsley and remaining lime juice.
Colombo Spice Blend
- 3 tablespoons uncooked white rice
- 3 tablespoons ground coriander
- 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoons ground fenugreek
- 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground white peppercorn
- 2 tablespoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- Toast the rice in a dry frying pan over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until lightly golden. Stirring and watching closely to prevent burning. Spread on a plate to cool completely.
- In a spice grinder or small food processor, grind the rice.
- In a small bowl, mix the spices and ground toasted rice together.
Check out my fellow French #winophiles and their cross-cultural food and French wine pairings.
- Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog pairs Bordeaux with Cajun and Italian Classics
- Michelle from Rockin’ Red Blog asks Do Empanadas Bordeaux?
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla will match A Vin de Pays d’Oc Chardonnay and an Edible Mollusc from Monterey
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator highlights Cross-Cultural Pairings: Mexican Mole with French Wine
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest informs us that Tortilla Española Crosses Wine Borders
- Jill of L’occasion describes A World of Flavors in Marseille
- Peter from The Wine Analyst delves into Food & Wine – Moroccan Chicken Pastilla
- Jeff from FoodWineClick! reports as Loire Valley Wines Take the Spicy Thai Challenge
- Here at The Swirling Dervish we’ll enjoy A Feast for the Senses: Viognier and Indian Spices