A Play on Sausage & Peppers (w/ wine pairings)

A play on sausage and peppers...

The other day I was tasting some wines with a couple of friends, and one of them pulled out a Tupperware container filled with a dinner that his wife packed for him (aw, how cute). He heated it up and started eating away, and it smelled absolutely delicious. So of course I asked the obvious question, “Hey man, whatcha got there?” Turns out it was a sausage and pepper dish mixed with orzo that his wife regularly makes. He was nice enough to give us a taste and it was fantastic. The sausage was tender, the peppers still had some crunch, it was seasoned perfectly… but the thing that struck me the most was that I had forgotten how much I love orzo! I knew right then and there what I was making for dinner that night. Thanks Cheryl S. for the inspiration, and if all of your food tastes that good your husband is one lucky guy!

So here is my take on Cheryl’s sausage and peppers, but of course I changed things around a bit to make it a little different.

Serves 4

1 1/2c Orzo
1lb Raw Chorizo, sliced
3/4c Orange Bell Pepper, diced
3/4c Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2c Red Onion, sliced
1/3c Jalapeno, seeded and diced (or leave the seeds in if you want the dish to be spicy)
2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1c Cherry Tomato, halved OR 1c Plum Tomato, diced
1/3c Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/3c Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1tsp Salt, two 1/2tsp portions
1tsp Ground Black Pepper, two 1/2tsp portions
1tsp Garlic Powder, two 1/2tsp portions
1tsp Paprika, two 1/2tsp portions
2tbsp Grated Parmesan
1/2c Chicken Stock
1tbsp Olive Oil

Bring a pot of salted water to boil, but do not drop in your orzo until I say!

Ok, so this one is nice and simple. In a sauté pan heat the olive oil on high, once hot add the chorizo. When the meat starts to brown add the onion and garlic and reduce the heat to medium, sauté for 2 minutes. Add the diced bell peppers and jalapeno, a half teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika, and the chicken stock. Stir together well, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for ten minutes. Drop the orzo in the boiling water once you begin to simmer the chorizo and veg, cook for one minute less than the package calls for. Once cooked drain the orzo and add it to the simmering sauté pan along with the remainder of the seasoning, as well as the tomatoes, chopped parsley and cilantro. Stir together well, increase the meat to medium-high, and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Just before plating stir in the grated parmesan cheese… And that’s it, you’re all set. Wasn’t that easy!?

So let’s talk vino. You really need to go to two opposite ends of the wine spectrum on this dish. You either need to go with something white, light and partially sweet to help cut through the spice and heartiness of the dish… OR you need to go with something big and red that’s bursting with fruit and spice notes that with work hand-in-hand with the dish. Anything in between and the wine will be overwhelmed by the food. Here are my recommendations…

Domaine Huët Vouvray Demi-Sec Le Haut-Lieu , Loire, France Domaine Huët is the most storied name in Vouvray. The winery was founded by Victor Huët in 1928 and immediately established itself as the standard bearer of the appellation. While a number of producers in recent years have made a go at Huët’s title, no one has been able to wrest it from them. They are simply the best (cue Tina Turner). Their Demi-Sec from the Haut-Lieu vineyards is almost life changing, yeah, that good. The wine is medium to full bodied, with subtle notes of citrus zest, white peach, honeysuckle and crushed granite framed with a perfect harmony of citrus acidity and honeyed sweetness. Only 1,500 cases are made per vintage but despite this fact there is pretty strong distribution of the wine throughout the US and you should be able to get your hands on a bottle. Or, as I would recommend, buy every one you can find! Another beauty of this wine is that it can be laid down for another 15-20 years, and it should only get better! PP Score: 94 (Retail $34-40) *Certified Biodynamic

Boundary Breaks Riesling No.239 Dry, Finger Lakes, New York – Boundary Breaks is a newly established winery on the eastern shores of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes, and in my opinion, they have immediately established themselves as one of the top producers in the region. They are only in their second vintage, and the wines are beyond gorgeous. Bruce Murray’s dream was to create world class Riesling from New York State that could stand up to the top wineries of the Mosel and Alsace… Mission accomplished sir! So their No.239 Dry (No.239 referring to the Geisenheim 239 Riesling clone used for this bottling) is not an overly sweet Riesling, with only 0.6% residual sugar. It is beautifully floral and bright, but still has a slightly fuller mouth feel. On the palate you’ll find notes of Meyer lemon, orange blossom honey and white peach, as well as hints of smoke, tea leaves, and crushed granite. Production on these wines is TINY, with only 350 cases made of the No.239, so needless to say it’s going to be a challenge to find outside of New York… but for the rest of you there are a handful of boutiques that are selling the wine online, just let your fingers do the walking. And if you want to learn more about Bruce and BB, check out their website, it’s pretty awesome! PP Score: 91 (Retail $16-20)

Limerick Lane Zinfandel, Russian River, California – Limerick Lane is a winery resurrected, now under the ownership of Jake Bilbro, with his brother Scot making the wines. 2011 is the first vintage released by the Bilbro’s, and they really hit the ground running. Up front is a beautiful blend of dark berry, tart cherry and ripe raspberry, then leading into the mid palate you get this completely out of left field zing of bracing acidity with undertones of churned loam and anise, with a finish redolent with freshly crushed pink peppercorn and hints of clove, accompanied by subtle tannins, oak and the slightest heat. This is a wine that you should allow to breathe for at least 30 minutes before serving, preferably longer. PP Score: 93 (Retail $32-36)

Click here for more information on Limerick Lane.

Shebang! Red, California – Shebang! is a fun side project of Morgan Twain Peterson, the owner and winemaker of Bedrock Wine Company, as well as partner of the new label Under The Wire that has already developed a serious cult following (they couldn’t even accommodate everyone that signed up for their mailing list!). Shebang! was created by Morgan so he could offer consumers a wine that is still made with the ideals and care of his Bedrock and UTW wines, but with a much more wallet-friendly price tag. This current cuvee is a blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Alicante, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese (I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more since Morgan has upwards of 30 different varietals growing in his vineyards) with an average vine age around 100 years. The wine is medium-to-full bodied with a dark ruby hue. On the palate you’ll find notes of dark cherry, bramble fruit, black pepper, and subtle oak framed by mild acidity and silky soft tannins, leading to a moderate finish. This is a lot of juice in the bottle for the price… PP Score: 90 (Retail $12-15)

Click here for more information on Shebang!, and here for an article that discusses Bedrock Wine Company. 

So there you have it, my play on sausage and peppers and the wines I recommend with the dish. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and I hope you’ll try the recipe and the wines. Thanks again to Cheryl S. for the unknowing inspiration… lol. As always, more content is en route. In the meantime, crack open a bottle of something awesome, sit back, and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!


Published by Derek Martin

Husband, dad, home cook, wine snob... lover of bacon. I have spent my entire adult life surrounded by fine food and fine wines, starting with fifteen years working at, or running, some of New Jersey's top restaurants, and now the last two years working for one of the top fine wine distributors in the United States. I have absorbed a ton of information on food, wine, pairings and techniques during those seventeen years, and I'd love to share what I've learned with you!

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