We are long past the madness that was March (Go, UConn!) and now luxuriating in the full beauty of New England in Spring. Nothing is lovelier than the soft green of new leaves against an azure sky, the vibrant yellow of forsythia, and flowering trees with their clouds of blossoms. But we have already had a taste of summer, with a couple of days of record-breaking heat – just a reminder to enjoy the temperate weather while it lasts. On a cool, sparklingly clear day, we took a walk on the beach, which put us in the mood for seafood. We knew we had the perfect pairing for the meal we were planning with Domaine de la Parentiẻre’s 2019 Muscadet Sẻvre et Maine.
We have long been fans of Muscadets, which are produced only in a small area of the Loire-Atlantique region near Nantes in northwest France. Muscadets have never been trendy and are relatively inexpensive compared to other great whites of the nearby Loire Valley.
This wine has a rich yellow hue with flashes of gold. Its fragrance is delicate on the nose with hints of citrus, apple, pear, and lanolin. The first sip bursts with a mouth-watering combination of maritime salinity, acidity, and a touch of honey sweetness, likely the result of three full years of aging in the bottle which has allowed the wine to develop a complexity that goes beyond most Muscadets. It is likely that this vintage will continue to develop in complexity for several years, while retaining its delightful freshness. This is a fun, thirst-quenching wine that stands up to a rich, mildly spiced fish dish. One of our family favorites is an Icelandic Fiske Soup with a touch of curry and creaminess that worked well with the long finish of the wine.
This is a meal that calls for more crusty bread, perhaps a light green salad. You and your companions are sure to enjoy a satisfying meal that will have you dreaming of fresh ocean breezes.
Icelandic Fish (Fiske) Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, root end trimmed, white and light green part halved lengthwise, rinsed to clean, dried and sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
¾ pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 in chunks
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 Tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp curry powder, or more to taste
4 cups chicken, fish, or shellfish stock
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless cod loin filet, 1 ½ inches thick (or other firm white fish such as halibut or sea bass), cut in 1 ½ inch chunks
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half (we use lactose-free half-and-half)
Handful of chopped chives for garnish
Crusty bread or buttered toast for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the butter, let it melt and bubble. Add the chopped onion, sliced leek, and diced celery. Saute 5-7 minutes until the onion is translucent. Do not let the vegetables brown; turn the heat down to low at any sign of browning.
Add the tomato paste and stir it into the sauteed vegetables with a wood spoon. Let it cook for a minute or two. Add the curry powder. Stir it into the vegetables and let it cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the potato chunks and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot. Stir in the stock and scrape bottom of the pot to stir up any cooked spice into the broth. Bring the pot to a strong simmer, add 1 teaspoon of salt, cover partially with the pot lid, and cook until the potatoes are just tender, usually 20-25 minutes.
Heat the cream or half-and-half in a glass measuring cup in a microwave briefly (do not boil).
Uncover, and add the chunks of cod, gently stirring them into the hot broth. Cook for a few minutes (perhaps 3-5 minutes), until the fish is white and cooked through but not flaking apart.
Stir in the heated cream or half-and-half.
Ladle the soup with the fish, potatoes, and vegetables into warmed serving bowls. Garnish with chopped chives and serve with the crusty bread or buttered toast.