Pairing Off: Huevos Rancheros (Sort Of)

Each week, Pairing Off attempts to find just the right bottle of wine to go with ordinary food.

Huevos rancheros is a simple and traditional ranch breakfast of eggs, salsa and tortillas--though sometimes people would add beans.

This "sometimes" is the problem. Order the dish at one place and it comes with chorizo. Another drops the eggs over potatoes. Go to New Mexico and the flavors change. The last place I tried it, they placed two strips of American-style bacon over diced potatoes and onions, with eggs to finish the plate and tortillas on the side.

But that's the way it goes with almost any recipe. Families, communities and cultures all adapt foods to suit their tastes.

When it comes to pairing wine with huevos rancheros, there's another problem: Unless you hit, say, Fearing's for brunch, few restaurants serving the dish (especially in its most basic form) are likely to stock a decent selection.

Yeah, I could make a passable version. Because I don't eat at home very often, however, it's not worth it for me to run out and buy the ingredients. I just hate watching food go to waste.

So I for this week's pairing I dropped by Samar, where Stephan Pyles and his team cook something similar--two fried eggs over diced potatoes, sauteed onions and bits of a piquant chorizo. It's a Spanish dish, there's no tortilla and they plate it with pan-seared foie gras, sure. But I reasoned the presence or absence of a tortilla would have little affect on the wine. And I could save the foie gras until last (it's not incorporated into the hash).

The wine they suggested was surprising: a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Hall, vintage 2005.

That's right, a dessert-ish style wine, brimming on the nose with pear, apple, butter, oak and some intangible grassy notes. Yet there's a promise of acidity and enough reservation in the aroma that you begin to believe it won't be as sweet as most late harvests.

And it isn't...though it also is.

Hall's Sauvignon Blanc launches onto your palate with intense fruit--naturally sweet, somewhat syrupy, with tropical edges and a long, surprisingly dry apple finish. It's a good (and at Samar also pricey) wine that stands up to the dish. It shoulders the spicy chorizo to the back of your throat, subdues it, then releases the flavor slowly. Meanwhile the meat responds by pulling a mango sensation from the wine.

It's all fantastic, until the wine contends with runny egg yolk. At that point, it clenches--though not enough to put you off.

Really, I think it would work just as well with huevos rancheros in most forms, especially if you scramble the eggs. But next time I think I'll pick something a little stronger, raspier and more native to Mexican soil.


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