Poor old chardonnay. Few other white grapes have been such victims of fashion, buffeted by the whims of winemakers and popular taste. Back in the '80s chardonnay was all about buttery richness - remember Rosemount Roxburgh? Then, in the '90s, unwooded chardonnay was all the rage, and our bottle shop fridges were suddenly stacked with anaemic wines made from young vines.
In the noughties, the pendulum swung back to chardonnays with more complexity, thanks to more mature vineyards (older vines tend to produce grapes with more satisfying flavours) and more involved but restrained winemaking techniques such as lees stirring (agitating the sediment of spent yeast cells that lie on the bottom the barrel). Now, though, some are wondering whether the pendulum hasn't swung too far: the latest trend, especially in cooler places such as southern Victoria and the high country of NSW, is to pick grapes earlier (at, say 11 or 12 per cent potential alcohol) and make wines that winemakers may describe as "minerally" but some punters describe as "austere" or "tart".
The trick is to drink these leaner, modern styles of chardonnay with food that will bring out the wine's inherent depth of flavour. This salad - with the subtle oiliness of the trout and the lemony creaminess and herbal lift of the dressing - is just the kind of dish you need.
A salad of smoky trout, herbs and a creamy lemon dressing bring out all the complex flavours of a modern chardonnay.
- 600 gm kipfler potatoes, scrubbed
- 140 gm (1 cup) frozen peas, defrosted
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
- 8 dill sprigs
- 4 rainbow trout (about 400gm each)
- 300 gm woodchips, such as mesquite or hickory, soaked in water for at least an hour, drained (see note)
- 1 cup (loosely packed) each mint, flat-leaf parsley and dill
- ¼ cup (loosely packed) chives
- 1 cup (loosely packed) frisée or baby cress
Lemon salad cream
- 120 gm sour cream
- 1 tbsp pouring cream
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender (15-20 minutes). Drain, set aside and, when cool enough to handle, peel and crush.
- 2Blanch peas in boiling salted water until bright green (1-2 minutes). Drain and refresh, drain again and combine with potatoes in a large bowl.
- 3Divide lemon and dill among trout, filling cavities of fish, and secure with kitchen string. Brush both sides with oil, season to taste, place on a baking tray and set aside.
- 4Preheat a coal-bedded kettle barbecue to low heat. Set up for indirect grilling (see note), add two-thirds of the woodchips around coals and when smoke appears, place trout on rack. Cover and smoke, adding extra woodchips as required, until cooked through (20-25 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, coarsely flake flesh (discard bones and skin) and add to potato mixture with remaining ingredients.
- 5Meanwhile, for lemon salad cream, whisk all ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.
- 6Drizzle salad cream over salad, season to taste, toss gently to combine and serve.
Note Indirect grilling is barbecuing away from the heat, using the top rack. It's important to have a coal base well established for this method. Woodchips are available from barbecue shops and select hardware shops. Drink suggestion by Max Allen