White Christmas: Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay with Lobster-Vanilla Pasta

Among the pulled corks of special bottles lining the path to our traditional Christmas dinner pairing of red Burgundy and duck breast, is always a decadent barrel-fermented Chardonnay to accompany one of my favorite date-night dishes: John’s Lobster Pasta with Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc. Tonight’s the night! Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be dreaming of this white Christmas pairing any time you have access to lobster. We use thawed frozen lobster tails and it works beautifully, and have also substituted Dungeness crab and seared scallops for the lobster with great results. We  paired ours with Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay, a truly great buttery Chardonnay for the price and a great way to dollar-cost-average your pairing against the pricey lobster.

In fact, you could even skip the seafood and just enjoy the pasta pairing, because it’s the butter sauce that really drives the match.  It’s not a traditional beurre blanc, but rather uses sweet butter and some of the pasta cooking water to make a hedonistic, clingy robe for the pasta that’s a perfect foil for Chardonnays with a buttery-tropical bent. A scraped vanilla bean yields flavor flecks throughout the dish that pick up the vanillin notes imparted by oak barrel fermentation and aging. Here’s how to do the pasta and sauce:

Cook some fettuccine according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, mince a shallot and sweat it in a wide skillet over low heat in several tablespoons of butter, until soft and translucent. Finely chop some parsley and reserve. With a paring knife, split a vanilla bean pod and scrape out the seeds. They will be sticking to your knife, so cut another knob of butter and scrape the vanilla bean pods onto the butter so they stick to that instead. When the pasta is done, use tongs to add it to the skillet with some of the water that clings to the pasta.  Increase the heat to medium and add the vanilla bean butter, mixing with tongs to melt the butter and thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with chunks of cooked lobster or other seafood if desired, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with your barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Enjoy!

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