Andrea Immer Robinson picnic recipes and wine pairings

Mar 22, 2010 at 2:33 p.m. ET

Andrea Immer Robinson, renowned sommelier and one of the country's leading wine educators, knows how to impeccably pair foods - even unusual, challenging dishes - with the perfect wine. Even better, her ability to make wine less intimidating and more approachable can lure most people to be more adventurous and comfortable with unfamiliar vinos. Here are three of Andrea's elegant and extraordinary picnic-perfect recipes with her top wine picks.

Hot and Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Hot and Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Revel in the varied textures and tastes of this satisfying salad. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your meal spread out on the sand at your nearest beach.

1 1/2 pounds large frozen shrimp, thawed, shelled deveined
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped jalapenos, or a pinch cayenne, optional
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 small ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed just before cooking
Kosher salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

1. Dice the romaine into bite-sized pieces, place in large salad bowl and set aside. In a medium nonstick pan heat the olive oil. Add the avocado and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove the avocado with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.

2. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of avocado oil into a small bowl, and reserve. Add the minced shallot to the skillet and return to med. heat. Cook, stirring until shallots begin to soften, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp, salt and pepper and jalapenos or cayenne, if using, and sauté until shrimp are cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and spoon the shrimp into the bowl with the avocado pieces. Add the chives and cilantro and fold together gently, just to combine the ingredients. With a rubber spatula, scrape any remaining oil in the skillet into the bowl with the reserved avocado oil. Whisk in the lime juice and salt and pepper to make a dressing.

4. Toss some of the dressing with the romaine until the lettuce is nicely coated, divide among serving plates. Top the lettuce with hot shrimp mixture, drizzle with additional dressing and serve.

Wine Pairing:
A refreshing Fumé Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc would be the perfect complement to this dish. The lively flavor of the wine works well with spicy flavors, and the wine's crispness and acidity goes splendidly with seafood.

Prosciutto-Sage Chicken "Ravioli" Bites

Makes about 6 to 8 appetizer servings

Prosciutto-Sage Chicken Throw an outdoor summer cocktail party and serve these scrumptious ravioli bites or enjoy them as a light lunch tucked away under a tree in the park.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat and membranes
16 leaves fresh sage, stems removed (or more if the leaves are small)
6 slices prosciutto (use the pre-cut, blister pack supermarket kind), approximately
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons dry oloroso sherry

1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken breast halves and cut each into 3 to 4 bite-sized (2-inch) pieces. Place chicken breast pieces smooth-side up on a work surface. Sandwich each piece between 2 large or 3 to 4 small sage leaves (depending on size) on each piece, spacing them evenly for a uniform, "striped" look.

2. Cut each prosciutto slice in half lengthwise and carefully center a prosciutto strip atop the chicken breast widthwise, covering the sage leaves, and wrap the slice around, securing it with a toothpick if needed.

3. In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Place the chicken breast ravioli top smooth-side down in the pan. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and continue cooking, uncovered, until cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes depending on the thickness of each piece.

4. Remove the toothpicks and transfer the chicken pieces to a platter. Add the sherry to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, scraping to loosen any browned bits, for one minute, until the liquid in the pan becomes syrupy and thick. Pour the pan sauce over the raviolis, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Wine Pairing:
A wine with enormous richness and depth of flavor like a Shiraz or Syrah would make a delicious compliment to the proscuitto and chicken bites. The richly concentrated flavors and lush fruity bouquet creates an elegant, velvety wine, which marries well with full-flavored chicken dishes.

Truffled and Herbed Popcorn

Makes about 6 to 10 servings

Unusual but oh so good. Popcorn gains gourmet status with a few extra key ingredients. And, yes, you can drink wine with popcorn! Pack your picnic basket with bags of this gourmet snack and you might even be tempted to skip the main meal.

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon white or black truffle oil
Kosher salt to taste, plus black truffle salt to taste
1 tablespoon each finely chopped fresh rosemary and fresh thyme

1. Air pop the popcorn, in batches if needed, or use two bags low-salt, light microwave popcorn, popped according to package directions.

2. For the herbed popcorn: Drizzle two tablespoons of the unsalted butter over half the popped corn, tossing as you drizzle to distribute the butter evenly. Immediately sprinkle with the chopped herbs and salt to taste, tossing to combine well.

3. For the truffle popcorn: Combine the remaining melted butter (or black truffle butter) and the truffle oil, and drizzle evenly on the remaining popcorn. Season with salt and/or truffle salt to taste and serve.

For wasabi popcorn: Crush two tablespoons of Wasabi peas in a blender until fine breadrumb texture. Sprinkle over buttered popcorn to taste.

For smoky popcorn: Add three drops liquid smoke to the melted butter before drizzling onto the popcorn. If desired, substitute smoked salt for the regular kosher salt.

Wine Pairing:
Toasty, barrel-fermented Chardonnays are the perfect match for buttery popcorn, while smoky and herb seasoned popcorns harmonize with the smoky, herbaceous elements of a Cabernet Sauvignon and showcase the wine's dusky fruit perfectly. For the most flexible popcorn pairing, pop the cork on a Brut sparkling wine, whose lively acidity and yeasty quality are a great partner to the buttery, toasty taste of popcorn.

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