Date: December 5, 2018 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Lauren Cerrato |
Little Rock wine lovers (and certified professionals) Maggie and Aaron Walters share a recipe for Christmas brunch, plus the pairings you should consider for any holiday meal
“Quiche is something we serve at the holidays because it feeds a lot of people. Plus, it’s really easy to make, and you can really put whatever you want in it,” Aaron says, noting that while this recipe has gouda and uncured bacon, you can also use it as a chance to use up leftovers from Christmas Eve dinner.
If your knowledge of wine begins and ends with red and white, you’re not alone. That’s where wine aficionado Maggie Walters was when her interest in wine was first sparked years ago when her now-husband, Aaron, was working as a private chef in Hawaii and she was serving alongside him. “I was serving people this high-dining food, and what do people want with that kind of dining experience? Wine!” she says. “Other than knowing white wine goes with fish and red wine goes with red meat, that was it. I had a fake-it-till-you-make-it moment where I started listening to podcasts, Googling stuff, and then befriended the local wine shop guy. I started being more adventurous, and finally was like, I want to go to school for this.”
After three and a half years on the Big Island, Maggie and Aaron moved back to their home state of Arkansas where Maggie enrolled at Pulaski Tech to become certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). “Aaron was helping me study with flashcards so often that I convinced him to take the test with me,” Maggie says. Now, both are certified Level 3 WSET wine professionals and work at Colonial Wine & Spirits, where they have the opportunity to educate people about different grapes, regions, and pairings. “At Colonial, we did a tasting with duck confit and paired it with three different wines,” Aaron says. “One of the wines we paired it with was a bone-dry Alsatian riesling, and that blew people’s minds. People never think you can pair white wine with duck.”
After a recent trip to Germany and France to—you guessed it—explore different vineyards, Maggie and Aaron caught up with us to share holiday wine pairings for popular dishes as well as Aaron’s family quiche recipe.
Say “Prost” with the Perfect Pairings
“In wine pairings, you can go either one of two ways,” Maggie says. “You can do like flavors with like wines; for example, if you have crab and drawn butter, you might choose a super buttery Chardonnay. Or you pick a contrasting wine—something that acts as a squeeze of lemon, that tartness, that is a contrasting taste.” Because everyone’s holiday feasts look different, Maggie offered suggestions (some budget options, some splurges) for what to sip no matter how you celebrate.
Q. What would you pair with quiche or a savory holiday breakfast? A. Anything brunch, I go with bubbles—they are so versatile, and sparkling wine is really refreshing because it’s so high in acidity. At brunches, you usually have a sweet dish like French toast, a savory egg dish, and bacon or some kind of cured meat, and those things get really heavy. The texture helps cleanse your palette.
Try: Taittinger Brut La Francaise Champagne ($40) or Conquilla Brut cava ($15)
Q. What about if you’re having a traditional roast, steak, or other red meat? A. With beef, you can actually do different pairings based on what temperature your beef is cooked at. Medium rare is a staple temperature for most people, but the lighter it’s cooked, you can actually do a lighter wine, like a meaty pinot noir.
Try: Rex Hill Willamette Valley pinot noir ($35) or Grochau Cellars Commuter Cuvée pinot noir ($15)
Q. Say my family celebrates with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. What wine should I serve? A. You’re going to have some fattier pieces of fish, so I’d go with a heavier white, a chardonnay. For a contrasting option, try an albariño, which is also a white. Its grape is grown near the Atlantic Ocean, so it has this saltwater influence because the sea breeze is sprayed on these grapes as they’re growing, so it adds a salinity to them. It acts as that lemon squeeze to your fish, and it’s my absolute favorite seafood pairing.
Try: Lioco Russian River Valley chardonnay ($40) or Martín Códax albariño ($17)
Aaron’s Holiday Quiche
1 deep dish, 8 ½ inch quiche // Serves 8
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons salt*
1 tablespoon black pepper*
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper*
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg*
½ pound bacon, cooked
2 cups grated gouda (or your favorite cheese)
tomatoes, for garnish (optional)
Combine eggs and heavy cream in a mixer and blend for 30 seconds, or until completely combined. Add seasonings and blend for another 10 seconds to make custard. Render the bacon, allow it to cool, and crumble. In a pre-baked pie crust (can be homemade or store-bought), layer bacon, grated cheese, and custard in the pie dish. Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 325° for 45 minutes. Let rest at least an hour, two hours if you opt for a vegetarian version.
Pro tips for a tasty quiche: To save time on Christmas morning, make it ahead (just pop it in the oven to warm at 200-250°F the morning you plan to serve it). And if you’re not making your own pie crust? “Buy it from Honey Pies,” Aaron says. “They have fantastic pie crust, better than anything store-bought you’re going to find.”
*Editor’s note: We recommend adding seasoning to taste, up to the measured amounts. This instruction did not appear in the print edition.