Wine Advocate Weekend Pairings: Gumbo

Fall is the unofficial kick-off to eating season, making it completely acceptable to feast upon heartier dishes like soups, stews and braises. 

Chef and owner Darnell Reed of Luella's Southern Kitchen in Chicago grew up eating gumbo. Reed's great grandmother, Luella, the restaurant's namesake, was responsible for preparing this dish for his family throughout his childhood.

The version that he prepares at his restaurant is the result of a combination of influences, "From Luella’s to Commander's Palace in Louisiana, to watching Justin Wilson on channel 11 as a kid," Reed says. "I developed my own recipe based off the flavor profiles in my memory and my knowledge of Southern cooking."

What sets Reed’s gumbo recipe apart from the rest is a roux that’s cooked for five hours, an idea that came about while reading Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. Taking it a step even further, Reed serves his gumbo over Carolina Gold rice, an heirloom long-grain variety that Southern cooks swear by. 

“Chicken gumbo is rich, creamy and spicy, so it requires a wine with strong flavor that can compete with the dish,” says Oregon reviewer Erin Brooks. “I would choose a bottle of gently sweet Chenin Blanc, and Domaine Huet makes my favorite. The 2016 Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec is full-bodied, full of personality and has about seven grams per liter of residual sugar—just enough to counter the spiciness in the gumbo. Yum!”

Photos courtesy of Luella's Southern Kitchen.

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