Drinks

Celebrate National Tartan Day with Scotch and Scottish cuisine

April 6, 2013 at 7:00 AM ET

Rebecca Davis / TODAY /
Chef Chris Rendell pairs trout and langoustines with a mild, creamy Scotch on April 3.

Get thee to a pub — preferably in plaid — to celebrate National Tartan Day, which takes place every year on April 6 as part of a week-long celebration of all things Scottish-American.

To honor the occasion, chefs Chris Rendell of New York City’s Highlands restaurant and Michael Smith of The Three Chimneys in Scotland teamed up to present a multi-course menu that captures the natural vegetation and fresh seafood of the Scottish Isles. With a little patience, you can recreate Rendell's dishes, cured Scottish ocean trout and pan-roasted venison, at home.

But then we come to the most important question: What should you pair with all this delicious food? Why Scotch, of course (if you think whisky is just for after dinner, think again). To get you started, chefs Rendell and Smith shared some of their Scotch pairing tips with TODAY.com.

When it comes to dining and drinking, Rendell avoids peaty Scotch; peat is what gives whisky an intensely smoky flavor, which can easily overwhelm your dinner. His note of caution: “You don’t want the whisky to override the flavor of the food.”

That said, Scotch pairs especially well with smoked fish, a staple of Scottish cuisine. Rendell paired his own cured fish dish with Compass Box Asyla Scotch, a creamy, slightly sweet whisky with notes of vanilla, cereal and oak. For the venison, he chose Compass Box Oak Cross, which is maltier and has notes of clove and vanilla.

If you’re a drinker who approaches the whisky glass with trepidation, Rendell considers Scotch cocktails to be “a good way of blending Scotch in without having it full on in [your] face."

Rebecca Davis / TODAY /
Rendell paired his meat course with a sweeter, maltier Scotch.

He recommends pairing Scotch with something dry, like vermouth — an ingredient that plays an essential role in many of Highlands’ cocktails.“Scotch works with anything that has a bit of edge,” he said.

Chef Smith suggests a different approach: Why not incorporate Scotch in your food? Smith did just that in one of his Scotland Week dishes: Lamb rump with a glaze laced with Talisker whisky, a single malt Scotch unique to the Isle of Skye, where his restaurant is located. The technique is one that can be easily replicated at home, and Smith recommends substituting Scotch instead of bourbon in barbecue sauces, puddings, desserts and more.

“If you’re sautéing any kind of tenderloin of beef or venison or pork, add a nub of butter and flambé with whisky for that Scottish touch,” he advised.

Whether you prefer your Scotch whisky on the side (in a glass with an ice cube, of course), or in your food, here are a few Scottish recipes that will pair nicely with a mellow whisky of your choosing.

Rebecca Davis / TODAY /
Rendell's Scottish ocean trout is cured with salt and sugar and served with a chopped langoustine salad and cracked wheat brioche.

Cured Scottish ocean trout

Chopped langoustine salad, piccalilli, cracked wheat brioche

For the ocean trout:

1 side Scottish ccean trout (or salmon as substitute), pin bones removed

2 bunches parsley, rough chopped

2 bunches cilantro, rough chopped

1 bunch dill, rough chopped

3 shallots, sliced

1 jalapeno, chop fine

1 Tablespoon fennel seeds

1 cup sugar + 1 cup salt (mix)

Score the salmon on the skin side at 3 inch intervals. Lightly spread the salmon with a thin layer of sugar and salt on both sides.

Place all of the ingredients (herbs, shallots, jalapeno, fennel seeds, and the remaining sugar and salt) in a non reactive bowl, mix thoroughly and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover the flesh side of the sea trout with this mixture and pack it on tightly. Place on a wire rack and refrigerate for 5 days.

Each day, evenly pour the excess juices back over the salmon. After five days remove all of the marinade and pat dry. Slice thinly to order.

For the piccalilli:

1 cauliflower, cut into small florets

1 onions, diced small

1 green zucchini, 1/4 inch diced

1 cucumbers -peeled, deseeded and diced ½ inch

2 cups champagne vinegar

2 cups cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup English mustard powder

5 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 cup cornstarch, mixed with ¼ cup water

Salt and pepper

Take the cauliflower, onions, shallots, 2 tablespoons of salt and mix in a non-reactive bowl. Leave to marinate overnight.

The next day, mix the cucumber with 1 teaspoon of salt and let sit for a ½ hour. Mix the cucumber, cauliflower, onion and shallots together. Rinse the mixture under cold water in a large colander.

Tip the mixture onto a large kitchen towel, pat dry and place it back in the bowl. In a non-reactive pan, take all the remaining ingredients except the corn flour and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and whisk the corn flour into the simmering liquid and whisk until the liquid starts to thicken. Pour over the vegetables, season and cool.

For the langoustine:

4 large langoustines

Pea shoots

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Slowly add langoustines and cook for two minutes. Remove and place into iced water. Allow to cool. With your finger, gently squeeze the tail portion of the shells together (you will hear a light crack).

Peel the shell away from the tail. Remove tail and place on kitchen paper until needed.

For the dish:

Finely slice the trout and place on plate. Place piccalilli in a straight line down the center of the trout. Season the langoustine with olive oil, salt and pepper. Dress with pea shoots, and place on the trout. Serve with toasted brioche on the side.

Rebecca Davis / TODAY /
Rendell's pan-roasted venison is prepared in a Scotch broth with baby vegetables and parsley sauce.

Pan roasted venison

Scotch broth, baby vegetables, parsley sauce

4 x 6 to 7 oz venison loin portions

For the Scotch broth:

Lamb bones from to lamb legs, lightly roasted

1 onion, diced

1 fennel, diced

1 whole celery, diced

2 plum tomatoes, seed removed chopped

½ bunch rosemary

½ bunch thyme

10 whole black peppercorns

Olive oil

In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and the diced vegetables. Allow to cook over medium heat until golden brown. Once golden, add the tomatoes and fresh herbs, cook for another 15 minutes.

Add roasted lamb bones, cover with cold water and simmer for 1 hour. Skim any fat that rises. After an hour, gently pass the liquid through a fine strainer and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the baby vegetable:

1 bunch baby carrots

1 bunch baby turnips

1 bunch baby fennel

Peel the baby carrot and turnip, removing any dirt from the stem. Cut the baby fennel in half length-ways. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the baby vegetables in batches until tender. Cool in ice bath. Remove and set aside.

For the parsley sauce:

2 cups sourdough, crust removed and diced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 cups picked parsley

2 cloves garlic- minced

1 tablespoon capers, drained

3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

First, pour vinegar over bread and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl with the bread. Divide into two batches and puree in a mixer with about 1 1/2 cups of oil in each batch.

On a high speed, combine the ingredients. When it has reached a smooth consistency, quickly cool. Repeat with second batch. Combine the second batch well. Season to taste.

For the dish:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a heavy base fry pan over high heat, add a touch of olive oil. Once hot, carefully add the seasoned venison (careful not to splash yourself with the hot oil). Sear both sides of the meat until golden 1 to 2 minutes on both sides. Place in hot oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and allow to rest on wire rack.

In other sauté pan, cook the baby vegetables until hot. Divide the baby vegetable evenly into four serving dishes. Slice the venison in half and place on the vegetable. Ladle hot broth over the meat. Spoon the parsley sauce over the meat and garnish with watercress.

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