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The Wine Cellar: Preparation is key ingredient to quality cooking

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Every accomplished chef acknowledges mis en place, rather than sauteing and cooking skills, as the foundation for success in the kitchen.

Mis en place — pronounce d miz en plas — means to “put in place.” The discipline entails chopping, mixing and generally preparing everything in advance to be completely ready when the intense heat flares during a busy service with relentless orders.

Home cooks don't face professional pressures, but mis en place still makes a smart approach, especially with grilling fish steaks.

Follow three helpful tips:

• Prep the fish.

• Prep the grill.

• And finally prep accompanying ingredients, including chilling a tasty bottle — or two — of wine.

In prepping meaty varieties such as halibut, paiche, salmon, sea bass, swordfish and tuna, store the fish wrapped in paper towels in the refrigerator until ready for use. This eliminates excess moisture and allows the fish to sear properly over high heat on the grill.

Just before cooking, season the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The goal should be serving with a crisp, tasty exterior and a moist, fully cooked interior.

Success also turns on preparing a clean, properly heated grill. With a gas grill, use the highest setting and cover the grates loosely with foil. Debris from prior uses will loosen. Carefully remove the foil and brush the grates just prior to grilling.

Lightly coat the grates with olive oil. This helps the fish cook properly without sticking to the grill.

Lastly, prepare an accompanying sauce. The sauce helps determine which wine pairs best. Try the following combinations designed to serve two persons. Prepare to have fun, and enjoy yourself before summer flies away.

Grilled fish with pineapple salsa blends delectable sweetness and irresistible savory flavors. To make the salsa, combine 12 cup of olive oil; 12 cup of soy sauce; 14 cup of Dijon mustard; 1 cup diced fresh pineapple; 12 a red onion, diced; 1 tablespoon lime juice; and, for an optional spicy kick, a seeded and minced jalapeno pepper. Serve the salsa on the fish hot off the grill.

Pair with the 2011 Paul Buecher, Gewurztraminer, Résevre Personnelle, Alsace (Luxury 33136; Chairman's Selection, on sale: $15.99). The Buecher family made wine in Alsace for centuries, and today's generations mixes time-tested vineyard methods with state-of-the-art wine production.

Their Gewurztraminer epitomizes the most traditional of Alsace varieties. After ripening grapes slowly and thoroughly, hand picking precedes fermentation in stainless steel to capture the fruit's heady aromas and bumptious, yet joyful personality.

The golden color unfolds assertive pineapple, floral and honey aromas. Rich, ripe tropical fruit flavors with a kiss of sweetness balance with fine acidity through a delicious, lingering finish. Highly Recommended.

For grilled fish steaks with a lemon caper sauce, combine 3 tablespoons drained capers, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 14 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste, and 6 tablespoons olive oil. Serve the sauce on the fish hot off the grill.

Drink the tasty 2010 Domane de Lancyre, Roussanne, Vin de Pays de Montferrand, France (Luxury 31086 ; $19.99). The Roussanne grapes grow in clay and limestone soils in the coolest part of the Pic Saint-Loup appellation in southern France, inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The fruit retains freshness, while a small Viognier adds terrific aromatic complexity.

The golden color offers white floral and citrus aromas with honeyed notes. Ripe pear, mango and citrus flavors meld with zesty acidity, refreshing mineral traces and delightful creamy notes. The wine finishes fruity, yet dry. Highly Recommended.

For a Mediterranean taste, make a sauce from 1 cup diced cherry tomatoes; 1 / 4 cup diced Kalamata olives; 5 cloves finely chopped garlic; 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence; 1 / 4 teaspoon sea salt; freshly ground black pepper, to taste; and 1 / 4 cup olive oil. Wrap individual fish servings topped with the sauce in foil. Fold the foil over to make packets and grill over high heat for about 8 minutes. Remove the packets and place them on plates. Serve them opened and piping hot.

Pair with 2012 Demarie, Langhe Arneis, Italy (Luxury 46228; $16.99), a crisp Piedmontese white with floral and almond traits wrapped in fresh acidity. Recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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