“Chardonnay paired with Chicken? Teach you that one at Sommelier school, did they?”
Ok, so I won’t say that this is the most adventurous pairing the world has ever seen, but it’s one of only two (I believe) white meat and Chardonnay pairings that I’ve ever posted.
As crazy as it sounds, we very rarely eat chicken in my house…chicken wings (of course) being the one BIG exception. It’s not that I don’t like chicken, I just think it’s the “vanilla” of meats. It’s usually what you put on the chicken that makes the dish….at least IMHO.
NB: I threw in the “IMHO” at the last minute and now I feel weird about it. Damn Internet-lingo getting stuck in my head!!! I digress…
The Freemark Abbey Chardonnay was actually quite a pleasant surprise. I was anticipating what most people have come to expect from a great number of Napa Chard’s i.e. a stick of butter being rammed down your throat, and then hitting you up the side of your head with an oak plank. You know that feeling? I think people are getting a little bored of it…
You’ll be happy to know that this wine didn’t yield that sensation, although I did pick this recipe based purely on what I expected this wine to taste like.
The Freemark Abbey Chardonnay is actually a blend of different estate Napa vineyards owned by the late Jess Jackson. I read afterwards that the wine doesn’t actually undergo any malolatic fermentation, which explains why the wine didn’t reveal the hugely buttery and creamy flavors I was expecting.
The wine showed a medium body, with Granny Smith apple, orange blossom, lime, and with delicate pineapple, vanilla, and baking spices. Oak is present, but only lightly applied. Surprisingly high minerality, and a long finish. Drinks closer to French Chardonnay than it does Californian. Average retail is around $20, which is a good deal, as I know ones costing closer to $30 that don’t drink as good.
Two things to know about this dish, firstly it was AWESOME! I know I say that about a lot of these pairings, but it’s always nice to put a decent amount of effort into something (even though it’s a fairly simple recipe), and have it turn out surprisingly well.
The second thing to know is that I undercooked the arse out of this chicken, so-much-so that after I finished taking the photos, I cut into it and realized it was still pink in the middle.
So as not to contract Salmonella, I grabbed mine and the wife’s chicken from our plates (in the middle of dinner) and threw it on the grill for another 10 minutes. Luckily we had the wine to keep us company.
I’m just not used to using cooking meat in a pan. My outdoor grill is my best friend, and I use it for EVERYTHING! These were also some fairly intimidatingly large chicken breasts….blah-blah-blah-excuses-excuses-excuses….
I’ve adjusted the below recipe accordingly by adding more time at various stages, because I’m really not in the mood for a lawsuit in 2012 from a Salmonella-stricken reader of this website….
Recipe for Chicken Breasts with Spinach, Leek and Saffron Sauce
4 Chicken breast halves with skin (I used bone-in breasts, but it’s up to you)
1 cup dry white wine
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads (NB: did you know saffron costs more per ounce than gold?)3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 large leeks, white and tender green parts only, cut into half and then thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 cups spinach
1. Warm (don’t boil) the white wine (I just did it in the microwave). Add the saffron to the heated wine. Heat the EVOO in a large skillet. Season-up the chicken with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet, skin side down to start. Cook the chicken over moderately high heat for 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the skin is browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook for 5 minutes longer. Leave the skillet on the heat, and remove the chicken
2. Melt the butter in the skillet. Add the leeks and cook over medim-high heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the wine/saffron mix and leave to simmer for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves. Add the chicken breasts back to the skillet, skin side up and simmer over medium heat until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet, again.
3. Add the cream and mustard and simmer over medium for around 4 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, 2 minutes at the most. Season the sauce (to taste) with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves (if you can dig them out, but not a big deal). Spoon the mix onto plates, top with the chicken breasts and serve.