Monday, May 11, 2009

Riesling Chicken

The idea for this meal came out of knowing our friend Iris likes Rieslings and I love an excuse to buy a wine I don't usually drink much of, she would be happy and we'd all get to drink. Everyone wins. At about the same time I invited her and her fella Will over for a meal I stumbled across a recipe in the French cookbook of scary pictures for something called Riesling Chicken. It sounded good and since it had the name of the wine I wanted to serve in the title of the recipe it would save me a lot of trouble trying to figure out a main dish that went with the wine.

For something with Riesling in the name I was a little disappointed in how little Riesling flavor was actually in this dish however. It wasn't that it was a bad recipe it was just a little blah. Ultimately it's baked chicken with a cream mushroom sauce which was fine, everyone liked it just fine. It would probably be improved a bit if I had cooked with bone in chicken pieces rather than breasts which I used to save all of us the trouble of trying to politely de-bone greasy bits of chicken.

Problem is I had obsessively shopped for the perfect Rieslings the week before cooking this. I ended up buying three different bottles trying to find a semi dry Riesling that wasn't expensive. That's more difficult that one might imagine. The dry Rieslings were plentiful but started at the $30 range. I like my friends but knew we'd rather have a couple decent bottles I knew nothing about in order to try them out than nursing one snobby bottle we might not even like. So I decided to trust the advice of San Fransisco Chronicle in their article about $10 Rieslings that weren't sugar monsters. I bought the Relax and the Mosel River Rieslings that they suggested and the Bex Riesling that I remember liking from a tasting.

The fella and I opened them all to see which one was dry enough to cook with and not overwhelm the chicken and leeks, both of required wine to cook in. They were all pretty sweet so I used a little of each in the food and hoped for the best, figuring the chicken wouldn't care if I mixed wines. While dinner finished up we drank the Mosel River and moved onto the Bex as we ate. Both are from the Urzig region and so where pretty similar. The Mosel River being slightly sweeter with a heavy pear syrup flavor and a slight effervescence. Where as the Bex had a tartness that made my mouth water while still being Riesling sweet. Both were easy to drink and would be perfect for summer drinking. There was a nice limestone minerality to them that added a bit of character to the fruit.

The Relax was a bit of a shock after the other two wines. It was tight in a way only red wines usually are. I don't usually open a bottle of white and think about it needing to get a bit of air before drinking but this was apparently the exception. It was sweet but it held back it's sweetness until the finish. This would be a great Riesling for someone who likes sweet but doesn't like the cloying fruitiness of many white wines. They were all great choices for the meal, they didn't overwhelm the chicken or roasted vegetables. All in all I was happy with all the wines. And we were all pretty happy with dinner. Or at least everyone made enough believable yummy noises that I assumed they were pleased.

We finished off the evening with a puppy walk and a silly card game that got even more silly when I opened a bottle of red. It's no secret that I'm in love with Cline wines but their Moudevre is out of this world. Light bodied with very little tannin. It was as if the perfect California coast Pinot Noir and a fruit bomb Zinfindel had a super smooth love child. This is one of those times where the wine was so good I have no words for it.

My new food fantasy is to disappear for a day with a bottle of Cline Moudevre and a beet torte. I've found my new favorite wine. Sorry Conquista Malbec you've been replaced.

Other recipes from the Riesling Feast:
Almond Soup
Sara's Braised Leeks
Roasted Cauliflower and Fennel
Beet Torte

Riesling Chicken

4 pounds whole chicken or chicken parts
2 tablespoon oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped finely
1/2 cup Riesling
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325.

Cut chicken into servings size pieces or purchase pre-cut pieces of legs, thighs, and breasts (this works just fine with all chicken breasts but will end up on the dry side.) Rub chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

In a large oven safe skillet over medium heat, warm the oil and butter. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides, adding more oil if needed. Add mushroom and onion to pan, cover and place in oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through.

While the chicken bakes, in a small pan cook shallots in a small amount of oil, about 2 minutes until tender but not browned. Add wine and simmer until reduced to half. Stir in cream and cook without boiling until sauce thickens. Pour over chicken when serving.

Original recipe from Modern French Culinary Art.

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