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Dec 22, 2015
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WINE WITH…Chicken Korma

Korma, from the Urdu word for “braise,” is a Moghul dish that is said to date back to the 16th century. It remains today one of the most popular preparations in North India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and has lately been catching on in western countries as well. It’s easy to see why. Perfumed by exotic spices such as ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf, and featuring chicken or lamb cooked with yogurt in a long, slow braise until the ingredients are meltingly tender, this is a truly succulent make-ahead dish to serve the family for supper (it makes great party fare as well). Korma may be prepared mildly spiced or searingly hot, although for maximum compatibility with wine we aim for a milder effect rather than fiery spiciness.

Chicken Korma

Serves 4

About 2 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken pieces (we prefer thighs, but breasts could be used as well)
1 large onion
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or ½ teaspoon dried red chili flakes)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves or allspice
1 7-ounce container of plain yogurt, preferably whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil (we used olive oil)
Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

Cut the chicken into large bite-size pieces. Place them in a bowl and reserve. Cut the onion in half. Reserve one half of the onion and coarsely chop the other half. Place the chopped onion in a food processor or blender along with the Aleppo pepper and the rest of the spices. Add 1/2 cup water and blend until the onion is pureed. Add the yogurt and process until it is just blended in. Pour the mixture over the chicken and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a large pot and add the bay leaf. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 35-40 minutes, or until the sauce is nicely thickened.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil in a skillet. Thinly slice the rest of the onion and add it to the skillet when the butter has foamed. Cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender and darkly browned.

Serve the korma over rice and top with the browned onions. Garnish with a few cilantro leaves if desired.

* * *

Before trying this somewhat sweet and spicy dish, we guessed that white wines would work well with it. We were right, as fruity whites did pair very nicely. But we also were wrong, as reds proved just as successful. Regardless of color, the key to a good match turned out to be ripe fruit flavors. It didn’t much matter whether those flavors resembled apples or berries, peaches or plums; the crucial factor was ripeness. Wines that did not fare well were marked by drier flavors (a Chianti Classico, for instance) or herbaceous ones (a Sancerre). In short, this is a dish that demands freshness in the wine you choose.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Approx. Price


Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County (California) Zinfandel “Old Vine” 2013


A medium-weight Zin, with zesty fruit and sweet spice flavors, soft tannins, and nary a hint of heat, this vibrant wine gave the korma added depth. We had thought it might be overpowering, but the symmetry turned out to be quite impressive.

Lula, Mendocino (California) Pinot Noir 2012


A soft, silky Pinot, very Californian (meaning ripe) but not excessively sweet, this wine impressed because of its seductive texture. It echoed the creaminess of the dish.

Maximin Grünhäuser, Mosel (Germany Riesling Kabinett “Herrenberg” 2013

(Imported by Loosen Bros USA)


An exquisite wine, full of white summer fruit flavors, with a well-delineated structure and a hauntingly long finish. Because it sports only 7.5% alcohol, you might think that it would be too delicate for such a full-flavored dish. You’d be wrong. The match was virtually perfect.

Presqu’Ile, Santa Maria Valley (California) Chardonnay 2013


A very impressive California Chardonnay. Though full of rich, ripe flavor, the wine also exhibits impressive balance, without any sort of excess. There’s not too much oak or vanilla or butter. Instead, everything seems just right.

Scharffen-berger, Mendocino (California) Brut Rosé “Excellence” NV


One of the best sparklers we’ve had from this always reliable producer, this rosé tastes dry but fruity, with extra heft on the palate that enables it to work well at the supper table. The effervescence helped lighten the korma, while the flavors lingered and intertwined with those from the dish.