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Apr 4, 2017
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WINE WITH…Chicken Pilaf

A timeless recipe, this pilaf is simple to prepare, and is even better if made the day before. Spice it up to suit your taste, adding a little more cayenne or a dash of red pepper flakes, and perhaps some torn basil leaves just before serving. It’s great for entertaining, and we like to accompany it with a big green salad and a couple of different bottles of wine on the table--one white, one red.

Chicken Pilaf

Serves 4

4-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fresh red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into narrow strips
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more)
1 pinch (or 1/4 teaspoon) saffron
1 cup long-grain rice such as basmati
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
4 or 5 fresh basil leaves (optional)

Blot the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel, then season them with salt and pepper. Place the olive oil in a large, sturdy skillet or braiser and heat it until it begins to shimmer. Then add the chicken thighs and cook, over medium heat, until they begin to color lightly. Remove them to a plate and add the onion and pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until they have softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the oregano, cayenne and saffron. Stir in the rice and add the wine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Pour in the chicken stock, add the tomatoes, and then stir the chicken thighs back into the mixture. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes. Give everything a good stir, adding some water if the ingredients seem to be drying out, then cover the pot and simmer for another 15 minutes or until the rice is tender. If using the basil leaves tear them into pieces and sprinkle over the top if the dish.

* * *

As suggested above, this dish pairs nicely with wines of every color. So long as you don’t choose something too delicate or too astringent, you’ll be fine and your guests will be happy. The pilaf’s flavors aren’t particularly forceful, so even though it’s a fairly simple dish, it can serve as a good partner for nuanced, sophisticated wines. We tried eleven current releases, but we also know from past experience that wines showing some age can make for delicious matches.

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


Approx. Price


Domaine Chignard,

Juliénas (Beaujolais, France),


(Imported by Kermit Lynch)


Supple on the palate but with real depth of flavor—strawberry-scented fruit enhanced by gamey, earthy notes—this cru Beaujolais was a real winner with the pilaf. Being light-bodied and not especially tannic, it had the ideal weight to complement the dark chicken and savory rice.

Duckhorn, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc



Fleshier than most imported Sauvignon Blancs, this Golden State wine tastes of figs and even mangoes, with a citrus edge but nary a herbaceous hint. It more than holds its own with this dish..

Grgich Hills, Napa Valley (California)

Chardonnay “Estate Grown”



For over thirty years now Grgich Hills has consistently produced one of the finest Chardonnays from California. Styles come and go and fashions change, but this wine is always marked by citrus and apple fruit flavors, firm acidity, and just enough oak to enhance but not overwhelm everything else. It is a stupendous partner for this simple but delicious dish.

Medlock Ames, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County (California) Rosé



Slightly sweet but with enough acidity for balance and structure, this wine tastes of red spring and summer berries. While it lacks the dried herb quality that distinguishes the best Provencal rosés. It more than makes up for that absence by being so overtly fruity and fun.

Toscante, Sicily (Italy), “Ghiaia Nera”


(Imported by Dalla Terra)


Made with Nerello Mascalase grapes grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, this is a soft red wine with plenty of red fruit flavor enhanced by notes resembling sweet tobacco, leather, and spice. It gives depth to the dish without dominating the match, and its nuanced personality shines brightly.