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May 13, 2014
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WINE WITH…Chicken Scaloppini

Veal scaloppini is one of our favorite dishes, with chicken scaloppini not far behind. The chicken variation has many things going for it, including affordability (chicken being less costly than veal) and availability (every market carries chicken breasts). And it is a dish that can be whipped out (or, more accurately pounded out) in mere minutes. Serve it with sautéed spinach or another vegetable and/or a big mixed salad, and raise a glass of white or red wine as you say “Buon Appetito.”

Chicken Scaloppini

Serves 4

About ½ cup flour
1 teaspoon paprika
cayenne
salt and pepper
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 scallion, trimmed and sliced
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons capers
1 tablespoon minced parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°

On a dinner plate or other flat surface mix together the flour, paprika, cayenne to taste, and salt and pepper. Using a meat mallet or other heavy object (the edge of a plate or bottom of a sturdy mug, for example), pound each chicken breast into scallops about ¼ inch thick (if they seem to large and unwieldy, cut them in half).

Put half of the butter and half of the olive oil in a heavy skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Dredge each chicken scallop in the flour mixture, shaking off excess flour. When the skillet is very hot, cook the scallops, in batches, without overcrowding, until they are light golden brown on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Transfer them as you go along to an oven-proof dish.

When all the scallops are cooked, add the remaining oil and butter to the pan and sauté the scallions for a couple of minutes until they are tender, but not brown. Pour in the lemon juice and wine and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until reduced by about half. Remove from heat and stir in the capers. Pour the mixture over the chicken, and transfer to the oven. Bake about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly.

* * *

This dish works better with white than red wines, though a fruity, uncomplicated red can certainly satisfy. On the whole, however, we found that chicken scaloppini does best when playing off the piquant acidity of a crisp, vivacious white. This means excluding heavily oaked wines in favor of fresher more lively ones that will echo the tart lemon flavors in the dish. The pairing needs to taste bright and vivacious, and the following wines did just that when we tried them.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Les Fils des Gras Moutons, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie (France 2011

(Imported by Vintage ’59)

$14

With bright lemon-scented fruit and a distinct streak of minerality, this is a Muscadet with real flavor. Fully satisfying, it is light-bodied but sufficiently satisfying on the palate to pair well with a dish that tastes similarly fresh and lively.

Indaba, Western Cape (South Africa) Chenin Blanc 2013

(Imported by Cape Classics)

$13

Showing a hint of sweetness, this wine also demonstrates excellent balance, the sugar tempered by the firm acidity. Its richness comes from the grape, not from barrels, and the grape’s citrus, pear, and apple fruit meshed nicely with the buttery, lemon-infused chicken.

Mud House, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Imported by Martine Wine Trading)

$17

The age of this wine calmed the aggressive character of Kiwi Sauvignon, making it smooth and supple. A younger version might echo the capers and lemon, but this wine meshed even better with the buttery sauce.

Paringa, South Australia (Australia) Chardonnay 2012

(Imported by Quintessential)

$12

A warm Chardonnay, reflecting the sun-drenched vineyards of South Australia, this wine shows just a dab of buttery richness. It complemented the rich dish but in no sense overwhelmed it, as the lemons and capers kept any fleshy flashiness in check.

La Quercia, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Italy) 2011

(Imported by Small Vineyards)

$13

The one red we are recommending, this southern Italian beauty is chuck full of red berry fruit flavors. Not especially tannic, its supple character enabled it to serve as a delicious contrast to the tart elements in the dish.