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Oct 15, 2013
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WINE WITH…Chicken Stew with Succotash

With fall weather roaring in on a Nor’easter, we were in the mood for a warming, comforting chicken stew, something a little out-of-the-ordinary, with sunny hints of Southwestern flavors. We set ourselves the goal of creating a recipe that would be good with both red and white wine, as well as a dish that could be made at least a day ahead of time and assembled at the last minute. And while we’re at it, we decided, let’s work succotash into the recipe as a farewell gesture to summer.

And so, as the rain pelted down on the roof and the wind tore at the autumnal foliage outside our windows a few nights ago, we gathered with a couple of close friends in front of the fire and dished up what turned out to be the results of our culinary experiment.

Chicken Stew with Succotash

Serves 4

Adjust the level of spice to your own taste, keeping in mind that blazing hot spiciness can be delicious, but it can also be less compatible with a variety of different wines. You might want to assess the spiciness of the poblano pepper by tasting it before incorporating it into the mix; we prefer to err on the side of under-spicing, then compensating for that if necessary by adding a little cayenne or dried red pepper flakes to taste.

For the Stew:

2-4 ounces pancetta (or bacon)
1 medium onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 poblano or jalapeno pepper, diced
1 cup white wine
1 cup canned cannelli or other white beans
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups chicken stock
8-12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

For the Succotash:

1 medium ripe tomato cut in large dice
3 scallions, white part only, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups fresh corn kernels (or one 16-ounce package frozen)
2 cups fresh baby lima beans (or one 16-ounce package frozen)


To Pass Separately:

Sour cream
Lime wedges

To Make the Stew: Starting the day before serving, if possible, cook the pancetta until crisp, then drain it on a plate lined with paper towel. Crumble it and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to brown. Stir in the garlic, seasonings and poblano pepper and cook another few minutes, until the pepper is beginning to soften. Add the wine, turn the heat up and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the beans and remove pan from heat.

When the bean mixture is cool enough to handle, remove ½ cup of it and reserve for later use. Transfer the remaining mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. In a large pot, place the pureed beans, the chicken stock and the chicken thighs and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through. Store in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.

To Make the Succotash: In a large skillet, sauté the diced tomatoes and scallions in one tablespoon olive oil over high heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until they begin to brown slightly. Add the corn, lima beans and remaining olive oil and lower the heat. Simmer, covered, for 5-8 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Stir in the reserved beans. May be made a day ahead.

To Serve the Dish: Remove the chicken from the fridge and lift off and discard whatever fat has hardened on the top. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set it aside. Over medium-to-high heat, cook the liquid for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has been reduced by almost half. Lower the heat, return the chicken to the pot and cook until it is heated through. Divide the succotash between 4 serving bowls and top it with pieces of chicken. Spoon sauce over all and scatter the crumbled pancetta over the top.

Serve at once, passing the sour cream and lime wedges.

* * *

We conceived of this dish as one that would work well with both reds and whites, and it did indeed prove versatile with a fairly wide range of wines. What did not work with it, though, were wines with notable oak influences. For some reason (perhaps the influence of the peppers), these turned quite bitter. Otherwise, so long as you do not choose an overly delicate white or an overly robust red, you should be okay. Of the thirteen wines we tried, the following five were our favorites.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Arrowood, Russian River Valley “Saralee’s Vineyard” (California) Viognier 2011

$30

Juicy and satisfying, this wine has deep, lingering summer fruit flavors, with a faintly floral bouquet, and a richly textured “feel” on the palate. Though weighty, it never seemed heavy when enjoyed with the stew.

Clos la Chance, Central Coast (California) Zinfandel “Estate” 2010

$16

“Restrained” is not a word usually used when describing Zinfandel, but this wine is just that—flavorful but in check, rich but not rambunctious. It contributed depth to the pairing, while never overwhelming the food.

Famille Perrin, Rasteau (France) “L’Andéol” 2011

(Impoted by Vineyard Brands)

$25

An excellent partner for this chicken stew, this wine has an earthy undertone that adds another element to the mélange of flavors and sensations in the dish. At the same time, its dominant character reflects bright, ripe fruit, so nothing about it seems excessive.

Tablas Creek, Paso Robles (California) “Patelin de Tablas Blanc” 2012

$20

With a waxy texture and a fleshy finish, this blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne tastes rich and full. On its own it seemed a touch flabby, but when paired with the stew it meshed extremely well.

Ten Acre, Rusian River Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2011

$38

A classy Golden State Pinot Noir, this silky wine feels good when you sip it. Add the seductive cherry and dried herb flavors, and you have a real winner. Unlike so many California renditions of the popular variety. It is not at all hot or heavy.