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Jan 3, 2012
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Wine With . . . Chicken and Corn Stir Fry

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

Throw a little chicken into a wok or large sauté pan, add some fresh or leftover vegetables, spice it up with Asian seasonings, and serve over rice—few dishes with this much taste-appeal are as quick and easy to make. We recently tried a variation on the theme, adapted from a recipe in the Essential New York Times Cookbook, whose editor Amanda Hesser, was herself inspired by a recipe from the Times Mark Bittman. His culinary brainstorm was to add creamed corn to a classic stir-fry, and the resulting dish, as Hesser describes it, “is like pigs-in-a-blanket—its success cannot be explained. Just accept and enjoy.” Good advice indeed.

Chicken and Corn Stir Fry

(serves four)

Chicken breasts are perfectly acceptable in this recipe, but we prefer to use the more flavorful thighs.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut in chunks

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white wine

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons peanut, canola, or olive oil

2-3 cloves minced garlic

1 cup corn niblets (fresh, frozen, or canned)

1 15-ounce can creamed corn

1/3 cup minced cilantro

In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, ginger and vinegar or wine. Add the pepper flakes, stir in the chicken, and marinate for about 30 minutes. Put the oil in a wok or sauté pan, add the garlic, and cook for a few seconds. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until it is lightly browned and cooked through. Stir in the niblets and creamed corn, and continue cooking another few minutes, until everything is thoroughly heated through.

Serve over white rice garnished with cilantro.

* * *

We weren’t sure what sort of wine would work well with this dish, so tried a wide range—reds, whites, and pinks, some full-fleshed, others more delicate. The result? Well, we slightly preferred the whites, as wines with bright, fresh, sometimes slightly sweet fruit flavors married well with the Asian ingredients. At the same time, though, we loved an intense red, as it brought out the more savory aspects of our stir fry. The wines that did not work well, regardless of color, were those that seemed too faint or subtle, an Alsatian sparkler, for example, as well as an unoaked German Pinot Noir. This is a surprisingly forceful dish. The wine you choose needs to match it in that regard.


Approx. Price


Kenwood, Russian River Valley (California) Gewurztraminer 2009


A spicy, somewhat sweet Gewurztraminer, with tell-tale rose petal notes in the bouquet and plenty of lychee-like fruit flavors on the palate. Heavier than many renditions of the varietal, its weight gave it the substance to pair well with this particular dish.

Roth Estate, Sonoma Coast (California) Chardonnay 2009


Vanilla-scented from oak aging, this hefty Chardonnay nonetheless is balanced and harmonious. Its succulent autumn fruit flavors married well with the stir fry, especially with the corn, a vegetable that seems to invariably like being partnered with Chardonnay.

Simonsig, Western Cape (South Africa) “Sunbird” Sauvignon Blanc 2010

(Imported by Quintessential LLC)


Unlike most South African Sauvignons, which tend to taste green and grassy, this is a fairly rich wine. Its fruit flavors seem more tropical than citrus, and it is weighty enough to stand up to a wide variety of foods. It definitely held its own with this one.

Tamari, La RiojaMendoza, (Argentina) Torrontés “Reserva” 2010

(Imported by Terlato Wines International)


We suspect that most wines made with Torrontés, particularly if coming from cool regions, will prove too light to work well with this flavorful stir fry. This one, however, hails from the relatively warm region of La Rioja in Mendoza, and so has the necessary heft. Less appealing when sipped on its own, it only really showed its charms when drunk with food.

Tinto Negro, Uco Valley, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec “Reserve” 2010

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


The one red we’re recommending, this Malbec was a delight to drink. Rich and ripe, with licorice and violet-tinged aromatics, and dark fruit flavors, it lingered and evolved on the palate, even when drunk with the spicy stir fry. We were unsure whether it was really a good partner for this dish or just a delicious wine, but in the end decided that the answer didn’t matter. All we knew is that we loved it, the proof being that we kept coming back for more.