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Mar 18, 2014
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WINE WITH…Herbed Chicken Thighs

Few dishes are as soul satisfying as a perfectly roasted chicken. The skin will be crisp, the flesh tender and juicy. It will taste even better if infused with garlicky herbs and lemon. When accompanied by a wine (red, white or pink) that pushes all the right sensory buttons, the experience is lifted into the realm of gustatory nirvana.

There are times, however, when this particular culinary endeavor is too much of a commitment for two busy people to undertake. The long cooking time, the carving and endless leftovers can make the experience seem more burdensome than blissful. This is where a package of chicken thighs comes in handy. And with herbed thighs, you can grill the chicken if you wish.

Herbed Chicken Thighs

Serves 2

When the weather allows, we like to fire up the grill to cook these chicken thighs so that their skin becomes dark and crisp, but they could also be oven roasted or broiled. The cooking method will, though, influence your choice of wine to drink with them.

If time permits, rub the herb mixture into the chicken several hours ahead of cooking.

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed to a pulp or finely minced
1 tablespoon each minced fresh rosemary and thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 fresh jalapeno or hot red pepper, seeded and very finely minced
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken thighs, skin on

Using a mortar and pestle, or the back of a spoon and a bowl, smoosh together the garlic, herbs, jalapeno, lemon peel, salt and pepper to form a paste. Mix in the olive oil.

Using your fingers, carefully lift the chicken skin away from the meat. Divide the herb mixture among the thighs, massaging it gently into the flesh under the skin. Rub a light film of the oily mixture over the top of the skin as well. Grill or roast the thighs until the meat is thoroughly cooked, and the skin nice and crisp.

* * *

We grilled our herbed chicken thighs on an evening that was warm enough to promise that spring really will arrive someday, but were unsure whether red or white wines would be the best choice. So we tried an assortment of both. Our conclusion? When grilled, the thighs’ skin inevitably will be somewhat charred, leading reds to work slightly better. You do need to be careful, however, not to select a wine with too much brawn. At the same time, while many of the whites proved too light and ethereal, we really liked two of them, proving that with this dish at least, variety truly is a virtue.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Alamos, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2012

(Imported by Alamos USA)

$13

This widely available Argentine always offers good value, and it performed especially well with the grilled chicken. Its fresh, plum-like fruit gave the match depth, while its bright, slightly floral bouquet provided liveliness.

“DMZ” by DeMorgenzon, Western Cape (South Africa) Chardonnay 2013

(Imported by Cape Classics)

$18

A very tasty Chardonnay, showing no overt oak influence, this wine paired particularly well with the juicy interior of the chicken thighs. The charred skin was perhaps too powerfully flavored for it, but the moist meat complemented it perfectly.

Dry Creek Vineyard, Clarksburg (California) Dry Chenin Blanc 2012

$12

More deeply flavored than you might expect, this Chenin Blanc was never overwhelmed by the dish. Its autumnal fruit flavors and crisp core of acidity enabled it to hold its own and enliven the dish.

Five Rivers, Santa Barbara County (California) Pinot Noir 2012

$15

Without the overt, candied sweetness that mars so many California Pinots, this value-priced rendition emphasized bright but dry cherry fruit flavors, enhanced by a hint of earthy depth in the finish. Its supple texture made it an especially satisfying match for this dish.

“The Footbolt” by d’Arrenberg, McLaren Vale (Australia) Shiraz 2011

(Imported by Old Bridge Cellars)

$19

Deeply-flavored but not aggressively tannic, this Aussie Shiraz gave added depth and substance to the dish. It would be an especially good companion on a cool evening.