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Jan 10, 2017
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WINE WITH…Indian Chicken and Rice

This basic riff on Indian fare has a host of virtues. It’s one of those comforting one-dish meals that’s simple to prepare and easy to love. It may be prepared ahead of time, there are no extra pots and pans to wash, and the dish really requires no other accompaniment unless you want to serve a vegetable or basic green salad along with it.

If you are wedded to chicken breasts rather than thighs, you may of course make that substitution, recognizing that thighs offer significantly more flavor and texture.

We found that another great merit of this Indian-inspired dish is that it is tasty with both red and white wines.

Indian Chicken and Rice

Serves 4

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
about 1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
2 ¼ cups chicken broth
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1/3 cup raisins
½ cup unflavored whole-milk yogurt
1 cup basmati rice
½ cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 400°

Cut each chicken thigh in half and season each piece generously with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart baking dish and add the chicken thighs in a single layer. Cook them a few minutes on each side until they are nicely browned, then remove them to a plate and reserve.

Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until they have softened, about 3-5 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth, then stir in the cinnamon, coriander and ginger. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the yogurt.

Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it under cold running water for a minute or two. Shake the water off and then stir it into the pan with the other ingredients. Nestle the chicken thighs on top of the rice. Cover the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. May be made ahead to this point and reheated before serving.

While the dish is baking, spread the slivered almonds out in a pie plate or other small, shallow baking pan. Toast them in a small non-stick pan over medium-high heat, or in a toaster-oven, until they are medium/ dark brown, stirring them a couple of times as they toast. Watch them carefully as they can burn in a second or two!

Just before serving the dish sprinkle the almonds over the top.

* * *

This is an extremely versatile dish when it comes to choosing a wine partner. It likes whites that are full of fruit flavor but that also display refreshing acidity. With reds, it doesn’t pair well with heavy tannins, but doesn’t necessarily need a light-bodied partner. We tried thirteen wines with it, and almost all proved satisfactory. These five showed best.

More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  
Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_


Approx. Price


Babich, Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir “Black Label” 2014

(Imported by MHW Ltd.)


The herbal note in this light Pinot made the match especially enticing. There is plenty of bright cherry fruit, but also notes resembling thyme and coriander.

Hugel, Alsace (France) Pinot Blanc “Cuvée les Amours” 2014

(Imported by Frederick Wildman)


Fresh and vibrant, with flavors echoing golden apples and juicy pears, this wine shone brightly with the dish. It is not especially complex, but it does taste complete. All its virtues came to the fore with this pairing.


Swartland (South Africa) Grenache Noir 2015

(Imported by Indigo Wine Group)


Earthy, spicy notes give this wine character and made the dish taste deep and satisfying. A Marsanne from this same producer proved almost as compatible, making Leeuwenkuil a label that we plan to look for in the future.

Pazo Señorans, Rias Baixas (Spain) Albariño 2015

(Imported by European Cellars)


Always a stellar Albariño, the 2015 Pazo Señorans tastes of apples and citrus, with a broad mouth-feel that enables it to stand up to hearty foods. It enhanced the dish by accenting the sweet spices in the preparation.

Raats, Stellenbosch (South Africa) Chenin Blanc “Original” 2016

(Imported by Cape Classics)


Tasting most notably of sweet pear fruit, with riveting acidity for balance, this Chenin Blanc meshed seamlessly with our Indian-inspired chicken and rice. It was a near perfect match.