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March 16, 2014

GRAPE SENSE: Unoaked Chard the perfect complement to a dish like Chicken Lyon

Everyone has heard the old wine/food pairing advice of red wine with red meat and white wine with fish or chicken.

For the most part, that’s not a bad guideline which will work more often than not. But as you really get into wine and start referring to yourself as a “foodie,” the simplistic advice just won’t work.

From time to time in coming months Grape Sense will explore food and wine pairings with easy-to-make recipes. More on that in the future.

The first example is baked chicken and white wine. But what if your chicken dish has a rich and creamy sauce? That big oaky, buttery, California-style Chardonnay is probably not a great match.

An ideal pairing for such a dish is an unoaked Chardonnay or lightly oaked Chard. Think French Chablis or Oregon or even the inexpensive unoaked Chards from California and Washington state.

The unoaked Chardonnay will give you bright fruit with a fresh taste but a nice acidic and crisp finish. That finish is the perfect complement to the creamy sauce on a dish like Chicken Lyon. Good unoaked Chardonnay can be easily found in the $12-$20 range in any decent wine shop. Great Oregon unoaked or lightly oaked Chard runs $25-$50. French Chablis, arguably the world’s best white wine, starts in the teens and runs into the $100-range. Try a Chablis Premier Cru for around $30-$45 on a special occasion.

If you want to avoid a Chardonnay then go to many of the lighter white but zesty and crisp whites like Oregon Pinot Gris, Spanish Verdejo, Rhone or Languedoc whites.

This recipe is a great test for your unoaked Chard. It’s not mine, it’s a compilation of Chicken Lyon recipes I have found and like.

Chicken Lyon

One medium chicken, cut up

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons real butter

12 large garlic cloves, unpeeled

A bay leaf or two

1 cup of vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar)

2 cups chicken stock or broth

1⁄4 cup cream, half and half or creme fraiche

• Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In deep skillet put olive oil and brown chicken skin side down. Add salt, pepper, a tablespoon of butter and brown the chicken. Flip the chicken and add all that garlic and bay leaf.

• Remove the skillet and into the oven it goes for about 10 minutes (no longer). I make this dish in an iron skillet. Add the vinegar and cook 15 minutes or until you think the chicken is done. Remove from oven.

• Now, take chicken from the skillet and set aside. Add the chicken stock, scrape up the tasty little bits left behind and let it reduce to a little more than a cup. That will probably take 5-10 minutes. Add your cream and remainder of the butter — whisk it all up. Return chicken to the pan and let it cook until the sauce begins to thicken. That will take about 5 minutes.

• Serve it up. If you want a French country meal feel to your Chicken Lyon, roast some nice asparagus with garlic and butter.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes every other week about wine. Read his wine blog at: www.howardhewitt.net.

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