Wine Advisor FoodLetter In This Issue

Italian lemon chicken
A reader's note on risotto and "red-friendly" fare
Let us hear from you!
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Italian lemon chicken

My report on Greek-style lemon chicken two weeks ago apparently tickled your taste buds, as it inspired more than the usual flurry of E-mail comments from readers, and many of you said you tried it and liked it.

Lemon is a flavor that appeals to just about everyone. Its citric tang brightens many recipes and, not coincidentally, it can act as a friendly go-between that helps bring together your dinner and your wine.

So let's cross the Adriatic from Greece to Italy for this week's report, a different but equally flavorful approach to chicken with lemon.

This one uses parts rather than a whole chicken, and it's even easier and quicker to pull together than the Greek recipe. An evolved rendition of a recipe from another of the old cookbooks that I have kept because they stand the test of time, its roots go back to Pollo al Limone, a dish from the Veneto in Nika Hazelton's 1978 "The Regional Italian Kitchen."

Here are the details:

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

4 chicken thighs, skin on
Salt
Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 lemon
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried

PROCEDURE:

1. Rinse the chicken thighs and pat them dry with paper towels. If you're finicky about calories from fat, trim off excess fat. If you're obsessive about calories from fat, remove the skin. Pat them dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. (It's OK to substitute other chicken parts for the thighs, but in my opinion the flavor and texture of thighs makes them just right for this dish.)

2. Wash the lemon and carefully peel as much of its skin as possible, taking care to get only the yellow "zest" and as little of the bitter white pith as you can. Chop the zest and set aside. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out the juice, removing all seeds.

3. Put the oil and butter in a saute pan or skillet over high heat; smash the garlic clove(s) to release their juices and add them to the fat, cooking until the garlic starts to brown. Then put in the chicken thighs and cook them for 5 to 10 minutes or until they are good and brown.

4. Take out the chicken pieces and put them on paper towels to drain off excess fat. Put them in a heavy black-iron skillet or casserole and add the thyme, lemon juice and zest and the broth. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly, reduce heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken is done.

5. Remove the chicken to a serving plate and, if necessary, bring the lemony liquid in the skillet to a fast boil and cook, stirring often, until it "reduces" to a fairly thick sauce. Pour this over the chicken pieces and serve.

WINE MATCH: As a Veneto specialty, this wine's best ethnic match might be a Pinot Grigio or Tocai Friulano from Collio or Colli Orientale in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. We went the French route instead, and found a bone-dry 2001 Sancerre "Le Manoir" from Domaine Andre Neveu went perfectly, with its crisp, citric flavors making a natural foil to the lemony dish. (As an experiment, I also tried an Italian red wine to see what would happen. Very bad idea. This dish demands a dry white.

A reader's note on risotto and "red-friendly" fare

I'm indebted to reader Sean McLoughlin for his comments on last week's asparagus risotto recipe and the idea of "tweaking" recipes to make them more friendly to red wine.

"Drop the tomato and the red onion, use a white onion (or even shallots) instead, and use well herbed chicken broth rather than beef broth (you'll see why)," he wrote. "Also, don't precook the asparagus. Now, rehydrate, strain and chop a good quantity of dried morel mushrooms, reserving the liquid to be added after you add the white wine to the risotto. The morels go in with the wine.

"Cook as usual and, about 2 minutes before the risotto hits the perfect al dente stage, stir in the raw asparagus pieces with another ladle of hot broth. Finish the risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano and voila, you have a fantastic dish, either as main course or as a side to roasted chicken, roasted halibut or even veal or steak. (The red onion and the beef broth would overpower the subtle earthiness of the morels.)

"Also, I read about a restaurant trick with risotto. When finishing it, after the heat is off and just before serving, add two tablespoons of butter, allow to melt, then using the wooden spoon or fork, fluff it into the risotto. You want to incorporate air in between the rice grains while distributing the butter."

This is all excellent advice, and Sean made an important point that I failed to mention last week: Wild mushrooms in general and morels in particular make a wonderful match with red wine, particularly Pinot Noir.

Thanks to Sean for his advice, and for granting permission to share it with you today. As I note every week, it's a special pleasure to hear from you all.

Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can. The Ask A Question form at
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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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