Hmmm, boneless, skinless chicken breast… well, I’ll keep an open mind, but far too often I’ve been served dry, flavorless offerings of this versatile protein. No offense is intended toward the generous wedding hosts and conference planners that have provided me with a chewy, colorless chunk of this desiccated meat… I’m sure their intentions were quite good. It’s just that without proper preparation and adornment this particular piece of poultry can be somewhat uninspiring. Fortunately, this month’s recipe includes some effective enhancements that can ramp up the satisfaction level for this cut of meat. When you add the right wine to the equation you can end up with a delicious and memorable meal.
This recipe deals with the very mild flavor of the chicken breast by adding several dimensions including umami from the mushrooms, sharp tang from the Parmesan, a little spice from the salt and pepper, a warm pungency from the green onion and a little rich char from browning the meat in butter. The potential dryness from this very lean part of the bird is offset by the butter, chicken broth, liquid from the mushrooms and chewy, gooey mozzarella cheese. The right Chardonnay can harmonize with all of these components as well as adding a silkiness on the tongue which lends the impression of moistness. You will want a Chardonnay with ample acidity to stand up to the aforementioned fatty additions. That acidity can be found in wines made from grapes grown in cooler regions and those which have not seen too much malolactic fermentation.
Chardonnay grapes are very versatile for wine production. They are the backbone of the wonderful white wines from the Burgundy region of France as well as a major component of many famed Champagnes and sparkling wines. They have been successfully cultivated and vinified in many other parts of the world outside of Europe, including South America, South Africa, Australia and, of course, California. Indeed, some of the finest examples in the world come from right here in Sonoma County. Our local versions are typically more full-bodied than the offerings from France, but there is a very wide range of styles among our local examples ranging from very crisp and bright to decadently buttery and rich. The Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Carneros AVAs are particularly highly regarded for their Chardonnays.
It is no coincidence that our area is ideal for raising world-class wine grapes and best-in-class poultry. Our weather and natural resources are perfect for both. So grab some locally raised chicken breasts and a couple of bottles of local Chardonnay, cook up this tasty recipe, and raise a toast to living in one of the best places on earth. Cheers!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or www.JamesFamilyCellars.com