With Snowmageddon inflicting some pretty miserable weather on us this Winter, it seems like the perfect time to hunker down at home and enjoy some fabulous food and wine! Our “Perfect Pairings” segment explores the delicious depths of flavor and highlights combinations that synergize beautifully together. There’s nothing like discovering a “1+1=3” combination that really make your palate sing! And why should that experience only be enjoyed at a fancy restaurant? Our “Perfect Pairings” are easily prepared at home where you can savor them with your friends and family…and take all of the credit! This installment features succulent, pan-seared Crispy Chicken Thighs with Bacony Spinach and Escarole paired with two (yes, TWO!) delectable wines.
The recipe is what I’d call a “comfort food compromise” in which decadent, skin-on poultry thighs are paired with the bright flavor of spinach and escarole studded with bits of smoky bacon and finished with a squeeze of lemon. Chicken thighs are some of the most underused comfort food ingredients EVER! They are utterly delicious and relatively inexpensive when compared with the ever-in-demand chicken breast and there’s nothing like the sound they make hitting the screaming hot oil in a pan (for some gratuitous chicken thigh porn, please click here!). This Winter, why not try substituting thighs for your recipes which call for chicken breasts? You’ll immediately have a more hearty, filling dish which is perfect for the season’s frigid weather.
While my tasting panel (ahem, my husband Steve and I) usually agrees on one final wine to pair with a particular dish, in the case of our lovely, crispy chicken thighs, we were deadlocked on two: a rosato from Southern Italy and a Pinot Noir from California’s Russian River Valley. Whenever I see any incarnation of pork in a recipe, I immediately think rosé; the fruity flavors and bright acidity of these dry, pink wines resonate with it in almost any form. In this case the 2014 Leone de Castris “Five Roses” Rosato from Puglia (which we recently served at our Swank Farms dinner), a deep pink rosé made from the Negroamaro grape, synergized with everything in this dish from the bacon to the squeeze of lemon. The 2013 J Vineyards Pinot Noir from California’s Russian River Valley on the other hand, had delicious dark cherry fruit and smoky earth elements which were sheer perfection with the smoky, bacony greens and meaty chicken thighs. So depending on your vinous preferences, you have two gems to pick from!
I hope you enjoy our latest “Perfect Pairing” and find the time to prepare it this Winter in the comfort of your own home. In the event these two wines aren’t readily available to you, ask your local wine merchant for wines that are similar and they should be able to hook you up. For previous installments of our “Perfect Pairings” segment, please click here and, as always, thanks for reading!
“Crispy Chicken Thighs with Bacony Spinach & Escarole”
8 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 Tablespoons good olive oil
8 slices, thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
2 heads of fresh escarole, torn into large pieces
3 big handfuls of baby spinach
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1.) Season chicken liberally on both sides with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
2.) Once oil starts to shimmer, place chicken thighs skin side down into the hot pan and cook until golden and crisp, approximately 10-12 minutes. Turn thighs over and cook an additional 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Cook thighs in two batches of four at a time and pour off excess fat in the pan between batches. Remove cooked thighs to a foil-covered plate and set aside.
3.) Pour off fat from the hot skillet and add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 7-10 minutes. Add shallots and red pepper flakes to the pan and toss to coat.
4.) Add large handfuls of escarole to the pan, letting each bunch wilt slightly before adding more. Remove pan from the heat before adding the last bunch of escarole and baby spinach and then toss to coat with the deliciousness in the pan. Season greens to taste with Kosher salt and pepper.
5.) Divide escarole among the plates, top with a chicken thigh and serve with lemon wedges.