SAN FRANCISCO – California is a patchwork of culinary influences from immigrants who established the agricultural and viticulture practices of their homelands in the fertile valleys of the Golden State. Today you see their fingerprints everywhere, from introducing artichokes to the Monterey peninsula, olive trees that stretch from San Diego to the Oregon border, to the century-old Zinfandel vines that flourish still. With nearly a thousand miles of coastline, hundreds of microclimates and both the lowest and highest elevations in the continental United States, California yields a diverse and year-round harvest of 400 crops, including winegrapes that are among the finest in the world.
Today, over a hundred winegrape varieties thrive in California’s 108 viticultural areas, inspiring the state’s winemakers to create a wide array of interesting wines, the majority of which are farmed in a sustainable manner. With the Sauvignon Blancs of Lake County, Zinfandels of the Sierra Foothills and Lodi, Cabernet Sauvignons of Napa Valley, robust reds of Paso Robles, Livermore and Temecula, dessert wines of Madera, and the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs of Mendocino, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Barbara, California is a wine lover’s paradise.
It is easy to savor California’s wine and food, to eat and drink and enjoy the fresh, local and sustainable pleasures of the table as a Californian does, no matter where you live. Look close to home, at your neighborhood farmers market with farmers offering everything from heirloom apples, tomatoes and lettuces, to free-range chickens and eggs, grass-fed meats and unique regional cheeses. Good ingredients harvested at the peak of ripeness and sent to nearby markets without delay don’t require a lot of work in the kitchen. Salt and pepper, a few fresh herbs, olive oil or a dollop of butter and, of course, California wine is all it takes.
California’s vintners and growers, along with restaurateurs and retailers nationwide are celebrating California Wine Month in September, offering consumers numerous ways to learn about and enjoy California’s wide array of wines. To celebrate the month and California style eating and drinking, Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers offer a recipe for Roast Chicken with Warm Harvest Bread Salad. To learn more about California wine, wineries and winery events, visit: www.discovercaliforniawine.com.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH WARM HARVEST BREAD SALAD
Serves 4 to 6
Roasted chicken is versatile, delicious and easy to prepare. Here, it is seasoned simply with fresh thyme and served with a salad of artisan bread, fall pears, black olives and the last of the season’s cherry tomatoes. Both the chicken and the salad will welcome a range of wines so bottles of California Chardonnay and California Pinot Noir can be on the table. Those who prefer breast meat will want the Chardonnay, while the dark meat is best with the Pinot Noir; the bread salad welcomes both. To serve just one wine, consider a dry California Rosé.
1 whole chicken, preferably pastured, about 4 1/2 pounds
Black pepper in a mill
5 fresh thyme sprigs
Warm Harvest Bread Salad (recipe follows)
At least 1 hour before cooking and as long as 1 day before, set the chicken on a clean work surface and pull out the chunk of fat near the main cavity. Discard or reserve for another use. Rinse the chicken under cool running water inside and out. Drain thoroughly, pat dry with a clean white tea towel, wrap the chicken in the tea towel and let rest 15-20 minutes so the towel absorbs as much liquid as possible.
Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Wrap in a clean tea towel for at least 30 minutes or as long as a full day. Refrigerate.
To finish, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
Put 5 thyme sprigs into the chicken’s main cavity.
Heat a ridged pan--cast iron is ideal--over high heat and when it is very hot, set the chicken in the pan, breast side down. Transfer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
Carefully turn the chicken--use tongs or a carving fork--so the breast faces up. Cook 10 minutes more, reduce the heat to 400 degrees and cook 40 minutes more. Remove from the oven, cover with a tent of aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes.
While the chicken cooks, make the salad.
Use a sharp knife to carve the chicken, removing both breasts first and cutting each breast into 3 diagonal pieces. Cut off the drumsticks and the thighs. Arrange the chicken alongside bread salad and spoon the remaining dressing over both the salad and the chicken. Serve immediately.
Nutritional information: 180 calories per 6-ounce serving of chicken
WARM HARVEST BREAD SALAD
1 one-pound loaf artisan bread, preferably a day old
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons pear vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 firm-ripe pears
3/4 cup pitted black olives of choice, halved
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, preferably Sweet 100’s, quartered
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Set the bread on a clean work surface and cut it in half crosswise. Stand one piece, cut side down, on the work surface and use a sharp bread knife to remove the crusts and about 1/4 inch of the bread. (Set these pieces aside to make croutons or little sandwiches.) Cut the second piece of bread similarly.
Preheat an oven broiler. Brush the bread very lightly all over with olive oil, set it on a sheet pan and broil until the bread takes on a little color; turn and continue until all surfaces have been lightly toasted. Cool, tear into 2 inch pieces, put the pieces into a wide shallow serving bowl and cover; there should be about 4 to 4 1/2 cups of bread. Set aside. This can be done up to a day in advance.
To finish the salad, put the shallots into a small bowl, season with 1 teaspoon salt, add the sugar and vinegar and agitate the bowl gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the thyme and let rest for 15 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, taste and if it seems a bit too tart, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Spoon half the dressing over the bread and toss. Set aside.
Put the butter into a medium sauté pan.
Working quickly, peel the pears, cut them in lengthwise quarters; remove the seed cores and cut into 3/4-inch dice. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, add the pears and sauté, turning gently with a spatula, until they are lightly browned all over. Remove from the heat and add to the bread, along with the olives, cherry tomatoes and parsley. Toss the salad and mound it on one side of the dish.
Nutritional information: 318 calories per serving of bread salad, based on 6 servings.
A note about leftovers: Pull leftover chicken from the carcass, wrap it and store in the refrigerator. Reserve the carcass to make stock. If there is leftover salad, cover and refrigerate. The next day, make more vinaigrette, toss the leftover chicken and salad together and bring to room temperature. Drizzle with dressing and serve over fresh salad greens. Serve with a chilled California dry Rosé.
10 CALIFORNIA WINE & FOOD PAIRING TIPS
- When enjoying cheeses either before or after dinner, consider a California sparkling wine alongside. The effervescence will stimulate the palate in such a way that both the cheeses and the wine will soar. For a festive and tasty flourish, serve fresh California pomegranates with the cheese and add a few arils, as pomegranate seeds are called, to each glass.
- Enjoy smoked fish—oysters, salmon, lox, trout, sturgeon and sablefish, for example—with California sparkling wine.
- California Sauvignon Blanc loves green vegetables of any kind, from artichokes and green beans to tender lettuces and zucchini. It is also an excellent match with goat cheeses and fresh mozzarella.
- California Chardonnay and Viognier blossom with corn and carrots. Serve with corn on the cob, corn chowder, creamy polenta topped with California Teleme cheese and corn salsa, corn or carrot risotto, oven-roasted carrots and carrot fritters.
- California Pinot Noir, among the world’s most versatile wines, pairs well with a classic BLT as with wild Pacific King salmon on a bed of roasted winter squash. Delicious with turkey, California Pinot Noir is an ideal Thanksgiving wine, as well.
- California Merlot is delightful with blueberries. Combine blueberries with wild rice, fresh or smoked turkey and a simple balsamic vinaigrette for a main course salad to enjoy with Merlot. To enhance the match, add a little Merlot to the dressing.
- Defy the conventional wisdom that pairs fish with white wine and meat with red. A robust California Chardonnay is wonderful with rare steak and prime rib and California Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect with halibut topped with a dollop of black olive butter or tapenade.
- Enjoy California Syrah with classic Italian dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs, polenta and stewed sausages and lasagna. It is also excellent with grilled red meats and ripe backyard tomatoes and roasted sweet peppers.
- California Zinfandel is a perfect quaff with burgers, ribs, fajitas and chili but vegetarians will be thrilled to know it is also the best choice with lentils, especially when served with grilled Portobello mushrooms.
- For a simple, healthy and delicious dessert, combine seasonal fruits—such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums and peaches—with a little sugar and chill for a couple of hours, until natural juices collect in the bowl. Add about a cup of California Rosé or Pinot Noir, toss and serve, or spoon over vanilla ice cream, with the wine alongside.