Australia

Wine & Food Killers: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers & Balsamic Tomatoes and Jauma Like Raindrops Grenache 2017

There’s a lot you can say about September, and about its obvious superiority to all the other months. August’s blistering heat has been replaced by a subtle crispness in the air. September telegraphs school and new beginnings, and the ambient aroma of freshly sharpened pencils. After summer’s lackadaisical laze, I feel newly sleek, sharp and full of potential. And, as a side benefit, it becomes socially acceptable to turn on the oven again.

After spending the summer eating chilled, blended soups, salads and sushi, rediscovering the oven feels like a revelation: it does all the hard work for you and produces real greatness. Diana Henry, one of my favourite recipe writers, is fully aware of its powers; her newest book, From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes that Look After Themselves, is a celebration of the versatile, homey, unpretentious tray-bake dinner.

With this dish, I took the best parts of two recipes she’s recently teased, both of which use the humble chicken thigh as their base. Add a litany of vegetables – potatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic – and some Mediterranean thyme and fennel seeds, plus lemons and a bit of heat in the form of red pepper flakes. To top it all off: tomatoes that are roasted until jammy, doused in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and honey. The resulting dish feels like the epitome of home cooking: hearty and homespun and satisfying on a bone-deep level.

Grenache is a grape that’s often paired with lamb, grouse or other game meat; depending on where it’s from, the sun-loving varietal can itself turn thick and stewed, and taste like cooked-down fruits. But Jauma’s exquisite Like Raindrops, made in Australia’s McLaren Vale region, is Grenache handled with lightness. It pours a glittering, gemstone-red, and while it tastes like snappy cherry, it also features subtle spice qualities, and a lovely, floral note.

This Grenache is light enough to be a natural fit with the chicken; little wonder some winemakers label it “the Pinot Noir of the South”. Together, the two have the soul of a rustic feast, though just enough elevation to feel worthy of a special occasion.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers, and Balsamic Tomatoes
Adapted from Diana Henry
Serves 4

For the chicken thighs:
600g new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered or halved, depending on size
6–8 cloves garlic, kept in their peel
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into wedges
2 bell peppers, seeded and stemmed and sliced into wedges
10–12 thyme sprigs
2 unwaxed lemons
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus additional
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus additional
8 large skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
3–4 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

For the balsamic tomatoes:
600g medium tomatoes
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
2–3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2–3 tablespoons honey
Large pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter the potatoes, garlic, onion wedges, bell pepper wedges and thyme sprigs across the tray. Using a microplane, grate the two lemons over the contents of the tray, before halving and squeezing over the juice. Drizzle over the olive oil.

2. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, and season with the salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss evenly to coat.

3. Place the chicken thighs evenly across the tray. Brush lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of sea salt, plus freshly ground pepper.

4. Next, line a separate, medium baking tray with parchment paper for the balsamic tomatoes. Halve the tomatoes and arrange cut-side up. Drizzle over the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, and season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

5. Add both trays to the oven, and roast for 30 minutes. At the 30-minute mark, remove the tomatoes from the oven (they should be lightly charred and very soft) and set aside. Add the capers to the chicken tray and return to the oven for 10–15 minutes more. The dish is ready when the potatoes are fork-tender, the chicken thighs are cooked through, and their skin is golden and crisp.

6. Leave to cool for a few minutes before dividing the chicken, vegetables, and any accumulated juices between four plates, plus the balsamic tomatoes; be sure to remove the garlic from their peels. Serve with rustic bread and/or a green side salad, if you wish.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Jauma Like Raindrops here and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Lemongrass Chicken with Sam Vinciullo Warner Glen Sauvignon Blanc 2017

If you’ve got Sauvignon Blanc fatigue, you’re not alone (blame the boatloads of Oyster Bay for making the grape feel cheap and lustreless). But don’t let that dissuade you from this particular bottle. Sam Vinciullo’s skin-contact Warner Glen Sauvignon Blanc is an electrifying reminder of just how good ol’ Sauvy B can be.

Made using organic, hand-harvested grapes in the Margaret River region – located in Western Australia, and one of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world – it ticks most of the low-intervention boxes. It’s unfined and unfiltered (which gives it a hazy appearance), has no added sulphites and is fermented using wild yeast. That make it about as pure a distillation of the grape, and of Margaret River’s terroir, as is possible to find.

Even with the glass inches away from my nose, the wine’s complex and enticing aroma is apparent: you could almost dab it on your pulse points and call it a perfume. It offers pungent aromas, ripe and juicy gooseberry and passion fruit, plus a subtle herbaceousness (no wonder some describe Sauvignon Blanc as the IPA of wines). On the palate, it’s buoyant, with the slightest prickle of CO2, and brightly acidic.

When thinking up a pairing to go with this peach of a wine, I sought a complementary dish – something that could supply its own fruitiness and subtle funk. I opted for Vietnamese-inspired lemongrass chicken, which, like the wine, is boldly flavourful but still fresh. Additions of lemongrass, fresh herbs and lime juice mimic the wine’s brightness, while a pinch of earthy turmeric and glug of fish sauce match its pungency.

This is a great pairing both for sunnier days and when you can’t quite bear to let the memories of summer go just yet.

Lemongrass Chicken
Loosely adapted from Asian at Home
Serves 4

For the lemongrass chicken:
800g (1 ¾ lbs) boneless, skinless chicken thighs (approximately 8 thigh fillets)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 long stalks lemongrass
4 cloves garlic
1 bird’s-eye chilli
1 echalion (banana) shallot
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

To serve:
Steamed jasmine or basmati rice
Coriander leaves
Mint leaves
Lime wedges

1. First, prep the chicken. Chop into roughly 1-inch pieces. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prep the aromatics. Remove and discard the hard bulb at the end of each lemongrass stalk. Remove and discard the tough outer layers until you get to the tender core. Mince finely, and transfer to a bowl.

3. Finely mince the garlic and chilli, and add to the lemongrass. Finely dice the shallot, and add to the same bowl.

4. Make the sauce. In a ramekin, add the fish sauce and brown sugar, and stir until uniform. Set aside.

5. Place a large frying pan or wok over high heat, and add the vegetable oil. Once very hot but not smoking, add the chicken pieces. Spread in a uniform layer and cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until starting to brown. Flip and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes on the reverse. Sprinkle over the turmeric, and toss to combine.

6. Once the chicken is just cooked through, add all the aromatics and cook, tossing frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until they have lost their raw aroma.

7. Pour over the sauce and toss to combine. Turn heat to medium-high, and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring or tossing frequently, until the sauce has thickened into a glaze. Remove from the heat.

8. Divide steamed rice between bowls and top with the lemongrass chicken. Garnish with coriander and mint, as preferred, and serve with lime wedges on the side.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen and look out for our book together, The Beer Lover’s Table, launching in March 2019. These recipes accompany our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box - sign up to get yours here.