Wine & Food Killers: Chicken Thighs & Lentils with Tomatoes, Herbs & Olives and Le Grappin Beaujolais-Villages Nature 2019

I love whites and rosés and pét nats in the summer as much as anyone, but I’m also a strong believer in the perfection of a chilled red when the sun finally rolls around. Case in point: Le Grappin’s blissful Beaujolais-Villages Nature 2019, made from grapes sourced from Lancié, just moments from Fleurie (one of 10 areas where premium Cru Beaujolais is made).

Beaujolais' stocks have risen in recent years, as tastes have shifted towards lighter-bodied, more subtle and acid-driven reds rather than the previously omnipresent, over-oaked jam bombs. If you haven’t had Beaujolais before, it’s hard not to get on with the grape it’s made from, Gamay. Distinct for its notes of red fruits and violets, it’s a crowd-pleaser that also has enough earthy depth to give it real heart and complexity.

Beaujolais wines are frequently made using carbonic maceration (anaerobic, whole-cluster fermentation), which can yield poppy, candy-like flavours, as is the case here. The result is frankly delicious – a confection of cherries and flowers, 
vivid and anchored by a whiff of herbaceousness – that slips down the throat, but which has enough character to make it more than just a one-note glugger.

To go with this bottle, I’ve chosen a dish inspired by French bistros, but which also packs some surprises of its own. Chicken thighs and puy lentils – which have a bite and hold their shape well, unlike some other lentil varieties – are plenty traditional, but I like them made summery with chopped olives, lemon juice, tarragon and cherry tomatoes. A small addition of ras el hanout (a blend featuring spices like cumin, cinnamon and coriander, as well as, in some cases, dried roses) adds aromatic depth, as well as floral notes that match the wine.

Together, the two feel worthy of an occasion: An evening dinner party on a roof terrace or in a back garden, a long-awaited reunion with close friends – or even just a celebratory acknowledgment that summer days have, at last, arrived.

Just don’t forget to chill down the bottle before you pop it.

Chicken Thighs and Lentils with Tomatoes, Herbs & Olives
Serves 3-4

6-8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
250g puy lentils, rinsed and any stones removed
650ml chicken stock
5-6 sprigs lemon thyme (or regular thyme)
200g mild green, pitted olives, roughly chopped
250g cherry tomatoes
200g chevre (the kind with the rind), crumbled into large pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large handful tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

1. Roughly 30 minutes before you plan to cook, season both sides of the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Once the chicken has lost its fridge chill, place a deep, lidded frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add half the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes, leaving undisturbed, until the skins are nice and golden. Flip and sear for 1 minute on the reverse before transferring to a plate. Repeat with the second batch of chicken thighs.

3. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Next, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the ras el hanout and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

4. Next, add the rinsed puy lentils, the chicken stock, lemon thyme and ¾ of the chopped olives. Arrange the chicken thighs on top in an even layer (your frying pan should ideally be big enough that they do not overlap). Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and place the lid on. Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on before removing. Add the cherry tomatoes, then cook uncovered for roughly 15 minutes more, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are tender (but not falling apart).

5. Before serving, temporarily transfer the chicken thighs to a plate (if you’d like their skin even more golden or a bit crisper, you can also place them on a foil-lined tray and put them under the grill for a few minutes). To the lentils, add any additional seasoning if needed, as well as the crumbled chevre and lemon juice; scatter the remaining olives on top. Return the chicken to the lentils, arranging in an even layer, and garnish with the fresh tarragon. Serve alongside a green salad and a crusty loaf of bread.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.