It seems almost all cultures have a fried chicken recipe, so pairing this displaced southern girl’s fried chicken with an Italian wine seems perfectly logical on a mid-winter day.
The search for a wine that pairs nicely with fried chicken began in September of 2010, the ideal time of year here in San Francisco to serve fried chicken with the best of summer corn and tomatoes as our summer weather kicks in in late August and continues into October. But before I could focus on wine profiles, I had to re-perfect my chick recipe.
Why re-perfect? Because the month before a chef friend completely messed my world up by telling me Crisco (the go-to frying oil of every southern cook I know) was outdated and lard was a 1000% better option and when I tested my tried-and-true recipe in lard I felt like a fish out of water as my recipe fell flat; it had a gorgeous crust but it tasted greasier than I remembered. What to do? Go back to Crisco or experiment with other people’s versions of perfection as, after doing a fair amount of research (darn my friend!), I discovered that cooking with leaf lard from grass-fed pigs, such as that purchasable from Prather Ranch at Ferry Plaza here in San Francisco, is healthier than the everyday world would have you believe, is high in Omega 3s, is high in healthy fats, and is supposed to absorb less fat and create a juicier end-product. So what went wrong with my recipe?
My poor roommate. I subjected him to about 8 taste tests as my once-a-year dinner was one month away and my ego was at stake — I mean, who doesn’t want a group to think honorific thoughts and hopefully ask for seconds and thirds? After trying buttermilk baths and soaks and a variety of herbal infusions and dredging methods (such as egg and milk dips then flour dredges) I settled on (and not too soon as I don’t think my roommate could’ve suffered any more tastings): zero egg/milk wash and just dredging in flour laced with poultry seasoning, garlic powder and hot paprika and cooking in my skillet with about 1/8th inch of oil.
September 2010 came and one of my friend’s brought an Italian wine which all seemed to enjoy. At that time I wasn’t blogging so I didn’t pay close attention to the name of the wine, what the label looked like, what the flavor profile was, etc. I did, however, remember that she purchased it at Biondivino, a wine shop on Green at Polk here in San Francisco specializing in Italian wines.
Skip to January 2012. After making fried chicken for my hairdresser earlier in the week, and with rain on the way, I decided I wanted a weekend of comfort: fire, martinis, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, and, of course, the perfect wine (perfection based on which wine shop visited); so while I was at a wine tasting at Biondivino I queried owner Ceri Smith who recommended I go with either a Coenobium Bianco or Coenobium Rusticum. I chose the Coenobium Bianco 2009 from Lazio, Italy, which sells for $25, and set out to re-experiment (6 more times to be exact) with my fried chicken recipe as I had just read a review of the supposed “perfect” recipe in Bon Appetit, and while I was happy with my recently-derived recipe I wasn’t enthralled and I wanted to feel the word “wow” fill my belly as I partook of this once-in-a-great-while delicacy. I know. My ego occasionally takes me down undetermined paths.
I worked with variations of Bon Appetit’s recipe and my own and while I still haven’t reached perfection, I believe I’m close as I’m down to two future experimentations: Option 1 of applying the dry-rub spice suggested in Bon Appetit but dredging only in flour or Option 2 of applying the dry-rub spice suggested in Bon Appetit then dredging in flour gently flavored with poultry seasoning and savory (I’m planning on serving the winning recipe at my Q3 wine tasting party and will update this story then).
Enough about my ego and chicken! What happened to the wine? you may be wondering, and well you should. It was delicious! and a friend who purchased the same wine and paired with store-bought fried chicken this week concurs. So if you bare with me, below are my tasting notes based on the 6 chick experimentations (it’s always fascinating to experience subtle nuances based on sipping versus eating).
The Coenobium Bianco is 12.5% alcohol and is a blend of Grechetto (10%), Verdicchio (15%), Trebbiano (55%), and Malvasia (20%) grapes. It is gold in color and smells like apple juice. Pre-food sipping reveals a wine that is slightly acidic, mineral-based, light, airy, and yet there’s a richness that lingers on the tongue. While I can imagine this being the perfect wine for sipping on a warm summer (or San Francisco-based summer) day, due to its mineral richness it works in winter too and balances the heaviness of the dinner.
Chick – Bon Appetit (BA) recipe (basically). The dry rubs’ “redness” comes through a little louder than I would’ve liked and had a nice yet slightly greasy crust.
Wine – The apple flavor almost disappears and feels light on the palate while a soft muscat-like effect comes forward.
Pairing 2 (one of the winning versions):
Chick – BA dry rub dredged in plain flour. The flavors are a tad more complex but the redness mentioned in Pairing 1 didn’t overwhelm.
Wine – Again, the apple flavor lessens, the mineral aspects step forward, and overall feels delicate and soft.
Chick – BA dry rub dredged in buttermilk/egg mixture and flour flavored with poultry seasoning, savory, sea salt and tellicherry pepper. The hot flavors overwhelm and seem single-note while the crust is a tad greasy.
Wine – The apple essence surprises by moving into the forefront and quenching the heat.
Pairing 4 (one of the winning versions):
Chick – BA dry rub dredged in flour flavored with poultry seasoning, savory, sea salt and tellicherry pepper. The green of the additional spices, while creating a complex flavor profile, is a tad too green yet proves warm and satisfying which is why I want to try this again but next time lessen the amount of green spices used as I think there’s something interesting happening.
Wine – A slight apple profile is present but feels more effervescent, fresh, and thirst quenching.
Chick – Chicken dredged in buttermilk/egg mixture and flour flavored with poultry seasoning, savory, garlic powder, hot paprika, sea salt and tellicherry pepper. The overall flavor profile is simple, slightly too green, and a tad greasy (so far, if you haven’t noticed, when cooking in lard I find the buttermilk/egg mixtures creates a greasier result).
Wine – The apple flavor basically disappears, and is so light that it felt almost watery. Honestly, it was too light for my liking.
Pairing 6 (my 2010 winning recipe plus the addition of savory):
Chick – Chicken dredged in flour flavored with poultry seasoning, savory, garlic powder, hot paprika, sea salt and tellicherry pepper. I like the overall flavors. It is surprisingly slightly greasy yet the green of the savory and poultry seasoning is soft and “light.”
Wine – The apple flavor is gently present, yet the overall experience is warm and slightly rich.
Based on the price and flavor profile of this wine, I would definitely buy this wine again either for sipping by itself or pairing with another round of fried chicken experiments (how many can there logically be?).
By the way, if you ever make fried chicken, it is worth spending a few extra minutes making gravy, especially for the morning-after breakfast of sausage-crumble gravy and biscuits. DELISH.