A few weeks ago I stumbled across a fantastic article in which a writer for Vice’s food site invited a French sommelier to test out some wines that are blatantly and shamelessly targeted at women. The results are exactly what you think they would be, as the tasting notes from both Perrine Prieur (the sommelier) and Gray Chapman (the writer) are hysterical. Prieur has no qualms in declaring one red “like a bad tank that hasn’t been cleaned, that they’re just throwing shit into,” while Chapman slayed me with several quips that I won’t spoil for you here.
It might seem like an easy premise for a bunch of laughs–ooo, the fancy French sommelier doesn’t like mass-produced wine–but it’s pretty clear that Prieur came to this experiment with an extremely open mind and was just crestfallen every time the alleged varietal was revealed to her. More importantly, she made a point of showing Chapman several wines in her own shop that were less expensive and more complex than any of the ones that were part of the taste test, and that’s the reason why Prieur has rocketed onto my list of favorite lady sommeliers along with Gretchen Thomas of the Barteca restaurant group.*
I naturally ended up going to Perrine’s shop’s website and after lamenting for a bit that I didn’t live closer to Atlanta, I started browsing around and found a great little treasure trove of recipes complete with wine parings. There was one for raspberry chicken that completely caught my eye that went with a rosé, but given that it was February at the time when I saw this and blackberries were on sale all over the place, I was inspired to do a little modification of my own.
The recipe is so straightforward: make a sauce of lemon juice, berries, and some corn syrup (her recipe) or rosemary simple syrup (my take) in a blender, then heat it along with some salt, pepper and cornstarch to a boil and then spread over boneless chicken breasts (her recipe) or chicken thighs (my modification) along with some whole berries and bake until the juices run clear. The first time I made it I tried to squeeze a family-pack size of chicken thighs into one dish, which didn’t work well; the second time I spread them out a bit between two and was able to get a much better result. Prieur suggests a rose with her raspberry sauce, while I was recommended a lovely Cotes du Rhone to go with the blackberries and it did not disappoint.
Even better: it was all of $13, well within the $11-$16 price range of the wines featured in the article and likely miles ahead of all of them in complexity. Let’s be frank: life’s too short to waste it quaffing mediocre wine when there’s so much good stuff out there. If you don’t know where to start, go to your local shop and start asking questions, because you never know what gem you may get your hands on.
adapted from Perrine Prieur
- 3 1/2 lbs of boneless chicken thighs
- 3 pints blackberries, with some reserved
- 2 tablespoons rosemary simple syrup (recipe here)
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Olive oil or butter
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to
400 425 degrees. (I have found that my oven does better at this temperature–YMMV.) Season the chicken thighs liberally with kosher salt and pepper on all sides, and then place into two baking pans that have been coated with olive oil or butter.
In a blender, combine 3 cups of berries (make sure you have about a half cup or so to bake with the chicken whole), the lemon juice and zest, and the simple syrup until well-blended, then add to a small saucepan and whisk in the cornstarch, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil while constantly whisking and keep it there for about a minute, then pour onto chicken. Sprinkle the remaining berries and then place the pans in the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes until the juices run clear and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve with a salad and a nice glass of Cotes du Rhone, if desired.
*I’ve been able to enjoy so many excellent Spanish and Argentinian wines thanks to Gretchen’s expertly-managed wine lists at Barcelona Wine Bar that she really deserves her own post.