Jun 222014

Sage-Roasted Chicken + Mosel Kabinett Riesling

So, as I mentioned last week, I am completely capable of craving, cooking, and enjoying roasted bird (in this case chicken rather than turkey) and sweet potatoes any time of year. Yes, the long roast heats up the kitchen, but then again, I don’t have to actually be in there doing anything once this one-pan-meal is in the oven. Slipping a few shimmery sage leaves under the skin perfumes the chicken and beautifully complements the golden, caramelized Vidallia onion and sweet potato wedges.

In fall, I tend to reach for a Pinot Noir or Chianti at times like this. But in warmer weather, it’s Mosel Riesling all the way…

Pairing: Mosel Kabinett Riesling

Considering the rather challenging presentation of traditional German wine labels (note example at right, above), and despite (or possibly because of) the endless exultation of Riesling by wine professionals, even consumers who can accept the theory that not all German Rieslings are super sweet may be forgiven for defaulting to the California Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc aisles.

I hope this well help: Buy. Mosel. Kabinett. Riesling.

(Mosel is a region in Germany. Kabinett indicates that the grapes were picked at an early point of ripeness, which translates to a low alcohol, relatively dry wine style. Riesling is the name of the grape and the wine made from it.)

In my opinion, it is simply one of wine’s greatest pleasures.

Equal parts delicate and vibrant, well-made Kabinetts offer a shy sweetness that is more than balanced by a bright, refreshing acidity. (If all you got from the preceding sentence was “sweetness,” I understand. But you’re missing out…)

They are light in body, but certainly not in character, typically with a streak of slate-like mineral notes that contribute to the depth of flavor and lingering complexity. And there is a lifted, tiptoe fragility that makes them practically dance across your palate. Last but certainly not least, they are food-friendly to the extreme.

Oh, did I mention that they are also great values? There are plenty of under-$25 choices out there. Here are two examples that I’ve loved lately:

Selbach 2010 Riesling Mosel Kabinett Fish Label ($19). Bright, gorgeous peach and green apple flavors with key lime, cream, wildflower honey and slate notes lingering through the long, clean finish. Find it!

Max Ferd. Richter 2009 Riesling Mosel Kabinett Feinherb Mülheimer Sonnenlay ($20). “Feinherb” means off-dry, so this Kabinett is somewhat sweeter than most Kabinetts. In the world of German Rieslings, that doesn’t just mean sweeter. It means riper, more palate weight, more intensity, and more balancing, mouthwatering acidity. It is by no means a dessert wine. Just try it. There’s ripe apricot and apple, glazed citrus, grapefruit and slate that linger beautifully on the finish. Find it!

Recipe: Sage-roasted Chicken with Vidallia Onions and Sweet Potatoes

1 roasting chicken, about 5 pounds
8 sage leaves
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
2 large Vidallia onions, or yellow onions
1/4 cup brown sugar
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 475F.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut each into four pieces. Peel the onions and cut each into four pieces. Add all to a roasting pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, about 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper, and just enough olive oil to coat lightly. Toss it all together to evenly coat.

Separate the chicken skin from the meat by using your fingers and gently pushing underneath the skin — on the breasts and the tops of the legs and thighs. Slide the sage leaves under the skin — two on each breast, one each leg and one on each thigh. Truss the chicken. Rub it with olive oil and season well with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place the birds in the roasting pan, on top of the vegetables.

Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400F and add 1 cup of water to the pan. Continue roasting for about 1 1/2 hours, tossing vegetables with pan juices a couple of times along the way — and adding more water if needed — until a thermometer reads 145F when inserted into a thigh.

Remove chicken to a cutting board or serving platter. Tent with foil and let rest for about 15 minutes before carving or serving. Serve onions and potatoes alongside, with a bit of the pan juices spooned over it all.

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