1 whole chicken, backbone removed and cut into parts skin on (or leg quarters if you prefer)
1 (or 2 14-OZ) 28-OZ can of of diced tomatoes
2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
3-5 carrots cut into large chunks
3-5 celery stocks cut into large chunks
3-5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves or 3-4 thyme sprigs
1 TSP red pepper flakes
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup of Golden Pheasant Polenta or similar brand
3-1/4 cups water
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove backbone from chicken than cut off leg/thigh portions (better yet, have your local store do it for you—most butchers will for free). If using leg quarters, go to step #2.
2. Rinse chicken under cold water then pat dry with a paper towel then season with salt and fresh ground black pepper on all sides. In a dutch over cover bottom with enough olive oil to make a thin film. Over medium high heat, sear chicken on all sides until skin starts to turn golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. The goal is just to give the outer skin a little color and texture, not to cook the bird. Remove bird from pan and set aside on a plate.
3. Add in chopped onions and sauté until the start to turn soft and golden in color, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in chopped celery, carrots and garlic (drizzle a bit more olive oil if the pan is looking dry).
4. Stir in tomatoes and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until tomatoes start to bubble. Stir in chicken stock and white wine. Bring entire mixture to a boil. Stir in balsamic vinegar, capers, herbs and seasoning and pepper flakes. Simmer for about 5 minutes then add chicken back in. Cover and place in oven for 2 hours. In the last half hour, remove cover and let the sauce reduce.
5. While chicken is braising, start polenta halfway through. In an 8" square pan, combine polenta, water, butter, salt and olive oil then bake in oven with chicken for last 50 minutes. Remove from oven, stir with a fork then bake another 10 minutes.
Serve by spooning polenta into a large bowl, place the chicken on top and spoon braising sauce on top.
Tomato based dishes can have a sneaky level of acid from the tomatoes depending on how they're cooked, so I like to keep the acid level of the wine in mind when thinking about a pairing. Nobody like heartburn after a meal!
When it comes to food and wine matching, I like to look at the country of origin as a starting point. Mother nature has a way of creating natural pairings with localized ingredients and the grapes that grow nearby.
This dish has Italy written all over it which is nice, because there's an Italian wine for practically any meal. Chianti Classico is a favorite region of mine, not only for the breathtaking Tuscan landscape, but for the progress made in the region over the past 15 years. Chianti Classico is not the Chianti in the straw basket, it's a higher level of quality. Chianti is to Chianti Classico what Honda is to Acura. In fact, Chianti Classico is more on par with Brunello but for less money. Read more about my adventures in Tuscany and Chianti Classico's quality here.
One particular Chianti Classico producer I like is Mazzei. Rich, bright red cherry and dark red fruits lift the weight of the dish, yet damp earth and coffee ground adds depth almost like an upright bass in a jazz trio. You can't have the high end without the low end. And right in the middle of the jam session is the moist fall-off-the-bone chicken and mouthwatering braising sauce.
Almost by default, when the word, 'braised' shows up in the name of the dish, I almost always look to Piedmonte or Burgundy as the wines are so complex matching the complex flavors in the braising liquid without being too heavy.
In this instance, the tomatoes and capers are the main flavors to key off of, so I look south to Tuscany and the under appreciated Sangiovese grape.