The other night our friend Darris came over for dinner, slinging a bottle of fantastic 2004 Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the Southern Rhône region of France. I love this wine. The 2004 is comprised of 80% old-vine Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mouvedre and 5% other varietals (the sum of which could be up to 13 different Rhône varietals) to create an earthy, seductive wine of great depth with spice and luscious plum flavors. Darris and I have known each other going on 19 years (gasp), and so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that although he didn’t know what was being served he would have intuited the perfect wine to go with dinner, Chicken with Olives, Caramelized Onions and Sage, which we served with an Israeli couscous mixed with green lentils, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. This meal is all about layering of flavors. First the chicken is seasoned with a sprinkling of tumeric, cumin and sweet paprika and then browned in oil.
Then red and yellow onions are sauteed in butter and simmered with white wine before going into the oven with the chicken, shallots, garlic, fresh sage leaves and assorted olives.
And while that bakes, make the couscous, which takes no time at all. It’s a riff on a Bon Appétit recipe for Bulgar and Green Lentil Pilaf, but I substitute Israeli couscous (aka toasted couscous or pasta pearls) for the bulgar wheat, which I “toast” first in olive oil in a skillet before adding to lentils to boil and absorb liquid. Spices are added in at the end along with some reserved sauteed onions from the chicken dish.
For best results, pepper heavily with good conversation, years and years of friendship and a lovely bottle of deepest red wine. Thanks, D!