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Riesling rules

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If the photographs of dishes in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s excellent new Jerusalem: A Cookbook leap out at you, the one of the crazy-good and super-easy Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak (adapted recipe follows) may be the long-jump champion. The combo of citrus, fennel (blubs, seeds and spirits) and a hint of sweetness present a wine-pairing challenge that Riesling seems uniquely qualified to meet.

Alsace 2009, Riesling, Grafenreben, Domaine Bott-Geyl ($27.80, 11778037)
100% biodynamically farmed Riesling from the Grafenreben lieu-dit in Zellenberg. The manually harvested whole bunches are gently and slowly pneumatically pressed. The resulting must is allowed to settle for 24 hours. Fermentation with native yeasts begins two or three days later and can last up to six months. When fermentation is complete, the wine is racked off the lees. No chaptalization or fining. 13.5% ABV.
Bone dry. Slight fizz at first. Among the most crystalline Rieslings I’ve encountered. Considerable extract and biting acidity. The ripe fruit is lemony and has a lot of pith. As the wine breathes and warms, it gains green apple and peach notes. The fruit quick-fades on the finish, leaving bitter minerals, a hint of hard caramel and maybe, just maybe, a whiff of petrol.

A fine bottle. The clerk I queried about the wine hadn’t tasted it but thought it would be a step toward off-dry. We should have looked more closely at the label, which bears a useful dry-to-sweet scale rating the wine 1 out of a possible 10. In any event, the flavours and weight worked well with the chicken, though a slightly less dry wine would have made for an even better match.

Chicken Roasted with Clementines, Fennel and Ouzo
Adapted from a recipe in Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook

The ouzo can be replaced by arak or pastis (Pernod, Ricard, etc.). If you go the ouzo route, you can’t do better than Babatzim ($19.95, 11156529).

In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine 6 1/2 tablespoons ouzo, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard, 4 to 5 large sprigs fresh thyme,  2 1/2 tablespoons lightly crushed fennel seeds, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Trim and rinse 2 medium fennel bulbs (about 500 g/1 pound in all). Cut each blub in half lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise into 4 wedges. Rinse and pat dry 1 kg (2 lbs) free-range chicken legs or thighs (substitute a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces). Cut 4 to 5 medium clementines, preferably organic, crosswise into 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) slices. Add all these ingredients to the bowl, turning them over until well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or preferably overnight.

To roast, preheat the oven to 250ºC (475ºF). Transfer the contents of the bowl to a roasting pan or baking sheet large enough to hold everything in a single layer; the chicken pieces should be skin side up. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the edges of some of the clementines and tips of some of the fennel wedges are beginning to blacken, 35 to 45 minutes.

Arrange all the solid ingredients on a warmed serving platter. If there’s more than 80 ml (1/3 cup) of pan juices, pour them into a sauce pan and reduce. Pour the sauce over the chicken. If you like, garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley. Serve immediately with bulgur or steamed rice.

Four servings.

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Written by carswell

January 19, 2013 at 14:25

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