We have prepared a really awesome soy sauce chicken dish a few time and we decided to give it a go with the Blend #2: Seafood, Poultry & Pork white wine blend. The thing to note about the Blend #2 is that when it’s reduced (see reduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduction_%28cooking%29), it adds a beautiful tartness/brightness and green apple quality to the food. You can either reduce the wine beforehand and add it in as an ingredient, or you can just add the wine directly into the dish right from the bottle.
When you prepare this chicken dish, you boil the chicken until thoroughly cooked. You then add the soy sauce and spices and boil for another 30 minutes or so. This is when I decided to add the wine as it was already going to reduce whatever was boiling, and it was also going to be marinating the chicken at the same time.
Star ingredient #1: Sichuan Peppercorn
The first unique ingredient in the dish is the Sichuan Pepper (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper). It actually isn’t a pepper at all – it’s the pod of a very tiny fruit…but it packs an incredible punch in any dish. It’s actually quite hard to describe – it imparts a kind of flowery and briny electrical sweetness and spiciness to the dish. It’s not “hot” per se. But it really is out of this world and too much can be overwhelming for some. Fans of Sichuan Chinese cuisine will know this pepper (or at least, they should!). And drinking water or beer after a soup filled with this pepper is quite an interesting experience as it alters your perception of the flavors (adding that electrical sweetness element to it).
I think this is a star ingredient because it can be used to add an interesting spicy depth to any dish that is complementary to its flavor. White meat and beef dishes that could use a little zing go really well with it. It’s definitely worth experimenting with and you should be able to track it down on the web or at your local Asian market.
In this particular chicken dish, it adds a really nice complexity to the chicken and sauce.
Star ingredient #2: The Wine
As I mentioned, we’ve prepared this dish quite a few times without wine and it always blows me away. There is an incredible savory and sweet depth to the very tender chicken (it’s nearly falling off the bone!) and the Sichan pepper tempers all this with a little bit of spice. The soy sauce adds the perfect amount of saltiness and everything melds together beautifully.
And of course, as with everything, I wondered how we could improve it with wine. This dish could actually go either way in terms of our choice of white wine. We could use blend #2 or blend #4. It’s the choice of adding citrus brightness or soft, perfumey and sweet fruit character. The citrus would be complimentary of the spice and salt. On the other hand, the fruit would have been complementary to the chicken and the perfumey nature of the Sichuan pepper.
But we ultimately opeted to go wit the Blend #2 as we thought the citrusy brightness would be the most appropriate for our mood at the time.
*As an aside* AS you get more familiar with these wines, your brain will start to know them really well and how they will interact with certain recipes will come naturally. You already do this intuitively with spices – and it’s really cool when you can do it with wine!
My theory was that the wine would bring a nice brightness to the overall flavor profile of the dish – and perhaps even heft up he body of the sauce. As the sauce and the wine is reduced in the boil, you’d get a natural concentration of flavors that would meld together nicely.
And wow, that theory was right on! This dish is spectacular by iteslf, and even more incredible wiht one cup of wine. It really added a lot of depth to the dish and never ceases to amaze me how much a really great tdish can be improved wiht a little bit of wine. We had enough to pour a glass when we were done and the wine was great with the meal.
The recipe will be posted in our recipe section of the website shortly!