I increasingly seem to find myself banging-on about the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement. Of course a great number of us have become bored with the same-old over-oaked Cali Chards, but that doesn’t mean to say oak doesn’t have a place in modern Chardonnay.
Winemakers treat oak the same way that chefs treat salt when cooking. Without salt, a dish can barely come alive by itself. Adding even the tiniest amount to an unseasoned dish will demonstrate a marked improvement in flavor. Adding a little too much salt to a recipe; and you could probably still eat it, but the over-salting would detract from all the other flavors in the dish. The same goes for oak in wine.
Winemakers of unoaked Chardonnays have therefore got their hands full! Think about if salt was to be taken away from a chef. Sure you can still make great tasting food without it, but you’d be left looking for other ways to season the dish.
This recipe is home-cooking at its finest! You might not see Gordon Ramsey putting this on his menu at Claridge’s; but for a quick, simple and tasty meal, you really can’t beat it!
I talk to a great many people who still subscribe to the myth of all “Chardonnays pair with chicken.” Chicken in every form.
Well yeah you could pair ANY Chardonnay with this dish…but if you really want to push it, I could state a case for how just about every white wine could provide a “satisfactory pairing” with this recipe…maybe with the exception of cold-climate Sauv Blancs. Too much citrus.
What I’m shooting for when I put together these dishes together is a “synergistic pairing,” or to get a little more wordy: “To have the combined flavor experience of the food and the wine be greater than the sum of individual parts.” With that said, the Robert Mondavi Chard OWNED this dish!
Ol’ Robert Mondavi, still to this day, retains the title of being the most recognized winemaker on the planet. With the 2010 Napa Chardonnay, the Mondavi winery have actually taken the step of adding a small amount (3%) of Sauvignon Blanc into the mix. Why would they do this? To add a touch of brightness and vibrancy, of course! They too know that wine drinkers have become bored with “flat” Chardonnays without any acidity.
Showing well-integrated oak, this pairing wouldn’t have been the same an unoaked wine. The Cajun seasoning and the Pepperjack cheese paired perfectly, especially since the wine is only at 13.5% alcohol. Too much alcohol and it definitely would have clashed with the spice. Caramelized pear, baked apple pie, and an interesting nutty quality. What we have right here Ladies and Gentleman is a quintessential Californian Chardonnay. Maybe if you make this same pairing, it could potentially even restore your faith in oaked Chards…
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins
– 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– 1 tbsp Italian-style breadcrumbs
– 1 c frozen spinach, thawed and drained
– 6oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
– 3 tbsp Cajun seasoning
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– Kosher salt
– Black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Take all your pent-up aggression out on the chicken but beating the hell out of it until it’s flattened to 1/4-inch thickness. Make sure to not beat it up too much though, as you don’t want it so thin that you leave with holes.
3. Combine the pepper jack cheese, spinach, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl.
4. Mix the Cajun seasoning and breadcrumbs together into a separate bowl.
5. Take a tablespoon and scoop a small amount of the spinach mix into the center of the chicken. Repeat for each breast.
6. This part can be slightly tricky! Roll-up each individual chicken breast and fasten it with several toothpicks. I used about 6 toothpicks on each, but it’s up to you. Make sure you remember how many you use though, or someone will be in for a nasty surprise at the dinner table!
7. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes.
8. Remove the toothpicks before serving. Slice each breast on a strong bias and serve.
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