Tuesday, February 28, 2012

#255 - Jerk Chicken, Biscuits & Pineapple With Two Wines

Here's jerk a Rastafarian would respect.

Heat that permeates every level, delicious citrus complementing the heat with spice and herbs that keeps everything in line.

Not surface heat here.  This went deep along with everything else seeping deeply into the chicken while the heat never crossed the line into eye-watering, mouth-blazing territory.  Marched right up to that line but never crossed it, allowing every other flavors to take its turn at bat.

Instead of cooking the chicken under a brick, this one was roasted upright in the oven in the cast-iron.  The results were something spectacular, bringing a more dirty-delicious caramelization to bits of the chicken skin.

This was one glorious looking chicken when it came out of the oven and the taste delivered on that promise.

Food:  Jerk chicken, cheddar-scallion biscuits and pineapple with radishes

Here's the recipe from Saveur.  It's a slight alteration from the recipe used here and better.  Less salt that allowed the jerk to shine and take center stage along with the use of six habaneros (recipe called for eight - Mrs. Ney scaled down and we think that might have been key to allowing other flavors to have a chance).

Another key change was scrapping the lime juice in favor of tangerine juice to approximate that sour orange staple used so widely in Caribbean cuisine.  It made the citrus come off more jumpy, less flat, more strong and vibrant and less like a background flavor.  Made all the other flavors swirl.

We both thought this was the best jerk we've ever had.  Perfect amount of saltiness and flavors that kept changing.

Cheddar biscuits made with sautéed scallions.  Nice starch to take a break from the spice flurry.

Grilled pineapple with a radish, mint, thyme and black pepper salad on top.  The black pepper and thyme on the salad played with radish in some pretty great ways.

This was a hefty spice extravaganza.  It needed some sugar to balance the heat but we didn't want to blow one of the big-boy rieslings for fear of killing it.  This was some hot stuff.

Settling on a couple of cheapies to play with, back-and-forth, turned out to be fine enough.

Wine:  Sokol Blosser Evolution 15th Edition ($15 - Trader Joe's) & NV Dr. L Sparkling Riesling Mosel ($14 - Binny's)

I never loved the Evolution line.  Something about the softness of it while trending towards too sweet made me take a pass over the years.  This edition, while soft, brought better acid and a touch of perky friendliness to it that makes me more open to such things in the future.  A blend of nine different grapes led by pinot gris, müller-thurgau and riesling.  A nice blend of grapefruit and lychee on its core with enough lift (while young?) to keep it tasty.

The Dr. L Sparkling Riesling is a bargain favorite.  Nothing terribly complex here, just good bubbles, touch of sweetness and food-friendly stuff.  Always loved the balance while it always diligently kept a keen eye on making sure it's refreshing, first.

With the heat, we initially figured the bubbles would win the day.  Not the case.

Pairing:  86  The Evolution stood firm and proud with the heat while mixing with the tangerine in the marinade rather nicely

I have a feeling if we did this same pairing a year from now, the Evolution wouldn't stand up.  But last night, it did...just enough.

The surprisingly strong tangerine citrus component to the marinade blended nicely with the mélange of fruit cocktail flavors that Evolution always brings to the table while bringing just enough acid and sweetness to cut through some of the heft in the marinade.  Not too shabby.  No complaints.

The Dr. L, surprisingly, fell flat with the chicken.  The bubbles isolated the heat and tuned out everything else, but it accented the thyme and black pepper in the radish salad rather nicely while performing well with the biscuits.

Two wines that ended up playing a role with different parts of the meal.  Nothing transcendent here but we were good.

A Quick Note:  French onion soup lunch with a 2007 Northstar Merlot Walla Walla ($33 - Binny's).  Old-school French onion soup with all the time that it takes to get it (reduce and deglaze, reduce and deglaze, reduce and deglaze...).  And that's why French onion soup is a once every three years thing for Mrs. Ney.  We don't crave french onion soup enough to warrant such all-afternoon kitchen torture.  It's not a ton of work, you just can't leave the scene!  In the end, it's soup.  We're not soup people.

But this was delicious soup.  A dark soup wonder with great depth.  Aged gruyere over the top of baguette with parsley to finish.

Didn't have a Beaujolais on hand and frankly didn't want one so a New World merlot to approximate the bright and juicy red fruit seemed apt along with the hope that some darker notes would play with the onion-soup-and-cheese dirtiness.  Worked.

The Northstar is a caressing, almost sexy beast.  Tons of charred plum with some background tar and herbs that continued to change throughout the meal.  It seemed to shut down at one point, turning winey and boring, only to reëmerge with a new zeal.  Great merlot caressing softness to the tannins with nice acid. Medium-bodied for the most part with flavors playing in the darker merlot realms.  Fine earth here with a spicy edge.  More red fruits propping up the plum core.  It did what Washington Bordeaux-style wines do - offer something utterly French in its fruit with a lively New World swagger.  Needs some time.  We threw it into the decanter as we sat down.  By the end of the meal, its sexiness started to really show.

The pairing was defined more by good soup and good wine with neither getting in the way but we were struck by the reverse deliciousness here.  A sip of wine before a spoon of bread, cheese and soup bite made the soup something even more...french onion soupy in all its glory.  Pairing Score:  87

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