Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chicken Cacciatore With 2005 López de Heredia Cubillo

I'm trying to recall the last time I've had chicken cacciatore.

20 years? If we were to go to a traditional Italian restaurant (that feels like it's been 20 years as well) and I read down the menu, trying to figure out what I want to order, my eyes would blaze right by chicken cacciatore and immediately dismiss it.

There's nothing wrong with it. I like all the ingredients in cacciatore. But there's a sense about its...basic-ness...that doesn't inspire an "Oooh! I want that!"

It's probably the mushrooms. There's something about mushrooms. It's like watching a movie that I'm enjoying, and then an actor pops up that, in my head, makes it impossible to think this movie will ever reach great heights. He's not a bad actor. He has his own style. Brings something mildly unique. But I can't get past all his past work and all the past movies I saw with him in it that had potential and ended up utterly forgettable. Was it his fault? I can't say, but I can say that there's just too much evidence in my movie life that his inclusion in a project means that there's an 80% chance I don't need to see it.  

They're the Michael Rapaport of food.

But here, with this Lidia Bastianich recipe, the mushrooms don't bully their way to the front of the stage, letting the overall flavor of the dish become something more than the sum of its simple parts. The mushrooms only added a "here's where mushrooms come from and THAT'S IT!" note.

It's just chicken, onions, peppers, tomatoes, oregano, white wine and mushrooms, but that's what makes it good. Recipe followed to the letter here. The result was delicious, highlighted by a great broth-like soup in which to dip the Jamie Oliver garlic bread (made with a smoked paprika butter to help the wine).

Served with 2005 López de Heredia Viña Cubillo Crianza Rioja ($25 - Vin Chicago). We've never craved the Cubillo, particularly when a Tondonia or Bosconia from Heredia usually costs a mere $10 more (though that's inching up lately). In lesser years, the Cubillo has been a little too blunt. Here, the 2005, might be the best we've had. Tons of grace in a Cubillo frame. It's more quiet and less in a hurry to belch out its personality. Spice and tobacco, raspberry and cherry, with the tiniest hint of smoked orange peel.

This wine needs food, this was the food, and the pairing was the star. Together, this tasted like a foggy mountain meal. Everything slowed down, tasting like a well-told, slow-paced story that reveals itself in layers, as if hearing an old, burly, bearded mountain man say, "It was long, dark winter and that grizzly bear had been inching closer to the cabin for weeks..."

We loved it.    

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