Hint: It’s not cheese. Not to knock wine and cheese, the two have had a relationship going back thousands of years and some of the very best food and wine pairings involve cheese. But cheese is so fatty that it actually inhibits your ability to taste. The miracle food for wine comes from another one of the animals on the traditional wine growers farm. The roasted chicken. It is the one dish that perfectly compliments every single wine in existence, from Australia to Bordeaux to California, even Dessert wines. It’s not necessarily that chicken is some sort of revelatory pairing (although it can be), but that is never the wrong choice and always elevates wines in one way or another. I can recall many roasted chickens that made average wines seem exceptional. Chicken’s secret weapon is that it requires only one unobtrusive seasoning, salt. The way I usually cook chicken involves about 5 minutes of prep time, so after you pop it in the oven you will have lots of time to work on the trimmings. I sprinkle sea salt on the outside and inside of the bird, put it in a roasting pan with the breast down (this allows the juices from the fattier legs to flow into the drier breast) and put the pan into an oven that’s warmed to 500F. After 10 mins, reduce to 375F. Get out your thermometer, and let the chicken cook until the middle of the breast reads 150F/65C, about an hour. Then pull out and let it cool for about 15 mins before you serve.
I’ve read many recipes that recommend much higher internal temperatures, as high as 180F/85C, but I’ve found that that leaves me with a dried out and boring bird. Granted, I only get my chickens fresh and from a reliable retailer. If you have access to free range birds, even better. The extra flavour will highlight your stronger wines in new and exciting ways. And it won’t break the bank; fresh chickens are usually under $10, allowing you to bump up your wine budget. The beauty of this dinner is that you can add your own twists to match specific wines, like a rosemary crust to match cabernet franc.
Do you have a go to wine for when you cook roasted chicken at home? My person favourite right now is any Italian white wine that starts with V: Vernacchia, Verdicchio, Vermentino. Even the cheapies seem to work well.