One of my good friends, Lauren, celebrated her birthday at the beginning of the month. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend her festivities that weekend, so I invited her over for dinner. This dinner needed to be special and what could be more delicious than an Italian feast? I didn’t go the traditional route of pasta – no, we were having grilled chicken – Tuscan Lemon Chicken, to be exact. It is chicken grilled on the bone with a simple marinade of lemon, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. In her book, Ina Garten, suggests “spatchcocking” the chicken which is, to butterfly a whole chicken by removing the back bone and the sternum so it lays flat. I chose to go a step further and cut up the entire chicken and split the breasts in half to make 10 pieces. You can easily buy a chicken all cut up, but I seemed to have difficulty. I think having the chicken cut up is more convenient for serving and makes for quicker cooking.
Of course, we needed a very Italian side to go with, so I went with the Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad. Ina states that roasting the tomatoes enhances the flavor of the tomatoes so you can enjoy this salad any time of the year. I have to agree with her that roasting is a great way to concentrate the flavor of what you are cooking. However, I feel that the tomatoes don’t need the sugar she recommends, so I leave it out. The tomatoes already have natural sugars in them, so adding more to it just makes them taste more like a dessert than something savory. If you wish to try it, maybe try sprinkling a little on one or a few to see which you like better. Overall, this light salad is perfect for summer and can literally go with just about anything. If you want to dress it up, drizzle some “good” olive oil (like the expensive stuff you get from those olive oil tasting stores).
I’m not a believer in perfect wine parings. You know…that rule where you HAVE to drink white wine with white meat and seafood and red wine with red meat? I think one should just drink whatever they like. However, in the summer, I like my wine to be chilled and refreshing and I think white wine tastes better chilled. Winc has a fantastic Pinot Grigio from Veneto, Italy, a town in the northearstern part of Italy not too far from a city called Verona – the setting for Romeo & Juliet. There’s your geography lesson for the day!
Pinot Grigio are grapes native to Italy which makes this wine a perfect pairing for the Italian Birthday fest. The tasting notes of citrus and peach really shine through and compliments the lemon-y-ness (lemoniness? Idk) of the chicken. Più Gioia Pinot Grigio definitely delivers on its name which is Italian for more joy. If you want to try out Winc and get a discount on your wine, click this link and take their flavor profile quiz: https://www.clubw.com/2lhy61q4ll7 – trust me, you’ve got to try it to believe it. The wines I have tried have been amazing.
B2B #6: Tuscan Lemon Chicken
From Back to Basics, Page 106
1 (3-4 lb) chicken, butterflied – or cut up into 8 to 10 pieces
1/3 cup good olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved
Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt on each side.
Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a plastic zip bag. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, turning once or twice.
When ready to grill, prepare grill on low heat (if gas) or if using charcoal, spread the hot charcoals on one side of the grill then move about ¼ of the charcoal to the other side. This creates a hot and cold side to each. Place the chicken on the cooler side of the grill skin side up. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the underside is golden brown. Turn the chicken skin side down and cook for another 12 to 15 minutes until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Place the lemon halves on the grill, cut side down, for the last 10 minutes of cooking until charred. Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cut the chicken in quarters, sprinkle with salt, and serve with the grilled lemon halves.
B2B #7: Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
From Back to Basics, Page 90
12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds (not cores) removed
¼ cup good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces fresh salted mozzarella
12 fresh basil leaves, julienned
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with the garlic, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper. Roast for 2 hours until the tomatoes are concentrated and begin to caramelize. Allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature.
Cut the mozzarella into slices slightly less than ½ inch thick then cut in half. Layer the tomatoes alternately with the mozzarella on a platter and scatter the basil on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Serve at room temperature.