Who Would Pick Nebbiolo for a Chicken Dinner?

I never really understood the whole “chicken is a blank canvas” thing until today.  Sure, chicken pairs with different wines depending on whether it’s been baked vs. grilled.  I have made a variety of sauces to serve over chicken and they make the bridge to a lighter red like a Pinot Noir.  But Nebbiolo?  Powerful, tannic Nebbiolo? Several leaves of fresh sage and a single slice of prosciutto transformed this chicken breast into a main dish that just craves a bold red wine, and Nebbiolo was a perfect match.

A thin slice of prosciutto and sage made this chicken crave red wine.

A thin slice of prosciutto and sage made this chicken crave red wine.

Andrea Immer (now Robinson) wrote several good wine & food books a few years ago; one I particularly like is Everyday Dining with Wine.  The book has chapters devoted to general types of wine with tasty recipes that are simple enough for a weeknight.  I was a little surprised to see chicken as the protein choice with Nebbiolo, but the addition of prosciutto seemed to make sense.  It’s really an easy recipe, you can find it online here.  Andrea recommended polenta as a side dish, so I decided to give it a try, too.

I’m not a big asparagus fan, but I added it because it’s so photogenic.  Just fresh asparagus, steamed lightly.

I actually don't like asparagus, but it looks nice and Julie loves it.

I actually don’t like asparagus, but it looks nice and Julie loves it.

The chicken couldn’t be much easier.  First you layer on fresh sage leaves.

Sage leaves go right next to the chicken.

Sage leaves go right next to the chicken.

Then you wrap each breast in a single slice of prosciutto.  Stake it in place on the backside with toothpicks.

Wrap the prosciutto around the chicken breast; stake it in place with toothpicks.

Prosciutto and sage wrapped chicken breasts.

Whoops! I forgot to take any photos of the chicken during the saute.  It really is simple, 10 minutes prosciutto side down, then flip and finish with another 5 minutes in the pan.  Deglaze with some dry sherry or red wine and you’re done.

prosciutto sage chicken & Wind Gap Nebbiolo-79

Wind Gap Nebbiolo
Overall: Nice, seems a bit rich and soft compared to the Italian versions I have tried.
Eye: Translucent red, warm/orange at the edges
Nose: Clearly Nebbiolo by the aroma.  Roses, floral, and a bit of caramel.
Mouth: Tannic, but not overly assertive.
The softer mouthfeel could be due to the fact the wine was from the 2006 vintage, so it had more time in bottle than several of the other Nebbiolo’s I tried over the last few weeks.  I guess I’ll need to keep trying more examples to round out my understanding!

Wind Gap Nebbiolo

Wind Gap Nebbiolo

The first taste of the chicken and the wine was a real “wow” moment for me.  The prosciutto and sage really transformed the chicken.  I would never have guessed it would pair so well with with an assertive red like a Nebbiolo.

I have to admit, I need to work on my polenta skills.  I didn’t pay close enough attention to batch #1 and wound up with lumpy polenta; I don’t think that’s a delicacy.  Batch #2 came out just fine for texture, but was just plain bland.  Next time, a little more research will be needed.  Still, it was a lovely dinner and one I’ll make again.

The prosciutto provided the bridge between the Nebbiolo and the chicken

The prosciutto provided the bridge between the Nebbiolo and the chicken

While I was cooking, a few inches of snow fell.  It doesn’t seem to matter how long you live in Minnesota, big snowflakes lightly drifting down is always appreciated!

The prettiest part of a Minnesota winter

The prettiest part of a Minnesota winter

6 Responses to “Who Would Pick Nebbiolo for a Chicken Dinner?”
  1. vinoinlove says:

    Only rarely I was convinced by pairing Nebbiolo with Chicken. I guess it depends what wine is made out of Nebbiolo since taste varies a lot between a Barolo and a Ghenme and maybe Nebbiolo in America tastes different than the original Piedmontese one.
    Next time I’ll try your recipe.

  2. As usual, great write-up! I like to think of Nebbiolo as the Italian Pinot Noir, so I could see that. As for the polenta, you are a far braver man than am I. Polenta scares the crapola out of me!

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