Our Wine of the Week, Enotria 2014 Mendocino County Arneis ($15) is a beauty and a perfect wine for spring. It is lean and bright, with refreshing mineral notes and subtle fruit, as a flowering orchard is just subtly evocative of that fruit that will soon come.
You’ll notice hints of Asian pear, green apple, fennel, and a hint of something warm, sweet spices like anise, perhaps, or a swirl of allspice.
It has a light-hearted exuberance, too, like a spring morning when the air is still a bit cool but all the birds are celebrating the season with their melodic songs.
At the table, it’s a natural with seafood, from Dungeness crab and seared scallops to Gulf prawns, flounder, and Petrale sole.
It is also excellent with most green vegetables and especially those coming into season now, like English peas, pea shoots, artichokes, asparagus, and soon, the very first zucchini. Green olives, light dressings with lemon, raw fennel, and nettles all cozy up beautifully to this engaging quaffer.
Coleslaw, especially one made with lemon vinaigrette instead of a mayonnaise-based dressing, Caesar salad, and simple pastas such as rigatoni with fresh ricotta, green peppercorns and lemon zest make great companions, too.
For today’s recipe, inspiration comes from the plethora of spring foods now coming into season. Vegetarians can enjoy a great match simply leaving out the chicken.
Artichoke, Fennel, & Chicken Salad with Lemon, Green Olives, & Asparagus
Serves 4 to 6
2-3 pastured chicken leg-thigh pieces
— Olive oil
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
3 boiled artichokes, cooled
1 large or 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, and very thinly sliced
3/4 cup green olives, preferably Picholine, pitted and halved
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon (see Note below), or an additional tablespoon of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set the chicken in an ovenproof pan, season lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake until just done, about 25 minutes. Let cool until easy to handle.
Pull the chicken meat off the bones and reserve the bones to make stock.
As the chicken cools, cook the asparagus. To do so, increase the heat to 450 degrees. Spread the asparagus over a baking sheet, drizzle a little olive oil over it, and turn to coat each stalk.
Season light with salt and cook for 7 minutes for thin stalks and up to 15 minutes for very fat stalks. Remove from the oven and let cool
Pull the leaves away from the artichoke hearts, discarding the tough outer leaves and reserving the tender inner ones. Remove the choke and cut the hearts into thin, crosswise slices.
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, sliced artichoke hearts, fennel, and all but a few olives, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and toss lightly. Add the preserved lemons or additional lemon juice and several turns of black pepper and toss again. Taste the correct the seasoning.
Divide the asparagus stalks among individual serving plates, top with the salad, garnish with artichoke leaves, and scatter a few green olives on top. On individual serving plates, garnish each portion with artichoke leaves and scatter a few green olives over the top and enjoy right away.
Pairings: Arneis great with salads, pastas and springs foods