Pairings: Savory sauvignon blanc sings with chicken dish

Our Wine of the Week, Lail Vineyards 2018 Blueprint Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($40), has a quality I see now and then, primarily in sauvignon blanc from our eastern neighbor. It’s a savory characteristic, reminiscent of both jalapeño and celery. This can be key in creating an outstanding match.

There is plenty of fruit in the wine, too, subtle notes of stone fruit, especially white peaches and white nectarines, along with lemon zest and not quite ripe white pineapple. The acidity is bright and engaging and, although the alcohol hovers just below 14.5 percent, there’s no suggestion of sweetness or heat.

If you want this wine on your holiday table, you might consider stuffing your turkey with a fairly traditional California-style dressing, with good sourdough bread and lots of onions, celery and sage sautéed in butter.

The wine is a great companion with most green vegetables and is, of course, an excellent choice with fin fish, such as Petrale sole meunière and fried sand dabs.

This lovely sauvignon blanc is also excellent with a favorite comfort food, roasted chicken. In today’s recipe, I’m focusing on the hint of jalapeño and celery in the wine. It is important to scrape out the seeds and remove the little fibers to which they cling, which is where a lot of the heat is. You want the flavor of the chile, not its heat.

Roasted Chicken with Arugula and Jalapeño-Celery Butter

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature

1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced

½ teaspoon crushed celery seed

- Grated zest of 1 lime

- Kosher salt

1 whole chicken, preferably local

- Black pepper in a mill

1 lime quartered

3 generous handfuls of small arugula

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Put the butter into a medium bowl, add the minced jalapeño, the celery seed, the lime zest and a generous pinch of salt and use a fork to mix it well, until the butter is smooth and uniform. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse the chicken under cold tap water and dry it thoroughly with a clean tea towel.

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper and tuck the quartered lime into it, along with about a tablespoon of the butter.

Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together. Bend the tips of the wings back and under the chicken.

Set the chicken in a roasting pan just big enough to hold it. Season the outside all over with salt and pepper. Use a pastry brush to coat the chicken in fat or butter. Set the pan with the chicken in the center of the oven.

Put about half the butter into a small saucepan and set over low heat. After the chicken has been cooking for about 25 minutes, baste it all over with the melted better every 10 minutes or so. Cook until the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of about 145 degrees. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving platter, and cover, loosely, with a tent of aluminum foil. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the roasting pan over a medium flame, add 4 tablespoons of water, and swirl and scrape the pan to deglaze it. Pour all the pan drippings into a small saucepan. When the chicken has rested for 15 minutes, carefully tip it so that juices in the cavity run out onto the platter. Carefully add the juices to the pan.

Increase the heat and simmer the pan juices until they thicken a bit and are reduced by about half. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of the butter and, as soon as it is melted, remove it from the heat.

Working quickly, transfer the chicken to a clean work surface and put the arugula on the platter. Sprinkle with a little salt, add the cilantro, and toss a time or two.

Carve the chicken, cutting the thigh-legs off first and then slicing the breast and removing the wings. Set the chicken on top of the arugula and drizzle the sauce over everything.

Enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at

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