Roast a chicken to pair with bright Smith-Madrone chardonnay

Chicken stuffed with cornbread and pear engage the wine’s subtle qualities beautifully.|

Smith-Madrone, 2019 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, ($45), our wine of the week, is a classic. Its high-toned fruit suggests peaches, nectarines and pears. Bursts of citrus keep the wine bright, refreshing and very food-friendly. You’ll likely notice hints of yeast and orange blossom in the aromas. The texture is rich and succulent, with a solid backbone of fruit.

The wine is outstanding with mussels, prepared almost any way. Sweet potatoes are a good match, too, and in a mild Indian curry is a great way to prepare them. Roasted cauliflower with Dijon vinaigrette, carrot fritters with honey-mustard sauce, coconut shrimp, smoked salmon and corn chowder, lobster rolls and spaghetti squash carbonara all make this wine soar.

This wine is also an excellent choice with roast chicken. In this version, I stuff the chicken with cornbread and pear, which engage the wine’s subtle qualities beautifully.

Roast Chicken with Cornbread-Pear Stuffing

Makes 4-6 servings

You may not need the full 3 cups of cubed cornbread, but it is impossible to say for sure as chickens vary so much in size. For best results, choose a large chicken. You’ll also need to have the cornbread ready a few hours before you prepare the stuffing. When it comes to pears, I often use Bartletts because I love their juicy texture.

3 cups cornbread, cubed, recipe follows

2 tablespoons butter

1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice

Kosher salt

Black pepper in a mill

1 pear of choice, peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves

1 large chicken, preferably Rocky, Rosie or Mary’s

2 tablespoon clarified butter

First, prepare the cornbread, using the recipe below or your own recipe. If you can do this a day or two in advance, great. If you can’t, make it several hours before you cook the chicken, so it cools completely and won’t fall apart when cut into cubes. Set the cubed cornbread aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the butter into a small saute pan set over medium-low heat. When it is melted, add the onion and cook until soft and fragrant, about 12 to 15 minutes; do not let it brown. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Put the cubed cornbread into a large mixing bowl. Add the pear, onion and sage and use your hands to gently toss together.

Rinse the chicken under cool running water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Season the two cavities of the chicken with salt and pepper and fill the main cavity with the cornbread mixture, packing it full but not too tightly.

Use kitchen twine to tie the chicken legs together.

Set the chicken on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. Brush the outside of the chicken all over with clarified butter, set on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 60-90 minutes, until the juices run clear when you poke the fattest part of a thigh with a bamboo skewer or very sharp knife.

Remove from the heat, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.

Scoop out the stuffing and set it in the middle of a serving plate. Carve the breast meat. Cut off the legs, thighs and wings and arrange the meat around the stuffing. Season lightly all over with salt and pepper and enjoy right away.

Buttermilk Cornbread

Makes 4-6 servings

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup medium-ground cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs, room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Rub the 2 tablespoons of butter over the inside of an 8-inch cast-iron pan and set it on the middle rack of the oven.

Put the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and blend with a fork. Set aside.

Put the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk very well, until light and creamy. Whisk in the buttermilk and melted butter.

Working quickly, remove the hot pan from the oven (be sure to protect your hands with heavy pot holders) and set it on top of the stove.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and use a large rubber spatula to combine the ingredients in a few quick strokes; do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the hot pan, using the rubber spatula to scrape all of it from the bowl. Quickly return the pan to the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Test the cornbread by pressing lightly on the center; it should feel firm. Alternately, insert a bamboo skewer into the center of the cornbread and if it comes out clean, it is done.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about five minutes. Use a very thin knife or spatula to loosen the cornbread from the sides of the pan, if necessary. Invert onto a plate and then turn right side up onto a cooling rack.

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

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