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Pinot with Chicken Rice

A lot of the pleasure of pinot noir, including our Wine of the Week, Truchard 2012 Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir ($35), is a result of texture, the way a wine feels as it splashes across the palate. Pinot noir accomplishes this with a silky finesse, a lightness worthy of Fred Astaire in his finest tuxedo.

Texture, especially when combined with the pretty acidity of this wine, serves as a prism, scattering a wide array of flavors atop a delicate foundation. You'll notice cherries, Santa Rosa plums, cranberries, pomegranates, dried strawberries and little suggestions of sweet spice, especially cardamom and clove.

One flavor stands out more than any other, though exactly what it is may elude you if you've never tasted a mangosteen. If you have, it should pop into your mind with your first sip of this lovely wine. The Queen of Fruit, as Malaysians call it, resembles a blend of white peaches, strawberries and rhubarb. That's this wine and the inspiration for today's recipe.

There are Chicken Rice restaurants throughout East Malaysia, where the only item on the menu is just that, a dish called Chicken Rice. It is easy to make at home once you have the ingredients on hand, but it is crucial that you use the absolutely best chicken you can. When you do, its tender succulence mirrors that of the wine to create an extraordinary partnership. If only we had fresh mangosteens for dessert.

Malaysian Chicken Rice

Serves 4 to 6

For the marinade

6 garlic cloves

2 shallots

1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon bottled Thai chili sauce

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

For the chicken

1 whole pastured chicken breast, cut in half

2 pastured chicken leg-and-thigh pieces

1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 tablespoons coconut palm oil or mild olive oil

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves

4 cups cooked Jasmine rice, hot (see variation)

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thin

— Thai chili sauce

First, make the marinade. Put the garlic and shallots into a suribachi or mortar and pound with a wooden pestle until both are reduced nearly to a pulp. Add the ginger and pound together until smooth. Stir in the soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili sauce, salt, chili powder and pepper. Set aside.

Rinse the chicken under cool water and pat it dry with a tea towel. Prick the skin of the chicken with a fork or the tip of a very sharp knife. Using your hands, rub the marinade into the chicken, set the chicken in a single layer in a glass baking dish, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken pieces on a roasting rack set on a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, mix together the grated ginger and olive oil in a small bowl and set it aside. In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, and red pepper flakes. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a small bowl, add the cilantro leaves, and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes and use a cleaver to hack it through the bone into pieces about 2-inches wide. Place the cooked rice on a large serving platter, set the chicken on top of the rice and garnish around the edges with cucumber. Serve the chicken immediately, along with condiments (cucumbers, chili sauce, ginger oil) alongside for dipping.

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