WINE WITH…Five-Spice Chicken with Chickpea & Olive Salad
With its seductive sweet/ tangy/ spicy flavors, five-spice blend is a common component in the cuisines of China and Taiwan. Many of the premixed commercial versions are excellent (we often use McCormick’s), but making your own blend using ingredients that you
already have on your spice shelf can be fun and easy. The basic mix is not carved in stone, and variations on the general theme are common. Sichuan pepper, for example, is a standard ingredient in the mix, but a combination of freshly ground black pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper works just fine too. If you have anise seeds in your spice collection but not star anise, no problem. Feel free to add orange peel (fresh or dried) to the mix, and of course garlic generally improves almost any savory dish. We might have added ginger to our recipe here, but we decided to put it in the salad instead.
Rice would certainly be the traditional accompaniment to this dish, but since we were in the mood for something with a little more panache and complexity we came up with this Mediterranean type salad spiked with Asian notes of soy and ginger. The salad may be made up to 24 hours in advance, and the chicken will be even tastier if the spice is rubbed into it a day ahead of time.
We grilled our chicken thighs over indirect medium heat. (Of course you could use breasts if you prefer them). Should you rather roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 375°. Arrange the thighs, skin side up, in a roasting pan and roast for 40-45 minutes. Run the chicken under the broiler for a couple of minutes if you want browner, crisper skin.
If you opt for canned garbanzo beans, use two 15.5 ounce cans. The Niçoise olives should be about the same size as the garbanzo beans; if they are larger, cut them in half.
Five-Spice Chicken With Chickpea & Olive Salad
4 to 8 skin on, bone-in chicken thighs (depending on how hungry you and your company are)
About 3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice blend (if making your own, see recipe below)
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1 cup pitted Niçoise olives
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon roughly cut fresh mint leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried mint)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
Prick the chicken skin all over with a fork. Rub the five-spice blend over the chicken thighs, both top and bottom sides. Place the thighs in a zip-lock bag or covered bowl. Let them rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 24 hours.
Grill the chicken. To avoid burning the skin, do so over indirect medium heat. Arrange the cooked chicken in individual serving bowls or plates along with the salad.
To make the salad, toss the garbanzo beans and olives together in a bowl. Place the remaining ingredients in a blender and process until everything is smooth and thoroughly combined. Pour over the garbanzos and olives and mix well. May be made up to a day ahead.
For the Five Spice Blend:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon star anise
Freshly ground black pepper plus 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Place all ingredients in a blender and process at high speed (we made the dressing for the salad in the same blender, without rinsing it out first). You also could use a spice grinder if you prefer.
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We reasoned that white wines would show best with this dish, but we found that reds performed as well if not better since the somewhat assertive five-spice blend can easily overwhelm a delicate white. Look, then, for a bolder white, or for a light-bodied red. And especially with summer on the way, don’t forget about rosés!