As you may be aware, there are few things I hold as dear as a superbly made Martini. And it is rare that I find an “away” Martini ever comes close to what I create in my “home court.” The one time was some 40 years ago (give or take a year or so) at Victoria & Alberts in the Grand Floridian, when our server wheeled out a damask covered cart with all the fixings hidden from view… then he brought all the necessaries top side and proceeded to make my Martini at the table… with the same élan and skill set used in making steak tartare at the table. Extraordinary theater. I loved it.
Yes, a deserving nod of approval goes to V & A.
However, I stand by my claim (with only a hint of hubris) that my Martini is a reference point cocktail.
This was a wine first dinner choice. Meaning, I had already chosen a wine to enjoy. Now… what to go with it? Since my wine would be a “comfort food wine”, I was hunting for a comfort food dish. Yet something that was different… something that travels beyond meatloaf, mashed potatoes & peas. Maybe a comfort food dish… but with a different zip code. Yet something that would still resonant with my favorite wine for all food occasions… a Southern Rhône.
And my search took me to a dish that derived from dishes prepared in a clay pot in the Punjab. Central to this recipe is the reliance on a combination of spices that when blended with yogurt creates a splendid marinade. A marinade so amazing that it would make an old first baseman’s mitt taste good!
So… if my comfort food dish had an Indian accent, what about choosing a Rhône wine that had a South African accent? For that is the wine I was set on enjoying! It’s a wine that I had first tasted a few weeks ago… and I love it! And it has the same personality of wine that I turn to for every-day-enjoyment-great-with-food. Southern Rhône varietals, but with a different zip code!
Edgebaston The Pepper Pot ’17 (Stellenbosch, SA) As its playful name suggests, this spicy red is a Syrah-dominated blend, featuring classic Rhône varietals. David Finlayson, owner and winemaker at Edgebaston, created this red with the joy of the everyday in mind. It’s a fruit-forward style, bursting with luscious black cherry and cassis flavors, while retaining a spicy edge, definitive structure, and a clean finish. David employs only stainless-steel tanks rather than oak barrels in making this wine, to highlight the fruit character.
Ingredients 6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin ½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth 1½ lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs 6 oz Plain Greek yogurt 1 tbs garam masala 1 tbs cumin 1 tbs turmeric 1 tbs paprika 1 tbs onion powder 1 tsp coarse salt
Directions 1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size. Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming. Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
2. In a medium bowl, combine all the spices and add in the Greek yogurt and blend to combine. Add chicken thighs, toss to coat with your fingers. Place into a plastic quart bag (or place in a tray, and cover) and marinate in the fridge for at least two hours (and up to overnight). Take out of the fridge about an hour before cooking, to bring the chicken back up to room temp. Discard the marinade.
3. Place chicken on a hot grill, and sear on one side. Cook for three minutes, ‘til there is a good char, then flip & cook another 3-5 minutes ‘til chicken is fully cooked.
4. Serve with couscous, sliced cucumbers & tzatziki sauce.
n.b. The original recipe called for cooking the chicken in a skillet. I preferred to use my Weber grill, and I think that it comes closer to the idea behind using the traditional clay pot. Also, the recipe suggested using Israeli couscous, which I tried (and is pictured below) and which I did not like. My recommendation is to use the other kind.