Slow Cooker Chicken & Biscuits w/ Sand Pedro de Yacochuya Torrontes 2020

This recipe is so simple I nearly passed it by.  Bare in mind, I am no wizard in the kitchen.  Ease of prep and cooking are essential for me (although lots of ingredients – which I don’t mind— can camouflage my lack of advanced culinary skill).  But this recipe is so easy as to be an embarrassment.  My only issue is the use of the word “biscuit” in the recipe title.  Although I was very pleased with the end result, it strikes me that the biscuits were more like dumplings… but in biscuit shape?  But what do I know?  And besides I had already picked out a wine to open, and this recipe looked like a good fit.  And it was.

I wanted to try a wine from Argentina made by Michel Rolland.  I had just hosted a tasting given over to wines produced with his hand in Bordeaux (his home port), Bolgheri in Tuscany, Napa, Mendoza in Argentina and Rioja in Spain.  As you can see, this fellah gets around.  And as with others in the “globetrotting” wine consulting community (and within that community he is primus inter pares), he takes on assignments only when he is assured that the resident staff and ownership is committed to making the best possible wines.

I didn’t present the Yacochuya Torrontes at the tasting so this chicken dish seemed to be a splendid opportunity to give this tasty white a test drive.

{For my video take on the wine, put this in your browser:}

San Pedro de Yacochuya Torrontes ’20 (Salta, Argentina)
At 6,676 feet above sea level, Salta is one of the highest viticultural regions in the world with vineyards running up to the Andean foothills.  The origin of the vine is thought to be Spain.  Torrontes is sometimes referred to as the “dry Muscat” because it shares the apricot & ripe peach scent with Muscat (Moscato).  The 2020 is fresh, dry and richly flavored with fruit & floral aromas. Pale yellow color. The nose is fruity reminiscent of white peach and orange peel, and floral like jasmine and roses. On the palate it has a pleasant entry with flavors of peaches, apricot, chamomile and lime and the finish is dry.


6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
3 olives stuffed with blue cheese
3 chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
salt & pepper, to taste
2 cups baby carrots, cut in half
2 cups broccoli florets
21oz condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can refrigerated biscuit

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. Place cut up chicken breast into slow cooker.  Sprinkle with salt a pepper.

3. Add veggies and condensed soup, and mix thoroughly. Cook on high for 3 hours

4. Rip biscuit dough into small pieces, and drop evenly over the chicken.  Cook for an additional hour.

5. Go on a treadmill. Walk at 3.5mph. Serve the  chicken, garnish with parsley.

n.b. I didn’t rip the biscuit dough into pieces.  Rather just placed the pre-divided slices on to the chicken.

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Yacochuyo Torrontes

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In the Service of the Martini

“The Martini is the only American invention as perfect as the English sonnet.” —  H. L. Mencken

When I confronted my first Martini in April 1973, poolside at Cambridge Beaches in Sandys Parish Bermuda, I didn’t give much consideration to the glass it was served in.  I ordered the drink on the rocks, with a lemon twist.  After the initial shock of its dreadful taste (does anyone really like the taste of gin?), I managed to work my way thru two, perhaps three, perfunctory sips when the legendary lethality of the fluid began to dull my senses to 6.5 on the “numb scale” (who was it who said that a good Martini enjoyed under a mid-day sun was a form of liquid Percocet?). I had a second, less regrettable Martini (all before lunch arrived), and maxed out on the aforementioned numb scale.

It took me the balance of our vacation to perfect my deep appreciation of a Martini on the rocks.  But this much was clear to me:  at age 23 I had finally found my drink!  And not some dumb frou-frou drink that comes with a mini umbrella, cherry, orange slice & a pineapple chunk!  My cocktail oozed with sophistication!  But there was still room to up my game.

I can’t recall when I switched from a rocks glass to an “up” glass.  But I did.   The up glass (hereinafter referred to as the Martini glass) is immediately recognizable from yards away as containing a sinful concoction that only the most literate, urbane and polished citizens consume.   There is no better exemplar of these traits than William Powell’s portrayal as Nick Charles in the Thin Man franchise.

Before we go further.  A Martini is made with gin and dry vermouth.  A vodka Martini is a second fiddle variant, and should only be considered as such.  And putting frou-frou ingredients (liquors, juices & coloring agents) into a Martini glass and then assigning a Martini designation to the drink is criminal.  It’s like slipping the text of Green Eggs & Ham into the cover of Anna Karenina.

I do recognize that substituting vodka for gin got a huge boost when a succession of actors portraying James Bond indulged in the alternate form. They all get huge points for style.  But vodka has no class.  As a commodity vodka is best remembered as a State Monopoly for the Tsars. The expensive chic vodkas are just vodka in fancy bottles that cost more.

For the height of debonair cool it is hard to surpass Cary Grant.  As Roger Thornhill in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest he is under suspicion for committing a murder, and while travelling the rails on the Twentieth Century Limited to escape apprehension, he has time to sit across from Eva Marie Saint in the dining car and order a Gibson.  Grant gets 10 extra credit points for ordering a Gibson without further identification… as in a Gibson — Martini.  Experienced bartenders know this.  A Gibson merely signifies using a cocktail onion in place of an olive or a lemon twist. No need for further elaboration.

The allure of the Martini and its sublime excellence is not restricted to gentlemen.  Roger Angell in his essay “On the Art of the Martini” that appeared in the New Yorker writes, “At Lotus, at the Merc Bar, and all over town, extremely thin young women hold their stemmed cocktail glasses at a little distance from their chests and avidly watch the shining oil twisted out of a strip of lemon peel across the pale surface of their Martini like a gas stain from an idling outboard.”

Bette Davis as Margot Channing in All About Eve displays in her role an independent spirit combined with a tinge of protective indignation.  She would be challenged by the presence of a young ingénue, Eve Harrington, and Eve’s interest in her beau… after knocking back two Martini’s and then grabbing a third, she intones to her assistant Birdie (Thelma Ritter), “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Happily the pursuit of a well-made Martini is not restricted to the dens of privilege.  What could be further removed from the Round Table at the Algonquin than a MASH unit in South Korea?  Yet the civility of the Martini crept into the tent of Dr. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda).  He brought a heightened irreverence and exuberance to the consumption of a Martini.  No longer shaken, not stirred at the gaming tables of Monte Carlo. No longer sipped by well-groomed denizens of wealth in black-tie or gown. No. Here is an educated, smart-assed surgeon in army fatigues using ingenuity (and desperation) to craft a functioning still… an enterprise to beat back the insanity of war and ensure that a modicum of civilization could prevail.

So you can see… standing at the Oak Bar, seated in the dining car of the New York Central, or on a cot in an overseas canvas residence… civilization’s reach can extend to every nook and cranny of the globe… even to an Adirondack chair on a deck in Woodbury, CT.

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Easy Veal Stew and 2019 J.P. Marchand Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits

What can I say?  It’s not even August and I am already suffering with an acute case of back-deck-cold-salads-and-grill-cuisine fatigue.  Enough with the steaks, burgers, kebobs and tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad! I needed a “time out.”  But I really wasn’t interested in diving into my snow-beating-against-the-window-panes recipes.  What to do?  I settled on a “tweener” veal recipe.  There is a chameleon aspect to veal dishes.  Veal takes on the “color” of ingredients, seasonings & methods of cooking used.  I was interested in a dish that was direct, uncomplicated and without elaborate prep.  Good flavor, but not heavy.  And more to the point, a welcomed relief from my Weber grill.

For wine I could go either into a fuller white like a Pouilly-Fuissé or a Greco di Tufo, or a light to medium bodied red like a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.  I opted for a modest red Burgundy I had recently tried: the 2019 J.P. Marchand Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. Over the years I have enjoyed many wines from this vigneron – including 1er Cru and Grand Cru wines —  but none can surpass this wine in its pure enjoyment.  A beguiling floral (violet) is a thorough delight to the senses. Smoooooth on palate, and a soft finish (and here I will steal one of my favorite lines from Johnny Carson), soft as a field mouse backing into a patch of pussy willow!

J.P. Marchand Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits ’19 (Burgundy, France )
The Marchand vineyard was started while Napoleon was still in power in 1813 .   Head of the winery is Jean-Philippe Marchand proprietor and winemaker, and is the seventh generation of Marchands to guide the winery. This Burgundy is picked from vines that are minimum of 55 years old.  It is classic in that the wine is dark in colour, with aromas of fresh red fruits when young, and candied fruit when matured, with occasional tones of gamey aromas. The flavour is firm, enhanced with a good acidity, firm tannins, and excellent balance. 


6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
3 olives stuffed with blue cheese
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2lbs of veal, trimmed and cut into stew-sized pieces
1 can of tomato sauce (80z)
½ cup of white wine
fresh chopped chives for garnish
salt & pepper to taste

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 Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic; cook and stir ‘til onion is tender.

3. Add meat to the pot and brown evenly.

4. Stir in tomato sauce and white wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 ½ hours, or until tender.

5. Garnish with fresh chopped chives.

n.b. I served the veal with buttered wide egg noodles.  I think pappardelle would also work. 

Non sequitur of the week  From the film “What’s New Pussycat”: “My father, the most beloved gynecologist in Vienna, before they took him away on a morals charge for indecent exposure at the State Opera House, said, and I quote: “Please do not take me away, I will not do it again.”

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