Three classic Italian chicken dishes and wine styles to pair

A major influence on winemaking around the world, the sustainable and evolving Italian wine culture is often the center of attention. But the country’s culinary traditions have undoubtedly been just as impactful.

Between 1880 and the dawn of World War I in 1914, millions of people emigrated from Italy to the United States and forever changed the country in multiple ways, including its wine and food. Chicken cacciatore, piccata, and saltimbocca are just three examples of the many Italian dishes that have since become an enduring part of the American culinary canon.

While several variations exist, read on to discover the essential components of each as well as information to help you expertly pair them with wine.

chicken Cacciatore

What it is: Today, cacciatore refers to a wide variety of preparations. James Beard, an American chef and cookbook author, once said, “virtually everything but a henna rinse has been given to the chicken that bears this name.” Technically speaking, however, cacciatore translates to “hunter.” And in the culinary world, it’s often understood as braised chicken or rabbit with tomatoes, herbs, onions, and garlic, a nod to the use by garlic and hunter hunters. strong herbs to season game. Several regions in central Italy, including Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio claim to be the origin of cacciatore, but it’s a dish with almost as many versions as there are cooks.

How to associate it: Whatever your exact preparation, a safe bet would be a young Sangiovese, like Rosso di Montalcino or Chianti. Sangiovese is a classic pairing with tomato sauces, as it often has roasted tomato flavors and holds up well to garlic, spices and dried herbs. Another option is Primitivo. The popular Apulian dish is perfect with roasted, braised and grilled meats, especially those with strong, concentrated flavors.

Photo by Jens Johnson / Food styling by Elizabeth Bell

chicken Piccata

What it is: Piccata basically means “sharp” or “spicy”. In Italy many different cuts of meat can be used, the common points being the spicy addition of citrus fruits and capers. But in the United States, piccata most closely resembles Milanese piccata, a regional catch from Lombardy with thinly sliced ​​veal, chicken or swordfish cooked quickly in butter and seasoned simply with lemon and capers. As consumption of American veal began to decline in the 1960s, chicken became increasingly popular. Now, this is probably the most common piccata in the United States.

How to associate it: The lemon and capers are what complicate matters. The lively touches of flavor reflect a wine with enough acidity to match. However, chicken browned in large amounts of butter or oil needs a wine with a certain structure. While an oak barrel-aged chardonnay might blend well with the elements of citrus and butter, a lighter red wine would provide tannins to help reduce fat and refresh the palate. Nerello Mascalese, a dark-skinned Sicilian grape, offers a solution. It gives lively and light wines which can be intensely aromatic and flavorful, and would give notes of fresh red fruits, herbs and spices. Also try Valtellina Superiore, elegant wines made from Nebbiolo made in the mountains of Lombardy which can be lighter alternatives to Barolo or Barbaresco.

Saltimbocca chicken

What it is: Saltimbocca, “jump in the mouth,” is an apt name for this lively dish originally made with veal layered with prosciutto and sage. Although many consider it a Roman classic, historians trace it back to Brescia, in the region of Lombardy. Either way, it is now popular all over Italy. As with piccata, veal has been largely supplanted by chicken in the United States, although flattened pork chops are a popular variation as well. Chicken can be prepared flat or rolled up like a roulade. In some versions, sage is replaced with basil, and cheese is also a popular addition.

How to associate it: Saltimbocca has several powerful flavors. You’ll want something with intensity and body, but also with enough acid to cut through richer characters. White blends from Collio, a region close to the Slovenian border in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, can be wonderful with saltimbocca. They are bold and structured, with elegance, refreshing acidity and complex minerality. Another interesting choice would be Timorasso, a lesser-known Piedmontese white. Intense and full-bodied, it shows crisp acidity among flavors of creamy stone fruit, baked apple and wildflower honey with a savory herbal background that would bring out sage.

Posted on July 30, 2021