Accidental white wine sauce
About two weeks ago, I used some Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris for a leek recipe, with the plan that the Butter Bitch would use the rest to make risotto the following night. Our plans went awry, and by the time we returned to the wine, it had gone vinegary and was not fit to drink or use in risotto. We could salvage it for something, maybe, but the question was, "What?"
Cooper Mountain has practiced organic and biodynamic methods since 1990. Their pinot gris is a good, mid-range wine with a tart, citrusy palate and a floral nose. It would be a shame to waste the wine.
Thanksgiving came and went, as did the week following the long holiday. The wine still was in our fridge, corked and turning more acidic and tart. Saturday's meal was nothing eventful - a stir fry, using some canned goods and carrots, and rice. I planned to add chicken to the mix, and on a whim decided to cook it in the white wine.
I cut two chicken breasts into large cube shapes and dropped them into a large sauce pot with a few lumps of butter - call it 4 tablespoons - and let them cook on one side for a couple of minutes on medium heat. I flipped over the bird bits, poured in the wine, which amounted to almost an entire bottle, and threw in two tablespoons of powdered ginger for good measure. I covered the mix and let it simmer for several minutes while I dealt with the stir fry.
I drained off the wine-butter and stored it in the refrigerator, using the chicken chunks in what became a red curry. We had coconut milk from who knows when, and red curry sauce that was discovered in the back of the fridge and was still good. The stir fry and rice were taken to the house of a friend who just moved into our neighborhood and lacked furniture, groceries, or very much by way of cooking utensils.
Two nights later, the wine was put to use a second time. This time, I sauteed garlic in a deep pan, browned chicken on either side, and poured the wine-butter liquid over the chicken. The effect of simmering the wine with chicken on two occasions was that the process extracted chicken fat and flavor. The sauce seemed a little heavy, so I added some white wine vinegar from the cupboard. I let the chicken simmer for ten or so minutes, while I attended to other matters in the kitchen.
Removing the chicken to a warm spot, I cranked up the heat and reduced the sauce by 1/3, then dropped the heat down to medium low. Several large pinches of flour were whisked into the sauce, thickening it and requiring the addition of more butter when I added just a bit too much flour.
Ideally, the flour is whisked into the liquid and thickens it, but does not clump. If you see clumps of flour, you have too much flour. A little butter will thin the mixture, but don't overdo it, or you will enter a vicious cycle of butter- and flour-adjustment. I once ended up with three gallons of turkey gravy through just such a mistake, having started with a mere quart of liquid.
Two tablespoons of chopped tarragon countered the richness of the sauce with a clean, subtle herbaceous flavor that was reminiscent of early spring. Not only did the herb counter the heavy combination of flour and butter, but it took our minds away from the cold of late autumn.
We had the chicken, draped with a light brown layer of sauce, with steamed vegetables, and enjoyed the wine that accidentally made its way into three meals and ended as lovely sauce.
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