by contributing writer Mary Cressler
I try to keep my new year’s resolutions fairly simple each year. Things that are realistic and attainable. Like many people, I get stuck in wine ruts from time to time, relying on the same producers or varieties. This year I want to continue to challenge myself to try new wines.
I challenge you to do the same. Try wines you’ve never heard of or can’t pronounce. Ask questions at your local wine shop about new wine regions. Be curious and taste.
One way to do this is by choosing a wine to reflect the regional cuisine you are eating that evening. Eating foie gras? Try Bordeaux. Eating a flank steak? Try Argentinean Malbec. Personally, I make stuffed chicken dozens of ways, but my favorite is a reflection of one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting – Santorini, Greece.
Not only is Santorini the most awe inspiring place on the planet, it is home to some of the freshest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. The salads I ate with practically every meal were a reflection of the fresh ingredients that grow there. And hey, it’s New Years, what’s wrong with a little salad after a season of indulging!
I’ve been able to mimic the flavors that remind me of Greece and stuff them into a chicken breast, served alongside a Greek inspired salad. In Greece I was never served greens to accompany the salad, but since I like to hearty up a salad with fresh greens, I’ve added them to the ingredients you’ll find in a traditional salad.
Often when anyone thinks of Greece, they also think “feta.” It’s important to note that the typical salads you find there don’t have the super salty dried feta crumbles you see at most grocery stores here in the US. The cheese there is softer, rich in texture, and less salty. Trader Joes sells a pack of Authentic Greek Feta packed in brine that is pretty close to the real thing.
And being that it’s January, this is the perfect dinner if you’re focusing on eating a bit healthy post holidays. For me it’s not only a figure friendly dinner, but also the perfect reminder of an amazing trip and an excuse to drink, yes, Greek wine.
- 4 chicken breasts, butterflied or sliced in the middle to create a pocket prepped to stuff
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
- 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 tablespoons Greek style feta cheese chopped up
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 cup cucumbers, sliced thickly then cut into quarters
- ½ cup pitted Greek olive mix (kalamata and green)
- ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 thick slice Greek style feta cheese, broken into cubes (not crumbled)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep a large oven safe baking sheet or dish.
- Carefully slice each chicken breast with a small skinny sharp knife from thick end of breast creating a pocket in the middle. Be very careful to not allow the knife to cut through the breast, or the ingredients and juices will leak out. (You can also butterfly the chicken and stuff it that way.)
- In a small bowl, mix together the capers, olives, sun dried tomatoes, oregano, and feta. Quarter the portions.
- Spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons of the mixture into each chicken breast. Close the breasts with a toothpick so the stuffing doesn’t escape. Sprinkle each breast with a bit of olive oil, and liberally coat with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and let brown 2-3 minutes per side. Then transfer chicken breasts to baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the center or thermometer reads 165 degrees.
- Serve with the Greek salad.
- Place romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, red peppers, and onions in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the Dijon, red wine vinegar, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the vegetables. Add the feta and capers to the top.
As I mentioned above, a good way to try new wines is to focus on the cuisine. Eating Greek food? Try Greek wine. For this salad, I went searching for Assyrtiko from Santorini – the signature wine of the island.
Assyrtiko (pronounced A seer tee ko)
Assyrtiko is an incredibly fascinating grape producing full-bodied wines very high in acidity, strong in minerality, with aromas of citrus, and a salty/briny finish. An absolute perfect match for fresh tomatoes, briny capers, and salty olives.
Assyrtiko is thought to be the oldest known grape variety in all of Greece, where it is widely planted throughout the country. It is in Santorini, however, where it becomes its most special and displays its greatest expression through its signature minerality and acidity derived from the volcanic soils of Santorini.
When I went searching for Assyrtiko here in Portland, I came up empty handed –further proof that more people need to be experimenting with this unique variety. I asked the wine steward why they don’t carry any, and she said there is little interest in Greek wines here. No, it can’t be!!!! I then put in requests for them to seek out a few bottles.
In the meantime, I found an alternative Greek wine to try with the stuffed chicken (though not from Santorini).
Moschofilero (pronounced Mos ko fee le ro)
Grown widely in the Peloponnese region of Greece, this is a crisp and aromatic white wine with floral aromas (think rose and violets), spicy characteristics, and good acidity.
Try the 2012 Skouras Moscofilero, Peloponnese, Greece ($15)
Floral, fresh, and clean, with some honeysuckle aromas. It is zesty and crisp in the mouth with bright acidity and a slightly briny finish. It had enough acidity to stand up to the salty ingredients stuffed in the chicken and the aromatics balanced nicely with the fresh vegetables.
So, in 2014 I am challenging myself to continue to try new wines. And if you want to as well, start with these selections from Greece. It may take a bit of searching, but it will be worth it in the end!
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners.
She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.