Allegedly water does not run uphill, but cuisine certainly does. The French spread their cuisine and cooking styles far and wide through colonization, including to French Indochina. But some of the indigenous cuisine and concepts were certainly absorbed and disseminated in Paris. So Weekend in a French Kitchen’s examination of an Asian-inspired recipe this week should not have flummoxed me as it did initially.
Yep, you heard me correctly – no fancy, fussy, overly complex French food, but instead an uncomplicated Lacquered Chicken with Noodle Salad. While you might expect this from Martin Yen, in fact the recipe is featured in Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud Cookbook in the section “le voyage.” Daniel describes this dish as a casual Sunday afternoon meal where you eat with your elbows on the table (Emily Post would blush from this suggestion). But while I have acquired lacquered nails, furniture and jewelry boxes, and Sous Chef says he was frequently lacquered in college, I wondered if Daniel’s name for this recipe was pure whimsy or unerringly descriptive. From the photos, you will see it was the latter.
The allure of this recipe is the marinade, a blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, orange, ginger, garlic, and scallions. The marinade packs a flavorful wallop and has the commanding presence of an enlightened despot over the chicken and noodles. It also creates a wonderful, crispy, black protective coating reminiscent of the days when char-grilled was considered haute cuisine and not a health risk. In this case, the crispy skin was itself tasty while keeping in the flavors and juices of the meat. This is a winning dish, and the marinade is so good and versatile that I will experiment with other proteins like pork, shellfish, and beef.
As I have mentioned before, one of this cookbook’s many virtues is recommending a wine and/or spirit pairing for each dish. With this Asian-inspired dish, Daniel suggests having an off-dry Tokay Pinot Gris, probably to offset the slight heat of the marinade. At first I was perplexed since I generally consider Tokay a sweet dessert wine from Hungary. But with a little research I realized Daniel was undoubtedly referring to Alsatian Tokay, which is 100% Pinot Gris and is associated with Burgundy and not Hungary. Pinot Gris is one of the noble grapes of Alsace – others being Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. I paired the Lacquered Chicken with Noodle Salad with a 2011 Anne de K Schlossberg Grand Cru Pinot Gris from Alsace (Total Wine–$24.99). The wine was rounded, rich, and opulent, a little sweet, with a hint of spice. A very nice wine overall. But Sous Chef agreed that this particular version of Tokay was too sweet with this dish and we would have preferred a more crisp and dry Alsatian Pinot Gris.
Aurevoir and Bon Appetit until next week!