A Tasty Picnic Plan, with Chardonnay, for Memorial Day
Try these easy, portable recipes and pair them with chilled Chardonnay as summer (unofficially) rolls in
Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and it's time to take the party outdoors. Though summer entertaining calls for a decidedly casual approach, there's still a place for delicious, thoughtfully prepared food and well-chosen wine as you usher in the summer season.
The day (or morning) before your guests arrive, prepare the Paprika Chicken and Sweet Potato Spears (recipes below), both of which retain their great taste when chilled or served at room temperature. Add some bakery-fresh baguettes or herbed flatbread, gussied-up hard-boiled eggs, dried or sliced fruit and some chocolate-chip cookies (and a stash of napkins), and you've got an easy, delicious picnic suitable for the deck, the meadow or even the high seas.
To drink, choose a Chardonnay: light enough to refresh, yet complex enough to stand up to the subtle spice in the chicken and potatoes. We've included a list of 14 recently rated selections below, from a diverse set of countries and states: Argentina, Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa and Washington.
- 2 chickens, each about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, giblets and neck removed
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 cup chicken broth
1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Rinse the chickens inside and out, and pat dry. Brush the skin with the oil, and season the chickens inside and out with salt, pepper and paprika. Gently loosen the skin around the chicken breasts, and slide 1 tablespoon of butter under the skin on each breast half. Using a paring knife, poke a hole in the skin of the cavity just below each leg, and gently tuck the end of each leg into its corresponding hole.
2. Place the chickens breast-side up on a roasting pan fitted with a rack, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, basting once or twice with the juices, fat and broth in the pan. Increase the oven temperature to 450° F (which may create some smoke, so keep your exhaust fan engaged or a window cracked), and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, until the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh, or when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170° F. A 4-pound chicken will take about 1 hour; add 8 minutes for each additional pound.
3. Let the chickens cool completely, then remove the legs from the body and cut them in half, between the thigh and drumstick. Cut the breasts from the body, then cut each into 4 to 6 pieces, taking care to retain the skin. Dust with additional paprika if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.
Sweet Potato Spears
Everyone loves sweet potato fries fresh from the fryer or oven. Did you know that they also taste great cold or at room temperature, making them a great picnic food? We season them lightly with cumin and chili powder, to keep the flavor lively without overpowering the wine. Experiment with your favorite spices and herbs.
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch thick sticks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Toss the sweet potatoes, oil, salt and spices together in a large bowl, making sure that each piece is well-coated with oil and spices. Arrange the sweet potatoes in an even layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet.
2. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning the sweet potatoes once about halfway through. They should be very tender and browned, with caramelized edges. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 8.
14 RECOMMENDED CHARDONNAYS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Note: The following list is a selection of wines from recently rated releases priced at $20 or less. More Chardonnays can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
CONCHA Y TORO Chardonnay Limarí Valley Marqués de Casa Concha 2009 Score: 90 | $18
Superfresh, with vibrant tangerine, yellow apple and heather notes backed by nice cut on the mineral-filled finish. A deliciously unadorned style. Drink now through 2012. 21,000 cases made. From Chile. —J.M.
DE WETSHOF Chardonnay Robertson Bon Vallon 2009 Score: 89 | $16
Ripe but focused, delivering creamy yellow apple and melon notes nicely framed by verbena and honeysuckle. Stylish finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made. From South Africa. —J.M.
BOGLE Chardonnay California 2009 Score: 88 | $10
Fresh, intense and vibrant, with sweat pea, green apple, melon and honeysuckle notes that are full-bodied, ending with a clean, crisp finish. The best of three bottles tasted. Drink now through 2014. 250,000 cases made. From California. —J.L.
GREG NORMAN ESTATES Chardonnay Eden Valley 2009 Score: 88 | $15
Smooth, with well-modulated pear, peach and spice flavors that remain deftly balanced through the finish. Drink now through 2014. 22,000 cases made. From Australia. —H.S.
VERAMONTE Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Reserva 2009 Score: 88 | $12
Bright, with a mix of ripe green melon and pear fruit offset by tangy green apple and floral notes, followed by a lively finish. Drink now. 15,000 cases made. From Chile. —J.M.
ARTESA Chardonnay Carneros 2009 Score: 87 | $18
Alluring for its creamy texture and complex mix of vanilla, orange blossom, spice and tangerine flavors. Full-bodied, spicy and elegant. Drink now through 2014. 23,000 cases made. From California. —J.L.
WATERBROOK Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008 Score: 87 | $11
Light and tangy, this white is crisp with lemony acidity, picking up apple and spice notes on the sharp-edged finish. Drink now through 2013. 14,500 cases made. —H.S.
COLUMBIA CREST Chardonnay Washington Two Vines 2008 Score: 86 | $8
Spicy, with a light feel to the pear and nutmeg flavors, lingering on the crisp finish. Drink now. 130,000 cases made. From Washington. —H.S.
BODEGAS ESMERALDA Chardonnay Mendoza Tilia 2009 Score: 86 | $9
Spicy pineapple and tangerine aromas and flavors are backed by vibrant acidity, with a touch of chalky mineral chiming in on the finish. Drink now. 25,000 cases made. From Argentina. —N.W.
HOBNOB Chardonnay Vin de Pays d'Oc 2008 Score: 86 | $11
A creamy, ripe-tasting white, showing flavors of meringue and marzipan flavors along with rich, spicy notes, which linger on the juicy finish. Drink now. 35,000 cases imported. From France. —K.M.
MEZZACORONA Chardonnay Vigneti delle Dolomiti 2010 Score: 86 | $9
An easy-drinking Chardonnay, with bright, juicy acidity framing the pear, yellow apple and vanilla notes, adding a nice snap to the wine and its finish. Drink now through 2013. 250,000 cases made. From Italy. —A.N.
VIÑA SANTA RITA Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Reserva 2009 Score: 86 | $12
Ripe and forward, with apple, pear and piecrust notes backed by a rounded, lightly buttered finish. Drink now. 18,000 cases made. From Chile. —J.M.
OXFORD LANDING Chardonnay South Australia 2010 Score: 85 | $10
Light and appealing for its pretty apple and pear fruit. This lingers easily on the silky finish. Drink now. 13,000 cases imported. From Australia. —H.S.
SUR ANDINO Chardonnay Central Valley Terra Andina 2009 Score: 85 | $9
Forward and friendly, offering good pear and fig notes backed by a hint of green apple skin, which keeps this honest. Drink now. 33,000 cases made. From Chile. —J.M.