David Kinch’s Grilled Chicken with a Corn-and-Tomato Side for Labor Day

Pull off a holiday meal like a pro with simple late-summer recipes from Manresa’s celebrated Bay Area chef

David Kinch’s Grilled Chicken with a Corn-and-Tomato Side for Labor Day
Several variations of this corn and tomato dish have been featured at Kinch's restaurants. The chef says to use as many different varieties of tomatoes and basil as you can find. (© Aya Brackett)
Aug 27, 2021

When most professional chefs get home after a long day at the restaurant, the last thing they want to do is cook. David Kinch, chef-owner of tasting-menu destination Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif., is an exception.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Orleans, Kinch has an especially strong affinity for the craft. He entered the restaurant industry at 16, initially as a dishwasher before progressing to kitchen tasks. He was instantly hooked. “It was really about the act of cooking, working with my hands, being creative. I found myself lost in it,” he says. “You would do a job well done, and people would appreciate it and enjoy your efforts, and I found that very satisfying.”

Kinch graduated from a culinary arts program at Rhode Island’s Johnson & Wales University and honed his craft in top restaurants around the world. He has built a jam-packed career, including opening Manresa in 2002, followed by the more casual Bywater and Mentone, and earning an Emmy Award for his feature on the PBS series Mind of a Chef. He and his team were also the subject of the 2020 documentary A Chef's Vogage.

Through it all, Kinch says that feeling of gratification “is a feeling that I started with, and it hasn't really left to this day.” His love of cooking is so thorough and genuine that he does it in his free time, too, even hosting dinner parties in his home for friends and staff.

“I felt so lucky to get to go to those parties. They were always a blast,” says Devin Fuller, who worked back-of-house positions at Manresa from 2017 to 2018. She was in awe that Kinch would spend his entire day off preparing for the feasts, and also in awe of the food he’d serve: Simple, homey dishes contrasting the sophisticated, tweezer-plated ones found at Manresa.

This sparked inspiration for a cookbook. “We thought it would be this great concept to teach what he knows and loves so much about cooking, and the way that it can bring people together through food and wine,” Fuller says. She and Kinch began chatting about the idea at those gatherings, and in March 2021, the duo published their co-authored project, At Home in the Kitchen.

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Devin Fuller (right) says working on David Kinch's cookbook involved lots of tastings and sharing leftovers with friends. "A pretty great process, I must say." (© Aya Brackett)

The collection of Kinch’s “day-off” recipes ranges from small plates and salads to pastas, entrées and “2 a.m. dinners” like grilled cheese and toasted baguette with dark chocolate, olive oil and sea salt. They’re easy and approachable, often with touches of ingenuity and refining techniques that hint at Kinch’s fine-dining background.

The cookbook is a fitting source for home chefs looking to impress guests at a holiday get-together without spending the whole day in the kitchen. For Labor Day, Kinch suggests leaning into late-summer flavors and ingredients with his garlic and ginger chicken, served with a side dish of creamed corn and tomatoes.

The chicken is ideal for grilling outside on a warm summer night, but can be cooked in an oven or skillet if necessary. It’s inspired by a marinade Kinch was introduced to while working at a New York restaurant in the 1980s. “I liked that it was a great marinade for the grill but it wasn't necessarily the usual suspects; the fact that it had so much ginger in it, I always found very appealing,” he says. “It permeates the meat, but it's not overwhelming. And it still lends itself really well to wine because of the smoky, grilled flavors.”

Rather than the chicken thighs being added directly to the marinade, a cheesecloth is placed in between to keep the solid particles of the oil-based marinade from sticking to the chicken. As Kinch explains in the book, “you get all the flavor of the marinade without ruining the look of a simple summer grilled chicken.” The thighs are grilled over a low, even heat and spend most of their cooking time on the skin side to render out the fat. “When the fat renders out of the chicken skin, then and only then will it become crispy.”

The side dish brings together what Kinch describes as “two of the most iconic summer ingredients.” It’s a salad of sorts, but one that’s more interesting than that label implies, juxtaposing cool, raw tomatoes and warm, creamy corn. “The foundation of the dish is the corn and the tomatoes, but you can add almost anything to it, and I have over the years,” Kinch says. It’s been on all his restaurants’ menus at one point or another, with additions including black olives, roasted peppers and basil oil. “You can even put bacon on it and make it kind of like a BLT salad.”

Since the dishes are inspired by dinner parties, each recipe in the cookbook is accompanied by a complementary song suggestion from a specially curated Spotify playlist. They’re cheekily meant to mimic the language of a wine pairing, but wine is also extremely important to Kinch, and it has been for decades. He had an after-school job stocking shelves at a wine shop when he lived in New Orleans, which led to some classes and the start of his own cellar collection. He later spent four months of the 1988 vintage working as a cellar rat at Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, picking grapes, washing barrels and racking bottles. He also spent a month working harvest in Sancerre in 1992. “I regard wine as an integral part of the table, certainly for the style of food that I cook,” he says.

That approach is evident in Manresa’s extensive wine program, which holds Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. Wine director Jim Rollston oversees the 700 selections, excelling in classic regions such as Burgundy, California and Germany.

For this feast, Rollston suggests Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco 2020, a white with textural richness and freshness, and Occhipinti SP68 2019, a light and vibrant red blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola. While Rollston picked the Alto Adige white and Sicilian red to pair with the corn and chicken, respectively, there’s a lot of room for mixing and matching since the recipes are intentionally versatile. Below, Wine Spectator shares additional options for fresh and bright wines from Italy, including both whites and reds. “It's not like you need to drink ‘X’ with these. You can have anything—whatever you have open—with almost everything in that book,” Kinch says. “So put on the music, cook the food, and then open what you have.”

“Pop corks!” Rollston chimes in, and Kinch agrees. “Yes! Pop corks and enjoy.”


Reprinted with permission from At Home in the Kitchen by David Kinch, copyright (c) 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.


Garlic and Ginger Grilled Chicken

 Chef David Kinch's garlic and ginger chicken on a wooden cutting board
Kinch says this ginger-forward marinade pairs especially well with chicken and with the smokiness imparted by the grill. (Aya Brackett)

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces garlic cloves, peeled (you can just buy the peeled kind)
  • 12 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil (cold-pressed preferred)
  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt

Preparation

1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the ginger and garlic until combined. Turn the speed to low and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a paste forms.

2. Scrape the paste into a pan on medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the oil separates and the mixture turns from smooth to grainy, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

3. Once cool, stir in the sesame oil and scrape into a dish large enough to hold all of the chicken thighs in one single layer. Drape a large piece of cheesecloth over the marinade. Place the thighs skin-side up on top of the cheesecloth and season liberally with pepper. Marinate the chicken in your refrigerator for 3 hours, flip, and marinate for another 3 hours.

4. When you’re ready to grill, remove the chicken from your refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before cooking. Build a pyramid shape with your coals, light them, and be patient. (Alternatively, turn a gas grill to low heat.) The key to a nicely grilled chicken is a low, even heat. When the coals are fully lit and about half of them have turned white, spread them into a single layer and wait for the coals to turn completely white with no red or orange glow.

5. Just before grilling, liberally season the chicken on both sides with salt. Place it skin-side down on the grates and grill until the fat renders and the skin crisps and turns brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Once the skin has crisped, flip and continue to grill until the chicken has cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Cooking times will depend greatly on the size of your chicken thighs, so take the timing as an estimate and make sure to keep an eye on things. Standing around the grill is part of the fun after all.

6. Transfer the grilled chicken to a serving platter and serve immediately.Serves 6.

Pairs well with “A Train, a Banjo, and a Chicken Wing” by Wynton Marsalis


Creamed Corn and Garden Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes of assorted shapes, sizes and colors
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large basil leaves (opal basil, Thai basil, or as many varieties as you can find), plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Kernels from 3 large ears corn (see note)

How to kernel corn: Fold a paper towel into quarters and set it at the bottom of a large bowl. This prevents the cob from slipping while you cut off the kernels. Place the flat side of the stem on the paper towel and hold the ear upright with your non-dominant hand. Cut off the kernels using a sharp knife. Once you’ve removed the kernels on all sides, remove the paper towel, flip the knife over and press the dull side along the empty cob to force out the corn’s juices.

Preparation

1. Cut the heirloom tomatoes into bite-size portions of all different shapes. Get creative!

2. Spread the cherry and heirloom tomatoes evenly onto your serving dish. Sprinkle with salt, a drizzle of olive oil, the Sherry vinegar, and a couple pinches of pepper.

3. Cut the basil into a chiffonade, which is a fancy-sounding name for a very simple cut. Stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them together lengthwise like a cigar. Slice thinly to make matchstick-size strips. Top the tomatoes with the basil, cover the entire dish in plastic wrap, and set aside to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, reduce the cream in a large, uncovered pot on medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. After about 10 minutes, the cream should have reduced by half and thickened to a frosting-like consistency. Turn the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer and add the corn and a healthy pinch each of salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. The corn will eventually release its water and thin out the cream.

5. Before serving, taste a tomato piece to check its salt level. Top with another pinch of flaky sea salt, if necessary. Scoop the hot corn over the tomatoes and garnish with a variety of basil leaves. Divide into bowls, scooping up the juices from the bottom of the dish and drizzling them over the top, and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

Pairs well with “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” by Stan Getz


Note: The following lists are selections of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

6 Textured and Bright Whites

CANTINA TERLANO

Alto Adige Cuvée Terlaner 2019

Score: 91 | $31

WS review: There's a crisp, lightly chalky tactile component to this light- to medium-bodied white, providing definition for the finely-knit flavors of nectarine, pink grapefruit zest, Honeycrisp apple and blanched almond. A racy version, with hints of ground anise, cardamom, graphite and mineral playing on the finish. Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. Drink now through 2026. 18,333 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


BASTIANICH

Chardonnay Venezia-Giulia Vini Orsone 2017

Score: 89 | $17

WS review: Hints of smoky grilled nut and salty mineral underscore flavors of crunchy apple and white peach fruit, candied lemon peel and star anise in this well-knit, light- to medium-bodied white. Fresh, snappy finish. Drink now through 2024. 2,500 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.


ALOIS LAGEDER

Chardonnay Alto Adige 2019

Score: 89 | $16

WS review: Minerally on the nose, with upfront smoke and stone notes that are more subtle on the palate, underscoring the crisp mix of crunchy pear, chopped almond and peach yogurt flavors. A racy, light- to medium-bodied Chardonnay, fresh and well-balanced. Drink now through 2024. 12,916 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.


LAVIS

Chardonnay Trentino 2019

Score: 88 | $13

WS review: A crisp and light-bodied Chardonnay, with a lively mix of Honeycrisp apple, pickled ginger, orchard blossom and wet stone. Fresh and fragrant on the minerally finish. Drink now. 14,000 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.

PAOLO SCAVINO

Langhe White Sorriso 2019

Score: 88 | $18

WS review: Perfumed, this white displays floral, apricot and grapefruit aromas and flavors. It's lively and leaves a mouthwatering impression. Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Viognier. Drink now. 3,000 cases made. From Italy.—Bruce Sanderson


PETER ZEMMER

Chardonnay Alto Adige

Score: 88 | $17

WS review: Pretty apple blossom and Asian pear aromas and flavors are set in this creamy, light-bodied white, layered with fresh acidity and accents of ground ginger, slivered almond and stony mineral. Drink now. 3,300 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.

5 Fresh Reds

FEUDO MONTONI

Nero d'Avola Sicilia Lagnusa 2017

Score: 90 | $22

WS review: This elegant red is medium-bodied and well-knit, with a hint of dried oregano layered with dried raspberry, rosehip and minerally iron flavors that show loamy earth accents. Light, taut tannins trim the well-spiced finish. Drink now through 2026. 10,000 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.


GRACI

Etna 2018

Score: 91 | $33

WS review: Rich, savory mineral notes of tarry smoke and loamy earth on the nose are layered with roasted plum, dried cherry and wild sage on the palate of this chewy, medium-bodied red. Fresh, lightly spiced finish. Drink now through 2026. 2,900 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.


TENUTA DELLE TERRE NERE

Etna 2019

Score: 91 | $25

WS review: A mouthwatering and well-knit red, with a pure chime of wild cherry and raspberry fruit. Light, taut tannins provide fine definition, framing the fruit flavors, accents of dried thyme and ground white pepper and minerally hints of iron and smoke that push through on the chewy finish. Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Drink now through 2026. 11,000 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.


FEUDI DEL PISCIOTTO

Nero d'Avola Sicilia Versace 2018

Score: 90 | $26

WS review: A lively, medium- to full-bodied red, with a savory underpinning of cured tobacco and smoke layered with blackberry and dried cranberry fruit flavors. Supple tannins firm the spiced finish. Drink now through 2026. 12,000 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.


PLANETA

Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2019

Score: 90 | $25

WS review: This lithe, silky red is light- to medium-bodied, with pretty sandalwood and violet accents to the pure cherry and raspberry fruit flavors, followed by hints of loamy earth and light herbs on the finish. Nero d'Avola and Frappato. Drink now through 2024. 6,650 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.

Food Cooking Holidays / Celebrations Restaurant Awards Summer

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