I don't mean to be braggy, because there are lovely things about living almost anywhere, but one of the best things about living in the Bay Area is that you can drive to Napa Valley for the afternoon. In just over an hour, you can be winding through some of the most gorgeous terrain in the world, headed toward the home of the French Laundry and vineyard upon vineyard.
A few years ago, the husband and I stayed in Yountville for a few days (at this wonderful place). While an afternoon trip is great, staying for a night or two is even better. First of all, you can eat in any number of delicious restaurants (like Bouchon, which I've been dreaming of ever since). Second, you can spend all day drinking wine without worrying about driving home.
I'm not sure when I realized it, but not drinking wine would be a deal-breaker for me in a potential partner. I get that there are all kinds of perfectly understandable reasons why someone would not or could not drink. I know this, and it's none of my business. But, I would find it incredibly difficult to be married to someone who didn't get giddy about wine.
Luckily, the husband also shares this standard, and together we live a boozy, happy life. (Oh, I'm kidding...sort of.)
Anyway, on this trip we visited a number of vineyards, including Merryvale, Caymus, and Cakebread Cellars. Not only do they make all kinds of delicious wines at Cakebread, but the grounds are stunning, which we enjoyed on a leisurely tour. At the end of our visit, I bought the Cakebread cookbook. It's a beautiful book I've poured over many times, but I am embarrassed to say I had not made a single thing from it until this weekend, when I decided to make orange-braised chicken with bay leaves and black olives.
The wait was worth it. This is a simple recipe, requiring no chopping, that comes together in less than an hour. I used chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken, and kalamata olives instead of oil-cured (because that's what I had; oil-cured would have been better, and prettier). Served over Moroccan couscous with almonds and currants, it was a quick and elegant dinner I'm certain to revisit.
Orange-braised chicken with bay leaves and black olives
from The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook
Serves 4 to 6
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small fryer chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
freshly ground black pepper
1 c. fresh orange juice
1/4 c. dry white wine
2 bay leaves (they recommend Turkish over California)
3 small dried red chiles
1/2 c. pitted oil-cured black olives, soaked in water for one hour
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottom stainless steel saute pan or skillet over high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, until browned. Transfer the breast pieces only to a plate. Push the remaining chicken pieces to one side of the pan and pour out any oil. Add the orange juice and wine to the pan and decrease the heat to low. Tuck the bay leaves and chiles between the chicken pieces. Cook, covered, on a low simmer for 10 minutes. Return the chicken breasts to the pan and cook for 10 more minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate and increase the heat to high. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the liquid becomes thick and syrupy. Return the chicken to the pot and toss to coat with the sauce. Add the olives and cook for 1-2 minutes. Serve hot.
Enjoy with Cakebread Cellars Rubaiyot, Napa Valley Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir.