Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cakebread chicken, with orange and olives

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
kosher salt
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.


  1. Nice recipe, and I like the pairing of the food with Cakebread wines, which are delicious. Your post makes me want to migrate west!

  2. That recipe sounds good, I love oranges! And boy, that chili looked big! So what did you think of Bouchon?

  3. so jealous... NApa is on my must see list... 3 years till Jackie retires from her inconvenient day job and we are there!

  4. Your food photography skills have totally rocked lately. This looks fantastic. Like a poster from your pound cake entry, I wish I could bite my monitor and actually have some. We'll have to try it. Also - there's a Bouchon in Santa Barbara you should try sometime (not of the Thomas Keller ilk, though). That's another blissful CA destination, albeit a bit more of a trip than Napa.

  5. Nice photos and the recipe looks great. When I lived in the bay area (25 years ago), Cakebread was a tiny vineyard. A tasting consisted of an employee coming out with 4 different bottles of wine tucked in a basket and we'd sit at a picnic table. Glad to know it's still good.

  6. "requiring no chopping"--what beautiful words. :)
    i'm not much of a wine-drinker, but that's probably because i've never been properly instructed about pairings with food. all in due time, i hope!

  7. This is truly salivating meal! Gosh, I wish I could have that right now! The chicken looks so juicy delicious. yummm.... Hope you're having a wonderful day!
    Blessings, Kristy

  8. Jessica: Thanks! I love cakebread wines, they are among my favorites.

    Ben: Oh, I loved Bouchon. And the Bouchon Bakery. Good thing I don't live any closer.

    A Year: you will love Napa when you visit, it's a magical place!

    Ash: Thanks for the compliment on the photo--I actually wasn't sure about that one. I love SB...must get down there again one of these days.

    agrigirl: that sounds like a wonderful wine tasting experience too--even better, really.

    grace: yes, the lack of chopping was a selling point for this recipe for me!

    My Little Space: Oh thank you! Give it a try.

  9. I was lucky enough to visit Napa (but not a long enough visit!) 4 years ago on a visit to San Fran to see an old high school friend and celebrate our 40th birthdays. If I could have sold everything I owned and moved there that instant, I would have. It called my name...

  10. A boozy, happy life sounds pretty darn good to me. Don't apologize for it. Just enjoy it. ;)

  11. tamilyn: Yes, Napa has the effect on most people! :)

    CJ: You're right!

  12. Marvelous you live close enough to enjoy Napa! I wish I did!
    I've had the Cakebread wines...but have never seen the cookbook. If this delicious recipe is any example, I've been missing something! I love that thick glaze on the chicken.

  13. Sometimes you read something, and it's like you could have written it yourself. That's how I feel about your feelings on wine and partners, and the semi-joking about the happy, boozy life. If I ever end up living in SF, (and it is certainly a possibility) we definitely need to be friends. :)

  14. Barbara: I need to get to Napa more often...it's crime to only go once every few years!

    Camille: I totally know what you mean--I've felt that way about things you've written on your blog before too! It would be great if you moved to SF (although Paris seems way cooler)--I'm sure we'd be fast friends!

  15. We love Cakebread Wine but have only been to the cellars once. I'm totally gonna buy that book now!

  16. Sophie: Thanks! Give the chicken a try.

    Cookie: The book is great (even though I've only made one recipe so far)--it's beautiful and I am definitely going to start using it more.