Blueberry chicken never ever occurred to me – and, now I can’t get it out of my mind!
I’m not going to lie, but when Denise suggested we make her signature Balsamic Blueberry Chicken, I was skeptical. As a savory gal, the idea of a sweet main isn’t an easy sell. But, hot dam she knows what she’s doing. The dish is amazing – savory with only a hint of sweetness. Think sweet and sour.
And, it makes for a fun chicken wine pairing challenge. My suggestion is something fresh red and black fruits…sigh, just heaven.
Highlights from my lesson in how to make Denise’s Balsamic Blueberry Chicken:
- We use bone-in chicken thighs for this recipe. You want them split, so if your butcher doesn’t do it for you, it’s actually quite easy to do at home. Denise taught me to do it via video chat! I think that says more about her teaching skills than my abilities – ha! Certainly awkward at first – how do you want me to bend that thigh!? Hilarity ensued – but, I did it and was beyond excited to learn such intimidating knife skills! Now, your turn:
- How to cut a chicken thigh: First, make sure the thigh is completely dry so it doesn’t slip out of your hands. Next, bend the drumstick from the thigh to identify where the joint attaches. You don’t want to end up with bone bits in your blueberry chicken. A filet knife lets you easily cut along the bones without damaging the meat. Put the chicken on the cutting board, skin side up, and make your cut. Then, turn over and finish on the other side.
- Denise explains that it’s important to use bone-in chicken because it gives extra flavor and moisture. If you did it with boneless chicken, it cooks too quickly and dries out. Also, the bone helps cook from the inside.
- For this recipe, the two-hour marinade time also serves to add moisture and flavor – don’t skip this step!
- If you don’t have the time (or inclination) to make the chutney from scratch, turn blueberry preserves into chutney with Denise’s handy “doctoring” recipe. But note that the chutney (from scratch or doctored) is essential.
- The blueberry vinegar is easy to make but you have to make it a few days in advance. It is a simple as adding fresh blueberries to hot white wine vinegar and then letting it steep for a few days. If you don’t have time, you can use red wine vinegar with pretty darn good results. I used red wine vinegar.
- Leftover ideas:
- The chicken’s flavor makes it great to use cold as a salad topper.
- It’ll go great in risotto with light reheating.
- I made stock from the bones and am excited to use that in my next risotto for a fun flavor addition.
After the recipe, read on for blueberry chicken wine pairing tips!
Denise's Balsamic Blueberry Chicken
- ½ cup Blueberry vinegar; red wine vinegar works if you don’t have blueberry vinegar
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 whole chicken (2½ to 3 pounds), quartered or cut into pieces OR 8 chicken thighs only
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cup blueberry chutney (recipe below)
- 1 TBS chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, for garnish
Doctored Blueberry Chutney
- 1 pint Blueberry preserves (or 500 grams), (make sure it is a chunky type, not jelly)
- ¼ cup blueberry or red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp ground clove
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
Finishing the chicken for the last 15 minutes of baking
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 TBS brown sugar
- 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
- leftover marinade
- 2 TBS chutney
From Scratch Blueberry Chutney
- 1 lb fresh blueberries, ideally wild blueberries - not the cultivated gigantic ones with no flavor
- 1 envelope pectin 2:1 (this means half the sugar needed to make preserves)
- 2½ lb sugar
- ¼ cup blueberry vinegar
- ½ cup very fine sugar
- 1 tsp ground clove
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- Making the Blueberry Vinegar (must be done a week in advance or use Red Wine Vinegar instead):
- In a medium saucepan, heat gently a quart of white wine vinegar. Turn off the heat. Add a small basket of fresh blueberries to the hot vinegar and allow to cool before putting into a clean bottle. Allow to steep for a week before using it.
Making the doctored Blueberry Chutney (see From Scratch Blueberry Chutney recipe below):
- Mix together all the ingredients: blueberry preserves, vinegar, ground clove, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom.
Making the Blueberry Chicken:
- Pre-heat oven to Bake at 350° F / 175° C.
- 2 hours ahead of time, marinate the chicken in the ½ cup of blueberry vinegar and thyme. Put back in the refrigerator until ready to bake but do not leave overnight or the chicken will take up too much vinegar.
- Remove the chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve the marinade for later. Put in a well oiled baking dishes. Smear each piece of chicken with a generous spoonful of blueberry chutney.
- Bake 350° F / 175° C. for 40 minutes.
Finishing and making the sauce:
- Mix the remaining marinade with the 1 cup white wine, 1 generous TBS of light brown sugar, 1 TBS balsamic vinegar, and 2 TBS of chutney.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and pour the rest of the marinade mixture around the chicken and a bit on top. You don’t want to remove the glaze on the chicken so be careful with spooning the marinade on top. Bake for another 20 minutes at 375° F / 190° C. Check often to make sure the glaze is not getting too dark. If it seems like the glaze is darkening, turn the oven down 10 degrees. The sauce should come to a good bubble. Check the chicken by piercing the thigh close to the bone. The juices should run clear.
- Taste the sauce and adjust as needed. If it seems too sparky, add a bit of brown sugar.
From scratch Blueberry Chutney recipe:
- First make the preserves: Mix the fresh blueberries, the sugar, and pectin together in a pot that is large and deep enough to allow the mixture to boil very vigorously for 3 minutes. Bring to a boil and set a timer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure the bottom does not stick. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool, stirring once or twice to make sure any scum is mixed back in. Allow it to set for 2 days.
- Then the Chutney: Take the preserves and heat gently. Add the vinegar, sugar, and spices. Mix thoroughly to make sure the sugar dissolves completely.
- Taste and make sure the balance between sweet and sour and spice is to your liking. I prefer mine with quite a bit of spice and a good bite from the vinegar, so depending on how fresh your spices are, you can even add another ½ tsp of allspice as I like to do.
Chicken Wine Pairing – y’all ready for this!?
Like our previous exploits with risotto, chicken is a super versatile protein, when it comes to wine pairing. With chicken, you want to consider a few things:
- Cooking style: The different styles give different flavors. With a whole roast chicken with herbs and simple lemon or orange, I like a nice full-bodied white like a White Burgundy or Alsatian Riesling. Or, try a medium / light-bodied red like nebbiolo or pinot noir. For BBQ, the smoke and spice give an opportunity for wine with some kick, like a Spanish granacha. Fried chicken works wonderfully with Champagne or other champagne-style wines – Franciacorta would be a great option with the richness. The acidity and complexity of these wines is magic with fried chicken.
- Flavors and textures: For creamier dishes, you want something with a bit of acidity to cut through. And, richer, hearty flavors, go nicely with a medium-bodied red, dry riesling, or a hefty chardonnay. Also, lighter meat like from breast tends to go best with a fresh white while dark meat is going to do better with things like nebbiolo, pinot noir, and granacha.
The night we made the dish, I went for a Roccalini Barbaresco — utter perfection. And, the day after I did a piece with lunch paired with Principiano’s Belen Extra Brut metodo classico (100 percent barbera), also lovely.
Blueberry Chicken wine pairings:
Roccalini Barbaresco DOCG Roccalini 2016
I chose this wine because Stefano of La Vite Turchese raves about it. He was so excited to put in our second wine offer, so I just had to give it a swirl.
The winemaker, Paolo Veglio, took over from his father who up until 2005 sold his fruit to Bruno Giacosa and Gaja. They make the only Barbaresco from the Roccalini cru with about 7000 bottles produced a year. Denise said it’s also one of her favorites, so I simply had to try it. The wine has a silky elegance with gorgeous notes of balsamic, blueberry, and blackberries, making it a fantastic wine pairing with the blueberry chicken. So much complexity, yet so amazing to drink so young.
Principiano Belen Extra Brut metodo classico
I’ve been intrigued to try this since my early days here. We visited Principiano during one of our first wine tours and they had their first vintage of Belen in process. I’d never heard of a sparkling barbera, so I was super interested. The wine is light and fruity with red and black fruits – blackberry notes went nicely with the blueberry chicken. And, the wine throws just a hint of salinity, which I adore in a sparkling, especially with a lip-smacking dish like this one.
Instagram post is from the Principiano visit on 13 September 2013 when the first vintage of Belen was riddling!
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Updates! The Wine Offers:
I’m happy and sad to announce that the Roccalini Barbaresco is nearly done in our second offer, so if you want some (or if you need more), do it now and we’ll also get you on a list for the 2017 vintage, which should release soon. Stefano is getting me another Barberesco to add to the list this week, so stay tuned! It will be similar so I’ll add it to the pairing section of the blueberry chicken pairing recipe as soon as I’ve experienced it!
We’ve got a couple more offers coming up, but for now, here’s what we’ve got for you: