An Introduction Perfect Pairings, Part II: Poultry

An Introduction Perfect Pairings, Part II


Welcome back!  We talked about beef and steak pairings before, and a natural progression for us is to move on to pairings for different kinds of poultry.  If you have not read our article on beef pairings, check it out!  We are sure you will be thrilled with the opportunity to learn more about making your favorite meats even better!

            Thanks for joining us today!  We are revisiting the subject of pairing foods with other foods – specifically today, we are going to get into the idea of pairing your poultry with soups, salads, appetizers, veggies and starches, desserts, and your choice of beer or wine.  Since we are going to take it that you probably read our last article on beef pairings, we are certain that you know what to expect.

            That being said – let’s just jump right in!


Common poultry

Common poultry

            While most people immediately think of chicken when they are considering a poultry dish, this can be Cornish game hen, turkey, or other birds that are commonly eaten.  It is a broad category, and therefore this list will be far from complete.  That being said, consider different options and different recipes as you move forward throughout this journey.

            To keep this simple, while we know these pairings can be easily altered depending on the poultry used, in this case we are going to consider chicken, as it is common and easy for most people to understand.


            Chicken can often be lighter in flavor, and sometimes (depending on the cut and how it is prepared), the chicken will taste primarily like sauces and seasonings used to accent the flavor. 

            This point being considered, you want a stronger flavored salad.  We recommend a hearty salad; use kale as a base, add in a little bit of arugula or romaine lettuce for a difference in texture, and add in some almonds, a light sprinkle of parmesan, and if you are feeling gutsy you can add some dried cranberries to it.  For dressing, your choice should be a simple vinaigrette; a lemon-based vinaigrette, or a class balsamic would go well with this particular salad. 

            If you are looking for something less complementary and more in keeping with a theme of light flavors, a butter lettuce salad with olives (and maybe a small amount of fish protein, such as salmon) and a light vinaigrette will go a long way as a palate pleaser. 

IMPORTANT – Make sure to rinse, break, and massage and heavy dark greens that you are using for raw salads to keep them from being bitter.  Nothing will ruin a good salad faster than a bitter aftertaste!


            Where chicken is often lighter in flavor, we saw that you have an option of going either complementary or in a similar fashion with your salad, you will want to choose a soup that is in contrast with the salad used.

            Make sense?  Probably not… so let’s explain!

            If you are going with a lighter salad, then you might want to serve something that really drives home some flavor.  In this case, it is possible that a Hungarian mushroom soup will go well.  If mushrooms are not your thing, then there is also the possibility that you would be more interested in a strongly flavored chowder… corn and potato chowder with some cheddar mixed in is a personal favorite!

Rich and sumptuous seafood chowder

Rich and sumptuous seafood chowder

            If you are going with a strongly flavored salad, it might be time to bring it back a bit, as you want to ensure that the flavor of the chicken main dish is going to be the best thing that you are serving.  That being said, a butternut squash soup, or a wild rice and mushroom soup would go very well as a complement.

            For the soup and salad combination, just like was mentioned with beef, it is wisdom to serve the salad first.  However, for good food pairings, make sure to serve whatever is going to be your stronger flavored dish first… this lets the diner “cool off” and cleanse the palate with the light flavored dish before diving right into what is to come next.


            The idea of serving bread with chicken is a solid add-on to any main course.  However, what was mentioned before where sauces and add-ons were considered are brought to light, it is possible for your chicken to be of nearly any taste and texture… you will want to serve a different bread with a fried cutlet slathered in marinara sauce than you do with a cut of roasted breast meat, and this will be different from the bread you would serve with a chicken that is covered in cheddar, Monterey Jack, bacon, and scallions.

            This being said, if you are serving chicken with any kind of sauce (including gravy), you may just want to consider a white bread, such as Italian or sourdough.  If the chicken is served plain and dry, you might want to serve a light grains bread with it, such as a classic multi-grain bread, or a light rye.

            When you are serving chicken that is lightly flavored; not covered in sauces, but not dry, you can consider almost any bread type depending on taste and texture.  In this instance, the lighter flavors create an opportunity for you to be highly creative!  Take advantage of this!


            While there are times that you will want to serve an appetizer that is complementary to the main course, since the flavor of chicken is often so light you are probably going to want to keep the flavor of the appetizer light, as well.  You do not want the appetizer to become the star of the show, so do not put yourself in a position where that is even a risk!

            For appetizers, think fresh… I personally like cherry peppers stuffed with mozzarella cheese, especially with some light Italian dressing added on.  Another option would be lightly flavored crab dip to be served with some lightly flavored crackers (or your bread of choice).  A bruschetta would also go well served alongside a chicken dish.

            Main Course.

            When we are talking about chicken, flavors are often pretty light, so you probably want something that matches up with the lighter flavor, and something that is just a little bit stronger, but in a different way, so that the flavor of your meat dish really carries through.  (We know that flavors do not HAVE to be light – but this is an easy how-to, not an in-depth on fine dining for the connoisseur)


            For starches, if you are doing an Italian dish of any kind, you will want to serve pasta, just as a given.  In many other cases, you can serve potatoes, though you will probably be better off serving some type of a grain.  Rice, quinoa, or orzo make excellent options.  You could also do a combination of these, and you can create a pilaf if you want to.  You may also flavor the grains in a manner that complements the lighter flavor of your chicken.


            For vegetables, there are so many selections to serve with chicken.  We could recommend Brussel sprouts, buttered cauliflower, asparagus, and carrots go well if heavily flavored with coriander. 

            When it comes to vegetables with chicken, almost anything will work, but it is a matter of matching the flavors.  The Brussel sprouts and asparagus are suggested because they have a strong flavor much different than the chicken flavor, and the others are flavored with other strong tastes to offset a light-tasting vegetable.

            Overall, pick a way to offer a flavor that is stronger, but unlike the flavor of your chicken.  This is possibly the best opportunity you will have when serving chicken to offer a complement.


            Unlike beef, when you are serving chicken you are serving a meat that is lighter and offers a different flavor profile.  While you can, much like with the vegetables, select almost any dessert based on your overall preparation of the chicken, there are specific desserts that may just work better.

            A personal favorite is always ice cream…  we love ice cream.  Now, if you have ever had vanilla ice cream served with a cinnamon sauce, you know that it is divine.  The ice cream in this case could be served either fried or not, and with whip or not, but the vanilla flavor matches well with the light flavor of the chicken, and the cinnamon offers just a little extra to please your palate.  This selection would be a definite win!

            Other options can include chocolate cake, multi-layer or lava (lava please), or a hearty cheesecake would also go wonderfully.

            Again, the sky is the limit here…. Make sure to try different flavors and textures but find something that you like that matches up beautifully as a post-dinner treat.

            Wine Pairing. 

            While we have been focusing on chicken for this section, this is one point where we do need to separate from that.  As a rule, when you are serving a white/lighter poultry, such as chicken, turkey, or Cornish game hen, you will serve a white wine.  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and White Zinfandel.  There are also instances where red wines will go well with your lighter poultries; if there is a heavy sauce of any kind then a red wine may be perfect (Chicken Masala, anyone?).

            A darker poultry, such as duck or goose, will require a red wine. Pinot Noir, Red Zinfandels, and Grenache wines come out ahead of the competition.  However, do not discount a white Riesling when serving darker poultry.

            Finally, rosé wines are a good selection for anyone that is not quite sure what to serve and wants to ensure that either end of the flavor profile is hit.  While this might not be quite as good as what would be the perfect pairing, it can often work better than either a white or a red when the perfect win pairing is not available.

            Beer Pairing.

             If I don’t say it, someone will be offended, so I am going to say it…

            If you ever have a wings and Budweiser night, then you have discovered the basis of pairing chicken and beer.

            You just might have also identified why most Americans are unhealthy and considered uncouth in many other nations and cultures, but that is another story for another time…

            Anyway, when you are pairing beer with poultry, this will be similar to pairing wine with poultry.  If you are going to be serving a heavier poultry, such as duck or goose, then you will want a heavier beer, such as a lager, brown ale, or a porter.  If you are going to go with a lighter type of poultry, you may want to consider a pilsner, a pale ale, or a little-known witbier. 

            If you want to strike a fine balance between your sides and your poultry, consider the balance of an amber ale, which should go well with any poultry option.

And that is that!

            Alright – we have touched upon the subject of poultry pairing… very lightly.  This post is about 1700 words or so, but trust us, an entire book could be written on this exact topic!

            If you like the idea of pairings, let us know as soon as possible, and we will be happy to come up with specific pairings that you have in mind.  Do you love a specific dish, or a specific dessert, and you want to know what to do with it?

            Hey… we can provide that info.  And don’t forget that these are “typical American” pairings and food orders – if you want pairings with a little more “je ne sais quoi”, then let us know that you would be interested in a book on pairings and the makings of fine dining!

            Enjoy your weekend, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!