Monday, October 12, 2009

Chicken Three Ways

It's a cool rainy morning here in Atlanta and such weather brings the thought of comfort food. I am cooking a big pot of Roman beans today but it just so happens that one of the regulars here, Jim DeRosa, has bought himself a brand new Dutch oven and he has asked me for a recipe for cooking a chicken.

It was late last night when I saw his request so I had to wait until this morning to reply. Chicken in a Dutch oven can be as simple or as complicated as you wish but it is a wonderful way to cook a chicken and depending on the age of your bird it allows for adjusting the cooking time without the danger of getting a dry tasteless chicken. If you have an old bird then a little longer in the oven does the trick.

The problem I have is picking a 'best' recipe but I have settled on 3 which always turn out luscious and they run from simple to complex. All three are considered classics and everyone has their own variations. Here are my takes on Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Chicken Cacciatore, and Coq au Vin. If I had a chicken it would be one of these today instead of beans. Not that there is anything wrong with beans!

Let's start with the simple one:

Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer 3 - 4 pounds cut into 10 pieces(2 legs,2 thighs, two wings and two breasts cut in half) or you can use 4 thighs and two breast halves cut in half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme or a tablespoon of dried but fresh is best
40 peeled cloves garlic (don't short on the garlic because you think it is too much)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put all of the chicken pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with two tablespoons of olive oil sprinkle with the with salt and pepper and toss to cover. Coat the bottom of the Dutch oven with more olive oil and in two batches brown the chicken on both sides over high heat. Once the second batch is browned add back in the first batch of browned chicken and remove from heat. Add the half cup of olive oil, the thyme, and garlic cloves. Put the cover on the pan and put it in the 350 degree oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 or 10 minutes, and serve.

It sounds like a lot of garlic(and it is) but the slow cooking mellows it out and it is sweet and delicious. Try taking the roasted cloves and spreading them like butter on fresh bread.

Note: I sometimes add a cup of dry white wine at the beginning just for something different but with or without, it is good.

Chicken Cacciatore

You'll need:

Flour, to coat chicken
2 (2 - 3 pound or one 3 - 4 pound) chickens, cut into 8 pieces with the breasts cut in half
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
10 to 12 ounces cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced(you can use the white button mushrooms if you want but the cremini add a lot more flavor)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup dry white wine
1 cups chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with their juice, crushed or just use crushed tomatoes( if you can find San Marzano tomatoes I recommend them)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or less if you don't like spicy
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
6- 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces and dredge in flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add the chicken in batches and fry until golden brown on all sides. When all the chicken has been cooked, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until it just barely starts to brown--careful not to burn it. Add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, until they release most of their liquid. Add the onion and bell peppers and saute a couple of minutes.

Add the wine, chicken broth, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt, oregano and tomato paste. Return the chicken to the pot and bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes or an hour. Alternately, you can put the covered pot in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Stir in the fresh basil just before serving. If you need to, this pot will rest in a 200 degree oven for an hour with no problem.

This dish is meant to be eaten with pasta and actually is better when it is made one day and reheated the second.

Coq Au Vin

You'll need:

4 ounces pancetta, diced ( you can use bacon but it will give the dish a smoky flavor that is not traditional)
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths or you can do the 4 thighs and two breast halves cut in half thing if you don't cut up chickens
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 clove chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy (optional)
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy or Cabernet(the dish is from the Burgundy region of France so Burgundy is the best choice
1 cup chicken stock
10 fresh thyme sprigs or a level tablespoon of dried but try and use fresh
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 oz. frozen small whole onions
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced(you can use the white ones if that's all you have)
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the pancetta(or bacon) and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

While your pancetta cooks, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and liberally sprinkle with the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once the bacon is removed, brown the chicken on both sides in batches. This should take about about 5 minutes per batch. You are not trying to cook the chicken at this point just brown it so make sure your pan is nice and hot. Remove each batch of chicken to the plate with the pancetta and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the Cognac(if using and make sure to pour it into a separate container before adding as pouring a flammable liquid like brandy from the bottle into a pan on the fire is a big, big no no) then put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 45 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove over low heat.

Now we just need to add the finishing touches. First, you'll need to thicken the stew and the best way to do that is with a buerre manie which is simply 1 tablespoon of softened butter 1 and a half tablespoons flour mashed together to form a paste. Just stir this paste into the stew and it will do the job. Now you add the frozen onions. Finally, in a medium saute pan, in the last tablespoon of butter saute the mushrooms over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until they've browned. Add these to the stew and bring the pot to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Check your seasoning and adjust, if needed, and serve. This dish will wait in a 200 degree oven with no trouble if needed but not more than an hour.

This seems like a lot of work but it is really worth the little bit of effort. This works great with egg noodles, mashed potatoes or pan roasted potatoes.

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