Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ancho Chile Chicken Braise

There's something comforting about the aroma of roasting chicken on snowy winter's evening. Mine bubbles in the oven with onions, celery and carrots. It is a bone chilling cold outside my window. The kitchen smells maddeningly good. And warm. Potatoes boil, sounding like a boiling cauldron. It's the happy sound of the mash to come. I slow-roast garlic in olive oil to add to the mash. 

The chicken starts out as a Mexican style roast. Then I find a recipe in the New York Times which sounds intriguing. A change here and a modification there and voila, I concoct a Latin American style braised chicken. I marinate the bird in spices. It sits overnight, steeping in its marinade, perfuming the fridge. The new recipe weaves its magic. It makes me rethink my roasting process. It calls for a wet roast technique, braising thighs and legs in a chicken broth on high heat in the oven. Browning chicken with skin on is something I never do. But I dutifully follow the chef's instructions. Then I follow the other fork in the road. Stove top browned legs and thighs swim in wine and herby chicken stock. Oven braising lets the meat cook succulent. I let it hang out in the oven for while and then finish the braise on an open flame. The sauce thickens with a butter-flour roux as I make mashed potatoes. Kale spits and splutters in the oven while I lay the table for dinner.

Serves 3-4

6 Chicken Legs and Thighs 
1 tablespoon Ancho Chile powder
1 teaspoon Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1/2-3/4 cup Flour
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil
3/4 cup White Wine
1 tablespoon Butter
1 Onion
2 Celery stalks
4 Carrots
2 cloves Garlic
1 Bay leaf
4-5 Thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon Butter, softened
2 teaspoons Flour

Wash and dry chicken pieces. Place in a bowl.

Sprinkle ancho chile powder, oregano, onion, garlic and cumin powder, salt and 1 teaspoon olive oil over chicken. Rub spices into chicken and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight for best results.

Bring chicken to room temperature. 

Heat remaining olive oil in an oven proof skillet on high heat.

Coat chicken pieces with flour. Dust off excess flour and brown pieces in hot oil. Let chicken sit undisturbed for 5 minutes and then turn and brown for a further 5 minutes till golden and crisp. Remove chicken from hot oil and keep aside on a platter.

Deglaze hot skillet with white wine letting it boil while stirring to mix in all the browned bits. Pour hot liquid into a bowl. 

While chicken browns, halve, peel and dice onion.

Cut celery into small chunks.

Cut carrots into large chunks.

Thinly slice garlic cloves.

Heat oven to 350F.

Put skillet back over a medium flame. 

Add butter and let it sizzle.

Saute onions, celery and carrots in hot butter for 5 minutes till soft.

Add garlic, bay leaf and thyme to onions.

Nestle fried chicken into onions.

Pour chicken stock and white wine liquid over chicken.

Season with salt and pepper.

Once liquid has come to a slow boil, place skillet in oven and braise uncovered for 35 minutes.

Mash soft butter and flour to form a roux.

Take skillet out of the oven and place over a medium flame.

Drop bits of butter-flour mixture into the sauce. Stir well to mix.

Let sauce thicken for a few minutes more to cook out the flour taste.

Plate the chicken with  mashed potatoes.

This is an eagerly awaited meal.  The inviting aroma brings the family to the table. Fork-tender chicken snuggles next to garlicky mashed potatoes and crisp kale on my plate. It's wholesome, toothsome, just a lot of so some good! A lot of 'hmms' at the table. The wine from the braise pairs adequately with the meal. The original recipe tells you to skim chicken fat off the surface. Mine has just a sheen, no pools of schmaltz. The chef must have found a fatty bird. My chicken seems to be on a diet!! And now that you have the skinny, I hope this inspires you to read, absorb and walk your own kitchen path.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bacon Wrapped Prunes

Another year gone and I am slicing and dicing my way into the new one. This time I am in supervisory role. The kids need appetizers for their respective New Years Eve parties. Shauna makes an old standby, prunes wrapped in bacon. This riff from a much more elaborate version that Noel Louis makes, is easy, but messy. Bacon needs to be quartered. Grease transfers to any surface you touch. You squoosh plump prunes into a strip of bacon to make neat parcels secured with fancy skewers. See. There's nothing to it except  bacon grease on your hands!

Noel makes these tasty bites in a more involved fashion. He stuffs them with liver and nuts, which makes for a deliciously crunchy tidbit. No takers in this house for liver and nuts. The next best thing is to just exclude them. Works fine for us. These bite sized appetiers brown up perfectly in the oven. They reheat without losing any form. It's a mouthful of softness and crunch. The gooey baked prune is the perfect foil for crispy bacon. It is finger food to have fun with.

Makes 32 

8 slices Bacon
1 pound pitted Prunes- you will have some left
Skewers or Toothpicks 

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Cut bacon slices into quarters.

Wrap one prune in bacon, overlapping and stretching the bacon.

Secure the overlapping bacon slice with a skewer or toothpick. Place on baking sheet. Repeat till you finish bacon slices. 

Heat oven to 350F.

Bake prunes for 25-30 minutes till brown and crisp.

Serve warm. Or at room temperature. Though they taste best warm.

I hover over Shauna as she rolls and skewers. Unsolicited advice is firmly rejected. So I turn to the Buffalo style chicken tenders I make for Rehan. These are ready in a jiffy. Both kids leave with their respective munchies.  The saying goes... 'out with the old and in with the new'. In our case the new ones are out and the old ones stay in. Happy New Year to all!!!