Category Archives: Poultry

Lemon Chicken

Rao's Lemon Chicken- Incredibly easy weeknight meal

I’m not much of a lemon fan in food.  In drinks, sure.  Food?  Eh.  Don’t like Lemon squares, bars or pies.  My desserts should be sweet, not tangy.  Don’t like citrus in my salads.  About the only place where it’s really ok is squirted on seafood or part of guacamole.   Maybe as a flavor enhancer, but certainly not a main flavor.

So, why do lemon chicken?  One of my favorite cookbooks is Rao’s Cookbook:  Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking.  The recipes are amazingly simple and very good.  If you have never heard of Rao’s, it’s a much sought after traditional Italian restaurant in New York City.  Reservations are very prized.   But, if you follow the cookbook, you can easily recreate the experience at home.  One of their signature dishes is lemon chicken.   I decided to be brave and try it.  I’ve tried their lasagna and marinara to much success.  I had really high hopes for this.

First, some background.  Broiling chicken is a bit of an art, but perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.  It’s like indoor grilling.  All of the heat is high and coming from a single point.  On the downside, broiling is sort of messy and can cause the fire alarm to go off, many, many times.  You also have to flip things over, to ensure meat reaches a safe temperature.  Easier said than done.  Also, the type of chicken you use is critical.  There are actually chickens labeled “broiler chickens” — you want those.  Roasting chickens are too big for this dish.  Additionally, you have to keep the oven door a bit ajar when broiling, or your oven will cycle off because “temperature” has been reached.

The next bit of difference is how you prepare your chicken.  If you get a whole one, you need to “spatchcock” it.  “Spatchcock” is a fancy way of saying you need to cut the vertebrae out and open the chicken up to allow it to cook evenly.  Flip the chicken over (breast side down), and cut down both sides of the spine and open the chicken up so that it lies flat. I can sense some of you backing away now. It’s not hard, honest. The chicken bones you have to cut through are soft and more cartilage than anything else. You can seriously use good scissors with great success. If you would like to see a very good illustration of the technique:

http://www.marthastewart.com/891288/how-spatchcock-chicken/@center/897845/chicken-recipes#210562

I couldn’t really find my poultry shears and sort of did it with a bread knife.    I’m not one to pass along bad technique, so I will spare you the hideous techniques I used to get my chicken to look like:

Spatchcock Chicken

Note the bread knife handle on the side.

Good times, no?  Anyway, the rest is rather humdrum.  Broil on one side, flip, broil on the other, quarter the chicken, cover with sauce and bake for another 3 minutes.  One the whole, very impressive meal for a weeknight!

As far as the history of this dish goes, I believe it must be a mid-20th century invention, as lemons weren’t really commercially grown in Florida too much before the 1950s.  I found no mention of Lemon Chicken (or it’s Italian version Pollo al limone) in any of the historical (late 19th century) cookbooks I usually peruse.  Additionally,  this particular version uses an obscene about of lemon juice, 2 cups.  I squeezed 6 of them, and it wasn’t a cup. Most of the classic recipes were very conservative with the high dollar items, so this seems like more of a dish that would evolve later in our food timeline.

As mentioned above, this recipe is inspired by Rao’s Lemon Chicken Recipe I made some changes, however, as I didn’t think the original recipe had enough, I don’t know, something. This version was a bit more flavorful, in my estimation.

Lemon Chicken
Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30-45

Ingredients

CHICKEN:
1 (4 pound) broiling chicken, or 2 smaller ones, spatchcocked
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 large onion, large dice
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon, sliced

LEMON SAUCE:
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
2 tablespoons of lemon zest
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions

SAUCE:
Whisk together juice, zest, oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Whisk or shake vigorously before using.

CHICKEN:

Preheat broiler at least 15 minutes prior to using.

Place chicken on a cutting board and combine the olive oil, salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Rub olive oil mixture all over the poultry. Place onions, garlic, rosemary and lemons on the bottom of a baking pan (I used a cast iron skillet) and place chicken on top.
Broil chicken, turning once, for about 30 minutes or until skin is golden-brown and juices run clear when bird is pierced with a fork. Remove chicken from broiler, leaving broiler on. Using a very sharp knife, cut chicken into it’s typical serving pieces (leg, thigh, wings, and breast portions). Place chicken on a baking sheet (that will fit in the broiler) with sides. Pour half of the lemon sauce over the chicken and toss to coat well. If necessary, do this in 2 batches. Return chicken to broiler and broil for 3 minutes. Turn each piece and broil for an additional minute. Remove from broiler and portion the chicken onto each of 6 warm serving plates. While chicken is baking, slightly warm the remaining lemon sauce. Pour an equal amount of sauce over each chicken piece and serve with lots of crusty bread to absorb the sauce.

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Chicken Cacciatore

Lovely Italian Chicken and Tomato Dish

I was watching a BBC Program called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” the other day.  As the new owner of such a dog, I was really interested in the subject matter.  The general gist is that line breeding and breeding for looks over purpose has substantial downsides.   Namely, some dog breeds are grossly exaggerated from their origins and/or riddled with significant health problems.  This particular show by the BBC inspired Crufts to implement vet checks on all the breed winners.  If the winners couldn’t pass the vet checks, they were unable to compete in the finals.   Many dogs were eliminated from this prestigious show, causing quite a stir in the dog world.

How does this show relate to my food blog?  As I’m watching this show as they compare what dogs used to look like versus what they look like now (and it’s not a favorable comparison), I feel some food has become about the same way.   Overly complicated and fussy, and not necessarily better.

Take this recipe for Chicken alla Cacciatore from The Italian Cookbook by Maria Gentile (1919):

Chop one large onion and keep it for more than half an hour in cold water, then dry it and brown it aside. Cut up a chicken, sprinkle the pieces with flour, salt and pepper and saute in the fat which remains in the frying pan. When the chicken is brown add one pint fresh or canned tomatoes and half a dozen sweet green peppers and put back the onion.  When the gravy is thick enough add hot water to prevent the burning of the vegetables. Cover the pan tightly and simmer until the chicken is very tender. This is an excellent way to cook tough chickens. Fowls which have been boiled may be cooked in this way, but of course young and tender chickens will have the finer flavor.

Let’s compare this relatively easy recipe with one from the Food Network’s Tyler Florence:

Ingredients
6 red bell peppers
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 egg
2 cups milk
1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
6 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1 onion, sliced thin
2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 lemon, sliced in paper-thin circles
3 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch fresh basil, hand-torn (1/4 bunch to flavor the base, 1/4 bunch to finish the dish)
1 cup dry white wine

Directions

Start by preparing the peppers because they will take the longest. Preheat the broiler. Pull out the cores of the red peppers; then halve them lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds. Toss the peppers with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place them on a cookie sheet, skin side up, and broil for 10 minutes, until really charred and blistered. Put the peppers into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Peel the peppers and roughly chop into chunks; set aside.

Season the flour with the garlic powder, dried oregano, and a fair amount of salt and pepper. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and tap off the excess. Dip each piece in the egg wash to coat and then dredge with the flour again. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in about 1/4-inch of oil. Pan-fry the chicken in batches, skin side down, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side about 10 minutes longer. Remove the chicken to a side plate, pour out the oil, and clean out the pot.

Put the pot back on the stove and coat with 1/4 cup of oil. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, lemon slices, anchovies, capers, red pepper flakes, half the roasted red peppers, and half the basil. Season with salt and pepper. This part of the recipe is going to be your base. What we are looking for is a fragrant vegetable pulp, so simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until everything breaks down.

Add the remaining roasted peppers and the remaining basil. Tuck the chicken into the stewed peppers and pour in the wine. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

End.

Wow, right? In the summer, I would have no trouble coming up with the ingredients for Mrs. Gentile’s recipe. For Mr. Florence’s? Lemon, capers, white wine and anchovies aren’t something I keep around. Not only is the Florence recipe infinitely more complicated, but much more expensive. No wonder people don’t cook anymore. Honestly, you’d think you needed these things to make what was known as hunter’s chicken. You see hunters pulling out capers? Lemons? Doubtful.

So, I modernized the format of the former recipe and it was really good and so easy to pull together.  It’s a one pot meal without a lot of mess. My husband adored it.    Summer’s bounty used to its greatest advantage.

Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60-90 minutes

Oil (bacon drippings, lard, vegetable)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
6 chicken thighs, patted dry (you can add more, I just couldn’t fit more in my pot)
2 large green peppers, large dice
1 large onion, large dice
10 mushrooms, sliced (an 8 ounce container)
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
15 ounce can of diced tomatoes (may use fresh tomatoes as well, about 2 cups diced)
1/2 cup of water, white wine or chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven large enough to fit chicken comfortably. I used a 5 quart oval one.

As the oil is heating, combine flour, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl or plate. Dredge chicken thighs through the flour mixture. When the oil is ready (it will appear to be rippling), place the chicken skin side down in the dutch oven, careful not to crowd. You may need to cook the chicken in batches. Cook the chicken until each side is browned. Remove and set aside. Add peppers, onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic, oregano and bay leaf. Saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and water and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. You may need to adjust the seasoning more at this point. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and continue cooking in the oven until the chicken is tender, about 45-60 minutes. You can’t really overcook the chicken too badly at this point.

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Chicken Marengo

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Want to get your kids to eat something they wouldn’t normally eat? Have a cool backstory. Seriously. My kids were not really interested in eating this dish until I told the backstory, then they couldn’t get enough. So, what’s the back story?

We need to go back in time to the Napoleonic Wars. In 1800, First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte had just barely eeked out a victory over the Austrians at Marengo in Italy. This victory helped to solidify the new French government’s position in France after the Revolution. Legend has it, Napoleon asked his chef, Dinand, to make a meal to celebrate the victory. According to the lore, the Austrians had captured the food supplies of Napoleon’s army, so there was precious little in the way of food available to cook for such a meal. Not even butter!! Quelle horreur!! So, Dinand dispatch people into the Italian countryside to find something, anything, to put together a dinner for Napoleon. They came back with a chicken, olive oil, a few mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs and crawfish fished from a local river. Dinand added some bread rations, some staples he had handly (garlic, onions) and a bit of cognac from Napoleon’s flask, and voila! Chicken Marengo is born, June 14, 1800! Upon returning to Paris, legend has it Dinand attempted to “correct” the recipe by using white wine instead of cognac and omitting the crawfish. Napoleon sent it back instructing the Chef that the dish is to be made the original way. No deviation. Napoleon was very superstitious and considered this dish his victory dish.

Now, who wouldn’t want to eat, or at least try a dish with such a storied history?!? Eating the dish Napoleon ate? There are very few things in history you can recreate and have the same experience. What I love is that food is one of them. Some things might change a bit, like the breed of the chicken, but it’s still pretty close. You get a window into the times and how people (mainly the well to do) lived.

Chicken Marengo over the years has been “modernized”. One cookbook from the late 1800s called for making the dish with half a pound of truffles!! Well, that wasn’t happening on my blog budget. So, I tried to stick to the original. I actually had most of the ingredients, save the crawfish. I substituted shrimp. I added juniper berries (you can substitute a bay leaf) because I thought it might be a staple hanging around and it would work well with the tomatoes. And, while the dish looks completely wild, it actually kind of works. The chicken holds it own against the tomatoes and olives. The cognac gives the tomatoes and olives a subtle depth of flavor. White wine would bring a brighter flavor, but this is more round. Shrimp is pretty much always good, and the eggs on fried bread is just amazing. You can imagine this dish is a victory dish. Chicken Marengo is extravagant in every possible way.

I used chicken thighs and legs, not a whole chicken, because that’s what was on sale. But you could try cutting up a whole bird, just be aware of the cooking time differentials between the pieces.

Chicken Marengo
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

olive oil
4 chicken leg quarters, separated into thighs and legs
salt
pepper
3 tablespoons cognac (or enough to deglaze pan, plus a tablespoon)
1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 pound shrimp
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, rough chop
26 ounces crushed tomatoes (I used a box of tomatoes, you can use the large can too)
4 juniper berries (may substitute 1 bay leaf)
french bread, sliced
eggs

Cover bottom of a 3 quart of larger saute pan with olive oil. Slowly heat the oil over medium to medium high heat.

Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces and place in the pan. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. I used a thermometer to make sure the pieces were cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Deglaze pan with cognac. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and curled, about 7-10 minutes. Remove shrimp from pan, set aside. Add another tablespoon of cognac to neutralize the shrimp. Add the mushrooms and olives. Cook for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, juniper berries and a bit more salt and pepper. Simmer. Briefly return chicken to pan to warm through

Meanwhile, cover the bottom of a small fry pan with olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the bread and “fry”. When golden on both sides, remove from the pan. Add more oil (or switch to a non-stick pan) and fry an egg for each person.

Assembly was alleged to be: chicken, covered with tomato sauce, topped with shrimp (crawfish). On the side, fried bread topped with a fried egg.

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Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps

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I love lettuce cups or wraps.  When I go out to dinner,  I’m the only one at the table usually that orders it.  I don’t know why.  Maybe when people order an appetizer, they are looking to be naughty and order the calorie rich lobster bisque, supreme nachos, crab dip or something similar.  Maybe lettuce wraps are too “salady” and you don’t want an appetizer salad to be followed by an actual salad.  I’m just at such a loss because these are amazingly good, yet pretty “healthy”, for an appetizer.

I started this blog to push myself outside my comfort zone and make food for dinner that is simple, healthy, and different.  Keep the same old, same old to a minimum.  This is the first time I’ve made this recipe and I was really pleased with it.  Very easy to make, extremely good. The dish is sweet with a hint of spicy and great Asian flavor, wrapped in crunchy lettuce. After grating the ginger and mincing the garlic, my husband said that whatever I was cooking smelled delicious!   Your kitchen will smell amazing as this is cooking.  There aren’t too many odd ingredients and the whole dish is fairly low carb, if you care about that.  As a bonus, both the kids and my husband loved it!!

The recipe was inspired by Mark Masumoto’s recipe on the PBS website: http://www.pbs.org/food/fresh-tastes/spicy-chicken-lettuce-cups/  PBS is  one of the few channels that features people actually cooking with real ingredients.

Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

2 heads iceberg or butter leaf lettuce
2 pounds ground chicken (you can also use ground pork or crumbled firm tofu)
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoons corn starch
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
5 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 scallions, sliced thin
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup cilantro
1 carrot, shredded

Remove leaves from head of lettuce, rinse and dry. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, corn starch, and Sriracha. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and ginger to the hot oil and cook until they begin to turn light brown. Add mushrooms and salt. Cook until the mushrooms begin to get soft (you may need to add more oil to prevent sticking if you don’t use a nonstick pan). Add the chicken mixture to the pan. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, using a wooden spoon to cut the chicken into small pieces as it cooks.

Assemble lettuce wraps by adding the meat to a lettuce leaf and top with scallions, avocado, cilantro, and carrots.

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Greek Chicken

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As I was walking through my local Whole Foods the other day, I marveled at all the amazing food and how really beautiful the produce section of a good grocery store can be.  From the beautiful Fennel fronds, to the orange carrots, yellow bananas, purple blueberries, and red cherries and tomatoes, you can truly find some amazing variety in nature.  Of course, my perusing of the produce section was more time waster than deep reflection.  How often does a working mom get to be alone, at her own pace, and just wander?

Obviously not often if my gold standard is wandering through the produce section unmolested by cries of “I want!”  So, I had to snap out of my blissful haze before I lost any more time.  Honestly, I think the samples must be filled with magical lotus leaves.  I lose all kind of time there and I can’t really tell you that I was doing anything particular.

I was there to get dinner.  It doesn’t make itself, you know.   I walked past the fish and meat counter and nothing really jumped out.  Then, in one of the open refrigerators a small sign:  chicken legs, $.69/pound.  Really?!?  Chicken rated a 2 on the animal welfare scale for less than a buck a pound?   Sure, it was just chicken legs, but who can beat that deal?  I picked up a super sized package and went on my way.    What would I do with a whole bunch of chicken legs?

Sure, I could fry them, but I did that already.  Coq Au Vin?  Done.  I’m not stripping the meat off of them for gumbo.    So, I did what any respectable blogger would do, I googled “chicken legs”.    And there, in my search result was a recipe from Goop, a website run by Gwyneth Paltrow.  At this point, I must confess to a guilty pleasure of reading gossip sites.  These sites generally don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow.  In fact, they love pointing out that she’s fairly unaware that “peasants” don’t live like her.  We don’t cleanse, have a nanny (or two), aren’t married to a rock star, can’t choose which city to live in this week (London or NYC, so hard, right?), and don’t spend $458,000 on a “Spring Essentials collection” of clothes for just this Spring.  To paraphrase from the many Goop-haters, when you are born on third base, don’t think you hit a triple in life or that scoring a run is hard from that beginning position.  An example of her being “out of touch” (if the Spring Essentials didn’t drive that point home) may be the $950 silver shot cup that is part, just part, of her barware.   So, as a working mom who’s clearly not in the 1% scrambling to make dinner with cheap chicken legs on a busy weeknight, it was with great trepidation I clicked on the Goop link http://www.goop.com/journal/make/215/one-pan-meals.

Ultimately, I’m very glad I took a chance with this recipe. It’s really quite good and so ridiculously simple. This is based on a traditional Greek dish called Kapama. However, it is a bit of a shocking recipe.  Cinnamon, chicken, tomatoes and garlic.  In one pot.  One of my sorority sisters has a website called http://thefamilymealproject.com/ that examines what meals her kids would eat.  Well, I felt this would be a perfect recipe for that experiment.  As the house filled with the scent of cinnamon and tomato, I started to fret a bit.  It was a wonderful smell, just not something you expect.  You know, for dinner.  However, I received nothing but absolute praise from both my son and daughter.  My very picky, I only eat salmon daughter actually ate this.  I know, shocking.  The hubs gave his equivalent of a rave review:  I’d ask you to make it again.  Sigh.  Small victory, I will take thee!!

Cinnamon Braised Chicken Legs

6-8 Chicken Legs (what will fit in your dutch oven, and you can use any chicken parts you have handy)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup romano cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken legs, set aside. Combine cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture over the chicken liberally.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven (I used my trusty 5 quart) over medium high heat. Brown the chicken, in batches. About a minute or so on each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. To the pan, add the onions and cook while stirring until translucent. Add the garlic and soften. Add the tomatoes and the water and deglaze the pan. Add the cinnamon stick and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and place in the oven and cook for one to two hours until cooked through or all the way to “fall off the bone”. Serve with pasta or rice and sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Note: I only cooked this in the oven for an hour. “Fall off the bone” would have taken too much time for a weeknight meal. In the hour it was cooking, I made brown rice, a salad and checked homework. Two hours and we would have been eating well after the kids’ bedtime. So, it might be even better with more time!

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Coq Au Vin

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One of my earliest cooking memories revolves around a very old set of cookbooks.  I want to say they were Time Life’s World Cookbooks or something like that.  These cookbooks seemed so much fancier than our trusty red and white checkered Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cookbook.  So, of course I poured over them more.  The red checked book seemed so, well, American.

The cookbooks were divided by country and there was an entire cookbook dedicated to French Cooking.  As a child who’s most exotic meals were tacos or spaghetti, these cookbooks seemed other worldly.    So, one night I asked my mom if we could make something out of the French cookbook… and I kept asking for a while until she finally relented.  The most exotic recipe to me (I was probably all of 8 or 9 years old) was Coq Au Vin.  Chicken in Red Wine.  To go with it, Chocolate Mousse.  I’d never had chocolate mousse, but had heard of it.  I had chocolate pudding, but was pretty sure mousse was somehow better. My parents were beer drinkers, so we got cooking wine for the red wine…  I know, stop laughing.  But this was the 70s and, well, we didn’t know.  Why would they sell it if it wasn’t good?

So, that was my first foray into French cooking:  making a recipe from Time Life with supermarket cooking wine.   We weren’t exactly well to do, and, at the time it was a fairly expensive meal.  So, my parents were very kind to indulge me.   For the record, the chocolate mousse was amazing.  To this day I remember that meal.  I was so proud to make it.  I felt truly grown up.

In the many years since then, cooking Coq Au Vin, made famous in the States by Julia Child, seems odd and quant.  Like a 70s fondue party.   I’m almost sheepish about telling people I eat this dish, much less make it.   This is another recipe like my 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken that really should be in the rotation.  It deserves a spot in your repertoire!  While it is an old dish, and old dishes are not fussy.  There’s no crazy ingredient you’ll only use one and rue the rest of the time it’s in your pantry (looking at you walnut oil!).  The ingredients are fairly cheap and easy to come by, depending, of course, on the type of wine you use.

Coq Au Vin is normally made with a tough, old bird.  It’s rare to come across those nowadays, although my farmer’s market does have a great guy that sells “stewing hens”.  So, I use chicken thighs.  Today’s chicken breasts get woefully overcooked in this dish and can’t really stand up to the red wine.  You also don’t have to simmer the chicken as long, because the chicken isn’t really “old” anymore and becomes tender rather quickly.

I will admit to a cheat. Julia Childs starts this recipe off by rendering the fat off of carefully sliced lardons. As someone who is always looking to maximize my food use, I fastidiously save the bacon fat every time I cook bacon. So, I can skip the rendering step and shave about 20 minutes off the cook time.  If you don’t have bacon drippings, please render away!
Coq Au Vin
Serves 6

1/4 cup rendered bacon fat (may substitute any vegetable oil that can handle high heat, like canola)
6 chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, small dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of red wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup of water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat bacon fat in an enameled dutch oven over medium high heat. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place in the pan skin side down when fat sizzles on contact with chicken. Cook chicken until the skin is a golden brown and flip over. Cook the other side until golden as well. Remove the chicken to a platter and set aside.

Saute celery, carrots and onions until the celery is soft. Reduce heat to medium. Add the garlic, stirring to prevent it from burning. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the red wine, bay leaves and dried thyme and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan. If the wine does not almost cover the chicken, add the water or chicken stock. Otherwise, you can omit. Cover and place in the oven to finish cooking the chicken through, about 40 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot, cover and set aside.  Combine flour and butter together.  Whisk into the red wine sauce and cook until slightly thickened and glossy.  Serve chicken with sauce.

Julia Child’s recommends serving this dish with braised mushrooms and brown braised onions. I made those by sautéing the onions in butter and adding quartered mushrooms and cooking them over medium heat for about 20 minutes. In the pictures, the vegetables in the back are roasted carrots and parsnips. I just heated the oven to 375, roughly chopped the vegetables, covered with oil olive and salt and pepper, and roasted for 20 minutes until browned. I shook the pan occasionally. All told, the dinner took about 90 minutes, but most of that was the chicken cooking in the oven, not active prep time.

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Chicken Pot Pie

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It’s 5 o’clock and I’m staring the fridge, hoping for a revelation as to what to make for dinner.  I’ve got left over chicken thighs.  Every other protein source is froze solid.  So, I thought, what to do with you?  The kids can’t stand chicken salad.  So, I decided to make Chicken Pot Pie.  There were a variety of old recipes that involved the entire chicken being in the pot and covered with crust.  That seemed a little, um, rustic.

I remembered the pies of my childhood.  You know the ones in the box of the freezer section.  Crust, bits of chicken and random veggies with a creamy broth in a pie shape.  As a kid, these things are amazing.  As an adult, well, here’s the ingredients for Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie:

Ingredients (75):

Water, Flour Enriched (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1),Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)) , Chicken Cooked (Chicken Meat Dark, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Carrageenan, Food Starch Modified, Sodium Phosphate, Spice(s) Extract) ,Carrot(s), Potato(es), Sodium Pyrophosphate, Shortening (Lard, Lard Hydrogenated,Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated) , Chicken Cooked Mechanically Separated, Food Starch Modified, Chicken Base (Wheat Flour Bleached Enriched [Barley Malted Flour,Potassium Bromate, Niacin, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)] , Salt, Maltodextrin, Whey Powder, Whey Protein Concentrate, Garlic Powder, Soy Lecithin, Yeast Extract, Onion(s) Powder, Annatto, Spice(s), Turmeric Extract, Xanthan Gum) ,Contains 22% or less Peas, Chicken Fat, Dextrose, Flavor(s) Natural and Artificial Chicken(Salt, Chicken Powder, Chicken Fat, Yeast Extract Autolyzed, Water, Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial, Sugar Invert, Chicken Broth, Onion(s) Powder, Flavor(s) Grill [Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated] , Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Tocopherols) , Salt, Dough Conditioner(s) (Sodium Aluminosilicate, Salt, Wheat Gluten Vital, Enzyme(s), Soy Protein Flour,Ammonium Sulfate, Fumaric Acid) , Caramel Color, Annatto for color retention

Oh my.

So, I gathered my ingredients on hand and transformed tired leftovers into something that used to be quite common place, but is now very exotic:  a chicken pot pie.  The kids were amazed at the transformation of such humdrum ingredients.  In going through the historic cookbooks, “pot pies” were rather common place.  I find them to be an efficient use of leftovers!! I’ll put measurements on here, but really, it’s all about what you have on hand.

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6

1/2 recipe Pie Crust, or a 9 inch pie crust

1/4 cup high heat tolerant cooking fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil)
3 carrots, sliced thin
3 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 medium onion, small dice
1 8 ounce container of mushrooms, sliced
1-2 pounds cooked chicken, cubed
1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and Pepper

1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Place the cooking fat in a sauté pan over medium heat. When heated, add the carrots, celery, onion and mushroom. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and celery are soft (or the texture you like them), about 15-20 minutes.

Add the chicken, sage and thyme, cook until fragrant. Add the flour and cook for a bit until the raw flour taste is cooked out.

Add the heavy cream and cook. The sauce will thicken. You want the sauce to continue to thicken as it cooks, about 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Place the mixture in a oven proof pan (I used a large soufflé dish) and smooth the top.

Roll out the pie crust and drape over the top of the baking dish. Pinch the crust over the top of the dish to hold the crust firm.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and water together and brush on pie crust.

Cut a vent slit in the crust, and place the dish on a cookie sheet. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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