Sunday, October 18, 2009

Food October 2009: Part 2 - Braising Chicken

As defined by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary:

Main Entry: 1braise
Pronunciation: \ˈbrāz\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): braised; brais·ing
Etymology: French braiser, from braise live coals, from Old French breze, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Swedish brasa fire
Date: 1797

: to cook slowly in fat and little moisture in a closed pot

Braised dishes are great recession food. Braising in fat typically means that you are cooking using the fat already in the meat and slowly rendering that fat out of the meat. Therefore, by definition, you are choosing meat cuts that are significantly lower in price than their lean counterparts. Moreover, if you make ahead of time, rendering out the fat during cooking, refrigerating and then skimming the congealed fat, you can even make this cut as healthy as its expensive brother. And then of course there is the recession perfect result - comfort food.

I promised to deliver on braised short ribs, and I will, but first there have been numerous requests for chicken braises, so here are my favs. Remember to feel free to use the comment section of the site to make these kinds of requests - they are always welcome.

Picatta Braised Chicken Thighs

This recipe is my version of Grace Parisi's from Food and Wine Magazine in 2008 - slightly less zesty. I like to serve it as the magazine did, straight in the braising pan in the center of the table. It works really well with loose polenta, mashed potatoes, or most other starches light in flavor so that you don't lose the subtle flavor of this beautiful dish. Best of all, its super easy, can be started before your guests come and thrown in the oven while you put the kids to bed, change into something less mommy, and start your first glass of wine (because though you normally wait for the guests, oops, the wine is already opened for the chicken.)

8 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cup flour
sea salt - teaspoon
pepper - 1/2 teaspoon
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
fresh thyme, 5 sprigs leaves only
1/2 teaspoon herb de provence
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoons lemon zest
2 cups white wine - not a chard, something lighter and crisper like sauvignon blanc
1 cup chicken broth

Wash and dry the thighs and roll in the flour which is mixed with the salt and pepper. Dice the shallots and crush the garlic. Take out a skillet and put on medium heat, adding the butter and olive oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the shallots in the pan and stir for one minute, and turn to medium-high. Brown the chicken thighs, skin side down first, roughly five to seven minutes each side, setting aside on a plate. Pour out half of the fat, keeping the bits in the pan. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to get all the shallots and chicken tasty bits off the side. Bring wine to a simmer and reduce by roughly half, (about 7 minutes) then adding the chicken broth, herbes, garlic, and capers. Let come to a simmer again and re-add the chicken and the single bay leaf. Place in the oven and cook for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken passes the braising test - falling off the bone with a fork. Remove the chicken onto a dish and cover. Place braising pan on the stove top on high to reduce the liquids by a third to a glaze. Add chicken back into the pan and serve.

IPA Chicken Wings

This recipe was developed from a friends absolutely perfect red wine soy glaze chicken wings that always disappear instantly at cocktail parties. My take is a fall version that balances bitter flavor with the sweet for a more football flavor (picture the Pats playing in the dark with snow falling circa 2001). I like to use Geary's Ale from Portland, Maine or Harpoon IPA. This recipe is slightly less of a braise then above and while really simple, must be watched very carefully at the end, as they can quickly over-glaze and burn. This is a great tailgating item (for anything from football or a U2 concert) to make ahead of time and serve at room temperature later!

36 chicken wings (ask the butcher to cut the tips off)
12 oz. bottle - or 1 1/2 cups of IPA
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 clove garlic crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange chicken wings skin side down in a large roasting pan or baking pan with raised sides. In a saucepan, on high heat, pour the beer and bring to a simmer for about 7-10 minutes, until the beer almost boils down to half of its volume. Then add soy sauce, honey, sugar, ginger and garlic and reduce heat to medium low, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves and it begins to form a runny syrup - about another 5-7 minutes. Pour over the wings evenly - making sure that the sauce gets under the wings that are facing skin side down. Bake for 45 minutes then turn wings and bake for another 30 minutes. Check here and start watching closely for another 15-30 minutes, pulling it out when the liquid is sticky and syrupy, the meat pulls off very easily with a fork and before a crust appears on the top of the skin.

For a more Asian flavor, check out this Malaysian Glazed Wing recipe from Chef Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab in New York from Food and Wine 2007. It melts in your mouth leaving a small fire.

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