Monday, November 14, 2011

Braised Chicken

Imagine looking out at a Manhattan snow storm from your 16th floor apartment. You watch in delight as swirls of magical snow softly dance around high rises that seem to stretch out to the sunny sky. A smile warms your face as you get comfy in your blanket and dig into the most delicious braised chicken stew that has notes of thyme and white wine in a deeply rich broth. You tear up some rustic french baguette, drown it in sauce and greedily scoop it with bits of tenderly cooked chicken into your mouth for that perfect perfect perfect bite. That was the experience I had  a couple weeks back when a snowstorm hit the city in mid October.

This braised chicken is magic. It's the absolutely perfect dish for cold winter days. It's filling, hearty and very healthy. Apart from some initial browning of the chicken, the dish uses very little fat and has loads of protein from the meat and cannellini beans!

1 whole chicken cut into eighths
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 large onion thinly diced
1 stock celery cut into thin slices
1 bouquet garni ( a bundle comprised of 5 sprigs of thyme, a handful of parsley and its stems, 2 bay leafs and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns wrapped in a cheesecloth and tied with butchers string)
5 roma tomatoes, quartered
1 can drained and washed cannellini beans
1 quart chicken stock (please use homemade or FRESH store made)
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup flour

Rub a good amount of salt (at least 1.5 teaspoons), pepper, oregano and herbs de provence into the chicken. Sprinkle with flour and reserve.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven and brown chicken (make sure to shake off any excess flour before placing in the pot). You may need to do this in batches to prevent over crowding. Don't touch the chicken. Don't move it, don't poke at it. Let it chill on medium-low heat for at least five minutes before you think of moving it... (of course, if you smell it burning move it, but it shouldn't if you follow my directions).
Turn it over. Is it brown? And not light it a beautiful deep dark rich brown? If the answer is yes, that's great! let the other side brown and develop in flavour as well. Once both sides have browned, remove and reserve.

Add onions to the pot and scrape up all the beautiful brown bits. Let the onions cook until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and  celery and cook for 4 minutes more. If it's getting dry, add some more butter or oil. Add the tomatoes and and cook them until they start to soften and relax a bit.
Add a pinch of salt and wine. Bring it to a boil and let the wine reduce to 1/4 of its 1 cup. Add the chicken and mix well. Add the chicken stock and bouquet garni cook covered on low heat for 1 hour. Add the beans and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. The chicken should be super soft, the broth should thicken to a nice thick soup consistency. If it's still then, you can mash up a spoonful of beans and mix them back into the sauce. Taste it. If it's too salty add more stock and reduce. If it's bland, add more soft. Remember, you're the chef and when it comes to cooking rules are meant for mending and adjusting to how you like them...not like baking! Serve with a fresh rustic baguette and call it a day:)

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