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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowy Saturday Meal: Recipe

What could be better than watching the blizzard of '09 from inside your warm cozy home with a rich bottle of wine and a big pot of slowly simmering chicken with full flavors? Exactly.

Cooking is one of the things I love most in the world and I continue to create dishes in the kitchen each night (or nearly each night) for my family. Some are repeats - my kids like pasta with peas, cream and prosciutto and we eat that maybe once every 10 days - and some are new but somewhat ordinary. And I think ordinary in the middle of the week is just fine! We concentrate on serving protein accompanied by vegetable and starch - very, very, 1950s. And I think it's just fine.

As the snow loomed near, I ran to the store (as did the entire community in which I live) and picked up food for Saturday and Sunday's dinners, along with some other odds and ends. The heavy lifting for Christmas Eve is next up and the list needed far more focus than: "I need a few things at the market." The storm made everyone crazy and it's tough to concentrate in the stores like that.

Meat on sale: always a plus. So I picked up some chicken thighs and legs to make something. I thought about a traditional chicken caccitore but you know what? Every time I think of that I happen to think of eating it as a kid and I hated it. Too tomato-y. So I combed the books and found Marcella Hazan's Chicken with Porcini mushrooms. And since I already had a package of dried porcini in the cabinet, I thought I'd use that as a basis for the dish.

My husband and I cooed over this - it was really delicious. My daughter gobbled up far more than I expected her to and my little guy had to be threatened with "no dessert" before he'd eat. But once he did, he managed to clean his plate. Since the vegetables are already inside the dish (hooray for one-pot meals!), we simply served this with a crusty baguette to sop up the juices.

One Pot Chicken with Porcini Mushrooms, Pancetta and Celery
3 lbs. chicken with skin (legs and thighs), washed and completely dried
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. pancetta
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
8 oz. chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large celery stalks, chopped
14.5 oz. petite diced tomatoes, can

In a large sturdy pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add in the pancetta and cook until it begins to get crispy - but do not burn. With a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to a bowl and set aside, leaving the oil and fat drippings in the pan. Next, place chicken in, skin side down, and brown well - turning once or twice. you may need to do this in stages so as to not overcrowd the pot. If you're doing it in stages, simply remove the complete pieces to a plate and reserve.

Meanwhile, place mushrooms in a bowl and pour the chicken stock over. Allow mushrooms to reconstitute about 5-7 minutes. With a bowl underneath to catch the liquid, pour the mushrooms and the liquid into a fine mesh strainer lined with a paper coffee filter or paper towel. The mushrooms will remain in the paper and you'll capture the liquid in the bowl. Reserve liquid. Remove the paper and rinse the mushrooms with cold water - gently - and pat dry. Chop the mushrooms.

Once all chicken is finished browning, remove it from the pot and set aside. With heat on high, add in the wine and allow it to boil while scraping up the browned bits. Lower heat slightly and add in the celery and saute about 2 minutes. Add back in the pancetta and add the mushrooms along with 1/2 cup of the strained liquid. Add in the tomatoes and their juices and mix well. Allow it all to simmer about 5 minutes before adding back the chicken. Be sure to place the chicken close to the bottom of the pot with the vegetables and juices sitting on top. Cover, leaving the top slightly ajar, and reduce heat to medium-simmer. Do not let it boil and be sure to turn the chicken once or twice. Allow dish to cook about 1 hour.

Remove chicken to a bowl and tilt the juice to the side, spoon off as much of the fat as possible. Raise the heat and boil about 5 minutes. Spoon juices and the vegetables over the chicken and serve.

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