27 April 2009

Pseudo-French Night: Braised Chicken, Walnut Salad, Mussels and Roasted Fingerlings

So my mostly vegetarian recipe blog has gradually turned into a fully omnivorous slow food blog. I blame it on all the great local ingredients I have been discovering. It's time for the pendulum to swing back to the veggies again, but not before one more omnivorous post to relate a nice dinner we had this past weekend.

Ever since becoming addicted to Maine-ly Poulty's chicken, I have been interested in attempting (and "attempting" is the key word here) some of the classic french methods for preparing poultry. The poele from a few weeks back turned out so nicely that I thought I would give braising a try. It's hard to get a really pretty end result with either of these methods—or at least it is for me—but the meat turns out so tender and moist and the sauce so flavorful that presentation seems less important. Still, it would have been nice to get an even browning of the skin all over the bird. Next up: perhaps a fricassee.

We had: braised chicken from Maine-ly Poultry stuffed with olives and ham and sausage from Rosemont Market and Bakery; roasted fingerling potatoes from Goranson Farm with garlic and thyme; a salad of toasted walnuts, garlicky croûtes and some beautiful greens (also from Goranson Farm) with a vinaigrette of cider vinegar, dijon and walnut oil; and mussels from Phil Gray's Blue Dragon Mussel Wagon.

Braised Chicken Stuffed With Sausage and Olives
Adapted from Anne Willan, Regional French Cooking (1981)

  • 1 whole chicken (around 3 lbs.), together with its liver, heart and gizzard (dice the heart and gizzard, dice the liver too, but keep it separate);
  • 3 oz. of salami, diced [Rosemont has some of the best charcuterie in the area, …];
  • 3 oz. ham, diced [… such as an excellent french ham that fits this recipe.];
  • a handful of pitted green olives;
  • some chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, whatever);
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped;
  • 2½ cu. chicken stock (hopefully your own stock prepared without adding any salt, or some low sodium stock—things get awfully salty with those olive and the salami); and
  • oil (or some kind of fat) for browning the chicken and sautéeing its stuffing.
First, make the stuffing. Sauté the ham, salami, gizzard and heart in some oil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add the liver and sauté a minute longer. Mix the sautéed meats together with the garlic, olives, herbs and season with pepper (but not salt, the stuffing is already very salty).

Stuff the bird, truss it and season its skin with pepper and sparingly with salt. Brown the chicken on all sides in a casserole capable of fitting the whole bird lying on its side and still allowing its cover to close firmly. Position the chicken on its side and add two Tbs. of the stock, then cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Cook the chicken on the other side, then breast side down, then on its back, each time adding 2 Tbs. of stock and covering and cooking over low heat for 15 minutes, for a total cooking time of about an hour.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it to a platter, remove the trussing and cover with foil. Now make the sauce by skimming off any extra fat off the top of the liquid in the casserole. I had a gooey bubbling chickeny syrup that was un-skimmable, but ended up forming one of the best sauces ever. Add a cup or so of broth to the casserole and reduce to a sauce. Given the stuffing, the sauce is likely to be a bit salty, but the stuffing adds a wonderful flavor to it.

Mussels With Shallots, Tomatoes, Anchovies and Thyme
This is pretty standard stuff. When prepared with butter it is my absolute favorite way to eat mussels (although serving them in a curry with coconut milk and lemongrass is a close second).
  • 2 lbs. mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded;
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced;
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped;
  • 2 tomatoes, peels and seeds removed, diced;
  • 3 – 4 anchovies;
  • 1 cup white wine (or thereabout);
  • some fresh thyme, chopped; and
  • lots of butter if you can eat it, otherwise some olive oil.
The ingredients pretty much speak for themselves. Heat the oil and sauté first the shallots, then the garlic. Add the anchovies, thyme sauté a few moments longer. Add the mussels, tomatoes and wine, then cover and cook over a high heat until the mussels open up (don't eat any that don't open up, of course). Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon to a serving dish. Cook down the sauce a bit and then pour it over the mussels.

The traditional french way to do this, apparently, is "moules mariniére," in which you simply put mussels, shallots, herbs, salt, pepper and wine in a pot and let it boil until their done.

Leftovers: Chicken with Tonnato (Tuna Mayo)

I ate the leftover chicken with a tonnato sauce, which I like to put on, well, pretty much everything, but especially poached chicken. I would probably drink tonnato if there weren't some part of my small brain that recognizes just how creepy and unnatural that would be (although not nearly as disturbing as this).

Into a mini food processor goes:
  • one can of tuna and its oil;
  • 6 – 8 anchovies and some oil from their tin;
  • an egg yolk;
  • 2 tsp. of dijon mustard;
  • 2 Tbs. of lemon juice;
  • 1 Tbs. capers; and
  • some ground pepper.
Whir it up, streaming in 1/2 cup of olive oil. If you need to loosen it, add more lemon juice. A lot of people make this with prepared mayonnaise, but the result is not as good and you're not saving yourself and real effort by doing so.

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