My cravings usually come in the form of certain types of food — a big juicy steak, dark chocolate, 2 tubs of ben & jerry’s (who can choose just one when you are in the midst of a CRAVING?). Last night it was chicken. Fancy chicken. The kind of chicken you order on a cold night when you want to treat yourself to the comfort of sucking down a glass of red and eating straight off the bone. Except I wanted to eat this way in the comfort of my home, with a bottle of red instead.
Living in Tel Aviv has its challenges when it comes to grocery shopping. Lets face it – Whole Foods has made any culinary venture a simple one stop shop experience. But this is Israel, and we don’t have one. There are many places to buy meat that I don’t trust because they have a funny smell, some that hack meat and poultry apart like they’re trying out for a role in Dexter, and others that are kosher and in my very personal opinion are not even an option. So when I happened upon small mom and pop style butcher near my boyfriend’s barber I was pleasantly surprised and inspired to make me some tasty chicken. They were friendly and knowledgeable (something extremely unique in the service industry here). They told me I could call them and order special cuts of things, we kvetched about the way meat is treated in supermarkets here, and eventually we parted ways. I was happily on my home with 2 nicely cleaned, fresh pieces of chicken, ready to turn them into a succulent dinner.
I forgot to mention, this dinner was also inspired by a new (old) set of enamel covered cast iron pans I found in a market last week. Heavy, glossy pans, ready to braise and sear the shit out of anything I place in its vicinity.
Fancy Chicken (For Two)
2 pieces of chicken, leg and thigh, skin on
1 handful mushrooms roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
5 cloves garlic, smashed but remaining almost whole
1 handful of other root vegetables, (leftover carrots, parsnip, potato etc) In this case I had some baby potatoes leftover from thanksgiving, roughly chopped
5 sprigs thyme (you could also toss in rosemary, fresh oregano, zatar whatever you have on hand)
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup stock (i had some homemade turkey stock ready to go)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 160 C or so.
Heat a medium sized oven safe heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Clean and dry the chicken pieces. Salt and pepper the skin and then place in the hot pan skin side DOWN.
Don’t move them for a few minutes, you want to get a good browning on the skin (hence the crispy skinned part of the recipe). If you fiddle with them too much you will lose out on some of the crispiness.
After about 4 or 5 minutes the skin should loosen itself from the bottom of the pan and be nicely browned, carefully flip them over and continue to cook for a few minutes ( I had to lower the heat a little at this point as the heat in the pan was quite strong for the exposed side of the chicken).
Remove chicken pieces to a plate to rest, (after all, its been a long day and they could use a break). Add mushrooms and any other vegetables to the pan and begin scraping up all the good browned bits, toss in the butter and use this to cook and deglaze further. Once the butter is mostly absorbed add the garlic, thyme, balsamic and wine. Let this mixture bubble and reduce a bit, 2 or 3 minutes should do it You want to develop some of the flavors and season the braising liquid with salt and pepper before returning the chicken. Place the chicken in the liquid skin side UP, facing you. The chicken should be able to sit in the liquid without it drowning. Keeping the skin exposed will maintain that delicious exterior that you’ve worked so hard for.
Place the pan uncovered in a hot oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
Remove from the oven and place chicken pieces on a plate to rest again. Return the liquid to the stove top to continue reducing. This is your last chance to season deep burgundy, buttery, woodsy, mushroomy, coziness that is your sauce. I was pretty satisfied and only added more salt to balace the wine out.
Serve on rice or if you want to be awesome, (I really wish I had done it myself), serve on some warm mashed potatoes. This will give you the advantage of a red stained potato pile that will soak up all the sauce and make your life real real good. trust me…