Monday, October 8, 2012
Smokey 40-Clove Braised Chicken
Summer gets all the attention. Fresh vegetables, grilling, picnics, all that good stuff. But for my money, Fall is really where it's at. When the weather turns cool, it's time to make some slow-cooked, hearty peasant food with deep, rich complex flavors. While Summer is all about the ingredients, Fall is all about time and technique. Summer is a culinary one night stand, while Fall is...well, you get my drift.
This dish came about, as many good dishes do, out of what was ready to hand in the pantry. Smokey, subtly spicey, and sweet with slow-cooked mellow garlic and red peppers, it is easy to make but is bowl-licking good.
The short version: sweat the veg, brown the chicken, deglaze with dry vermouth, add the tomatoes, stock and spices, braise in the oven for a couple of hours until the chicken pulls apart easily.
5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (one large family pack)
3 bulbs garlic (you read that right), cloves separated and peeled
1 large yellow onion, 3/4"dice
1 large sweet red pepper, 3/4" dice
1 package (8oz) fresh button mushrooms, quartered if large
Two 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
3/4 cup dry (white) vermouth
2 cups chicken stock or low sodium canned chicken broth
1 tsp liquid smoke
1-2 tbs sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tsp dried herbs
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 250° F.
Preheat a heavy pot with lid, preferably an enameled cast iron dutch oven, over medium low heat.
Sweat onions in olive oil, with a sprinkling of salt, until they just begin to soften. (Note: I like to add small amounts of olive oil as I go, adding just enough for each step). Add mushrooms, adding oil if needed, and continue to sweat until onions become translucent and mushrooms soften and pick up some color. Toss in the garlic cloves a couple of minutes before the other vegetables are done, and saute, then remove everything to a bowl and set aside.
Turn up heat, adding oil if needed. Quickly brown the whole chicken pieces, working in batches if needed, until they just get some color all the way around. Remove to a plate. Add tomato paste to the oil, frying a couple minutes to caramelize the sugars, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go. Deglaze with the vermouth, scraping any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pot, followed by the tomatoes with their juice, and the stock. Stir, allowing to reduce and thicken a couple of minutes. Stir in liquid smoke, paprika, and black pepper, season with salt if needed. Add vegetables, sweet pepper, and chicken,, making sure chicken is covered in sauce. Cover with lid, and move to oven. Cook 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove pot. At this point the chicken should be able to fall into shreds if pressed with a spoon. Stir in herbs (I used an Italian herb blend and fines herbs, along with some ground marjoram). Shred the chicken with a couple of forks, incorporating into sauce. Move back to the oven for another half hour. Remove and serve.