Thursday, October 2, 2008

In braise of the chicken

Yes, it seems chicken ideas come in waves (or should that be flocks?) , but here are some that use a cooking method many Americans don't employ as much as the old days, when every kitchen had a cast iron Dutch oven.

I speak of the braise.

A long, slow cooking method that tenderizes meats by gently breaking down their fibers, braising is the perfect preparation for fall dishes. (Heat that kitchen up. You might as well make the heating bill and cooking bill join forces.)

Dark chicken meat like drumsticks, thighs and leg quarters (which are super-cheap compared to the boneless breast craze) braise particularly well, as their extra fat allows for the development of rich flavors.
Braising is an easy technique to learn, as it involves simply browning the meat on the top of the stove, and then simmering it over low heat while tightly covered. A small amount of liquid like wine, chicken stock or orange juice is added to the pan to provide the needed moisture.

From the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, here are two new braised chicken recipes that make delicious autumn meals. The finished dishes are so succulent that the meats practically melt in the mouth. Serve over rice or pasta or with crusty bread to soak up the flavorful juices.

Orange and Green Olive Braised Chicken infuses chicken drumsticks with the flavors of orange juice and tangy green olives. Start by coating the chicken in a flour mixture and browning on top of the stove. When ready to braise in the oven, add strips of orange peel, garlic cloves, chicken stock, orange juice, bay leaves, saffron and sliced olives. Cook, covered, over low heat for about an hour and serve.

Orange and Green Olive Braised Chicken

Serves 4

8 chicken thighs (about 2.5 pounds)
½ cup flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 TBLS olive oil
1 orange
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup orange juice
3 cups chicken stock
3 dried bay leaves
¼ cup pitted green olives
½ tsp saffron
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In gallon size plastic bag with zipper top, combine flour, salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs, seal bag, and toss to completely coat with flour mixture.

In large, oven-proof sauté pan, warm olive oil over medium high heat. Remove chicken from bag, shake off excess flour and place in pan, skin side down. Cook chicken over medium high heat until golden brown, turning once, about 5 minutes per side.

While chicken is cooking, peel long strips of zest from the orange with vegetable peeler. When chicken is browned, add whole peeled garlic cloves to pan, placing around chicken. Reduce heat to medium and cook one minute. Add orange juice and bring to a boil; cook for 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, again bring to a boil and cook another 3 minutes. Add bay leaves, olives, saffron and orange zest peel to the pan. Cover and place pan in oven.

Cook chicken until fork can be easily inserted into chicken, about 50 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and place on serving platter. Place pan back on stove and bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaves and remaining garlic pieces; spoon sauce over chicken, top with parsley and serve.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
640 calories; 40 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 24 g carbohydrate; 44 g protein

Chicken Braised with Pumpkin, White Beans and Spinach is a tasty recipe that focuses on some of the favorite foods of fall. Start by cooking bacon strips in the pan to be used to braise the chicken, and then brown the thighs and drumsticks in the remaining drippings. Add garlic, shallots and wine to the pan, and boil. Add chicken stock, pumpkin puree, white beans and sage, and braise in the oven for about 40 minutes. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan, boil the remaining sauce to thicken, add the spinach and serve.

Chicken Braised with Pumpkin, White Beans and Spinach

Serves 4

4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs (about 2.5 pounds of chicken, total)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 slices bacon
2 TBLS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 shallots, sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
½ cup canned pumpkin puree
2 TBLS chopped fresh sage
1 can white beans (15.5 ounce size)
8 cups spinach

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and set aside. In large sauté pan with tight-fitting lid, sauté bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Crumble and set aside. Add olive oil to pan and warm. Add chicken, skin side down. Cook chicken, turning, until skin is nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side. Add garlic and shallots to pan and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, until fragrant.

Pour wine in pan and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil for 2 minutes until wine is slightly reduced. Add chicken stock, pumpkin puree and sage; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 40 minutes.

Add beans to pan, cover and simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Remove chicken to a plate and reserve. Bring sauce to a boil and cook until reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Add spinach to sauce and stir. Return chicken to pot, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes until heated through. Spinach should be wilted but still bright green. Stir in bacon pieces and serve.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
600 calories; 31 g fat; 8 g saturated fat; 22 g carbohydrate; 51 g protein