Saturday, July 24, 2010

Randomly French Chicken

One of the best money-saving kitchen skills to learn is how to cut up a whole chicken. Up until 3 months ago, I had never done it. It seemed like too difficult a task, with too little reward. Then I saw an episode of "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS that featured a skillet-roasted chicken recipe (which is delicious, and which will probably end up here later on.) I've posted the link to that video
here because the first four minutes are an excellent tutorial on how to part a chicken. Go ahead and watch it, I'll wait.

... Done? Okay, now you can buy whole chickens, which are always cheaper than those already cut up in the grocery store. What's more, you get what's left of the chicken once you take off the legs and breasts. It may not look like much, but it can be the basis for an entirely new meal! (See the recipe below for "Enchilasagna", and others, to be posted in the future.)

This recipe, which I'm calling "Randomly French Chicken", is an amalgam of a few different recipes. The technique is French, and calls for tomatoes, onions, and olives, as well as either white or red wine for braising the chicken and veggies. There is a lot of wiggle room as far as what else you want to add in. 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms would be great, making for more of a cacciatore approach, while the red peppers I used in this incarnation is more of a Basque presentation. You can add either chopped parsley or basil (like I did) to punch up the flavor a little more. Bon appetit!

Randomly French Chicken

  • Vegetable oil or butter, or a combination of the two, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 2 leg pieces and 2 breast pieces (so you have 4 pieces total)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 - 2 cups red or white wine (I prefer white)
  • 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz. can of black olives, or about a cup of Kalamata olives, if you have them
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or basil
1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat butter / oil combo over medium heat, and when very hot, add the chicken pieces, skin-side down. This WILL splatter - I suggest a metal splatter guard. Cook for approximately 8 minutes, until browned. Remove from pot to a plate, cover with foil, and set aside.
2. To the pot, add the onion and garlic. Keep them moving so nothing burns. When the garlic starts taking on color, add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the stuck-on bits of chicken.
3. Add the tomatoes, olives and peppers to the pan, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a few minutes. Now take the chicken pieces and nestle them in among the veggies, skin-side up. Cover and turn the heat down to medium-low, keeping it at a high simmer.
4. Depending on how hot and conductive your pan is, check on the chicken every 10 minutes, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary so nothing burns. If it looks too dry, add more wine. After about 30 minutes, using a meat thermometer, check for doneness. The thigh of the chicken should be at least 170F.
5. When your chicken is done, stir in the chopped parsley or basil, check again for seasoning, and serve.

The chicken would do well with rice or noodles to soak up the yummy sauce. This is one of those great recipes that is actually better the next day, so try not to eat it all at once!

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