Winter Chicken Stew

Every Wednesday I try to browse through the Dining section of the New York Times, looking for interesting recipes and other food-related news. Last week I came across a recipe for an Italian-style rabbit stew, and since I thoroughly enjoy rabbit, I tore out the article and tucked it into my stack of “to try” recipes. As I was planning my upcoming week’s dinners, I decided to pull out the rabbit stew recipe and give it a whirl. I placed a call to one of my local grocers, who specializes in carrying wild game, to make sure they had some on hand. I had never had a problem ordering rabbit in the past, but after three days and still no rabbit, I gave in, settling for some organic, free-range chicken instead. I must say, I was pretty happy with the results, and I hope you will be, too.

9 whole chicken legs (preferably organic), skin removed
olive oil
flour, for dredging
2 md. onions, finely diced
3 leeks, cleaned and finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbl. rosemary, leaves removed from stem and roughly chopped
8 oz. baby Portobello mushrooms (or a mix of wild mushrooms)
1 c. chopped canned tomatoes
1/2 c. beer
1 c. unsalted or low-sodium chicken broth

Prepare all your vegetables; set aside. (Be sure to remove all the silt and dirt that tends to accumulate between the layers of the leek. This is most easily accomplished by slicing the leek in half, chopping it into pieces, then thoroughly rinsing the pieces inside a colander.) Season the pieces of chicken with salt and pepper; set aside. Prepare a large Dutch oven, or other oven-proof dish with a lid, with about 1/4 of an inch of olive oil on high heat. Prepare some flour onto a large plate and dredge each chicken leg, shaking off any excess flour. When the oil is hot, lightly brown the chicken on both sides, working in batches of about 3 legs at a time. Remove and set aside on a large plate.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Lower the heat to medium and add the chopped vegetables and rosemary to the Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook for about 4 minutes. Be sure to add a bit more olive oil if the vegetable mix becomes too dry. Once the vegetables have begun to soften, add the tomatoes and beer. Allow the liquid to reduce for about 2-3 minutes. Add the broth and adjust seasonings to your liking. Place the chicken legs into the pan, spooning the mixture evenly over top. Cover the Dutch oven or dish you will be using in the oven. Place it into the oven and allow it to cook for about 1-1.5 hours. Serve with a side of rice or pasta of your choice, or even a simple, crusty baguette.

If you would like to try the rabbit version that inspired this dish, you can find the NYT recipe here.

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Pasta with Red Wine and Mushroom Sauce

This is a recipe concocted by my husband (who is an amazing cook, by the way), and if you love mushrooms, you have to try it!  It’s quick, easy, cheap, and delicious, so if you aspire to be more handy in the kitchen, this is a good dinner recipe to help you cultivate your interest in cooking.  It can be served as an entrée or a side dish, and it pairs well with just about anything, including the rest of the bottle of red wine!

Makes two large or four small servings.

8 ounces of shiitake mushrooms (or some other kind of meaty mushrooms, such as white button, cremini, or portobello, which, by the way, are all variations of the same kind that are aged differently)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4-5 tablespoons of cold butter, separated

olive oil (butter can be substituted)

8 ounces of your choice of pasta (farfalle, linguine, and campanelle are my favorites for this dish)

3 tablespoons of tomato paste

3/4 cup red wine

salt

1/2 – 1 cup of reserved pasta water

fresh parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish

Cut or quarter your mushrooms into chunks no less than 1/2 of an inch in size.  Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the packaging directions.  Begin to make the sauce when you drop the pasta in the boiling water by placing a large sauté pan over high heat.  Coat the pan with about one tablespoon of butter (or olive oil), and when it’s good and hot, add your mushrooms and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  The high heat will allow the mushrooms to cook quickly so that the moisture they release is instantly evaporated, and they stay in a more substantial form, rather than become too soft.  After the mushrooms have released most of their moisture (about 4-5 minutes), turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic.  Add a little extra oil, if needed, so that the garlic doesn’t burn, and cook for 2 minutes.  Push the mushrooms and garlic off to the side and add the tomato paste, stirring it for about 20-30 seconds – you want it to slightly cook, but not burn.  Next, mix together the mushrooms and the tomato paste, then stir in the red wine.  After the alcohol has evaporated and the liquid has reduced by at least one-half, turn the heat to low.  Add four tablespoons of cold butter in small amounts, one pat at a time, and simply swirl the pan to combine.  After the butter has melted, add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the sauce to thin it out, and remove it from the heat.  Toss the sauce with the pasta, adding more pasta water, if needed, so that the pasta is coated, but not dry.  Salt to taste.  Garnish with chopped parsley and freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Since this dish isn’t particularly dense when it comes to nutrition, round out your meal with a large, tasty Mediterranean salad, with green leaf lettuce, Kalamata olives, scallions, chopped red peppers, tomatoes, feta, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  Oh, and don’t forget to pour yourself a large glass of that delicious red wine!