Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Return to Normal: Chicken "Hunter Style"

                 “Winter was cold and the clothing was thin.”*

A day off and a snowy one at that. A day that’s perfect for low and slow.
It’s a return to normal. Well, almost.
The long silence on my part was due to the demands of the holiday season, which for me means longer days with few days off as we make our way through the upswing in business at the restaurant where I work.
It is a crazy business. We’re working when others are readying for holidays. It leaves little time for other things. You have to love this life.
But then this chaos is, as the Buddha said, only transitory.
You have to love what you do.
So as I return to a normal schedule, my red haired food co-pilot enters her brief, chaotic time.
But hers, too, is transitory.
I need dinners that youngest daughter and I can have together and will only need reheating when my wife returns home late.  I have some short ribs cooking in the oven and a pot of chicken done “hunter-style” on top of the stove.
Italians would call this “cacciatore.” The French would call it “chasseur.” Both refer to “hunter” and it was, allegedly, a style of cooking common to hunters (or their wives) although I doubt that hunters ever went after chickens, unless of course they had no luck in the field. Both versions share a similarity of ingredients.

I used a 5 pound whole chicken that I cut into pieces. Lacking butchering skills, you can buy a cut up chicken or use whatever parts you like (all thighs or all legs or all breasts). Leave the bones in the chicken; you will be able to remove them after the chicken is finished cooking.  The object is to slowly braise the chicken until the meat falls off the bone when it’s done.
This can be cooked on top of the stove or in a low (275 degree) oven.
Some recipes call for dusting the chicken lightly with flour before browning it. This one doesn't. It's your choice.

Chicken "Hunter Style"
This recipe makes about 6 servings

One 5 pound whole chicken ( or equivalent  parts of your choosing)
2 cups sliced onion
1 red bell pepper, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
8 ounces Crimini mushrooms, halved or quartered lengthwise, depending on their size
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
One 28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes, crushed (you can use canned crushed tomatoes)
2 to 3 bay leaves
8 to 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 to 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, added right before serving
olive oil, for cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup red or white wine

1. If you are going to use the oven, heat oven to 275. Place a 4-quart Dutch oven (or similar oven-proof pot) on the stove over high heat. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Season the chicken with salt and ground black pepper. Swirl 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil into the pot. Lay the chicken into the pot to brown; depending on the size of your pot you may have to cook the chicken in batches.  Turn the chicken until it has browned on all sides then remove the chicken to a plate.
2. When all of the chicken has been browned, remove the pot from the heat to cool slightly before adding the vegetables. Pour out some of the oil from the pot, reserving it to use as you cook. Place the pot back over medium-high heat. Add the onions and peppers to the pot; if the vegetables appear dry, add some of the oil back into the pot. Stir and let the vegetables cook to soften. Scrape and loosen any browned bits that may have collected on the bottom of the pan. After about 5 minutes when the onions and peppers have softened, add the mushrooms and season with some salt and ground black pepper. Stir together and continue cooking until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the tomato paste and stir it into the vegetables; let the tomato paste brown for a minute or so.. Tie the thyme and rosemary together with a piece of string and add it to the pot along with the bay leaves. Add the crushed tomatoes and wine; stir everything together. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, allowing the alcohol to cook off. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, nestling them in the vegetables. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat. Place the pot either into the oven and or continue to cook it top of the stove at a gentle simmer. Cook until the chicken is falling off the bones, about an hour or so. Stir in the shredded basil before serving. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You can remove the skin and bones if you desire.
As for any leftovers, store them covered in the refrigerator. Remove the chicken from the bones, shred it, and reheat it in the sauce. Mix it with your favorite pasta.

*"A Very Cellular Song," by the Incredible String Band. Lyrics by Mike Heron.
I remember quite well, I remember quite well.

No comments:

Post a Comment