Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chicken in Reisling

I was reading an article in the most recent Cookstr newsletter about the future of cooking and eating in "these, our troubled times" wherein various chefs and food industry types were predicting 2009 will be all about less expensive cuts of meat, comfort foods and "peasant dishes".

I like peasant dishes personally. In my experience the terms "rustic", "country style" or "peasant" are code for "not too complicated", "no high concept techniques involved" and "less expensive ingredients". All good.

Inspired, I began casting about for a braised chicken recipe, some sort of one pot wonder, when I stumbled across this on Epicurious.A recipe from the March 2008 issue of Gourmet Magazine for Chicken in Reisling.

The Hub, while not much of a wine drinker, well, actually not much of a drinker at all, is somewhat fond of the slightly sweeter German wines. I figured this recipe would hit two birds with one stone (we aren't into senselessly killing birds around here, just maybe getting their attention, ok?) by satisfying my desire for something not too complicated or messy, and simultaneously pleasing his palate, employing a Reisling to do the heavy lifting flavor wise.

We were not disappointed. There was a bit more mess than I'd anticipated because once you read all the way through the recipe, you'll note the potatoes are peeled and cooked separately, then stirred back in to the final dish. So OK, a two-pot wonder. I can be flexible (really, I can!).

This recipe makes 4 good sized servings. The sauce is very rich and this is another case where you'll want a good bread available to get every last drop of it off your plate.

One more note about reading all the way through? I'd assembled all my ingredients but had forgotten to go get my parsley out of the garden. It was after dark. Did I actually take a tiny flashlight out that I could hold in my mouth while snipping parsley for dinner?Maybe. What's your point? And now the recipe from Epicurious (photos mine).

Chicken in Reisling
Though coq au vin made with red wine is perhaps the best-known incarnation of the French dish in this country, most regions of France have unique versions that take advantage of local wines. Alsace's dry Riesling lends a gentle richness to this creamy, comforting meal. 

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active time: 30 min / Total time: 1 hr
Ingredients
* 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pound), backbone discarded cut French style into 8 pieces (see cooks' note, below)
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
* 4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped (2 cups)
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
* 4 medium carrots, halved diagonally
* 1 cup dry white wine (preferably Alsatian Riesling)
* 1 1/2 pound small (2-inch) red potatoes

* 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
* Fresh lemon juice to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350F with rack in middle.

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and a rounded 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a wide 3 1/2- to 5-quart heavy ovenproof pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning once, about 10 minutes total per batch.
Transfer to a plate.Meanwhile, wash leeks and pat dry.Pour off fat from pot, then cook leeks, shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken, skin sides up, with any juices from plate, carrots, and wine and boil until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover pot and braise chicken in oven until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.While chicken braises, peel potatoes, then generously cover with cold water in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, then return to saucepan. Add parsley and shake to coat.

Stir crème fraîche into chicken mixture and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then add potatoes.
Cooks' note: A chicken cut French style yields 2 breast halves with wings attached, halved crosswise for a total of 4 breast pieces, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. If you don't want to cut up a whole chicken, you can use 3 pounds chicken parts.

Not so fancy plating aside, I still would not hesitate to serve this to guests. Most of the messy work can be done ahead, and the braise should hold well in a low oven prior to adding the cream. You could work ahead, welcome and relax with your guests, then do your last bit of prep right before time to serve.

I used an inexpensive Reisling in the sauce last night.It was plenty tasty at a third the cost of the recommended Alsatian Reisling. You could spring for a pricier wine to impress guests if you wanted to, but really any Reisling you enjoy enough to drink will suffice.

We were only the two of us last night so I have gracious plenty leftovers to play with. In my quest to eat less animal protein, next time I try this out I will halve the amount of chicken called for and see if it isn't still a completely satisfying dining experience.

You see, producing meat, even when done according to responsible and sustainable methods, still adds more to the progressive climate disruption problems we are encountering than growing vegetables does. I am hopeful offering dishes with a complex sauce will keep even the most dedicated carnivore (aka the Hub) from feeling they have missed much by "only" getting 4-6 ounces of meat in their serving.

I am feeling pretty good so far about my forays into new culinary territory this week. Both poultry dishes, the chicken in sour cream with mushrooms on pasta, and this, chicken in Reisling, turned out to be fairly inexpensive, reasonable to prepare, and pleasing to the palate.

I have one more experiment in mind this week before both an out of town guest and LawSchoolGirl arrive on Saturday. I typically stay away from trying anything brand new when I have company in the house. And LawSchoolGirl has the pickiest of our family's picky palates, so next week will probably not find us "boldly going" anywhere new.

And that's perfectly all right. It may not be bitterly cold here in Central Texas this February (today's high is predicted to reach 80 degrees!), but it is yet winter in our heads and hearts. Comfortable foods with their rewarding familiar tastes will be the order of the day as our family regroups for a bit of a breather.

I am curious. What is your approach to having visitors to feed? When you have house guests or family in town, do you stick with the familiar and the comfortable or do you take that as your opportunity to branch out and try something brand new? Feel free to sound off in the comments column and let me hear what you think.

7 comments:

Flapjacks said...

chicken...mnnnnn...

this post is a foil for my gilded recession post. were we throw financial caution to wind! nice! i see you've moved on to the gastronome method of recipe writing.

wv - cloble... cloble, cloble, said the chicken as it was submerged in reisling.

TexasDeb said...

I guess you mean the photos interspersed into the recipe style? Check my early posts - I was there first. Just saying...

I am freezing half the reisling thighs for a future entree. A very easy dinner lurking in the short term.

TexasDeb said...

I've gotten word the comment section here might be broken. Just testing that out today to see what happens. Stay tuned for a new post on frustration in the kitchen....

Andrea's Recipes (Grow Your Own) said...

Depending on who the guests are, we will either subject them to something new or stick with tried and true. My sister needs a gluten free diet, so I tend to stick with a few things that I know are safe. Michael's parents are easy to experiment on, and I almost always try a new dessert on them.

Tiffany said...

I agree with you about rustic dishes. I tend to think they are time tested, meaning there's a reason so many people like comfort food like this. It sounds wonderful to me, but I always like chicken cooked in wine.

biz319 said...

Deb, this looks delicious! I'm stealing this recipe!

I always stick to classic comfort foods when we have guests over - almost always family.

Roast beef, mashed potatoes, salads, etc. I never experiment with a first time recipe when company comes over! More often than not, it usually works out much better in my head!

TexasDeb said...

Andrea- it can be complicated when visitors have a health issue related to eating. I'd agree, gluten-free is nothing to experiment rashly with. Your in-laws however sound like adventurous types and hey - desserts are always a great place to stretch out into new territory.

Tiffany - you are right. Chicken in wine is a great combination and most comfort foods have attained that status for a reason.

biz - I agree. It is hectic enough with visitors not to be fretting (yeah - I AM a fretter) about how a new recipe will turn out. Welcoming guests to the table is NOT the time for me to discover a recipe called for too much of something or too little either one.

Thanks for dropping in, y'all!