Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Tender at the Bone
I've known for a long time that it would probably be better for me to start cooking chicken on the bone. Money-wise, buying chicken or any other protein on the bone is always the way to go--the less work involved in getting your meat to you the cheaper it will be. So it stands to reason that bone-in, skin on chicken would be cheaper than even the largest "family value" pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, not to mention packed with flavor in the form of delicious (albeit fatty) skin. So why then, have I been buying the more expensive, less flavorful chicken breast? While I could blame the ubiquity of the boneless skinless chicken breast, the real culprit is unadulterated laziness. Sure, 90% of the chicken case at my local supermarket is made up of these "healthy cuts" (as is 100% of the organic chicken section), but the truth is that it's just as easy for me to reach for a package of chicken thighs, wings or even a whole chicken. It's like the people I chastise for leaving the house in sweat pants--doesn't it take just as much effort to reach for your jeans and not look like a total slob? So why can't I take my own advice?
This all started when I received my first winter CSA share, which came chock full of veggies, eggs, milk, canned tomatoes, and half a chicken. At first excited by the prospect of an entire half of an organic, free-range chicken, I set it in the freezer while I took a few days to plan how I'd use it (sadly they're partially frozen anyway for the long drive from our farm in upstate New York). Several days later I found myself stuck. It turns out that I don't really cook with chicken all that much, and when I do, it's usually just as a vehicle for some kind of sauce or vegetable. In the rare cases when it's not, it's usually because I have a few of the aforementioned boneless cutlets in the freezer and they're easy enough to cook and defrost when I'm feeling lazy (what appears to be a keyword in today's post). So looking for a way to use this half a chicken in a way that didn't take all day proved to be more difficult than I had thought. I considered using the slow cooker, which meant that I could start the chicken in the morning and have it ready by the time I came home from work. The obvious downside was not that I'd need to leave the slow cooker unattended, but that I'd need to wake up early enough before work to brown the chicken and chop/prepare any veggies that would go with it. I ultimately discounted the slow cooker idea, on account that it was more trouble than it was worth (i.e. I was too lazy to wake up 45 minutes earlier than normal).
With my half a chicken wasting away in the freezer I decided on a whim to just defrost it and spend my lunch hour coming up with a way to use it. A Barnes and Noble coupon eventually led me to the answer, as I took to the web in search of a way to use said coupon (a gift from heaven just begging to be used on a cookbook). After a few minutes of searching it became clear that the two cookbooks I'd received for Christmas were the only ones I'd really wanted, so I called off the search, but not before encountering Daniel Boulud's cookbook focused on braising. Of course! How could I have been so blind? Meat on the bone just calls out for braising, a process that despite it's longer cooking time, doesn't actually always require much preparation if you seek out the right recipe. Armed with this new insight I quickly remembered that my favorite braised chicken dishes as a kid usually involved olives and roasted red peppers. After a quick look around the kitchen I found I had pretty much everything else that I needed to make the dish. And since oranges are in season and so wonderfully delicious this time of year, I decided to braise the chicken with oranges. It turned out great, and now I have a great new (affordable) dish in my repertoire. Here's the final recipe:
Chicken Braised with Oranges, Olives and Roasted Red Peppers
1/2 chicken's worth of bone-in chicken parts (about 6, light or dark meat)
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 white wine
1/2 cup olives, roughly chopped (I prefer green, but any other is fine)
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 large oranges, 1 cut into 6 wedges, the other halved
3 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced (jarred or fresh)
extra virgin olive oil
1. In a large skillet (or even a Dutch oven) saute onions, peppers and garlic in oil until just starting to brown. Remove onions and garlic and reserve for later, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan.
2. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper and add to skillet, browning thoroughly on both sides (this is only for color--it will not be cooked through). When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove it to a plate. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, careful to scrape up all of the browned bits. Cook a minute further, then add the chicken stock, olives and juice of half an orange. Stir to combine and return chicken, onions, garlic, and red peppers to plan. Arrange orange slices in pan.
3. Cover and cook on medium heat until chicken is cooked through. White meat will be done faster, so if you have a mixture of white and dark, remove the white meat immediately after it's done to prevent it from overcooking. Serve over rice, farro or quinoa and enjoy!