Friday, February 27, 2009

70. Shallot-Butter Pan Sauce

Date Cooked: February 14, 2009
Page: 391
Rating: B

Really quick confession. The picture is not of the product served and does not reflect the rating I gave. The above picture was of attempt one. This was a pan sauce I made for pan-seared steaks and it didn’t go as expected.

Once the steaks were done I had to cook the shallots in the same pan. Well things were hectic on this day and the pan was a little hot (it was used for searing steaks) and the recipe indicated to remove it from the heat and then cook the shallots over low heat. Well let’s just say it’s possible that I may not have turned the heat to low and immediately upon removing the steaks dumped in the shallots. They crisped up in less than 30 seconds, the pan was still a little warm. I proceeded anyway and threw in the butter which browned up nice and quick followed by lemon juice and parsley. Yes, there is fresh parsley in that sauce. You don’t have to taste it to know it was garbage.

Well I had spent a fair dollar on these steaks and I was not going to ruin them with the burnt trash I had created so I quickly minced a few more shallots and proceeded to create the pan sauce again at a lower temperature. The only problem with round two is that I didn’t have any of the browned bits left in the pan from searing the steaks. But considering the alternatives of incinerator residue or no sauce I felt this second attempt wasn’t too bad at all.

Rating: Depends on if I rate round one or two. F or B. The sauce was a nice accompaniment to the steaks but since I am a person that always orders a steak with a strong sauce (peppercorn, blue-cheese peppercorn, etc.) it was a little mild for me.

** You'll see the finished sauce in the next post

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

69. Simple Stovetop Rice Pudding

Date Cooked: February 7, 2009
Page: 956
Rating: B

I’m not a huge fan of rice pudding. It might have something to do with the association of raisins in rice pudding from my childhood. My wife however loves rice pudding (without raisins of course) and had requested I make this recipe, as long as I left out the raisins. Imagine my surprise when the recipe didn’t call for them!

This is a rather simple recipe to put together as long as you have lots of time to stand around and stir. The first step was to cook the medium grain rice. Originally I went to the grocery store and was going to purchase a bag of medium grain rice when I noticed that they had a bag of rice advertised for use in sushi. The same bag I had at home at the back of my pantry for the past 3 years (or longer). I checked the ingredient list and sure enough it was just regular medium grain rice. So I figured I would take a chance and hope that rice doesn’t go bad. The rice cooked for 15 minutes and seemed perfectly fine so onto the next step.

To the pot of cooked rice I added 2 cups of half-and-half and 3 cups of whole milk. The recipe calls for 2 ½ cups of each but I didn’t feel like buying an additional 2 cups of half-and-half when I needed only a ½ cup more. The rest would probably have spoiled in my fridge. So to avoid waste I just added more milk. This did impact the recipe’s cooking time. Along with all this liquid was added sugar. This entire mixture cooked for an additional 30 minutes until it began to thicken. Once it started to thicken the heat was turned to low and cooked for what the book called 15 more minutes, until the spoon could almost stand up. In real life this meant 30 minutes. Does 75 minutes of cooking in liquid seem long for rice? I really expected the rice to be a complete mushy mash, but it didn’t turn out that way.

Once cooked, vanilla extract was stirred in and the pudding was allowed to cool.

Rating: B. I enjoyed the pudding, but it was almost too rich? I can’t quite put my finger on it but something held it back from being a real knock out. The flavor was great, the consistency was perfect but something just didn’t make me crave going back for more. My wife loved it though and it didn’t last too long in the house.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

68. Chicken Parmesan

Date Cooked: February 6, 2009
Page: 337
Rating: A-

I blogged about the chicken cutlets which were the main component of this dish so today I will tell you about the dish as a whole. Besides the chicken I needed to make the sauce and cook the pasta. Let’s start with the sauce.

The book calls for a can of crushed tomatoes along with your traditional herbs and spices. I didn’t have crushed tomatoes so I used dice tomatoes… I really didn’t like the look of it so I had a bright idea! I grabbed the often forgotten immersion blender and reduced the sauce to a smoother consistency. I didn’t puree because I wanted some texture to the final product. I left the sauce to simmer while the chicken cutlets were being cooked.

Now for everything that I have learned apparently boiling pasta is not something I am learning very well. I boiled some spaghetti while the cutlets were finishing up and then drained it leaving it to sit for a minute or two while I got the plates ready. I forgot to rinse the cooked pasta. It took only a couple minutes for the entire batch of spaghetti to clump together into a stringy sticky mass. I literally had to cut the pasta with shears into serving size clumps because the starchy noodles had fused together.

On top of each clump of noodles I added a chicken cutlet and then some sauce. This is the part that got me confused, but not until later. I was browsing through some blogs and came across several chicken parmesan posts. In all of the pictures I noticed something different from mine. The cutlets had the cheese added on top of the sauce and then broiled. I felt like a fool until I re-read the recipe and it does actually say to add the sauce over the cheese. Interesting considering their picture of Chicken Parmesan on their website shows the melted cheese on top of the sauce. Regardless it all tasted great!

Rating: A-. The chicken parmesan was delicious even though the noodles had turned out clumpy. Once mixed with the sauce though, they were fine. The chicken as said in the previous post was delicious and the sauce was flavorful and mild enough not to drown out the chicken. I’m happy with the results.

Friday, February 20, 2009

67. Parmesan Breaded Chicken Cutlets

Date Cooked: February 6, 2009
Page: 337
Rating: A

Considering my newfound comfort with cooking in oil, several recipes are beginning to look less intimidating. The breaded chicken cutlets was one of them. This recipe is actually a component of the Chicken Parmesan recipe in the book which I will blog about separately later.

I started out with probably the best part of the recipe, pounding chicken breasts flat. I started gently at first but eventually I was wailing away on these things until they threatened to stretch and break apart into several pieces. Once sufficiently beaten the cutlets were brined in some salted water for an hour. I highly recommend brining chicken, it makes a noticeable difference to the juiciness of the final product.

While the chicken was brining I prepared my flour, egg wash and bread crumb stations. I used panko bread crumbs for this because I had them and had recently watched a cooking show where they were used for breading chicken cutlets. I also decided to use the parmesan variation for them since it was just a simple addition of cheese to the bread crumbs.

When the chicken was done brining it was patted dry before being dusted in flour, dunked in the egg and then coated with bread crumbs. The book suggests using tongs but after the first cutlet I gave up on that and got my hands dirty. It was quicker and I got a better coating using my hands. The cutlets were placed on a rack to dry for a few minutes while I got the oil in the pan nice and hot.

The cutlets were fried in the oil two at a time for a few minutes on each side. I was concerned about undercooking the chicken because the bread coating would only allow for certain threshold of cooking before it began to burn. Once they were all done and draining on another rack I covered them with some grated cheese and placed them under the broiler until the cheese melted. I had a concern about putting the cheese on them at this time since they were going to be used in the Chicken Parmesan recipe. More on that in the next post though.

Rating: A. Once again I am surprised at my growing ability and the simple techniques I am learning. The chicken came out beautifully. It was properly cooked and still juicy which surprised me because of how thin the cutlets are. Obviously this can be attributed to the brining. I did learn one thing from this though is the importance of various oils and what they contribute to a dish. I used extra virgin olive oil for cooking these cutlets. In the book it says vegetable oil. I assumed incorrectly that it didn’t matter which was why they listed a basic oil. I was wrong and here is why. The vegetable oil would have been more neutral and not imparted a flavor to the cutlets unlike the EVOO. Did this detract from the cutlets? Not really, but I could notice the flavor and it could have been omitted and the cutlets would have been a bit better because of it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

66. Quick Cheese Bread with Bacon, Onion, and Gruyere

Date Cooked: February 5, 2009
Page: 703
Rating: B+

I had picked up some Gruyere cheese while at the St. Lawrence market awhile ago and really didn’t have a plan for it other than to use it in a recipe from the book. It just so happened that I was itching to bake something and I noticed this cheese bread recipe that used Gruyere cheese… and bacon. I was hooked and decided this would be a great thing to bake.

Yeasted breads still intimidate me but quick breads I am finding a fondness for. They really are quick to put together and are pretty tasty. This one had potential to be a great bread. I mean, does a bread that contains bacon sound bad? Can you see the chunks of cheese in the bread and the lovely cheese coating on the bread?

The first step was to crisp up the bacon pieces and then soften some minced onions. I intentionally cooked more bacon than required because I knew there would be some sampling along the way. Then the dry ingredients, your typical salt, flour and baking powder, were whisked together with a touch of cayenne pepper. The Gruyere cheese was chopped into chunks and then added to the dry ingredients along with the bacon and onions. They were tossed until nicely coated. Then the milk, eggs and sour cream were folded in.

The pan was greased and a layer of grated parmesan was added to the bottom. Then the thick and heavy bread mixture was added in and topped with another layer of grated parmesan. Into the oven it went until a toothpick came out clean. It took about 45 minutes and then a few minutes to get the toothpick to come out clean. Every time I inserted the toothpick I would hit cheese and I couldn’t tell if it was done or not, after several puncture wounds to the surface of the bread I finally found a cheese free spot and out came a clean toothpick. The bread was removed from the pan and cooled for 45 minutes before slicing. I resisted the desire to cut into it early and let the cheese in it cool so it could actually be cut.

Rating: B+. This bread was delicious but heavy. Two slices of this bread are a meal. I ‘snacked’ on two slices of this bread while cooking dinner a few days later and I was full before dinner was ready. If this bread could be a bit lighter I would love it way more… and I really like the bread.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

65. Buffalo Chicken Wings

Date Cooked: February 1, 2009
Page: 28
Rating: A+

I love wings! I’m not the type of person that loves every type of wing or loves them suicidally hot. I just love a good crispy chicken wing, nicely spiced with a good sauce or two for dipping. I had also never thought to make my own wings. Superbowl Sunday I attempted to make some wings.

Throughout this project I have become more comfortable with certain cooking techniques. Hot oil and I used to be afraid of each other, or rather I used to be afraid of it. Oil can’t be afraid of things, it’s just oil. Anyway I have learned to wear long sleeves when using oil and the splatter screen is a valuable household utensil. Deep-frying though is something I had never considered without the purchase of a specialty appliance. Turns out I can deep fry in my dutch oven. This was an experience that ended with tasty results (and a foul smell liquid to get rid of).

I picked up 3 pounds of wings from the grocery store to give this recipe a try. The first thing to do was bring the oil up to temperature. It crept along slowly until all of a sudden the temperature was dangerously approaching 400. It was supposed to go to 360. I removed it from the heat and let the temperature get under control while I finished coating the wings with salt, cornstarch and cayenne pepper. Once nicely coated the first batch was dumped into the oil… well actually I carefully placed each wing in the oil, I’m sure a hospital visit would have been in order had I just dumped them in. The oil did not splatter as I had imagined it would. I took great care to pat dry each wing before tossing it in the coating so the lack of excess water probably helped. I set the timer for ten minutes and waited, carefully monitoring the oil temperature. Once done I pulled them from the oil with long handled tongs (the longest I could find) and placed them on a warmed, paper towel lined baking sheet in the oven. Then I loaded in the next batch in the oil.

I had to try one and I was blown away! These wings were my perfect wing! It was instantly apparent that the three pounds of wings would not be enough so we quickly called my mother-in-law to pick up more wings on her way over. Once the three pounds were and waiting in the oven I finished up the sauce.

The sauce was a simple preparation. Melted butter in a saucepan to which brown sugar, Frank’s Louisiana’s Hot Sauce and vinegar were added. This sauce can be spiced up a lot more depending on preference simply by adding different types of hot sauce. I like a tangy sauce with a bit of heat. Too much heat takes away from my enjoyment of the wings.

Rating: A+. Absolutely amazing wings! They were nicely seasoned and came out perfectly crispy. These alone will get me to invest in a good deep-fryer. I thought the sauce was good but my wife loved it! The worst part of this recipe was having to dispose of the used oil. After deep-frying 5lbs of wings the oil was rather dark and too be honest a bit foul smelling. I had to scour my garage for a container to dump it in since I had no intention of reusing it. I look forward to the next time I make my own wings.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

64. Herbed Spinach Dip

Date Cooked: February 1, 2009
Page: 12
Rating: C-

I like spinach dips. I really love spinach dips with pumpernickel bread. For Superbowl Sunday I decided to cook up a few appetizers and this herbed spinach dish was one of them. I had so much frozen spinach in the freezer that this was a good chance to start using it up.

Not a hard dish to put together. Spinach was thawed out and squeezed to remove excess water. Everything then gets a spin in the food processor. Your basics were all present and accounted for, mayonnaise, sour cream, scallions, garlic, salt and pepper, parsley and dill. In addition red pepper and some hot sauce were thrown in. A simple recipe to make.

Rating: C-. This dish tasted mildly of fish. I don’t know what happened but I suspect the spinach. It absolutely turned everyone off the dip. What a waste of food! I’m sure it was the quality of the spinach which concerns me because I have more of it in my freezer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

63. Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

Date Cooked: January 28, 2009
Page: 223
Rating: B+

This is a recipe I had been eyeing since the time I made Gumbo. It was a recipe with a lot of ingredients and a few techniques for cooking that intimidated me a bit. The biggest technique was simply frying chicken until the skin is crispy (see the Chicken Cacciatore post). Since I had accomplished this and had the proper vessel for cooking this recipe (my dutch oven) I figured it was a good time to tackle Jambalya.

Over the weekend I had picked up some more Andouille sausage while at the St. Lawrence Market searching for a leg of lamb roast. So I had everything I needed to make this dish. The first step in making this dish was to finely chop the garlic, red pepper, onion and celery by whizzing them around the food processor. I don’t know if I was really happy with this result. The pieces were either mush or really large, most likely due to my food processor.

The next step was to cook the chicken in some oil until golden brown and the skin is crispy. Once that was done the sausage gets its turn to brown before being removed to make room for the vegetables. The vegetables get soften before the rest of the ingredients, rice, tomatoes, thyme, cayenne, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves, and the browned sausage, get added. The chicken gets skinned (and you can guess where those skins ended up) before being placed on top of the mixture and everything brought to a boil and then simmered.

Everything cooked with minimal stirring for about 25 minutes, until the chicken was done. The chicken was removed and shredded while shrimp was added to the dutch oven to cook. Let’s take a moment to discuss shrimp. I need to buy raw shrimp with shells on these days because my oldest loves to help peel them. He calls himself my sous-chef and dives right into the bowl of shrimp to peel them. He gets mad if I don’t let him peel the last shrimp.

When the shrimp have finished cooking the shredded chicken gets added and the dish is ready to serve.

Rating: B+. This was a very flavorful dish and I enjoyed it quite a lot. My only complaint is that the rice turned out a little mushy. Not really bad but there was probably a little too much liquid in the dish. Next time I prepare this (there will be a next time), I will try to reduce the amount of liquid or watch the overall cooking time better.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

62. Roast Leg of Lamb

Date Cooked: January 25, 2009
Page: 494
Rating: A

I’m proud of this one. A short time ago I was thinking how there are several chapters that I have not yet attempted to cook much from. Cake was one which I did a short bit ago and Lamb was another one I was eyeing. For whatever reason the roast leg of lamb caught my attention and for several weeks I had been wanting to prepare it. Most local grocery stores only sold frozen New Zealand lamb and the sizes were small. I could never find fresh lamb. Well that all changed the day before I cooked this.

My wife and I decided to head into Toronto, with the kids, to the St. Lawrence Market. There are several butchers there and I knew I would find what I wanted. I was specifically looking for a 6 lbs leg of lamb with the bone still in it. I needed the bones for the piquant caper sauce plus I want to learn a bit more about the preparation of a roast that only hands on practice can help you with. Most of the butchers sold fresh Ontario lamb that was boneless, trimmed of most fat and vacuum packed. I wanted a more rugged experience so I finally settled on a roast that was about 5 ½ pounds, encased in fat and with the bone still in it.

Once home with the roast I left it wrapped in the fridge overnight before taking it out the next morning to begin trimming. This is where my university anatomy classes kicked in. The book recommends that the butcher remove that aitch bone (hip bone). Well this were still in the roast and I would have to do the work. So out came the knife… and I had no clue where to start. I poked and prodded the roast trying to figure out the best approach. After paying the money I did for the roast I didn’t really want to mangle it so I took my time trimming carefully and trying to keep the knife close to the bone. I slowly exposed the hip joint and with a rather barbaric flourish I popped the hip bone out. Once that was completed it was much easier to trim around the irregular shaped aitchbone. The book recommends leaving the shank bone in but since my roast was not a complete leg the shank bone was cut so I removed that as well. I now had a boneless leg of lamb.

When the bones were removed I trimmed some fat and then re-wrapped it. If only that was the end of it. I was reading the book further as it discusses the lamb roasts in general and it talks about how lamb fat is not a good thing. It renders tough and can be strong and unpleasant tasting so it recommends removing as much of the fat as possible. Plus there is a lymph node in the leg roast which needs to be removed. So out came the roast again.

At this point I have probably spent 30 minutes trimming this thing down and with every cut of the knife I get fearful that the roast won’t be enough for four adults (we are hungry adults). Carefully slicing away fat I am vigilantly looking out for this lymph node. I was starting to think it wasn’t in the roast until I cut away some fat and there it was, a little grey nugget, the lymph node. Once removed and a final pass of the roast for any stray fat I was very pleased and much more relaxed about how the roast was going to turn out… well hoped it would turn out. As a point to share with everyone, at this point my hands reeked of strong smelling lamb fat. It wasn’t pleasant and no amount of scrubbing with floral smelling hand soap was getting this stink off. It wasn’t turning my off or anything. I just avoided smelling my hands.

Now that the roast was trimmed it was time to season it and tie it tight (the bone removal process left a little to be desired in the muscular integrity of the leg). Some basic rosemary, salt and pepper were rubbed all over the roast and some garlic slivers where pushed into the meat. I tied the roast tight, coated with some oil, and placed it in the roasting pan to rest for 30 minutes to allowing it to reach room temperature and letting the flavors meld with the meat.

The easiest part of the experience was to roast the lamb. The first 10 minutes in the oven were at 450 degrees before the temperature was reduced and the leg was rotated every 20 minutes until done. It took just under an hour to complete the roast. I removed the roast from the pan, tented it with foil and let it rest while I prepared the piquant caper sauce.

When I finally carved into the roast it was a beautiful shade of pink and cut with ease. Once plated it was time to eat!

Rating: A. It was outstanding. The roast turned out full of flavor and perfectly cooked. I was pretty amazed at the results. I’m going to have to stretch here for something I would improve with the final result, maybe smaller slices of garlic in the meat. You can see in the picture a few around the edges. They almost look like gristle. I think the compliment that made me most proud was that my wife felt it was better than any lamb she had eaten in a restaurant and trumped her dinner out with her mom the night before. I will definitely roast lamb again and probably continue to remove the bones myself. I honestly enjoyed prepping the roast (except for the lingering smell of lamb fat on my hands that took some time to fade). Lamb doesn’t intimidate me anymore.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

61. Piquant Caper Sauce

Date Cooked: January 25, 2009
Page: 496
Rating: A-

This was the second of two sauces I had prepared for a Roast Leg of Lamb. This caper sauce was pretty much gravy with a bit of bite. The sauce required some work to make and relied heavily on the Roast Lamb for preparation.

The first step in this process was to sauté the leg bones from the roast. I’ll go into agonizing detail of how I retrieved these bones in my next post but for now let’s just say that my OCD tendencies really helped out. The bones sautéed for a bit (and I should have used a larger pan) before I added in the beef stock and let the whole thing simmer for an hour.

Once the roast leg of lamb was done in the oven I was able to complete the remainder of the sauce. The roasting pan was deglazed with some white wine before the deglazed liquid and the lamb stock were strained into a measuring cup. This strained and skimmed of fat liquid was then put back into the saucepan and brought to a boil. A butter flour paste was added to thicken the sauce along with the capers, vinegar and accumulated roast juices. The flavors spent a few minutes getting to know each other until it was ready to serve with the roast.

Rating: A-. Between the Mint Sauce and this one, the lamb had some great accompaniment. I liked this sauce a lot and ate more of this one than the Mint sauce. I think since it went so well on the polenta it was a nicer overall member of the dinner. Obviously the creation of this sauce ties in heavily with the roasting of the lamb. But next time I do a lamb roast I will definitely make this sauce to go with it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

60. Mint Sauce

Date Cooked: January 25, 2009
Page: 496
Rating: A

This was one of two sauces created for a roast leg of lamb that I had cooked for a Sunday dinner. This sauce was amazing! It tops any gross mint jelly or other mint concoction I’ve ever been served with lamb. To be honest I was never a fan of mint and lamb until this sauce came along.

The sauce is easy to prepare. White wine vinegar and sugar were reduced and then fresh minced mint was added. Simple and totally delicious! With so few ingredients though, the quality of the vinegar and freshness of the mint matter.

Rating: A. I might make this for all kinds of dishes! It was tangy and carried the mint flavor without being overpowering to the lamb.

Friday, February 6, 2009

59. Polenta with Parmesan and Butter

Date Cooked: January 25, 2009
Page: 226
Rating: C

I was a little intimidated about this recipe. I’ve heard all the stories of polenta turning out clumpy because the corn meal was added to quick and I was concerned. Did I need to be?

Polenta is not exactly the pinnacle of complex food. Water, corn meal and some spices make up the basic dish. But it is a heavily technique based recipe. I started by bringing water to a boil in my dutch oven. Once boiling away I added some salt before slowly (very slowly) pouring in the corn meal. Once all the corn meal was added I was surprised. It went well and the result was rather uniform with no discernable lumps. Okay so I relaxed, this wasn’t too tough.

The book recommends a vigorous stir every 5 minutes for about 10 seconds. Repeat for 30 minutes. In the beginning this worked fine but as I was approaching the end of the cooking time the polenta began to firm up fast when suddenly it was sticking to the bottom. I stirred that polenta like I was mixing paint, and while a large blob splashed from the pot onto the floor, most of it quickly smoothed back out. Disaster narrowly avoided.

Once the polenta was finished (or as close to finished as I could figure out) I mixed in a good portion of grated parmesan and some generous pieces of butter. I stirred until the butter incorporated and then served.

Rating: C. I was not happy with this. It tasted too… raw? It didn’t feel smooth like I had hoped it would. I used the recommended stone ground medium cornmeal but I think a fine grind might have made it smoother. I’ll try again in the future since there are several polenta variations but I really hope they get better.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

58. Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts and Garlic

Date Cooked: January 25, 2009
Page: 173
Rating: B+

My memories of peas for the most part include horrible nightmares of brown mushy canned peas. I don’t recall eating them at home much but my grandmother always served them and I really loathed them. Although it has been many years since I was exposed to the unpleasant smell of those little gross peas every time I think peas, I think canned. Then slowly the vibrant green of frozen peas works its way in. The only other type of pea I have in memory are snow peas. In fact I always thought that sugar snap peas and snow peas were the same. Never gave it much thought… until I decided to buy sugar snap peas. Turns out they are different. In fact sugar snap peas look like beans. So on this day I had learned that peas come in one more form for my memory to store. And after this recipe I am really hoping that when I think peas I think sugar snap.

This was a rather straight forward recipe. My wife tediously snipped the tips of the peas and then they were quickly blanched. I am not a good judge of timing (as I have bemoaned often in the past) so the peas might have been cooked a tad too long. They received a nice dunk in an ice water bath before being spread out on some paper towel to dry.

Since I was preparing a full diner that night from the book, they were able to sit for a bit until they were ready to be finished off. Into a skillet of oil with toasted pine nuts and garlic they were sautéed until warmed through and then plated to be served.

Rating: B+. These were very good and accompanied the meal well. I will make these again. I’ve also determined that I like pine nuts. Something up until this point I don’t really recall eating before.

Monday, February 2, 2009

57. Chicken Cacciatore with Portabellos and Sage

Date Cooked: January 21, 2009
Page: 345
Rating: B+

This is one of those recipes that have been percolating in the back of my mind for a long time. During the initial weeks of the blog I cam e across this recipe and have been obsessed about making it but for some reason I always had an excuse (not a reason) for putting it off. Well this time I decided to bite the bullet and dive in.

The first step is one of those techniques I always shied away from, browning things in hot oil. I’ve cooked with oil lots of times but when I made my corn fritters back in the early days of this blog I only emphasized why I approach it with caution. Hot oil burns. Anyway once the oil in my dutch oven was nice and hot I put in some chicken thighs, skin side down. The oil immediately began to splatter all over the place. I slapped the splatter screen on top and stepped back. This was going to be a dangerous task. I never thought that I would be risking such bodily harm while cooking. When it was time to flip the chicken I had put on a long sleeve shirt and fetched the longest tongs I could find. I mentally prepared for a quick in and out operation and then dove in. Damn chicken gets slippery, and apparently the oil wasn’t hot enough because the chicken was sticking to the bottom which made the quick extraction more of a negotiation under fire. Once wrestled from the grips of the dutch oven and flipped I stepped back, knowing I had to cook 4 more chicken thighs. When the first batch was done the second batch was added. Now a veteran of this kitchen conflict, the operation went much smoother, and soon I had four beautifully browned chickens.

Now I have a bit of a confession to make at this point. I had to remove the chicken skins as per the recipe. The recipe says to remove and discard. These skins where so crispy and I love crispy chicken. So I discarded them into my stomach, I could bear the thought of wasting such glorious food. I know that I pushed myself several steps closer to a traffic stopping artery clog but mmmm… it was worth it.

With the danger aside I moved on to completing the recipe. The onions and mushrooms were sautéed for a few minutes before being coated in flour. Then the wine was added to help remove all the lovely brown bits at the bottom of the pan. For this recipe I used a 1993 Wolfblass Yellow Label. I like nothing more than cooking with pricey fine red wine. It had nothing to do with there being just enough left for this recipe and that it had already been opened longer than it should have been.

Next up was the broth, some tomatoes, thyme and a parmesan cheese rind. The rind was optional but I was saving one for this recipe specifically. Once the ingredients had some time to introduce their flavors to each other I added the chicken back to the dutch oven and submerged it in the liquid. Into the oven the dish went for 30 minutes. Just before serving the rind was removed and some fresh sage was added.

Rating: B+. I liked this recipe but I had too concerns with it. The wine overpowered the dish. This has nothing to do with the recipe but entirely in the wine selection. Next time I will use a younger, tamer red wine. Also I didn’t cut the chicken thighs myself and this does make a difference. When jointing a chicken myself I tend to be a little OCD with regards to trimming. The store bought thighs had bits of cartilage loose in them and it is a real annoyance to bite into a delicious mouthful of food and have your teeth ground to a halt on a piece of bone or cartilage. Those two things aside I enjoyed this dish… but I may have been mentally hyping it up to a level that I wouldn’t be able to achieve.

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