Friday, December 4, 2009

Chicken and No Dumplings

There is nothing more warming on a winter's day than a bubbling braise. Particularly, for the first time in history, we have early snow in Houston!

I made this braise for a quick family dinner when we were up in Kansas City over Thanksgiving with The Boy's folks. It was so good that I was thinking about it the next morning and the next night, and had it for breakfast and a late night supper!

It's super easy too. Braising has only a few basic steps - sear meat, cook aromatics, deglaze pan with braising liquid, cook, garnish and serve - and then it's all about practice. Every time you braise, it's just about these 4 things: meat, aromatics, braising liquid, garnish.

The reason why I've called it 'Chicken and No Dumplings' is because we aren't very fond of dumplings in this household. The only dumplings we like are Chinese jiaozi, which I make fresh and always have a batch in the freezer for a quick meal (like the one The Boy is having at the moment, after having been sent home from work because of the snow *pfft*). The chicken stands magnificently on its own though, so it's not a big loss. You can serve it with mashed potatoes, or boiled fingerling potatoes, and/or a baguette. Yum.

Here's to heartwarming homecooked meals this winter!

Cooking time: Approx. 1 hour
Equipment: 1 Dutch oven or heavy casserole

A - Meat
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces - the butcher can do this for you
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp butter

B - Aromatics
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 yellow onions, chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 strips lemon rind
1/4 tsp nutmeg

C - Braising liquid
1 cup Vermouth or a dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock

D - The Liason (a French technique to thicken and enrich the gravy at the end)
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and black pepper
1/2 lemon, squeezed
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


A - Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or heavy casserole, melt the butter and sear the chicken meat until the skin is blonde (not brown). If you cannot fit all the meat in at one go, do it in two batches. Set aside (I always set aside the meat on the overturned cover of my casserole).

B - Melt the butter and fry the vegetables until the onions are soft and glistening. Take in the aroma of the onions, mixed with spices and heady fragrance of the lemon.

C - Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape off those caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan which will give the braise depth of flavor. Bring down to a simmer and cook until the liquid has been reduced by half. Add in chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken pieces into the casserole in this order: layer all the pieces in a single layer at the bottom of the casserole, and the two breasts pieces on top, skin side down. Cover and simmer gently for 10 mins.

After 10 mins, uncover the casserole and turn the breast pieces over so that it's laying skin side up. If the liquid is simmering too turbulently, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover again and continue to braise for another 30 mins. The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear when pierced with a fork.

Remove the chicken pieces to your serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

D - Whisk the egg yolks, cream, salt and pepper. Whisk in a ladle of the gravy in to warm the egg mixture slowly, so that the eggs do not scramble. At very low heat, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the gravy and stir until it thickens and leaves the side of the pan slightly - a little like making custard. Be careful to control your heat - you don't want the eggs to scramble! Taste and add more salt or pepper or lemon juice as desired.

Spoon over the chicken. Garnish and serve with some boiled fingerling potatoes and sliced baguette to soak up that delicious gravy.

1 comment: