Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chicken in Red Wine

I do not drink.  Well, I do, but not on a regular basis.  I am always happy when I get a bottle of wine for a gift, but not if they expect me to drink it while they watch.  I like a glass of red wine now and then.  I love Malvasia, but cannot really afford it.  Anisette, Amaretto, Calvados(OH MY GOD!), Grand Marnier.  I got tired of Creme De Menthe and all those things I was allowed to TASTE as a child.  I have never been a beer lover...Hate the calories...but on occasion, paired with the right foods, I like a nice dark beer and always a good Bock Beer.  Strangely, I like beer with pizza.

So, when we get a bottle of wine, I may have a glass or two in the course of a couple of weeks, by which time a serious wine drinker would say that the wine is spoiled.

So, the answer is clear.  Cook with it.

Every time someone cooks on a TV show, the first thing they say is:"Don't cook with a wine you would not drink". and they are so right.  But, do not get into the habit of buying expensive wines and dumping half of the bottle into a chicken dish for Saturday lunch, even if friends are coming over.  Save such obvious waste for wedding food or for the president when he visits.

A good, solid wine that you might drink, that has a nice full bodied flavor, will make a nice meal without breaking the bank.  (Of course you could do this with white wine if that is what you got for your birthday.)

That being said, use wines you know.  If you have not tasted it before, make sure you take a slug before you dump it into a dish you have been working on for two hours.  Some German wines are very fruity, and you might find a Sauterne a little sweet for some dishes, though it is wonderful in Grammie's chicken in wine.(With lemon, cinnamon and pine nuts or almond slivers)(posted elsewhere)

Today, I used a nice Merlot.

Cut up a chicken into ten pieces or buy Chicken thighs, breasts, or even a mess of wings.(lots of work to eat, but they taste good). Perhaps a four pound chicken is OK.  If you use a bigger bird, you may want to cook it longer.  I find that the dark meat has a stronger flavor that I do not like in a large bird.

I skin the bird.  I am always on a diet.  It is definitely inferior in taste, but you save a ton of calories.  To be absolutely correct, you might flour the pieces, then brown them, then remove them while you brown the veggies.   When you return them to the pan, you have to monitor them, because you have already introduced a thickener.  I hate monitoring something so closely that it takes the joy out of cooking. The slightly thickened sauce cooked for a long time, is more likely to scorch at some point, so I prefer to thicken at the end.

OK..So you have ten pieces of chicken..
Two wings, tips removed
Two thighs
Two legs
Two breast tips (Divide the breasts by cutting 2/3 of the way back from the tip because the back part of the breast is much thicker.)
Two breast parts from the thick end

Leave the meat on the bone, but do remove the ribs and their little scraps of meat, wing tips etc and put them with the backbone to make chicken soup.

Crush and peel five cloves of garlic or to taste.
Chop four medium carrots.  (My dog, Harry, loves carrot chunks, so I have to peel extra that never make it to the pot.)
Chop a large onion.
Chop two ribs of celery.
Reserve one cup of peas till near the end.
Chop a couple of large tomatoes.
One pound of white mushrooms if desired, left whole, or quartered if large.

Brown the chicken in vegetable oil(olive might be too strong) on all sides.(floured or skinned or unskinned...just as you prefer)
remove to a plate on the side.

Remove excess fat, leaving about a tablespoon.

Brown your vegetables, except your tomato and peas.  When they just begin to soften and brown a bit, nestle your chicken pieces into the vegetables.   I use a large frying pan that was made as a chicken fryer.

Add salt, black pepper, 3 bouillon cubes and a cup of water (or better, a can of broth), two bay leaves, a rounded teaspoon of thyme, and a tablespoon of parsley.  I sneak a dash of cayenne in when no one is looking.

Pour in 1/2 bottle of red wine.  This should come close to covering the chicken.  Add a bit more wine or broth if it is not close.

Cover tightly.   Bring to a boil and then lower the temp to simmer for one hour at very low temp.  It should be just bubbling.

Turn the chicken once or twice so that it will color evenly.

At about the halfway point, add the tomatoes.  At about 45 minutes, add the peas.

Test the chicken with a fork or by eating half of it.  It should be very tender, and READY to fall off the bone, but do not let it disintegrate.  Do not hesitate to cook longer if it is not perfectly tender.

Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch with a bit of cold water, and pushing the chicken aside, stir into the broth in several places.  Bring to a gentle boil, and allow to thicken.  Taste critically, salt is an issue here.  This is very easy to get too bland, but remember you have broth or bouillon cubes, and salt already.

Serve over rice, mashed potato or noodles.  Maybe couscous would be good.

You could alternatively place the entire meal  into a covered casserole just after you add the wine.   Earthenware would look wonderful.  Slide the whole thing into a 325 oven for your hour of cooking time.  Thicken on top of the stove if the casserole will take it, or do it a little earlier, and allow it to cook for a few minutes in the oven at a slightly higher temperature so the cornstarch will activate.

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