Expanding my culinary horizons

October 5, 2008 at 7:20 PM | Posted in Recipe | Leave a comment

As I have probably told most of you, I became decidedly un-vegetarian in Paris. There was too much good chicken, lamb, duck, and (my favorite of all) cured pork to not taste it. Eating is such a huge part of the culture, and I didn’t want to miss out on it. I had been vegetarian for 15 years, but it was quite easy to adjust to being able to order anything on the menu and really taste the local specialties. For example, in Burgundy I had escargot, coq au vin, and boeuf borgogne (I tasted Anna’s–I’m still a little squeamish about beef). Suffice it to say that, after such an amazing gastronomic experience, it was hard to go back to go back to, say, a grilled cheese sandwich without thinking, “Wow, some cured pork would be make this really amazing!”

I decided a few things: I would eat mostly free-range, organic, or vegetarian-fed meat, and if I was going to eat meat I was going to cook it too–I had to be able to face the reality of what I was eating, instead of only seeing it all prettied up on a plate. I have cooked chicken twice now, and both times it’s been pretty good (I like dark meat much better–it’s much less likely to be dry). The first time I got drumsticks and I tried to skin them myself, which was a huge mess and a lot of work for not much reward. This time I got a bag of frozen, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and pieced together a few recipes (from Cook’s Illustrated and something I cut out of a magazine several years ago) plus a whole bunch of fiddling around to make a really good dinner. If you want to try it (it was very fast and easy, and would probably be good with chicken breasts too), here’s what I did:

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH BALSAMIC-ONION PAN SAUCE

Chicken:
2 to 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, depending on how many ppl are eating
1/4 cup or so of white whole wheat flour, or any other kind of flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 and put a plate in the oven to warm. Trim fat from chicken and pat dry. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until smoking, and add chicken. Turn with tongs after four minutes or so and cook the other side for another 4-5 minutes, until it’s not pink anymore when you cut it open. Put the chicken on the warmed plate and keep it in the oven while you make the sauce.

Sauce:
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Don’t wash the frying pan after you take out the chicken, and keep the heat on medium. Add the onion and saute in the pan drippings from the chicken for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken stock and vinegar (I learned this is called “deglazing”), increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer until the volume is reduced by half–this took about 10-15 minutes. Swirl in the butter and salt and pepper (the butter makes a really big difference, I tasted it both ways–it takes the edge off the vinegar). Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve. Bon appetit!

I had braised kale with this, and the sauce from the chicken got all mixed up in the kale–so good! The perfect third element would have been some good bread to soak up all the juice.

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