Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tuscan Chicken

This is what it looks like coming out of the oven. The recipe calls for bread crumbs sprinkled over the top, then you stick the whole thing under the broiler. I decided to pull out my old cassoulet trick and do bread chunks instead. A fabulous idea, if I do say so myself.

"Back the truck up!" you declare. "You made cassoulet and you did not tell us? Where is it?"

Well, that was before this relationship. So, we'll just have to wait until a leftover night where I have nothing culinary to discuss, or I'll just have to make it again.
Tuscan Chicken is a classic stew in the sense that you brown the meat, take it out, throw in the aromatics for sweating, throw in the liquids, put the chicken back, cover and bake. I have executed this formula enough times to now be able to experiment, as I did with this recipe. That feels good. Why throw in only 8oz. pureed tomatoes? Hm. I've got a 15.5oz. can of tomato sauce, how about that? Sounds good. Why measure the white wine? Dunno. Not gonna do it. Add some carrots and celery because I feel like it! Outcome = nothing short of deliciousness.

And beans really complete something like this. What is it about those wee fiber powerhouses?

This recipe did remind me how much I dislike browning chicken. I keep trying to make it less messy and end up spending the first part of my browning making up for being a doofus. This time, I put the heat on mere medium. Doofus! The chicken stuck AND didn't brown right. I got to make up for that mistake in round two of chicken browning, so I got a nice crusts on the last three thighs. What I can't stand about browning is the mess. Splatter everywhere! It even gets on the floor and makes it slick. Plus, I rarely find time to clean the range, and chicken splatter just invites everyone to the stick party. Ug. Yes, I have a splatter guard. That would be another mistake I am always making, vis a vis, "Oh, I don't need that. Fat gets everywhere anyway." Doofus. Again. Just put it on there. Josh invariably walks into the kitchen during this phase of the cooking and demands to know where the guard is and why I don't have it in place. Yeah yeah. I relent, but unwillingly, like a child. I used another cassoulet trick on the chicken. Well, it's a New Best cassoulet trick. That is, remove the chicken skin after browning. The idea is that it has already lent itself to the fond, now it will only lend itself to grease. I did leave a bit on because the skin had all but melted off and left behind a really nice, crisp crust. I knew I would want that later.

After all that browning, you throw in the aromatics. Which brings me to my biggest cooking dislike: chopping onions ... followed in close second by peeling and chopping garlic. First, with the onion, that darn papery skin gets everywhere. How do I always manage to get a few pieces in my nicely minced onion? I inevitably catch it as I am tossing the bowl into the pot. And, oh yes, I do try to fish it out. I've got my chopping technique down; I know that I cannot truly avoid burning eyes; I have a great cutting board and chopping system in place. Really, the only thing that bothers me is the darned paper. Hm. The onion was definitely first when I had a narrow cutting board that allowed at least half of that aromatic - and everything else I chopped - to end up on the floor. Perhaps, in light of my new enormous board, garlic should move to first place. Yes, garlic is now first. Let's review its sins: (1) that darned paper! It sticks! It's hard to get off, then gets all ornery once it is off, trying to get back onto everything it touches. (2) Chopping it is like picking your torture. Do you want to slice through a fingernail as you use your chef's knife to mince? Are you going to slice, and risk taking off the whole tip of the finger? Mario Batali once called a garlic mincer "a Medieval torture device." I stopped using mine after I heard that, but have started right up again, accepting the inconvenience of trying to get all the gook out of the mini-tub just so that I don't have to try to use a knife. And don't think I can't see your sneers. Ah, she must have poor knife skills. No way! I use my knuckles as a backboard, like the pros, I swear. I can make eye contact in conversation while chopping, really. But garlic is so teeny-tiny. I just ... hate it. I said it. There.

What to serve with the stew? I thought of mashed potatoes to sop up sauce. But, then, I reasoned, we were supposed to have potatoes Saturday night with the Walkers, and we can't have the very same form of potatoes two nights in a row. So I went with what my sister calls Dirty Potatoes. I like this moniker. Unfortunately, I am going to have to call Mel out right here and dispel a myth she is currently living under. Dirty Potatoes were NOT, Mel, invented by your ex, one Mr. Jason Riehl. The recipe, in fact, in on the back of the onion mix packet. Sorry. I highly recommend making your own dirty potatoes because they rock the house. Look at that carmelization. I made us save some so that we could have them with bacon and eggs the following morning.

If only I had known that I was going to be sick today! Sucks. So, no fancy breakfast and no dinner with the Walkers tonight. I've got some tummy issues. Boo. What in the world will I talk about tomorrow?


  1. Jen, the chicken sounds delicious...hope you'll make it the next time I visit!