Friday, October 26, 2007

Chicken in balsamic vinegar with porcini mushrooms & sun dried cherries served with roast garlic potato puree

This picture does not do it justice, there is no way to do it justice, it is too good to be believed!

For the puree:
A whole head of garlic
Olive oil, salt and pepper
1kg floury potatoes, peeled
125g butter
125ml olive oil
125ml double cream

For the braise:
30g dried porcini mushrooms
8 organic chicken thighs, skinned and boned
2tbsp plain flour for coating
125g pancetta or streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4tbsp dried cherries
250ml red wine
125ml chicken stock
4tbsp balsamic vinegar
400g tin of Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
1tsp arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp cold water
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

Roast the garlic. Preheat to 180c slice off the top quarter of the garlic bulb to expose the cloves. Put the garlic on a piece of foil, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper, wrap up and bake till soft and squashy, 35-45 min. Take out of the oven and cool slightly before squeezing out the garlic pulp from the papery skins.
To make the stew, begin by soaking the mushrooms in hand-hot water for about half an hour. Lift them out, squeeze as much water as possible out of them and chop finely. Strain the soaking liquid through kitchen paper.
While the porcini are soaking, flour the chicken by putting the flour and a pinch each of salt and pepper into a plastic bag with the chicken pieces and giving the bag a good shake while holding it tightly closed. In a heavy pan over medium heat, fry the pancetta dice until they crisp and release all their fat. Scoop the pancetta out of the pan, set aside, and put the floured chicken pieces in their fat. Fry until lightly golden on all sides, then lift out of the pan and set aside.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook until soft and yellow, then stir in the dried cherries and porcini, pour in the wine, stock, vinegar and porcini liquid, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 min. Now add the tomatoes and return the chicken and pancetta to the pan. Turn the heat down to a mere flicker and cook gently for 40 min when the chicken will be very tender and the flavors fully developed. Correct the seasoning – you may want to add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Lastly stir in the arrowroot mixed with water to thicken the sauce to a nice coating consistency.
Make the puree while the chicken is cooking. Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until cooked. Drain them, and then put them back in the dry pan over low heat to steam out any wateriness. Using either and electric beater, or sheer muscle power, mash the potatoes to a smooth puree. Then beat the butter, oil, cream, garlic and generous seasoning until the puree is really light and fluffy.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have the same comment about cooking. They hear about a cookbook, and they say “oh, I don’t use recipes, I just look around and see what looks good together”. This is admirable in a way. It’s very important to have the confidence to cook like this. It’s what turns cooking into a way to express yourself. The thing is though, if it’s the only way that you cook, then you are really missing out horribly. Lets face it, there are people that study cooking for year and years, just to become great at one specific area of cooking. The great chefs are always looking to each other, and to sources that they find interesting, to learn more, broaden their horizons, and think of new wonderful combinations of food. So what makes the average Joe think that they can’t benefit from a new perspective or idea.

I think this recipe proves that point nicely. How many of us would be walking through the supermarket and think to ourselves, “oh, those porcini would be great with some of those dried cherries, and a good helping of balsamic vinegar”? I know I wouldn’t have, and I would have really missed out too, because this is one of the best dishes I have ever made. This was so good, I couldn’t believe it came from my kitchen. I saved the little bit of left over sauce, so that I could make some more mashed potatoes to eat it with the next day, this was amazing!

I got this recipe from Favourite Recipes Books For Cooks. It is an all time great book.

Neil , if your reading this, thank you again for this book, and try this one if you haven’t yet!

The sauce was so rich and beautiful, and the thin coating of flour on the chicken kept the inside tender and gave the outside a sort of thin layer of slight chewy-ness that added the perfect texture.

It was also the first time I tried dried cherries. They were really nice, and the few that were left over made a lovely little sweet snack the next day.

There are not enough good words for this recipe. All the plates were practically licked clean.


Susie said...

Wow. I could eat this recipe every day for a year.

AteThat said...

yeah, this is one of those recipes that make me really sad that I am making a new thing every day, because I'd love to just eat this over and over again.

Susie said...

:) Aw! Honest, I came back just to look at it and long for it.