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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Winter Warmers - Cold Weather Comfort Foods

Here in the Northeast, an unseasonably warm fall has regrettably come to a screeching halt just in time for the start of 2012. I am a summer girl, so it’s usually around this time of year that I add frigid weather and snow to my growing list of things to whine about. But if there’s one silver lining to the long New York winter, it’s hearty stews and cozy one-pot comfort foods. One of our old favorites is Ina Garten's wonderful version of a James Beard classic, Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic: Click HERE for the recipe.
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, Photo: NK

But as the New Year demands, it was time to try something different. 

In this same spirit, Mr. NK actually took it upon himself to cook up a delicious Beef Bourguignon for us last week - using Eric Ripert’s recipe, no less. Here's the link: 
Eric Ripert's Beef Bourguignon

This was a curious turn of events as I wouldn’t call Beef Bourguignon, a classic French comfort dish, particularly easy for a weeknight since it can take two days to prep. It wasn’t even as if we were celebrating a special occasion. Hmmm… perhaps he read my earlier post about Chef Eric being “real cute?”  Either way, I wasn’t asking questions. Here are some shots of my apparent Francophile's work. Few things are more annoying than your wife tailing you with a camera in the kitchen, but I couldn't pass up the chance to document my good fortune.  


Bourguignon Herbs, Photo: NK


Herbs tied in cheesecloth, Photo: NK
Marinating Overnight, Photo: NK 
Voila! Finished Beef Bourguignon, Photo: NK

Our yummy beef dinner inspired me to officially kick off the comfort food season. For me, the ultimate winter dinner is usually a long cooking one-pot meal. These can actually be wonderful and easy if you have a bit of time to spare. In searching for recipes to try, don't discount those that take 1-2 hours total time to cook - many of the best do, especially if they include slow-cooking meats like tougher cuts of beef or chicken on the bone. Even with a whopping 2 hours total time, many recipes will be comprised of largely inactive time, with just about 20 minutes of upfront, active prep before you leave your pot to simmer for the duration.


Such is the case with the Spanish classic, Pollo Al Vino Tinto (Chicken in Chorizo and Red Wine Sauce). The recipe I would be using for the dish served multiple purposes: it would make for a tasty reminder of our recent excursion to Spain, provide us with the type of stick-to-your-ribs meal we were looking for, and it would also allow me to finally christen my newest cookbook, Penelope Casas', The Foods and Wines of Spain.  All in all, a win win. 


Browned Chicken with Dry Ingredients
Ready for Wine and Broth, Photo: NK
A few things to note before trying this easy, elegant homestyle dish:                    
  • This will take you a total of about 1 hour and 45 minutes, only 15 minutes of which is prep and active time. 
  • Although I am sure this dish is excellent with the recommended addition of the Spanish Brandy, we did just fine adding two tablespoons of scotch, which is what we had on hand. 
  • Buying a whole chicken that has been pre-cut into wings, legs, breasts and thighs is a huge timesaver that I never skip.
  • I actually used dried parsley, which tasted fine, because it pains me to buy a whole bunch of parsley when I only need a pinch and have no other uses for it that week. 
Penelope recommends a "robust" wine to anchor this dish, particularly one of Spanish origin, such as Sangre de Toro. I did indeed buy a ten dollar bottle of said wine. It came with a handy twist-cap top which allowed me to pretend that I would reseal it and put it away for future use. We all know how that story ends...  The result was a superb, flavorful, fall-off-the bone chicken dish with a delicious sauce. 


Pollo Al Vino Tinto, Photo: NK


We didn't mind the extra wine either! Enjoy:


Pollo Al Vino Tinto - (Chicken in Chorizo and Red Wine Sauce)
Recipe Adapted from Penelope Casas' The Foods and Wines of Spain Cookbook
Serves 4

Ingredients:


One  3 to 3.5 pound chicken cut in serving pieces
Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Flour for dusting
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped finely
1 chorizo sausage, about 2 ounces, chopped
2 tablespoons Spanish Brandy or Cognac (we used Scotch - worked just fine)
1 pimiento (AKA one roasted red pepper. Book suggests making from scratch but a jarred red pepper was fine for everyday use)
1 tablespoon minced parsley or 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup dry red wine, preferably a full bodied Spanish wine. 


Method:


Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt and pepper and then dust it with flour. Heat olive oil in a large, shallow casserole or large high-sided non-stick pan. Add chicken and brown well on both sides. Add the garlic, onion, carrot and chorizo. Cook about 4 minutes over medium-low flame or until the onion has wilted and softened a bit. Add the brandy carefully as it could flame up. Stir in the pimiento (roasted pepper) and add parsley, a dash of salt and pepper, the bay leaf, thyme, broth and wine. Lower heat, cover the pot, and simmer about 1.5 hours until chicken is tender and fully cooked. Remove bay leaf and serve covered in sauce with crusty bread. 


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