Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Maybe you're starting to notice that I really like Monday nights. It's defensible, I think. Monday is the only night of the week where I don't have to be anywhere. Don't get it confused. It not that I dislike those things that occupy every other night of the week, It's just that I like having one to myself where I make dinner when and if I please and eat it on my own couch with a glass a wine a book called something like Style: Toward Clarity and Grace and generally feel like a whole person. Yep, I may be the only one, but I love Monday.

So when I got home from school last night I settled in with a short-stack of Gourmets and Bon Apetit's and was all business. I even went straight to the recipe index. It was serious. In the end though, the recipe I settled on came off the wondrous epicurious. ( So did that picture, don't get too excited about it.) The recipe, Chicken in Riesling, was comfort food at it finest. That is to say, it contains all the usual suspects: chicken, potatoes, carrots and cream. But the kicker was, it wasn't bland! It was tasty of its own merit, not just because it reminded you of grandma and warm kitchens as a kid. Because, lets be honest: we like comfort food because it easy, its warm, and we know what we're getting. And this recipe? I anticipate it it getting even easier, as
I plan to make it often in the coming months.

Chicken in Riesling, from Gourmet with some changes

1 1.5 Lb package chicken thighs and one split chicken breast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped (2 cups)
1.5 cups or so sliced cremini mushrooms (my addition)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
4 medium carrots, halved diagonally (I used 2 hadfuls of baby carrots)
1 cup dry white wine (preferably Alsatian Riesling)(this is a story in and of it self, see below)
1 1/2 pound small (2-inch) red potatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
Fresh lemon juice to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and a rounded 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a wide 3 1/2- to 5-quart heavy ovenproof pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning once, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Meanwhile, wash leeks and pat dry.

Pour off fat from pot, then cook leeks, shallot,mushrooms, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken, skin sides up, with any juices from plate, carrots, and wine and boil until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover pot and braise chicken in oven until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

While chicken braises, peel potatoes (I like potato skins and hate peeling potatoes...it was fine), then generously cover with cold water in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, then return to saucepan. Add parsley and shake to coat.

Stir crème fraîche into chicken mixture and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then add potatoes.

....And then the roommate and boyfriend at it all. Or at least tried to. I claimed the left over though. (Gotta stand yr ground). The end.

PS story
So the wine. I got real excited when I saw this called for Alsatian Riesling because I somehow convinced myself that I order one at work that no one ever buys and this would give me the perfect opportunity to try it. I was...close, but, wrong. What I have is Alsace One, which a blend. Funny thing is, I bought it, opened it, cooked with it, drank some.... and it tasted like olives (I'm serious! olives! it wasn't bad. just...interesting .Check it out. No one ever buys it, you'd be doing me a favor too.). Only then did I realize that it wasn't a Riesling at all. Doh.

Disclaimer regarding post title: I have no idea what that means or what compelled my manager to run all over the store saying it, out of context, for the year or so he was in Ann Arbor. If you can see inside Kwinn's brain, lemme know.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the leeks.

Its official. School is underway. I have half English classes and half how-to-be-a-teacher classes. I'm even taking a class on assessment! (Writing a test is harder than it looks, if these first few weeks are any indication). Monday night is still cooking night though, just no escaping that. So, for the first Monday night cooking of the semester, we got grandiose.

I realize that sorta looks like an combination pizza/omelette, but that's just due to my poor photographing (which was due to the fact that it was 11pm and I was too hungry to make it look good). This, my friends, was far more rich and delicious.

It all started, as it often does, with Miss Molly, aka orangette and her column in this month's Bon Appetit. She proselytizes about leeks. Now, I had never really thought twice about leeks but I was sold-- on the vegetable, on Belgium, and on both the recipes included at the end, one for leek confit and one for Flamiche Aux Poireaux (Belgian leek tart with aged goat cheese)(which my dashboard translator translates as "Cake of leeks With Leeks". Either way).

So, I go to the farmers market that Saturday morning (in the rain, nonetheless. It was, actually, packed and delightful) and lo and behold, one woman on the end has leeks that I pluck from the pile and pack in my bag between the raspberries, new potatoes, and apples from my childhood bus route. I left the farmers market with that satisfied comfort that some find in church and children find in chocolate milk.

The tart calls for a cup and a half of the first recipe, leek confit. So, I figure I'll make the confit, take it to the parents Sunday night as a surprise appetizer, and use the rest in the tart the next day.

Monday, I was forced to the grocery store to buy more leeks, because my family demolished every last speck of the confit. Scouts honor, it really really is that good. My roommate ate it out of the pan with his fingers while I was trying to make the tart, and scoffed at me for wanting to adulterate it with crackers when I suggested he not use his fingers.

The tart recipe calls for aged goat cheese (which I didn't know existed) which I went to Morgan and York for. The recipe recommends a specific one, which I was not smart enough to bring the name of in to the store with me, so instead I bought one that was a small, hard little round that started with a 'c' and was $7. The stuff was super pungent but perfect, particularly on crackers with the confit.

Molly's Leek recipes, from Bon Appetit.

Leek confit
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt butter in large pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks; stir to coat. Stir in water and salt. Cover pot; reduce heat to low. Cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Rewarm before using.

Leek tart

Fair warning alert
-- crust needs 2 hours in fridge. Do not start this a 6pm if you want it for dinner, unless, like me, you don't really mind eating after 10.

  • 4 tablespoons (or more) ice water
  • 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup crumbled aged goat cheese (such as Bûcheron), rind trimmed I used the little goat round I bought and about half a small log of fresh goat cheese.
  • 1 1/2 cups Leek Confit

Combine 4 tablespoons ice water and cider vinegar in small bowl. Blend flour and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, slowly add water-vinegar mixture, processing until moist clumps form. If dough seems dry, add ice water by teaspoonfuls.

Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Allow dough to soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Roll dough out on lightly floured work surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough onto bottom and up sides. Fold in overhang and press to extend dough 1/2 inch above sides of pan. Line pan with foil and dried beans or pie weights. Bake until dough looks dry and set, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue to bake until crust is pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool while preparing filling. Note: I found the bake time on this to be waaaay to long. My crust was almost burned, and I took it out early. I would say that about a 10-15 minute pre-bake should be more than sufficient, and then to watch every five minutes for golden-ness.

Whisk milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over bottom of warm crust; spread leek confit over and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Pour milk mixture over. Bake until filling has puffed, is golden in spots, and center looks set, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool slightly. Remove pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And if that is not a perfectly decadent way to start off the school year, I don't know what is.