January 17, 2011

cider vinegar-braised chicken

I have been inspired by my brother lately who is cooking in a newly re-opened restaurant inside the oldest building in Manhattan. Fraunces Tavern once hosted George Washington for dinner. That's how old it is. And the unique pub fare promises to be just as traditional but with a twist. Smoked lamb ribs, bangers and mash and house-made Irish bacon are a few of the items my bro has been working on.

Anyway, it sounds like a pretty meat-heavy menu, as it should be, and the preparations are all time-tested and old world (think American Revolution). Like boiling your meat until it's fork tender. Braising I guess would be the more modern way to look at it, but as long as the piece of meat is submerged in water or other cooking liquid (wine, stock, vermouth, beer) it qualifies. I like this cooking method because it's easy. It involves browning briefly on the stovetop, then adding elements that will then be part of a sauce such as garlic, carrots, fresh herbs, bacon, whatever really. Then adding the preferred liquid, bringing to a boil, and then popping the whole thing in the oven at a low temperature: 300 or 325 to simmer slowly for at least an hour. It produces some really juicy and tender meat, that's for sure.

speaking of meat, this is the huge prime rib my brother made for Christmas Eve. It wasn't braised but it was delicious

Because we eat only grass-fed and high quality meat in my house and I don't live near a real butcher, beef is only seldom on the menu. But we do eat a lot of good, free-range chicken from Springer Mt. farms. I used only the leg quarters in this dish, but any bone-in chicken pieces will do.

Start by browning some bacon or pancetta, then remove. Add the chicken pieces and brown well on each side. Then throw in a couple cloves of garlic, some carrots if desired and any herbs that make sense. I had rosemary and sage so I used them. At this point, you could make a little roux with some butter and flour just to thicken the mixture, but it's not necessary. Then add the liquid--in this case I used cider vinegar and chicken stock, about 3-4 cups worth. Let the whole thing come to a boil, and then off the heat and throw it in the oven (because you've used your oven-proof skillet, or cast iron dutch oven of course). Keep the temp low and cook for about an hour.

Pull it out, plate the chicken, turn up the heat on the remaining liquid and reduce until you have a couple of cups. This is then poured over the meat and served nice and rustically, straight from the pot. Serve with some boiled potatoes or buttered egg noodles or Winter root veggies for a very simple, hearty meal.

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