Friday, December 7, 2012

Long-Cooked Hen in Tomato Sauce

Long-Cooked Hen in Tomato Sauce


This is about as spontaneous as I will get when it's regarding this publication. I hadn't planned on this dish until the day I prepared it. I had been looking at this recipe since the day I found it in one of my cookbooks and earlier this week curiosity got the best of me. Also, I already had all the ingredients required except for the chicken and tomatoes.

Braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques, especially in cold weather. In fact, I also have another braised dish planned for next week. Braised chicken is pretty common (I've prepared four braised chicken dishes within the last nine months alone.) but braising a whole chicken without breaking it down?

The Challenge

Successfully applying a standard cooking method to an unusual protein.

The Source

Taken from page 168 of Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking by Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher, but I also found it on Chef Chiarello's website, NapaStyle.

Ingredients

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt
2 cups red wine
6 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, partially pureéd through a meat grinder, or a food mill, or pilsed in a blender (I used 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 4-pound whole fryer chicken
1/2 cup fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Method

1. Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, about twenty minutes.


2. Deglaze with the wine and scrape the pot, loosening the fond. Add salt and pepper to taste, however add enough salt to season the chicken as it cooks.


3. Add the chicken, breast-side down, in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook, uncovered until the chicken is very tender, about two hours, occasionally spooning the sauce over the chicken. Stir in the basil and parsley and cook for an additional fifteen minutes. Serve the chicken topped with sauce family style or the sauce with pasta as a first course and the chicken as a second course. Freeze any leftover sauce.


Successful?

A couple of notes: The stock pot I used to cook this chicken is the same one I used to brine whole chickens I buy. It's only 8 quarts, so when I prepare my brine I use only 1 gallon (or 4 quarts) of water because when I submerge the chicken in it, the displacement brings the fluid level to almost the top of the stock pot. I note this because I noticed that I was approaching the 4-quart line of my prep bowl as I was emptying my fourth can of tomatoes, so I only used 4 cans.

I also advise adding the chicken after bringing the tomatoes to a simmer (stirring occasionally) because I burned my mirepoix waiting for the tomatoes to heat.

Ultimately, the dish is a little bit of a departure for me because it was rustic and served family style but successful. Mrs. Stuntman enjoyed it and in the end, that's all that matters.

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