Thursday, April 30, 2009

Basque Chicken

The only way I made it through this recipe without eating the dog was by drinking a bottle of wine. Sometimes getting drunk before dinner is the only way to forget how hungry and increasingly desperate you are. The wine was the high point of the meal really. It didn't take any effort. It didn't confuse me with odd directions. It didn't refuse to cook. Even on the best day I'd be glad to have several bottles of it in my house actually.

As a general rule I don't even like Chardonnay, there are a few I will make an exception for and this is my new favorite. The Optimus is a killer bottle for $11. It isn't a cloying oak monster. Nor is it a tropical fruit smoothie disguised as a wine. It is instead a balanced blend of slightly buttery pear and green apple with a honeyed finish. It's so easy to drink you won't know you've had half the bottle while staring at the inexplicably raw chicken that has been on the oven for an hour until you're at the grocery store later singing to the leeks. I have a feeling this is going to be my summer wine this year.

You may have guessed by now that the meal itself gave me some trouble and you would absolutely be right. I'm still holding a grudge against it a day later. It was that annoying but (Lindsay don't read this part) I loved it so much I already have plans to make it again next week. Next time I'm going to go 30 Minute Meals on it, making a much simpler version of this amazing but picky original version.

It started out fine. Boiling artichokes—I adore artichokes almost as much as curry so I knew this recipe was going on the menu right away. Blanching a tomato which was odd but once it was done I totally understand why the recipe called for it. Once all the vegetables were chopped I had time waiting for the artichokes to get tender and the chicken to brown, to relax. That should have been my first indication something was wrong. I've read The Julia and Julia Project, when a French recipe seems too easy you've probably mucked something up. The fates are up there somewhere laughing at you enjoying your wine knowing things about to hit the fan. Without the proper amount of stress and insanity it isn't properly French.

Following the recipe I put the chicken in the oven to bake for 12 minutes. Took it out, did some stuff to it and put it back in for another 10. It was crispy on the outside and the recipe said that was all there was it so it should be done, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. The chicken halves we were using were still totally raw in the middle. I put them on stove for a while longer and drank some more wine, glaring occasionally at the chicken pan. During this time I ate my artichoke furiously. The thermometer I stuck in the chicken said it was done. So you would think it was done, right? Nope.

I literally threw my hands in the air and did what I always do when a recipe makes me want to throw dishes across the room, I passed it on to the fella. He made that chicken his bitch. He put it in the pan like he meant business and stood supervising it while drinking his wine and making his artichoke disappear. He took the chicken's temperature which read as well done. We re-plated it for the third time. Do you think it was done now? Sorry no.

This chicken wasn't giving up. I swore at the chicken, cursing its relatives and everything holy to it as I tore it's flesh from the carcass. The fella looked at me like the crazy person I was at that moment. I then explained to him I was cutting out the middleman and just putting the bloody (literally) chicken meat in the pan and cooking it sans bones. This worked much better, the meat cooked in a couple minutes and gave it a chance to combine nicely with the mushroom and wine sauce when I added it to the pan to reheat.

The fourth time we sunk our forks into the meat it was divine. The chicken was tender, the sauce was delightful and what remained of the vegetables I hadn't already snacked on were scrumptious. Maybe I'm a food masochist and waiting for the food makes it taste that much better after the build up of anticipation. Or maybe I was so drunk I probably could have eaten the dog at this point. Regardless I'll get back to you when I come up with a better version of this meal.

Until then anyone know where a girl can get a reliable meat thermometer around here?

Basque Chicken

2 large artichokes, trimmed
1 large ripe tomato
2 pounds bone in chicken or 2 baby chickens
3 tablespoons butter
3 ounces chanterelles (I used white button mushrooms)
1 garlic clove, germ removed, finely diced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken broth

Poach artichokes in salted water until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes or when the outer leaves are easily removed. Cut the heart out of the artichokes and set aside. Discard leaves or dip them in some butter as a snack while waiting for the chicken to cook.

Cut a conical plug from the stem of the tomato. Blanch tomato in the boiling artichoke water for 10 seconds. Remove from water and peel off skin. Cut tomato in half, squeeze out seeds and juice to discard. Coarsely chop the remaining pulp.

Preheat oven to 350.

If using whole chickens season the inside with salt and pepper then truss them with string so legs are up close to the breasts and the wings are firmly in place. Simply season under the skin of the chicken if using bone in pieces.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in an oven safe pot large enough to hold both chickens. Brown chicken on all sides, about 5 to 10 minutes on each side. Add more butter if necessary to keep meat from sticking. Cover pot and place in oven for 12 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven. Spoon in the artichoke bottoms, sliced chanterelles, and tomato around the chicken. Return the pot to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the internal temperature is above 165. Remove from the oven again. Set aside chicken to keep warm while preparing sauce.

Put the pot full of mushroom, artichoke, and tomato on a burner over high heat. Add garlic, wine, and broth. Bring to a boil and cook until liquid is slightly reduced.

Serve the chicken with pan juices and vegetables spooned around them.

Original recipe from The Lutece Cookbook by Andre Soltner.


LindsayC said...

Hahahaha. He made the chicken his bitch? Fabulous.

Grilling our steaks today, I noticed Patrick and I snacking the entire prep time on bread and cheese. Of course we were drinking wine too, and glancing at each other guiltily from time to time, trying to pretend it wasn't happening.

Artichokes on the grill, though? Delicious, and so low-maintenance (which would obviously NOT be your style, since you're not even a CLOSET masochist anymore! *le sigh*)

Emily said...

Grilled artichokes? The thought never crossed my mind. Do you put them on whole or cut them up in some way.

Your comments are too funny. I'm still trying to get over the agave is tequilla comment, now this.