Life is like riding a bicycle — in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.
~Albert Einstein

Never have these meant to be autobiographical musings, despite the medium. Hopefully it’s never read as self indulgent, indiscreet, insipid, smudge free, egocentric OMG! Zuckerbergish gibberish run amok. That social mediacrity with identity-indifferent-track-and-sell-persona greed as the true intent — razing individual privacy and autonomy with impunity.  Instead, these thoughts are meant as mere reflections, sometimes gentle and other times sharp edged, on food and culture.

Compared to previous years, I have been remiss with Tour de France coverage.   This year’s edition began in Liège, Belgium, swept toward northern Normandie then swung back to northeast region of Lorraine.  The peloton then  streaked southward down the eastern border of France through the Vosges, the Jura, the Alpes to the Mediterranean and then back westward toward the  Pyrénées when the riders finally turn north toward  Paris and the ChampsÉlysées.  Today was a relatively flat étape (stage), with one stage 3 and two stage 4 “little” climbs, that runs 158 km from Samatan to Pau in southwest France which just precedes a showdown in the Pyrénées.  In all, the riders cover 3,947 kilometers (2,452.55 miles) over three weeks this year — already 42 riders have retired.  Makes my lungs burn and my legs weary just typing.

While much of the Tour’s majesty and quirks have been noted in previous posts, a couple were brought to my attention from earlier stages.  Ahead of the riders on the course is a publicity caravan of advertising vehicles (le caravan publicitaire) while behind the peloton is a snarl of mulit-hued team little cars laden with components, parts, tools, equipment, bikes, spares, bottles, computers, radios, the directeur sportif (team manager), and the like.   Titanium, carbon fiber, and high tensile steel alloys galore.  Within this circus are officials’ vehicles, motorcycle cops, medical vans, and photographers hanging precariously off the back of even more motorcycles.  Ballet and mayhem meet.

A sticky bottle is when a cyclist receives a water bottle from inside the team car with both parties grasping the vessel as long as possible, towing the rider and giving a little pedal-less boost to launch his return to the peloton while saving precious energy.  A magic spanner usually occurs when a rider has just had a mechanical issue, a wheel change or outright crashed. Once again, while  being assisted, riders latch onto the mechanic or car which accelerates, slingshotting the rider back into the peloton.  Similarly, attending to minor medical needs like spraying a topical antibiotic on a rider while he  holds onto a speeding car is also rather common during races.

Article 7 of the Tour’s rules, entitled Race Offences sternly reads:  “(S)lipstreaming or being pulled along by a motor vehicle, whether from the front, back or side as well as any grasping-hold of the bicycle or vehicle is forbidden under all circumstances.”   As with most sports however, team tactics sometimes delve into gray to achieve those little boosts with an eye on that sometimes elusive, collective goal of victory.  Just a little help from their friends.

Other times though, the game is not worth the candle.  This year’s Giro d’Italia race jury pulled several sprinters from the race during its penultimate stage for holding onto team cars.   The incident happened on the 20th stage, the Giro’s  “queen stage,” which boasts five climbs, making it an exceptionally difficult stage for sprinters .   A jury communiqué called it a fatto grave or “serious fault.”

This distinctly French plate seemed à propos

POTATO, TURNIP & GREEN BEAN SALAD

1 lb medium Yukon Gold potatoes, washed
1 lb medium turnips, washed, with roots and tops trimmed
Sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 large thyme sprigs

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed to a paste
1 T high quality anchovy filets, rinsed, dried and chopped
1 1/2 T fine capers, rinsed, dried and chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
4 T champagne or sherry vinegar
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb fresh green beans (preferably haricots verts), ends trimmed off
4 large eggs, room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 T parsley leaves, roughly chopped
2 T basil, roughly chopped

Bring a large pot of cold water with potatoes, bay leaf and thyme sprig to a boil and salt generously. Reduced heat and cook at a brisk simmer until the potatoes are firm but easily pierced with a paring knife, about 30 minutes. Remove, drain and let cool some.

Bring another large pot of cold water with turnips, bay leaf and thyme sprig to a boil and salt generously. Reduce heat and cook at a brisk simmer until the turnips are firm but easily pierced with a paring knife, about 15-20 minutes. Remove, drain and let cool some.

While the potatoes and turnips are cooking, prepare a vinaigrette. In a medium glass bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy, capers, mustard and wine vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and whisk again before dressing.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and gently slice into pieces about 1/3″ thick. Likewise, peel and gently cut the turnips into 1/3″ slices. Put the slices in a large glass bowl, season lightly with salt and pepper and add half the vinaigrette. Using your hands, gently coat the potatoes and turnips with the vinaigrette, taking care not to break them. Set aside.

Put the green beans in a pot of boiling, salted water and simmer until just tender and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander, then cool under running cold water and pat dry. Promptly plunge into ice cold water for a brief moment to halt cooking and retain the green hue. Promptly drain and dry on cloth or paper towel or the beans will become soggy. Set aside.

Gently place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to liberally cover the eggs. Bring to a boil over high and then immediately remove from heat and cover until done, about 12 minutes. Uncover and flush with cool running water and then briefly place in an ice bath to cease cooking. Dry promptly on paper towels and peel. Set aside.

To assemble: season the beans with salt and pepper, then dress lightly with with vinaigrette. Combine the dressed beans, potatoes and turnips, using hands to toss, and arrange on a platter or large flat bowl. Cut the eggs lengthwise, drizzle lightly with vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange eggs over the top and sprinkle with chopped parsley and basil.

Serve standing alone or with grilled, sautéed, or roasted meat, poultry or fish.

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No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.
~Mahatma Gandhi

Unlike some other iconic Indian cuisine often tied to ancient origins, tandoori murghi has relatively recent roots. The tale nonetheless is steeped in intrigue, politics, religion and history.

For centuries, India labored under British dominion, a vestige of the British East Indies Company’s centuries long, relentless mercantile expansion and Parliament’s political acquiesence to the Raj‘s oppresive, sometimes brutal, colonial visit. Like guests who were really never invited and then became cruelly rude and refused to leave. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British East India Company was dissolved and rule was transferred to the empire under Queen Victoria who was even proclaimed Empress of India. A cultural conundrum on the best of days. I could go on, back and forth in history, but space does not permit.

In the 1920s, Mohammed Karamchand Gandhi, who was indelibly marked by Indian culture and trained as a barrister in London, emerged as a steady voice of Indian nationalism. Commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, he espoused non-violent civil disobedience of oppressive British policies which he had earlier developed in South Africa. To name a few, he attempted to ease poverty, expand women’s rights, forge religious and ethnic harmony, enhance economic self sufficiency and exalt class equality. Political rivals dismissed him with Winston Churchill once ridiculing him as a “half naked fakir.” During this same time, a humble young man named Kundan Lal Gujral opened a restaurant called Moti Mahal in culturally vibrant Peshawer, a district of the northwest frontier of British India. He experimented with cooking young birds in tandoors, the clay ovens used by locals to cook bread. The earthenware kilns were/are bell shaped, set into the earth, and fired with wood or charcoal, reaching temperatures of about 900 F. The result of this simple trial and error? The inside was perfectly done and the outside crispy with spice galore.

By the end of World War II, Britain capitulated and finally in 1947 India attained independence. The Punjab province was partitioned with the eastern sector joining Pakistan and western India. So, Peshawer, with a predominately Muslim population, became part of Pakistan which revived a long standing dispute of whether India would be an united Hindu dominated state or would have a separate Muslim state to the north. Rebellion and carnage ensued between Muslims on one hand and Hindus and Sikhs on the other. Gujral was one of many Sikh and Hindu refugees who had to flee the upheaval by heading toward India. He relocated his restaurant to Daryaganj, Delhi, a move that as chance would have it brought fame.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, happened upon Moti Mahal and was so impressed by his tandoori murghi dish that he began reserving state banquets there. Foreign dignitaries began pouring in — Presidents John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Soviet leaders Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, the King of Nepal, the Shah of Iran, et al. The close relationship between the restaurant and India’s preeminent leaders endured for several generations, even making sumptuous Tandoori Murghi standard fare on Indian menus throughout the world.

At first blush, this receipe looks a tad daunting.  But, a careful read shows that once the tandoori masala is made and the lemon curd purchased (both well in advance), the prep and roast or grill are a snap.  Weekday grub.  Should you opt for the sauté and roast route and time is a factor, the ghee is not essential.

TANDOORI CHICKEN

4 lb whole chicken

1/2 C tandoori masala (see below)
2 C plain Greek yogurt
2 T fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
4 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

3 T ghee (see below) or unsalted butter
1 T grapeseed oil

1/2 C lemon curd, prepared or homemade

Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken. Trim excess fat (usually found in the cavity) and then rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry thoroughly. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut all the way down one side of the backbone, just cutting through the small rib bones close to the backbone, but not through the center of the backbone itself. Next, cut all the way down the other side of the backbone, removing it entirely. Reserve the neck and backbone for stock.

Flatten by firmly pressing the heel of your hand down over the breastbone. This will open the carcass and break the breastbone so as to flatten out the chicken. With a sharp knife, score the chicken flesh rather deeply at diagonals about 1 1/2″ apart on the meaty side.

Whisk together 1/3 cup of the tandoori masala, yogurt, ginger and garlic in a medium bowl. Place the chicken in a large glass baking dish or large ziploc freezer bag and coat thoroughly with the marinade.  Massage the marinade thoroughly inside and outside the chicken, including all gashes, crevasses and valleys. Turning occasionally, allow to marinate in the refrigerator overnight, but preferably 18-24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 F

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to reach room temperature. Then, sprinkle the chicken with some tandoori masala on both sides. Heat a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat, and add the ghee and oil. Once hot, sear the chicken skin side down first until browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Then place in the oven until a fork inserted in the meaty part of a thigh exudes pale yellow juices, about 20 minutes. Throughout the roasting process, baste regularly with lemon curd. The goal is crispy yet tender. Remove to a cutting board or platter and loosely tent the chicken with foil. Allow to rest about 5-8 minutes or so before serving.

Serve with sides to your liking, such as thinly sliced fresh onion rings, cucumber salad, lemon wedges, spiced basmati rice, naan, and mint or mango chutney.

Tandoori Masala
1/3 C coriander seeds
1/3 C cumin seeds
2 T green cardamom pods
1 T whole cloves
1 T whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2″ piece cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

2 tablespoons pimentón agridulce or paprika
1 T sea salt
2 T turmeric
1 t cayenne pepper
Pinch ground mace
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Heat the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and cinnamon in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until the cumin becomes aromatic and just lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool some, then grind the spices in a spice grinder or coffee mill until fine, and then transfer to a bowl with the pimentón or paprika, salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, mace and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container in a dark place.

Ghee
1 lb unsalted butter, roughly cut into pieces

Place butter in medium heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a lively simmer or quiet boil, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and the butter will form a first foam which will disappear. Ghee is done when a second foam forms on top of butter, and the butter turns slightly golden, about 7 minutes. Brown milk solids will naturally fall to the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool for several minutes. Slowly pour into ovenproof container through a fine mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth layers. If not using immediately, store in an airtight container and keep free from moisture.

Pourboire: alternatively, grill the chicken. Preheat a grill to between medium high and medium. Build a gentle, yet hot fire. Make sure that you have a fire that is substantial enough to maintain a consistent temperature for up to 30-45 minutes. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate to reduce sticking issues.

Then, remove the chicken from the marinade, allow to reach room temperature and sprinkle with some tandoori masala. Place the bird on the hot grate and grill, starting with skin side down, turning occasionally (but not obsessively) to prevent over charring, until cooked through, some 25-30 minutes total. Baste wth lemon curd on the tail end of the grilling process, particularly focused on the skin side. The bird is done when the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160 F by a meat thermometer which is not touching the bone. Again loosely tent and allow to rest before carving.

Also, in lieu of lemon curd, you may add fresh lemon juice to the yogurt-tandori masala marinade.

Pound Cake

July 13, 2012

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche! (Let them eat cake!)
~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Les Confessions (Confessions)

Dense and moist, rich and buttery, pound cake was traditionally made with a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. No leaveners were used other than the air whipped into the batter. While the history of cakes dates back to ancient times, this was likely an early 18th century English or northern European creation. These days, recipes deviate slightly from the original formula to concoct lighter fare. But the nomenclature, in part from the Old Norse kaka, has persisted.

Whether eaten alone, or with coffee or tea, chilled, room temp, broiled or grilled, with a side or topping of sweetened fresh fruit or fine ice cream, glazed with sugars or merely dusted with powered sugar, as French toast, with savory friends, pound cake is for all times — breakfast, lunch, snacks or desserts.

Dad’s eyes always danced, and sometimes he damn near swooned, over this heavenly staple.

MEYER LEMON POUND CAKE

Unsalted butter
Sifted cake flour

1 1/2 C (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 C sifted cake flour
1 t sea salt
4 t baking powder
2 3/4 C sugar
8 large eggs, room temperature
1 C whole milk, room temperature
2 t pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon

Glaze
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
2 3/4 C confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed
1/4 C fresh Meyer lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 F

Butter and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder and set aside. With a stand up mixer, cream the butter, and then add the sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Stir only until thoroughly blended. Gently fold in the zest.

Pour batter into the prepared pans, making sure to divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Level tops with a spatula. Bake until lightly brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Let the cake cool in the pan about 10 minutes, and then carefully remove to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, whisk all glaze ingredients to combine. If necessary, add additional confectioners’ sugar to desired consistency.

Pour glaze over pound cakes and serve sliced.

Pourboire:  to enrich further, use cream cheese (40%) and butter (60%) in lieu of unsalted butter only.

Egg Curries

July 12, 2012

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
~Oscar Wilde

Given India’s eloquent history, vivid traditions, varied cultures, diverse and burgeoning populace and potent economic position, it often seems baffling, if not disconcerting, that news from there rarely travels here. Well, unless the info is perceived to somehow affect Joe the plumber. Of course, sadly the same can be said of most all Asian and African lands — as if these places are outmoded artifacts. To our detriment we have been, and will remain, profoundly ethnocentric. What follows is civic and social ignorance. Sometimes it seems food is the only refuge from the depths of this self-inflicted punishment.

Ranging by region, this dish is far from standard across the subcontinent, but supposedly originates from Northern India, particularly Punjab. It is sometimes known as Anda Bhaji, Punjabi or Mughlai Curry there, while in south India it sometimes bears the names Andhra, Chettinad Mutta, Mangalore or Kerala egg curry depending on locale, cuisine and ingredients. Within those subsets there are even more species which differ from kitchen to kitchen, cook to cook. No doubt, the varieties have been given short shrift here.

Captivatingly aromatic, there is a nuanced burst of spice with each chew.

EGG CURRY

9 eggs
Water, to cover

2-3 T grapeseed oil
1 T fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 T serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 T honey

1 T garam masala
1 T turmeric
1 T pimentón agridulce (Spanish paprika)
1 T cumin seeds, roasted and finely ground
1 T coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground
1 T cardamom seeds, toasted and finely ground
1 T fennel seeds, toasted and finely ground
1 t fenugreek, toasted and finely ground
Pinch of sea salt

1 C fresh tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
1 C chicken broth

1 C Greek yogurt
2 T chickpea flour

Cilantro leaves, chopped

Gently place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to liberally cover the eggs. Bring to a boil over high and then immediately remove from heat and cover until done, about 12 minutes. Uncover and flush with cool running water and then briefly place in an ice bath to cease cooking. Dry promptly on paper towels, peel and reserve.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan over medium high and add the ginger, chiles and garlic. Cook for about a minute and then add the honey, and cook about a minute more. First mix, then add the garam masala, turmeric, pimentón, cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel, fenugreek, and sea salt to the pan, and again cook until fragrant, about a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a quiet but steady simmer and reduce, about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk the yogurt and chick pea flour together and then slowly stir into the tomato sauce. Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring gently, for about 15 minutes. Slice the reserved boiled eggs in half lengthwise and gently place them in the sauce, cut side up, to reheat spooning the sauce on top.

Finish with a light sprinkling of chopped cilantro and serve alongside basmati rice, paratha or naan.

What is important is to spread confusion, not eliminate it.
~Salvadore Dali

Nearly peerless Middle Eastern street food, gracing joints, trucks, carts, stands, stalls, markets and kitchens across the globe. Falafel (فلافل) is a fried ball or croquette made from chickpeas, fava beans or both, often pocketed in pita or wrapped in flatbread known as lafa. Whether standing alone or housed in a sandwich, they are routinely served as part of a meze, a mingling of small plate apps.

Of disputed ancestry, these fritters may have originated in Egypt, possibly savored by early Christians called Copts as a substitute for otherwise forbidden meat during Lent. The dish later migrated northward to the Levant (now comprising most of modern Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Israel) where chickpeas often trumped favas. Others posit that falafel was concocted during Egypt’s Pharaonic rule or perhaps even first emerged on the Indian subcontinent. As usual, confused culinary lore. Befuddled history aside, there is no denying the warm spice and crunch of these fried balls and how they play on the soft pita, fresh vegetables and nutty tahini sauce.

FALAFEL

1 1/2 C dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water

Chicken stock and water, in equal parts
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
Sea salt

1 T coriander seeds
1 T cumin seeds

1/2 C cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/2 C fresh flat parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/3 C breadcrumbs
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
1 T lemon zest
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
Flour
Sea salt

Grapeseed or canola oil, for frying

Tahini Sauce
3/4 C tahini
1/4 C Greek yogurt
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1/4 C finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch paprika
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Pita bread, warmed
Lettuce, cored and chopped
Fresh tomatoes, cored. seeded and diced
Red and/or yellow onion, finely chopped
Peeled, diced English cucumbers

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the tahini, lemon juice, cilantro, garlic and cayenne. Purée until smooth, and while the machine is running, add the olive oil and about 1/2 cup water. Season the sauce with salt. Taste and season, if needed. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

In a dry sauté pan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds over medium heat until they are very aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Pulverize in a spice grinder until they are a powder. Set aside.

Drain the chickpeas from the soaking water and place in a large, heavy saucepan. Toss in the garlic, bay leaf, carrot, celery, thyme and onion. Add equal parts of stock and water to the pan until the chickpeas are covered by about 2-3″ of liquid. Put the pan on high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the chickpeas are very soft and tender, about 45-60 minutes. Drain the chickpeas from the cooking liquid and remove the veggies, bay leaf and thyme and discard. In a food processor, pulse the chickpeas until they look coarse and grainy but are not fully puréed — too smooth, and the batter may fall apart when cooking.

Transfer the pulsed chickpeas to a large glass bowl and add the cilantro, parsley, breadcrumbs, cayenne, garlic, lemon zest, onions and ground coriander and cumin. Gently stir to combine, and taste the mixture to determine if the mix needs seasoning. Form the mixture into balls the size of walnuts (about 1 1/2″ balls) and gently press down some to almost, but not quite, make patties. Lightly dust with flour on both sides and pat off excess. Place the “patties” on a cookie sheet, cover with parchment paper and refrigerate until firm, about an hour or more.

Add about 2″ of oil to a large, deep sauté pan or Dutch oven. Heat the oil over medium high and then add the falafel in batches and fry on both sides until brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon or spider, gently remove them from the pan and drain on paper towels. Serve falafel in pitas with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cucumbers and Tahini sauce.

My mother never breast fed me. She told me she liked me as a friend.
~Rodney Dangerfield

Please consider that these words are uttered by an avowed chicken addict. While lamb, pork, beef, offal and friends often beckon in this kitchen, chicken invariably rules. However, boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be the bane of a cook’s existence. They are insipidly dry, tough, tasteless, often stringy and uninspiring — often sapping the very passion to cook. Yawners on a good day, a cook’s torment on others. One renowned chef questions whether these bland and skinned boring bosoms should even be considered a valid part of a chicken’s anatomy. So, a word to the wise: nestle up to succulent, dark meat like thighs, legs, backs, as they are ever sublime.

POLLO AL PIMENTON

4 chicken leg thigh quarters
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 T pimentón agridulce
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T duck fat
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced lengthwise
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
1 T pimentón agridulce
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 C Spanish fino sherry
1/2 C chicken stock
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Splash of high quality sherry vinegar
1/4 C crème fraîche

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and pimentón. Heat the olive oil and duck fat with the smashed garlic cloves in a large, heavy sauté pan to medium high and brown the chicken, skin side down until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side for another 4-5 minutes. Remove chicken, tent with foil in a dish and drain off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Lower the heat and add the red pepper, onion, fennel and pimentón. Cook until soft, but not browned, about 10-12 minutes, adding the garlic for the final minute. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and then add the stock, tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and return the chicken to the skillet. Cover the pan, and cook, turning the chicken once or twice, until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter and tent with foil. Turn up the heat and boil liquids down to a sauce consistency, adding the sherry vinegar toward the end. Cook further for a couple of minutes, then reduce the heat to low, whisk in the crème fraîche until the sauce thickens, adjusting the seasonings to your liking. Plate, then ladle the sauce over the chicken and serve.