Chicken + Tomatoes + …

December 26, 2015

If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.
~Grandma Moses

If you can, wait for heirloom tomato season.

This is just basic fodder and should become a seminal staple — thrifty yet damned delish. It all may seem primitive, unadorned, but this dish, although humble, is not meager in the least.

4-6 local (unfrozen) chicken thighs with skin on and bone-in
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 T dried tarragon

3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T unsalted butter
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

6 T peeled and finely sliced shallots
3 T plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 28 oz canned tomatoes, drained and chopped (or better yet, a glass container of heirloom tomatoes from a recent harvest)

1/4 C red wine vinegar (aceto di vino rossa)
1/4 C fine capers, drained or unsalted, depending how prepared
1/4 C chicken broth
2 bay leaves

1 C dry white wine, like Gavi, Orvieto or Verdicchio
1-2 T good tomato paste

1/4 C fresh tarragon leaves

Pat thighs dry well with paper towels.  Allow to reach room temperature and gently dredge the chicken thighs with sea salt, black pepper and dried tarragon. Drop the smashed garlic into the olive oil and butter in a large heavy pan over medium high. As the oil and butter begin to shimmer, discard the smashed garlic and sauté the chicken thighs, skin side down, until lightly browned. Turn and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Remove and tent the bird pieces with foil.

Then, make a sauce with the shallots and garlic, cooking briefly, for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, wine, tomato paste, bay leaves and stock until it all cooks down some, stirring with a wooden spatula to dissolve the pieces in the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce, and return the chicken to the skillet, then cover with a lid bringing the mix to a simmer for about 18-20 minutes or so. Discard the bay leaves.

To serve, strew with fresh tarragon leaves and place over pasta, orzo, rice, you name it — grain or green.

Pourboire:  if desired, add dijon mustard and/or crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream to the sauce or use differing seasonings on the chicken.

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Seared Hanger (L’Onglet)

February 25, 2010

The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook.
~Julia Child

Divine, succulent bistro fare at home. For those ever busy beings, this is peerless cuisine à la minute.

Hanger steak (onglet) is a beef cut which “hangs” from the diaphragm, below the ribs of the steer, which is essentially an extension of the tenderloin. Not surprisingly, it is silken and has a chewy tenderness which finishes with a savory and subtle almost offal-like flavor. Kidney contiguity?

Often called the “butcher’s piece” (la pièce du boucher), as there is only one hanger per steer, the butcher would often quietly pocket it home rather than offering the cut for sale. Onglet is usually butterflied by slicing the meat transversely through the middle. It should be quickly seared, only to medium rare, to avoid toughness—both rare and medium are just out of bounds. Exquisite just standing alone, there is no need to over adorn.

Hanger steak has always enjoyed immense popularity elsewhere: France (onglet), Britain (skirt), Italy (lombatello), Spain (solomillo de pulmon), Mexico (arrachera), to name a few. Only recently garnering some celeb status in the States, luscious hanger may no longer be subjected to that heinous act of being ground into hamburger. Almost makes a grown man cry.

HANGER STEAK (ONGLET)

2 hanger or flank steaks, about 1/2″ thick
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil

2 T unsalted butter, divided
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T high quality red wine vinegar
1/2 C dry red wine

1/2 T tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1/2 T parsley leaves, finely chopped

Heat a large heavy sauté pan or skillet over high heat, then add the olive oil for about 1 minute. When the oil is hot and shimmering, season the steaks with salt and pepper, slip them into the pan, and brown evenly, turning as needed, until medium rare, about 2-3 minutes per side, and longer for medium. Transfer the steaks to a heated serving dish, tent, and set aside to allow the juices to retreat back into the beef. (Please heed my nagging advice to take into account that the meat will continue cooking while at rest.)

Place the same pan over medium heat and add 1 T of the butter and the shallots. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 mintues, until the shallots are softened but not colored. Add the vinegar and cook until it evaporates, then add the wine. Bring the wine to the boil and allow it to cook down until it is reduced by at least half. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl, whisk in the remaining 1 T butter. Then, stir in the chopped tarragon and parsley.

Carve each steak across the grain on the bias into thin slices. Drizzle the warm shallot sauce over the meat and serve promptly.

Learning never exhausts the mind.
~Leonardo da Vinci

One of history’s enduring geniuses. He was a great creative mind of the Italian Renaissance, hugely influential as an artist but also immensely talented as an engineer, scientist and inventor. Leonardo da Vinci was born near the town of Vinci in Tuscany in 1452, the illegitimate son of a local lawyer.

He has been considered one of the world’s most renowned sculptors, painters and architects producing such masterpieces as the cryptic mural of The Last Supper and the eternally smirking, shifty eyed Mona Lisa.

Da Vinci pondered, wrote and sketched freely on such eclectic subjects as geology, anatomy (studied in order to more accurately portray the human form), flight, gravity and optics, often flitting from subject to another on a single page, and writing in left-handed mirror script. He embarked on inventing the underlying basics for the bicycle, airplane, helicopter, and parachute some 500 years ahead of their time. And this blurb is giving him short shrift…just cannot wait to look in the mirror tomorrow morning and reflect on the accomplishments of the rest of us plebs. Da Vinci died on May 2, 1519, at Château of Cloux, near Amboise, France, where he was residing at the invitation of King Francois I, an avid patron of the arts.

This week, a forensic art investigator claimed a fingerprint found on what was presumed to be a 19th century German painting of a young woman and convinced leading experts that it is actually an original portrait by da Vinci now worth up to $150 million.

The painting of the woman—now identified as La Bella Principessa and believed to have been created around 1496 by the legendary Renaissance master—was purportedly purchased by a Canadian art collector in 2007 for the now modest sum of $19,000. A nearly sadistic uptick in value.

The fingerprint, believed to be of da Vinci’s middle or index finger, was found in the upper right hand corner of the work and matched one to a print from his unfinished painting St. Jerome in the Wilderness now housed in the Vatican museums. A rather precious and almost metaphorical fingertip (or footprint in today’s vernacular—why the shift in digits, extremities?). This stunning art world discovery would represent the first new painting attributed to da Vinci in more than a century.

Calf’s liver is a delicacy often served in Tuscany, da Vinci’s birthplace. Ergo, these truncated ramblings about the master and his fingers.

SAUTEED CALF’S LIVER

4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 lbs calf’s liver, sliced 1/4″ thick
2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 fresh sage leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 C chicken stock
1 T honey
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T capers, drained and rinsed

Chopped tarragon, for garnish

In a large skillet, sauté bacon and onion in olive oil until bacon is crisp and onions are tender and just slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Wipe out skillet and add butter and olive oil. Add garlic to pan over medium high heat and allow to cook some, but do not burn, then remove. While it heats, season liver with salt and pepper. Add sage and liver to pan, in batches if necessary, and sauté for about 2 minutes a side over medium high heat. The liver is done when it is golden on surface but still pink on inside, about 3 minutes per side. As pieces cook, transfer them to serving platter which is tented by foil to keep warm.

Stir in the stock, honey and vinegar to the skillet and reduce until thickened and can coat a spoon. Add the capers to the sauce to warm. Arrange the liver on plates, top or base with onions and bacon and then drizzle the sauce over the top.

Garnish with tarragon or another fresh herb of choice. Serve with tagliatelle, polenta or home made egg noodles.

Buon appetito, Marco!

It is all right for the lion and the lamb to lie down together if they are both asleep, but if one of them begins to get active, it is dangerous.
~Crystal Eastman

May I never be cured of my weakness for lamb.

MUSTARD & YOGURT LEG OF LAMB

1 (6 to 7 lb) leg of lamb, bone in

6 T Dijon mustard
6 T whole fat yogurt
1/2 T dried red chili peppers, finely ground
1 T dried Herbes de Provence*
1/2 C fresh mint, chopped
3 plump fresh garlic heads, halved crosswise
3 dried bay leaves
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Brandy or cognac

In a medium bowl combine and whisk together the mustard, yogurt, chili peppers, Herbes de Provence and mint to a paste. Place the leg of lamb in a baking dish and brush the paste over all of the meat. Cover and marinate overnight, but bring to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat oven to 450

Place the open garlic head halves, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs in the bottom of a roasting pan. Atop, arrange the lamb on a rack in the pan with the marinade. Place lamb in the lower third of the oven and roast, allowing 10 to 12 minutes per pound for medium rare, about 1 1/4 hours. (Lamb is medium rare at an internal temperature of 130 F).

Remove lamb from the oven and season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer the lamb to a platter, and place on an angle against the edge of an overturned plate. Tent loosely with foil. Turn off the oven and place the platter in the oven, with the door open. Let rest about 20 minutes. The lamb will continue to cook while resting.

Place the roasting pan over moderate heat, scraping up any bits that cling to the bottom. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping and stirring until the liquid is almost caramelized. Do not let it burn. Spoon off and discard any excess fat. Add several tablespoons brandy or cognac to deglaze. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, carve the lamb and place on a warmed platter.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve and pour into a sauce boat. Serve immediately, with the lamb.

*Herbes de Provence is that mélange of aromatic dried herbes commonly used in the sun drenched region of Provence.

2 t dried basil leaves
2 t dried thyme leaves
2 t dried savory leaves
2 t dried marjoram leaves
2 t dried rosemary leaves
1 t dried lavender

Coarsely grind all of the ingredients in a spice or coffee grinder by pulsing.

Buen Provecho!

WINE MARINATED LEG OF LAMB

1 (6 to 7 lb) leg of lamb, bone in

Marinade
2 bottles red wine
1/2 C red wine vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
12 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
6 thyme leaf sprigs, stemmed and chopped
1/3 C fresh sage, chopped
1/3 C fresh rosemary, stemmed and chopped
4 bay leaves
1 T black peppercorns

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 C red wine
2 garlic heads, unpeeled, halved transversly

Red wine

In a large plastic bag or bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Refrigerate overnight or more, turning from time to time. Remove the meat, pour the marinade through a sieve, and discard the solids. Bring the lamb to room temperature before roasting and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 450

Arrange the lamb on a rack in the roasting pan and add 1 cup red wine to bottom of pan. Place halved garlic heads in bottom of roasting pan. Place in lower one third of the oven and roast, allowing 10 to 12 minutes per pound for medium rare, about 1 1/4 hours. (Lamb is medium rare at an internal temperature of 130 F). The meat should be basted fairly frequently and feel free to add wine should the pan become dry.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a platter and loosely tent with foil. Let rest about 20 minutes. The lamb will continue to cook while resting.

Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium high heat, and deglaze by scraping up the bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid is close to caramelizing, but take care not to burn. Add a few tablespoons of red wine, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so it simmers until thickened some. The sauce should coat a wooden spoon. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve or chinois and serve with the carved lamb.

The soul is healed by being with children.
~Fyodor Dostoevsky

This earthy red bistro fare has a zealously pungent fragrance that wafts throughout the kitchen—which is softened by a buttery finish. It has long been a house darling.

My oldest, who actually is a professional chef (unlike the hacker that I am), used to prepare this when he was a child. Years back, a national magazine even published a small photo op story about him making this dish at the house. My son made certain everything was perfectly mise en place for the photographer before he went upstairs to shower. He prepped so thoroughly that he improvidently turned on the flame under the sauté pan before retiring to primp. A fire was avoided, but needless to say the photographer was greeted by a smoke fogged kitchen which had to be ventilated with window fans before proceeding. In the end, he pulled it off. Tout est bien qui finit bien.

CHICKEN WITH RED WINE VINEGAR

1 (3 1/2 to 4 lb) free range, organic chicken—rinsed, patted dry, cut into 8 serving pieces, at room temperature
3 T extra virgin olive oil
4 T butter
3 plump garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 T tomato paste
1 C good quality red wine vinegar
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and well chopped or one can peeled San Marzano tomatoes, well chopped
3/4 C chicken stock
3 T garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, and finely minced

2-3 T fresh tarragon, chopped

Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. With smashed garlic cloves in a large, heavy skillet, heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter over moderately high heat until foam subsides. With a wooden spatula, massage the garlic cloves over and “into” the entire pan surface. Then, brown chicken in batches, turning over once, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Remove crushed garlic cloves before they brown.

When all the chicken has been browned, remove from the skillet and pour out all but one tablespoon of cooking fat. Sauté the minced garlic for one minute—do not burn or the sauce will be ruined. Return the chicken to the skillet, along with the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and tomato paste. Very slowly, pour in the wine vinegar. Over medium high heat, reduce the vinegar roughly by half, turning the chicken from time to time to coat, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Cover and simmer gently over medium heat until all of the juices and aromatics mingle nicely, and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter and very loosely tent with aluminum foil. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.

Meanwhile, boil sauce in roasting pan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to somewhat over a cup, then remove from heat and swirl in remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper—the sauce should be peppery. Pour sauce over chicken and top with fresh tarragon.

Serve with a pinot noir, Rhône red or even a chilled rosé de Provence.

Basic Vinaigrette

February 3, 2009

Vinegar, the son of wine.
~Proverb

Like sandwiches, vinaigrettes always taste better if someone else makes them. So, have a friend or lover whisk up this simple version for you. For use on salads, cold roasted vegetables, even as a marinade for grilled chicken…you name it.

Some maintain that vinegar was discovered when wine was inadvertently left to sour. This resulting in the first batch of full bodied wine vinegar. The Talmud, a central text of mainstream Judaism, refers to a wicked son of a righteous father as a “vinegar son of wine.” The word vinegar is derived from the French word vinagere, which literally means sour wine.

Given the overt simplicity of the ingredients, good quality vinegars and olive oil are much preferred, even mandated.

BASIC VINAIGRETTE

2 T sherry vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T French Dijon mustard
Sea salt to taste

1-1 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Whisking gently, combine sherry and red wine vinegars, mustard and salt in a bowl. Whisking more vigorously, slowly add olive oil to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning with a component of the food it will dress, such as a lettuce leaf or vegetable.

Pourboire: to vary, add or replace with any of the following: hazelnut oil, walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, citrus, smashed garlic, finely diced shallots, fresh chopped or whole herbs, whisked egg yolk, freshly ground pepper, white pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper…the possibilities are almost endless.

Store in a bottle or cruet in the refrigerator and shake or whisk at serving time.