First Chicken of the Year

Let the grilling season (kind of) begin!!!

We finally cracked above freezing around here (isn’t it amazing how good 35°F and sunny can feel?) and had to celebrate with the first grilled chicken of the year.

1 roasting chicken
1 tablespoon of your favorite rub (Plowboys Yardbird, in this case) per pound of chicken
Sea or kosher salt

Clean and rinse the chicken and pat dry. To cut down the cooking time, butterfly (spatchcock) the bird by setting the bird in front of you, breast side down, and cutting up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife.

Now spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies pretty flat.

Rub both sides of the bird with the rub, working it under the skin a bit. Set the bird skin side up and give it a good dusting of salt. Arrange chicken skin side up on a pan (I use a large jelly roll pan) and stash in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the rub and the salt do their thing, but also helps dry out the skin so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (400°F) heat. I used the plate setter with its legs up and my new monster drip pan to diffuse the heat and create a more convective cooking set up. I filled the drip pan with a couple of cups of water to keep the drippings from burning.

Spatchcocked Chicken

When your grill is up to temp, arrange the chicken on the grate skin side up. Close the lid and walk away – no poking, no flipping, no peeking (ok, maybe just a little peek to make sure everything is cooking evenly) for 60 minutes, or until the chicken is done – 180°F internal in the thickest part of the thigh and/or the leg joint moves easily and the juices run clear.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This chicken was a tasty way to kick off the grilling season, but in a way, it’s also the start of my larger search for the perfect grilled chicken – smoky, crispy, moist, and tender.

I’d like to stick with doing a whole bird, not pieces, although I am good with spatchcocking or halving (halfcocking?) it. I’d rather not wet brine if I can avoid it, so I’m thinking some kind of slather or dry brine. It’ll be tough to get the dark meat just about falling apart without drying out the breast, so whatever I do will have to involve keeping the moisture and the fat content up. Maybe start with the Zuni chicken recipe? Hmmmm…

Anyway, more on my chicken odyssey as the year unfolds. Wish me luck!

Oil Drum Wings

Oil Drum Wings

As always, the impending Super Bowl gives me yet another reason to whip up some wings. This is a hotter version of my Oil Drum Chicken Thighs. Normally I would do these on the Big Green Egg, but the Polar Vortex forced me to hunker down and use the oven.

2 pounds chicken wings
1/2 cup hot sauce (homemade in this case)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the hot sauce, vinegar, oil, Worcestershire sauce, onion, pepper, celery salt, basil, and parsley and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Reserve half for basting the chicken.

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and coat with the other half of the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, overnight is better, and 48 hours rocks.

Pre-heat your oven to 375°F. Set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet or jellyroll pan.

Remove the wings from the marinade and arrange on the rack. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip and baste with the reserved marinade. Bake for another 20 minutes, then flip and baste again. Repeat every 10 minutes until the wings are crispy on the outside and at least 180°F on the inside (about 80 minutes total).

The Verdict: ★★★½☆
My dear wife really liked these wings, but I have some reservations. I liked the complex flavors that made them much more than your usual hot wing, but the balance was off. They needed more heat, less Worcestershire, and maybe some more salt and garlic. That said, I think they have great potential and am looking forward to playing around with the flavors.

P.S. Look for my lacto-fermented hot sauce recipe soon.

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving

We will be traveling to see family for Thanksgiving this year, but decided to put together a few of our favorite T-day recipes a week early and share them with some good friends.

Thanksgiving

The bird was made with what is becoming my standard turkey recipe on the Big Green Egg.

A new recipe for this year was Michael Ruhlman’s custardy Thanksgiving Dressing.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dressing
1 cup butter
4 medium onions, chopped
6 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
12 eggs
6 cups turkey or chicken stock
16 cups cubed white bread (1 Udi’s gluten-free commercial 33 ounce, 20 slice loaf), torn into 1-inch chunks and left out to stale overnight
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat,  melt the butter and then sweat the onions until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the sage and thyme and season with a tablespoon of sea or kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Reduce the heat a bit and continue cooking until the onions have just about melted themselves into the butter, but have not started to brown (about another 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

Whisk the eggs together in a medium bowl. Add the turkey stock and whisk to combine.

In the biggest bowl you can find, combine the onion mixture, bread, custard (eggs and stock mixture), and parsley. Toss everything to coat, then set aside while the bread soaks up the custard. Stir and press the bread down into the liquid every 10 minutes or so until all of it is wet.

Butter a 6-quart baking dish (this recipe expands as it cooks, so use a bigger dish than you think you need) and pour in the stuffing. Dot the top of the stuffing with extra butter. Cover and bake until the mixture has set (45 to 60 minutes), then uncover and bake until golden and crispy on top (another 15 to 30 more minutes).

Thanksgiving

Continuing with the butterscotch kick I’ve been on, dessert was Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino topped with David Lebovitz’s Best Chocolate Sauce.

Butterscotch Budino
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed raw or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum

In a large bowl, combine the cream and milk and set aside.

In a large, heavy pot, combine the sugar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking often to prevent burning. Cook until the sugar has caramelized to deep, dark brown and starts to smells nutty.

Reduce the heat slightly and continue whisking for a teensy bit longer until you get that first bitter whiff of the sugar starting to burn.

Remove from the heat immediately and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Be careful – as it will steam and spit and the sugar will seize. Return to the heat and continue whisking until the sugar melts and caramel is fully combined. Increase the heat and bring to a boil while stirring frequently. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and cornstarch. Temper the egg mixture by slowing adding  about half of the caramel cream, 1/2 cup at a time, while whisking constantly.

When the egg mixture is warm, pour it back into the caramel cream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a very thick custard forms (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and rum, stirring until the butter has completely melted. Pour the custard into your serving dish, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

The Best Chocolate Sauce Recipe
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder. When all of the sugar has dissolved and it just begins to boil, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted.

Pour into a covered container and stash in the refrigerator until just before you are ready to use it. Rewarm before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Between these recipes and the dishes our friends brought, it was a very fine meal, a lovely evening, and we have much to be thankful for.

I see all of these recipes making repeat appearances on our table. This is the second year for this turkey recipe, and it is definitely a keeper – moist, tender, and tasty.

The dressing was just plain outstanding. I never would have thought of dressing as just a savory custard, but it tasted great – very rich and dense, but not at all gummy like some dressings can get.  Next time, I would combine the stock with the onion/herb mixture, let them simmer together for a bit to infuse the flavors, then taste and adjust seasonings before mixing everything together. Also, adding a bit of sausage wouldn’t hurt either.

The budino was amazingly rich and thick. It was almost more of a ganache than a pudding or custard. And the chocolate sauce was the perfect foil for it – the semi-sweetness playing well with the burnt sugar to keep it from being too sweet. Definitely a dish to serve with coffee.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, everyone!

Slashed Chicken Thighs

Slashed Chicken Thighsveroxybd.com

I was so happy with the way the marinade worked its way into my Slashed Cornell Chicken Quarters that I wanted to give the same thing a try with my favorite part of the chicken – thighs.

The Marinade

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small shallot
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh herbs (whatever is fresh – thyme, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, and sage all work)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Make the marinade by putting the garlic, shallot, and salt into a food processor and pulse until the garlic and shallot are minced. Add the vinegar and give it another whirl to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes while the vinegar sweetens the shallot.

Add the oil, herbs, Worcestershire, and peppers to the processor and whirl to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Slash the chicken thighs with a knife, making one deep cut perpendicular to the bone. Trim off any extra fat or skin.

Put the thighs in a zip-top bag and pour the marinade over them. Turn to coat, then squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it up, and stash in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is even better). Turn the bag every so often to make sure all the pieces get a coated in the marinade.

The Cook
Remove the thighs from the marinade and give them a dash of salt on each side. Arrange them on a rack set over a pan (I used a 9×13 baking rack) and return to the fridge uncovered. This will help crisp the skin.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (400°F) heat. I used a plate setter on the Big Green Egg to give me nice diffused heat.

Slashed Chicken Thighs

When the grill is up to temp, arrange the thighs on the grate skin side up. Close the lid and let it cook for 20 minutes. Flip and cook skin-side down for 20 minutes. Flip again and cook skin-side up until the chicken is done – 180°F internal in the thickest part of the thigh.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The chicken was tender, crispy, and very herbalicious. Slashing the thighs seemed to both help the marinade move deepier into the meat and make the skin crispier. Overall though, the marinade lacked some oomph. Next time – less oil, more Worcestershire, vinegar, salt, and red pepper.

The Nutrition:
3 ounces of chicken thigh meat is only about 100 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – Planked Salmon Nicoise
Two years ago – Cucumber Margarita

Grilled Korean Chicken Wings

Grilled Korean Chicken Wings

There are two sources of inspiration for these wings – the Sriracha Honey Cashew Chicken Stir Fry from Lea Ann at Highlands Ranch Foodie and the tub of Korean chili paste left over from our New Year’s Bo Ssam.

I really liked the way the honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sriracha played together in stir-fry sauce, so I started looking at other recipes to bring this combo together and settled on using it as a wing sauce and substituting the it’s-taking-up-too-much-room-in-the-fridge gochujang for the sriracha.

The Brine
3 lbs chicken wings
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon powder ginger
1 teaspoon fresh-ground back pepper
1/4 cup kosher salt
8 cups water

Make the brine by combining the lemon juice, honey, garlic, ginger, pepper, salt, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat, pour into a covered non-reactive container and refrigerate until cool.

Once cool, add the wings, arranging so they are all covered in brine. Stash in the fridge for at least 12 hours, but no longer than 24.

The Sauce
3 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
3 tablespoons gochujang Korean chili paste (as best I can tell this one is gluten free)
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Combine the soy sauce, chili paste, honey, and vinegar in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the sesame oil, and set aside.

Grilled Korean Chicken Wings

The Cook
About an hour before you plan to grill, remove the wings from the brine, pat them dry, and set them uncovered on a rack in the fridge. This will help keep the skin crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook over high (400°F) heat. I set the Big Green Egg up using the inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat.

When the grill is ready, put the wings on and let them cook for 30 minutes. Flip them and let them go for another 20. Flip them again and check for doneness. The skin should be fairly crisp and the internal temp should be 165°F or higher.

Grilled Korean Chicken Wings

When they are done, baste them with sauce on both sides, then let them cook for another 5 minutes. Sauce them again and let them go for another 5 minutes. Sauce them one last time and move them off to a plate. Let rest 10 minutes, then serve with remaining sauce on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The sauce on these babies absolutely rocked! It was the perfect blend of heat and sweet with a nice umami base. The gochujang I used wasn’t too fiery (Koreans probably use it as baby food), but the heat was very rich and consistent. I might add a teaspoon or so of garlic chili paste next time to brighten the heat a little bit. I also see this sauce glazing some pork chops in the near future.

Why not 5 stars? As I’ve said before: a good chicken wing must be crispy, it must be spicy enough to require a cold adult beverage, and it should be flavorful enough to be addictive. These wing hit 2 outta 3 – the brine made the wings nice and juicy, but it also made the skin a bit rubbery. I would ditch it next time.

The Nutrition:
Sadly, wings are 150 calories and 3 Weight Watchers points a piece.

One year ago – Yoga – Getting My Om On
Two years ago – Swamp Venom Thighs

Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay

I’d like to say that it’s a deliberately thought-out, painstaking-researched recipe, but it was really just the result of a happy accident – running out of peanut butter. Substituting roasted peanuts makes a world of difference.

The Chicken
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha chili Sauce
2 teaspoons cumin
6-8 skewers (if you’re using wooden ones, soak them in water for at least an hour before grilling with them)

Combine the soy, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, oil, sriracha, and cumin in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade. Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

The Peanut Sauce
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 – 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
Sriracha chili Sauce to taste

Put the peanuts and garlic into a food processor and give them a whirl until they turn into fine crumbs. Add the sesame oil and process until they form a thick paste, like a chunky peanut butter. Add the coconut milk and process until it forms a smooth, velvety sauce. Add the soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce, curry paste, lime juice, and Sriracha and whirl to combine.

Stash in the fridge and take it out just before you skewer the chicken to let it warm up a bit.

Chicken Satay

The Cook
Set your grill up for a raised direct cook over high (400°F) heat.

Remove the thighs from the marinade and thread 2 or 3 onto each skewer. Grill chicken about 10 minutes per side, until they hit at least 180°F internal. I like mine closer to 200°F, but in either case you’re looking for some crispy bits on the outside without overcooking the food.

Remove from heat when done and let rest 10 minutes before serving with peanut sauce and Sriracha on the side, and with maybe more peanut sauce drizzled on top, or eaten straight from the bowl with a big spoon.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The title should really be “Chicken Satay with the BEST FREAKIN’ Spicy Peanut Sauce Ever!” The chicken was very good, but the sauce was outstanding – thick and rich with a strong peanut flavor and a nice, warm depth from the red curry.

The Nutrition:
3 ounces of chicken meat is only about 100 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points. Sriracha is practically free, but the peanut sauce is pure, calorie-laden pleasure.

One year ago – Annoyed Shrimp
Two years ago – Chicken Thighs & Alabama White Barbecue Sauce

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce v3.0

Honey Hog Chicken

I’m getting ready to cook up a big pile-o-pork for a graduation party. I’d like to make all my own rubs and sauces for it, so I thought I’d start with a quart-sized batch of Honey Hog sauce.

1/2 cup honey
1 cup raw or turbinado sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1 tablespoon half-sharp paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon allspice

Combine the tomato paste and sugar in a medium sauce pan and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the sugar melts into the paste.

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce

Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stirring constantly, raise the heat a little until the sauce is bubbling away nicely. Keep stirring and cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes).

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce

Reduce the heat to low and let sauce cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Bottle and store in the fridge. Makes about 1 quart.

Honey Hog Chicken

Since you can only tell so much about a sauce while tasting it off of a spoon, I tried it on some grilled chicken thighs to get an idea of how it would work and play with others.

About 2 hours before cooking, I dusted some bone-in, skin-on thighs with a bit of salt, pepper, and paprika. I put them in a single layer on a sheet pan and let them sit uncovered in the fridge to let the seasoning work its way into the thighs and dry out the skin a bit to make it crispy.

I set the grill up for a raised indirect cook over medium (350°F) heat. I used the plate setter under the cooking grid on the Big Green Egg to diffuse the heat.

I put the thighs on the grill skin side up, closed the lid, and let them cook for 20 minutes. I flipped them and let them go another 20 minutes. I flipped them back skin side up and checked for doneness. While chicken is technically done when the juices run clear and the internal temperature hits 160°F, that leaves the thighs kind of rubbery. I like mine cooked a little longer to at least 180°F so the meat is tender and the skin is crisp.

This batch of thighs needed about 20 more minutes to hit 180°F. At this point I sauced them on both sides with the Honey Hog, put them back on for 10 more minutes, sauced them one last time and moved them to a warm plate and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Sometimes less is more. I basically doubled the main ingredients in the v2.0 recipe, but decided to leave out some of the herbs and spices that I didn’t think were key players. The result is a sauce that has a nice sweet and tangy tomato flavor with enough heat and spice to make it interesting. It’s not as complex as the previous version, but I like the clean, straight forward taste.

The sauce was lovely on the chicken thighs – adding a nice spicy sweetness. The thighs themselves were so crispy that biting into one was like biting into a slice of bacon. Mmmmmmmmmmmm… chicken bacon… mmmmmmmmmm…

The Nutrition:
3 ounces of chicken meat is only about 100 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points. The sauce maybe adds another 1/2 point per thigh.

One year ago – Spring Slow-Roasted Steaks
Two years ago – What Eggs are Supposed to Look Like

Sweet Heat Wings

P2030034

A good chicken wing needs 3 properties – it must be crispy, it must be spicy enough to require a cold adult beverage, and it should be flavorful enough to be addictive. This is my attempt at hitting the wing trifecta with a wet rub followed by a sweet and spicy sauce.

Wet Rub
3 pounds chicken (I did a mix of wings, tenders, and breasts)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce (Trappy’s, Crystal, etc… just something hotter than Frank’s)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon Allegro Marinade or Worcestershire sauce

I combined the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, celery salt, black pepper, salt, hot sauce, oil, and Worcestershire sauce and let it seep for about an hour. Then I put the chicken in a zip-top bag and covered it with the rub, tossing to make sure everything got coated, then stashed it in the fridge overnight.

P2030020

The next day I headed out to fire up the Big Green Egg, but the sub-zero wind chill drove me right back inside. So I arranged the wings on a small roasting pan and put them in the oven at 350°F.

While the wings were cooking, I made up my sauce.

Hot Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce (Burman’s in this case)
1 – 2 tablespoons habañero hot sauce (Marie Sharp’s Medium in this case, but you can pick your heat level)
2 tablespoons raw or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Allegro Marinade or Worcestershire sauce

I melted the butter in a small saucepan, then whisked it together with the hot sauces, sugar, honey, and Worcestershire. I brought it to a boil for a minute or so, then moved it off to a warm back burner.

After the wings had been cooking for 20 minutes, I put the breasts and tenders on a small roasting pan and put them in the oven.

When the wings had been on 40 minutes, I flipped all of the chicken pieces and brushed on a heavy coating of the hot sauce.

P2030027

Ten minutes later I flipped everything and sauced them again. The breasts and tenders were done, so I moved them off to a covered serving dish. I let the wings go another 10 minutes, then sauced them one last time and served them with a bleu cheese dip.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆
Aside from not having the smokey goodness that the grill adds, the only thing these wings lacked was crispness. The combination of two different pepper sauces gave the wings plenty of beer-craving heat while the balance of flavors in the rub and the sweetness of the sugar and honey kept me coming back for more.

The rub/sauce combo is a keeper, but next time these are going raised, indirect on the Big Green Egg until they are nice and crispy.

The Nutrition:
Baking (instead of frying) and using non-fat sour cream as the base for the dip gets these wings down to 3 Weight Watcher’s points a piece.

One year ago – Thai Sweet Chili Spareribs
Two years ago – The Agony of Defeat

Kung Pao Chicken

I’ve been working on this recipe for a while. It started out as the marinade for my Spicy Asian Shrimp and evolved from there.

Please make an effort to find both the black bean sauce and the Sichuan peppercorns. The sauce adds a lot of depth and heat to the dish and the peppercorns provide that unique tingling/numbing sensation that offsets the heat.

1 pound chicken (I used tenders), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup peanuts
4-6 dried whole tien tsin peppers
½ cup sliced scallions, chopped
4 whole garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup baby spinach

Marinade
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1  teaspoon cornstarch

Kung Pao Sauce
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon black bean chili sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Put the chicken pieces in a zip-top bag and pour the marinade over them. Turn to coat, then squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it up, and stash in the fridge while you prepare the sauce.

Combine the chili paste, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, wine and cornstarch. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the cornstarch is fully incorporated.

Heat a wok with oil over medium-high heat. Before the oil begins to smoke, add the chilies and garlic. Stir-fry briefly until the chilis are slightly blistered and black and oil is slightly fragrant. Add the chicken and stir-fry for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Pour in sauce and mix to coat the other ingredients. When the sauce is thickened and shiny, stir in peanuts, cilantro, and spinach. Mix to coat, reduce heat and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Garnish with thinly sliced scallions, and serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is a quick and tasty dish that saves us from the nutritional horrors of take-out. It’s sweet, sour, salty, and hot all at the same time.

The Nutrition:
1 1/2 cups is 435 calories and 9 Weight Watchers points. Adding the cilantro and spinach and cutting back on the peanuts makes this a much lighter recipe. Serve it with a little brown rice and a lot of steamed broccoli and it is very filling.

One year ago – Warm Up Wings & Tenders
Two years ago – Ze Boeuf

Weeknight Coq au Vin

Coq au Van

This is not Julia Child’s masterful rendition of the classic French chicken dish. This is Dave’s “it’s-7-freakin-degrees-out-there-and-I-need-me-some-comfort-food-right-now-dammit” version, by way of Cook’s Illustrated and the Star Tribune.

2 bottles (750 ml) medium-bodied red wine (One for you, one for the bird. A jammy Pinot Noir works great for both)
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons dried parsley, divided
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
4 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4 -inch lardons (look it up, it’s worth it)
3-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half crosswise
3 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato powder
2 tablespoons flour (I used gluten-free baking mix)
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large sauce pan, combine 1 bottle of wine, stock, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced to 3 cups (about 25 minutes).

Coq au Van

While that’s boiling, cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned and crispy. Transfer the bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Pour off half the fat and reserve.

Coq au Van

Once the wine and stock are reduced, pour through a strainer to remove the herbs, and set the reduced wine mixture aside for later.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the bacon fat in the Dutch oven over medium heat just until just smoking. Working in small batches, brown the chicken on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Add more bacon fat as needed. Transfer browned chicken to a plate.

When all of the chicken is browned, melt the butter in the Dutch oven over medium heat. When it stops foaming, add the onions and mushrooms. Cook and stir occasionally until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the tomato powder and flour. Cook and stir until well combined.

Add the reduced wine mixture, scraping the bottom of the pot with a spatula to loosen the browned bits. Return the chicken and any juices that have accumulate on the plate. Add the reserved bacon to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and deduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Give it a stir, crack the lid about half an inch, and increase the heat just a titch. Continue to cook, stirring every so often, until chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced a bit (about another 25 minutes).

Coq au Van

Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, top with remaining parsley and serve immediately over egg noodles or mashed potatoes (or fauxtatoes from She Cooks He Cleans, in this case) with the remaining bottle of wine.

The Verdict Verdict: ★★★★★
Nothing but goodness here – tender chicken rolling in a savory sauce full of onions, mushrooms, and bacon.  Reducing the wine and stock in advance goes a long way in creating a wonderfully umami-rich sauce that tastes like you’ve been cooking it all day long.

The only changes I would make would be to go with the more classic pearl onions (frozen and bagged, thank you) and maybe add a bit of carrots for depth and color.

The Nutrition
Comforting doesn’t have to destroy your diet. By bumping up the mushrooms and  dialing back on the butter a little from the original recipe, this 8-serving dish is 400 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – Roast Chicken with Winter Veggies
Two years ago – New Pans!