Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chicken with Red Wine Sauce Knockout

Here’s a recipe for the books, a perfect look-how-awesome-I-am-don’t-you-want-to-date-me meal. It's sure to win over any object of your desire for two reasons. One, it’s ridiculously delicious - tender tender bits of chicken combining with tasty little pearl onions and mushrooms that act as perfect little sauce-to-tastebud vessels. Two, after you’ve prepared the dish, you finish it off for 20 minutes in the oven so when he (or she) walks in the kitchen has been cleaned up, the house smells good enough to eat and you’re relaxing with a bottle of wine like it was a piece of cake (but keep your apron on so they know you didn't order takeout).

If you really want to impress your date, instead of saying you're making chicken with red wine sauce, tell them this dish is coq au vin. :) Which, is actually is... just a made via un petit shortcut.

And it’s not that hard – just think about what you’re doing! Don’t stress over measurements, and trust your cooking instincts.

Here’s what you’ll need:
1 onion, diced
4 shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
20 whole pearl onions, peeled (peel them well! Make sure there’s no filmy onion skin on the outer layer)
Mushrooms – whatever kind you like, sliced however you like, as much as you like! If you love mushrooms, I’d say load ‘em up. They’re soo good in this dish – I use a container from the grocery store of pre-sliced white shrooms
FRESH Poultry blend of herbs, still on their stalk. You can get this at your grocery store pre-packaged in the produce section.
2 lbs of chicken tenderloins, cubed
½ lb thick-sliced bacon, cut in ½ lengths
2 cups of red wine (anything will do but buy something you like so you can have a glass while you’re cooking)
1 ½ cups of beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
S & P

You’ll need a big pot for the chicken and sauce (like a Le Crueset if you have it… otherwise just know your cookware and don’t follow my timing if something is cooking faster/slower because of your pot), a pot to boil the onions, a 10-12 inch skillet for the bacon, a casserole dish for the finished product, and a mesh strainer.

First thing – bring a pot of water to boil (you won’t need this for a bit, it’s just for the onions). When it gets to a boil, throw your 20 pearl onions in and cook them for 15 minutes, then strain them and set aside. We're doing this to soften them up a bit.

While the water is heating up, warm oil in the big pot on high (a few tablespoons is enough… we’re not deep frying here). The oil will be ready when 1.) you can smell it or 2.) it sizzles when you flick some water into it.

Add the chickens and turn in the oil – cook just until the pieces have all turned white (or mostly white). Note - you'll be simmering these chicken pieces in the sauce and then in the oven so don't worry about cooking them through right now.

Then turn the heat down to medium-high, add the onions and sauté for just 2 or 3 minutes.. catch them just before they brown! Next, sprinkle in a few tablespoons of flour and toss to coat. Make sure there are no big clumps. You’ll find the onions and chicken pieces stick together a bit. Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until the flour begins to brown.

Now it’s sauce time – add the wine, broth, tomato paste, herbs, shallots, and garlic to the pot. Salt and pepper generously, turn down the heat to low and stir it up well. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

The onions should be on their way to softness by now, so let’s focus on the bacon and mushrooms.

We want to blanch the bacon to take out the saltiness, so put the bacon pieces in the skillet with enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil on high heat, strain, wash the bacon pieces with cool water, then repeat. Wash out the skillet and use it to sauté the bacon until is just between soft and crispy, or until it produces about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Move the bacon to a paper towel.

Now the mushrooms – put them right into the skillet with the bacon fat and sauté until their color is just a little deeper, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

The onions should be finished, so put them into the skillet next, just for 2 minutes or so, until they brown up just a bit. Set aside.

When the 30 minutes is up for the big pot, remove the chicken and place it in the casserole with the onions, mushrooms, and bacon.

Pour the remaining sauce through the mesh strainer. The sauce should be the consistency of whole milk. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water. If it’s too thin, boil it down (if you’d like to add in some cornstarch or flour to thicken, stir it into a bit of the sauce in small bowl, then add to the rest and stir. This prevents clumps.)

When the sauce has reached the desired consistency, pour it over the chicken, onions, mushrooms, and bacon. Put the casserole into the preheated oven. You want to simmer it in the sauce for a bit to let the flavors meld together. Check on the dish frequently. Depending on your cookware, the sauce will begin to simmer in about 10-15 minutes. Let it simmer for at least 5.

Now clean up your mess, set the table, pour some wine, and get ready for lots of “MmMmMm!”