HELPING FAMILY FARMS FLOURISH. HELPING FEED THE HUNGRY.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Braised Chicken Thighs with “Pizza Spices”


        I don’t know about you but sometimes I think if I have to look at another skinless, boneless breast of chicken, I’d like to give up the bird altogether.  And yet a woman in my Food Writer’s boot camp says that, almost invariably, they’re the number one seller in the meat department and, along with Paper Towels, Bananas and Orange Juice, they're quite often the overall leader in what's ordered on the internet grocery site she works for.  I am a much greater fan of the chicken thigh.  White meat or dark meat preferences aside, the thigh is unquestionably the more flavorful of the two. Of course, the bone also helps here. The breast bone is puny in comparison and non-existent in the boneless variety.   Sizewise, the smaller thigh packs more taste. Hopefully this can compensate for the one thing the breast has over it. It’s about twice as caloric (278 calories vs. 138).  But really, two for a main course is still not a bad number. 
        This recipe has an interesting background.  I found it in Food and Wine’s “Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes” (Volume 12).  This is a compendium of the best recipes from 25 cookbooks, among them
Michelle Bernstein and Andrew Friedman’s “Cuisine A Latina” (Houghton Mifflin Company). 
Now if Bernstein and Friedman don’t sound particularly Latino to you, you should know the chef of the two, Michelle, is of Jewish and Latin descent, studied classical French cuisine, travelled throughout Mexico, South America and the Caribbean before landing in Miami.  This recipe combines some of those traditions in a very appealing and tangy, well-seasoned tomato sauce.  I didn’t quite get the pizza connotation my first go-round.  But it’s a really lovely juicy chicken stew that’s well worth trying.  And it sure beats any boneless, skinless chicken breast I’ve had in a long time. Here’s the recipe. 
Recipe for Braised Chicken Thighs with “Pizza Spices”

½ cup plus 3 tbsp. olive oil
8 chicken thighs, skin on
Kosher Salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced
1 shallot, minced
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup tomato sauce
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
1 ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 jarred peperoncini, drained
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put 1 cup of all purpose flour on a plate.
Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a very large skillet over medium high heat.
Season the chicken thighs with salt and dredge them in flour, shaking off excess.  Working in batches, if necessary, add the thighs to the pot, skin side down and cook until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.  Drain the thighs on a paper towel lined plate.

In a Dutch oven large enough to hold all 8 chicken thighs, heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, bell peppers and shallot and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the wine, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, oregano and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up, spooning the sauce over the thighs.  Add the peperoncini and season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven and braise until the chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes.  To serve, put two thighs on each of four dinner plates and top with some of the sauce.
Serves 4.  This is a great dish to cook on the weekend and serve on a weeknight with rice, noodles, mashed potatoes and a green vegetable like the asparagus and snap peas you see in the opening picture.