Thursday, May 10, 2012

Braised Chicken with Garlic Scape Puree

Garlic Scapes
         My friend June, an avid reader of Chewing the Fat, sent me a message recently because she simply could not find an ingredient in one of our recipes. She went to four different stores looking for something I could have bought at four different places in my neighborhood.  In hers, however, Cremini Mushrooms were a no go.  Her request was that I inform my readers of a substitute—which in the case of the missing mushrooms was “white button mushrooms”.  So today, while I introduce you to an incredibly delicious combination of tender chicken, light as air potatoes flavored with garlic and topped with fresh green garlic scapes, I’ll tell you straight from the start: If you can’t find garlic scapes, use a bunch of Scallions instead.  But, if you can find the scapes, by all means use them.  They’re another reason to welcome Spring and the return of fresh produce to the Farmer’s Market.
60,000 shoppers visit the Farmer's Market
at Union Square every Saturday in season.
            Garlic itself is no stranger to most kitchens.  The bulb can be used in dozens of dishes.  But in earliest Spring, the stalk of the plant , the scape, contains a wonderfully mild garlic flavor, never as pungent as the full grown bulb. The garlic scape serves as the stem from which the seed head of the garlic bulb is formed. As the bulb begins to grow and mature, garlic scapes begin to lengthen and curve. Early in the growing cycle, the garlic scape is relatively tender, making it ideal for use as an ingredient to cook with.  As the plant continues to grow, the scape gradually begins to straighten, creating more support for the bulb. And it becomes far too tough to be usable.  And last week at the Union Square Farmer’s Market in New York, the short-lived scape was at its peak.  I couldn’t’ wait to take them home.  But I had no idea what to do with them.

         Doing a search, recipes using the scapes were few and far between.  There was a Pesto one could make.  There was also a side dish made with the scapes and tomatoes.  There was Melissa Clark’s “Double Garlic Soup” with, you guessed it, both bulb and scape in the soup bowl.  And there was a suggestion that scapes, when grilled, tasted like asparagus.   Since I’d loaded up on fresh asparagus at the market, that didn’t sound like a great idea to me.  Then lo and behold, Saveur's Daily Recipe resource dropped into my email box. And there, from Amanda Hesser of New York Times fame,  was a recipe for Braised Chicken and Scallions—tons of scallions.  The logic was there and so I adapted that recipe and made this incredibly luscious dish in a little over an hour—the prep time taking all of 20 minutes tops.  Then the dish sits on the stove, the chicken stock and chicken flavor melting into the potatoes, while the scapes gave a subtle hint of garlic-y goodness to the whole meal. 
Don't rush the browning. Let the chicken release
the skin side itself before turning the pieces over.
         To me a kosher chicken is so far superior to anything else in the supermarket, that it’s well worth the slight upcharge for the bird. While koshering is done for religious purposes, it acts like the best of brines so you start with a very tender chicken.  It’s important to brown the skin if only for appearance sake.  The best way to brown is to make sure that the oil in the pan is shimmering hot.  Then put the pieces of chicken skin side down and do not move them for at least five minutes.  At that point, you can shake the pan and they will not stick to the bottom.  Continue browning until you’ve got a really good color on the skin, then turn the chicken pieces over and brown the non-skin side.  The rest of the recipe in self-explanatory, I believe.
And here it is:
Recipe for Braised Chicken with Garlic Scapes and Potatoes
Adapted from Amanda Hesser’s “The Cook and The Gardener
(W.W. Norton & Company, 1999)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 chicken, cut into 6 pieces ( I discarded the wings)
Salt and freshly ground black 
1 bunch garlic scapes, trimmed 
   and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
1/3 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
2 russet potatoes, 
   peeled and quartered
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook, skin side down, until golden, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken, add two-thirds of the scallions, and brown chicken on other side, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter.

2. Continue to cook scallions until just soft, 1–2 minutes more. Add wine, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, and reduce by half. Return chicken to skillet, and add stock and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and braise, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 50 minutes.

3. Transfer chicken to a platter, and loosely cover with foil. Strain braising liquid into a small bowl. Transfer potatoes and scallions to a medium bowl. Return braising liquid to skillet, and reduce by half over high heat. Add remaining scallions, and cook for 30 seconds. Mash reserved potatoes and scallions with a fork; then stir in heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Put potatoes on a serving platter, arrange chicken over potatoes, and spoon scallions over chicken.


  1. I got hungry! I love the mashed potato under the deliciously presented chicken. =)

  2. Raquel, I just had some of the leftovers for lunch. And really it was every bit as delicious as it looks. Get thee to the Farmer's Market!

  3. Well, this put me in the mood for Chicken, but I have been attacking the Asparagus you inspired me to purchase.THEN,I remembered your lovely dish...Recipe for Chicken Breasts with Mustard Verjus Sauce courtesy of John Willoughby - so there it is! The Chicken with Garlic Scape puree will be done in due course... C: Trust me! Thank you Monte!

    1. Ana, I hope you can find garlic scapes in California. They are very short-lived in the markets here. As with ramps, the season comes and goes quickly. I think you would love this delightfully mild garlic flavor.

  4. The first snowfall, the first day at the beach, and the first day I find scapes at the market. My 3 favourite times of year!

    1. Made a wicked typo hence I removed the comment, Michael. I hope that the scapes are these this weekend. I think you will love this dish--it's w orth making just for the fantastic potatoes alone.