Sunday, April 5, 2009

braised chicken with mushrooms and almonds

You may wonder why I chose to begin this post with a photo of the dish in medias res. The answer is: pure vanity.

Pictured here, en braise, you can admire the chicken’s crispy golden skin.

On the plate, swallowed by a thick glaze of mushrooms, pureed almonds and caramelized onions, it acquired a sort of sickly, gray pallor. (Somehow, in Anne Burrell’s glossy Food Network universe, this was not so apparent.) Moreover, the pureed almonds were never fully absorbed by the sauce (my fault, for not pureeing them long enough?)—hence its unfortunate, freckled appearance:

Of course, the situation was not helped by my forgetting to apply the requisite greenery—chives, parsley—to the chicken thigh photographed here. But even with the herbs, and buttressed with green beans, this was not an attractive piece of poultry.

Forgoing appearances, the chicken was quite tasty, and very well received by our friends.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Almonds
Adapted from Anne Burrell

Extra-virgin olive oil
8 chicken thighs
Kosher salt
1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 large onions, julienned
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 pounds assorted mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster or cremini, cleaned and sliced
2 cups dry white wine
4 to 6 cups chicken stock
1 bundle thyme
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted
Chopped chives, for garnish

Coat a large, wide, deep pan with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Pat the chicken skin dry with paper towels and season generously with salt. Add chicken skin side down to the pan. You should hear a big sizzle as the thighs hit the pan. Do not try to move the chicken, the skin will stick itself to the bottom of the pan and willunstick itself when it is ready. If the pan is smoking excessively turn the burner down and continue to cook. When the skin is brown and crispy, turn the chicken over and brown it on the other side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

Lower the heat if you have not already done so and ditch most of the excess fat. Add the pancetta and brown. When the pancetta has started to get brown and crispy add the onions. Season with salt and crushed red pepper and sweat over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and saute for 3 to 4 minutes or until they release their juices. Add the wine and reduce by half. Return the chicken to the pan. Add chicken stock to almost cover the chicken. Add the thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the chicken for 30 to 35 minutes. Add more chicken stock, if needed.

While the chicken is cooking puree the almonds in the food processor. Drizzle in a little olive oil while the machine is running to make this a loose paste. Season with salt and reserve.

Once the chicken has cooked for 30 to 35 minutes, remove it from the pan and reserve. Taste the sauce for seasoning and stir in the almond puree. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer to thicken the sauce, if needed. The almond puree will help to thicken the sauce and to make it very rich.

Spoon the mushroom almond sauce over and garnish with chopped chives.

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