This past summer I was given the opportunity to do a lot more cooking – one of the few benefits of my newly acquired unemployment status. However, a chef I am not. Using cookbooks and websites for recipes, various ingredients, and pots & pans I have since cooked semi-gourmet meals almost nightly for me and my wife. Sometimes I will post my triumphs on Facebook or Twitter, and many have asked me to share these recipes. Rather than upload each one to Facebook, or start another blog dedicated to just that (which I almost did yesterday) I decided to create The Crabby Gourmet category right here on Crabapple.
Anyway, last night I made a recipe from our Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking book, Spanish Chicken with Olives & Tomatoes. I really like the cook books from Williams-Sonoma. We’ve made quite a few of the recipes, and most (almost all) are quite good. I especially like the slow cooking book because the prep for each recipe is usually fairly fast and simple, and once you’re done you can forget about it for 3-4 hours, or more. This will come in especially handy when I finally return to working…fingers crossed.
3 lb chicken legs and thighs (about 12 pieces total)
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 cups hearty red wine
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 tomatoes seeded & chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup brined black or green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
I had most ingredients on hand, but needed to get the chicken, shallots, tomatoes, and olives. On my way to Trader Joe’s I stopped into the new Brooklyn Wine Exchange as a tasting was in progress. I tasted three wines including a 2007 Petit Paris Bergerac which is a bold and peppery red. Even though I had plenty of reds at home to use for the recipe, I thought this one would be just as good or better than any of them. So I bought it. It was $11. Beat that!
My attempt to buy the remaining items at Trader Joe’s was a big mistake. Normally I go there during the day on a Monday, Tuesday, etc. On a Sunday at 3:00 PM the entire neighborhood is inside shopping. I walked right out. The Met is a dingier local grocery store, but they usually have everything I need. And it’s fairly cheap. I started the meal as soon as I got home.
Season the chicken all over with salt & pepper and set aside
In a small saucepan combine the wine, shallots, garlic, peppercorns, & thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes.
The slow cooker I have, a nice All-Clad we received as a wedding gift has a removable inner pot that can be placed directly on the stove top. Rather than use a separate pan for this part I just used this. Worked perfectly. In fact, the aroma of the combination of the wine, herbs, and spices was quite nice as it filled our apartment.
Next the recipe lets you use one of two slow cooking methods – stove top in a Dutch Oven, or in the Slow Cooker. I went with the latter. (e-mail me if you would like the Dutch Oven instructions)
Place the chicken in a slow cooker. Add the reduced wine mixture (I already had it in there) and the chopped tomatoes. Cover and cook until the chicken is very tender and opaque throughout, 1-1 1/2 hours on the high-heat setting, or 3 hours on the low-heat setting.
Since it was already past 5:00 when I got started I went with the high setting, and actually cooked it for closer to two hours as I felt at 1 1/2 hours the skin of the chicken still looked a little too undercooked.
Transfer the chicken to a platter. Set a fine-mesh sieve (strainer) over a small bowl and strain the cooking juices. You should have about 1 cup. Whisk in the tomato paste.
Pour the juices into a large frying pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, combine the butter and flour. Using your fingers or a fork, mix until a crumbly paste forms. Add the butter mixture to the pan and cook, whisking constantly, until a thick sauce forms, 7-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper, and stir in the olives. Add the chicken, turn to coat with the sauce, and cook over medium-low heat until warmed through, about 5-minutes.
At this point I used the large frying pan as was called for, but in hindsight I could have just used the slow cooker insert again. Live & learn. I also found that once you strain the cooking juices you’ve removed the tomatoes. This would not work for me. I wanted those tomatoes! So, I bent the rules and added the tomato, shallot, garlic, and peppercorn remains back into the sauce.
The meal was quite good. It’s a really easy recipe, and makes enough for probably 3-4 people – between two of us we had plenty left over. I highly recommend using the Bergerac wine as opposed to something lighter like a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon which most people seem to have on hand. A dry Merlot could work, as would a hearty Cotes du Rhone.
So, do we like The Crabby Gourmet? Cooking has become a real enjoyable hobby of mine, so I’m happy to write about it, but only if you’ll read about it. Let me know.