Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cooking Rules I Broke While Making This Chicken Stew

Cooking rules I broke in making this chicken stew (served with mashed potatoes):

1. Didn’t use a whole chicken; only chicken thighs. Why do stew recipes call for a whole chicken, anyway? Does anyone want to gnaw on a wing or eat a dry breast?
2. Used cheap old wine. For the sauce, I finished off two bottles of red and white wine that I’ve had in the pantry for ages. I have never been able to tell the difference between good and crap wine when used in cooking. The sauce was delicious.
3. Thickened the sauce by sprinkling a bit of flour in it, and stirring quickly. It worked, but that’s not how you’re supposed to do it, right?
4. Used russet potatoes instead of the preferred Yukon gold for the mashed potatoes. They came out fine.

Be a rule-breaker, like me:

Brown six chicken thighs in a skillet for 10 minutes on all sides. Place in a Dutch oven. In the same skillet, sauté some coarsely chopped onions and carrots. Add a couple of garlic cloves; salt and pepper to taste.

Add vegetables to Dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with 2 cups of wine—use whatever you got. Simmer until the wine reduces, but if you want to thicken it, you probably shouldn’t just sprinkle in flour willy-nilly. Read some Mark Bittman or Julia Child, etc., on how to do this properly.

Add the sauce to the Dutch oven with a couple of bay leaves; bring liquid to boil, then it turn down to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is very tender; 25-30 minutes or so.


adele said...

I keep bottles of unpalatable or open-for-too-long wines specifically for cooking. There was NYT article on this a few years ago - there is little or no difference between good and bad wine when it's used for cooking.

I have no idea why stew recipes call for a whole chicken, either. White meat doesn't respond well to braising; dark meat does.

- AbsolutStoli said...

lol! according to what they taught us in cooking school, you didn't break any rules.
1) i think the old recipes call for whole chickens because back then thats all you could buy. maybe that got carried over to new recipes too.
2) i wouldn't use expensive wine for sauces/braising/stews if i was paying for it myself either.
3) thickening with flour is a proper technique in french cooking, actually. usually you make a roux, but not always.
4) i've never heard that yukon golds are preferred for mashed potatoes, they're too waxy. russets or other starchy potatoes are what you want, so good call. ;)

Yulinka said...

Adele--I remember that article. I buy cheap wine specifically for cooking.

Stoli--Good to know that I didn't break any rules after all! I've learned a lot from reading cook books and recipes, but sometimes it's better to follow common sense and your own preferences.

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