Monday, November 10, 2014

Double Mushroom Chicken with Red Wine Reduction

The original title of this dish is actually Hunter's-Style Chicken. The "hunter" refers to the stew's semblance to chicken cacciatore; both share a commonality of braised chicken, tomatoes, herbs, and wine. But here's the thing. To me, a hunter's stew sounds like a combination of all things meager and scarce: the scrappy, peasanty fruits of a disappointing bow-and-arrow labor in the woods.  (Maybe I'm just picturing myself out there.) Is there deer? Quail? Regarding the mushrooms....wouldn't a more appropriate name be Forager's-Style Chicken? At any rate, the title of the stew wasn't doing it for me, so I renamed it Double Mushroom Chicken with Red Wine Reduction. Because this stew is like Iggy Azalea. It's fancy. 
The "culinary equivalent of a big chunky sweater," this chicken stew is sumptuous and soul-warming, hearty to the core. It begs to be eaten in the depths of winter (or next week, if you've been keeping track of this bomb cyclone business) alongside a cozily-light fireplace and glass of full-bodied wine in hand. How convenient—you'll have an open, almost-full bottle of vino after step 5!
Rich healthy food seems like an oxymoron; indeed, upon seeing a recipe for mushroom-wine sauce my eye immediately scanned for the butter, cream, and fatty red meat to follow.  In this stew, however, full-flavored ingredients define the richness—heaviness is nowhere to be found. Earthy, buttery porcini and crimini mushrooms reach a truffle-like caliber, while the fruity, aromatic red wine adds its own cornucopia of fragrance and frill.  Fresh holiday herbs like thyme and savory give feasting character, and quality tomatoes (try for fresh Campari, canned San Marzano, or both) complete the base of the robust stew. The original recipe called for skin-on chicken parts of meat both light and dark, but the sauce is so wonderfully decadent on its own that you can absolutely stick with boneless, skinless chicken breast and be fine.  It also suggested layering the stew over creamy Parmesan polenta, but in keeping with my rich-yet-healthy theme, I served mine on top of brown basmati rice with a side of steamed broccoli.
My alternate title for this post was "Lazy Hunter's-Style Chicken," because I took a few shortcuts.  After simmering on the stovetop, the stew is supposed to be transferred to the oven and baked for an hour, but my pan wouldn't fit in my tiny apartment oven. So on the stovetop we stayed, with a perfunctorily thickened sauce. (If you can, I would try to bake it—I bet the consistency would be out of this world.) I already mentioned that I substituted chicken breasts for darker skin-on pieces; but when cooked correctly, the latter is fall-off-the-bone tender: it's up to you which parts to use.
Double Mushroom Chicken with Red Wine Reduction (adapted from Food52)
Serves 5-6

Ingredients:
5 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts or 1 3 to 3 ½ lb. chicken, quartered (or an equivalent amount of skin-on parts of your choice)
Kosher or sea salt
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
extra-virgin olive oil
¾ pound crimini mushrooms
2 ounces sweet vermouth
1 ½ cups chopped white or yellow onion
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
3 cups chopped ripe Campari tomatoes or canned peeled San Marzano tomatoes; drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
a pinch of red chile flakes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (such as fresh thyme, savory, and flat-leaf parsley)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.* Arrange the chicken pieces on a plate and pat dry. Season well with salt and set aside.
2. Cover the porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of boiling water and let steep for a few minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Remove the mushrooms, finely chop and set aside. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid, and set aside as well.
3. Warm 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat.  Brown the chicken parts in batches, skin-side down, until all chicken is browned and crisp-skinned. (If using boneless skinless chicken breasts, cook each side until they begin to bronze.) Remove the browned chicken pieces to a plate and set aside. Pour off all but a thin layer of the rendered fat (if present).
4. Trim and quarter the crimini mushrooms and add to the pan. Cook until browned on all sides, then add the chopped porcini and the red vermouth, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
5. Add the chopped onions to the pan with a sprinkle of salt, adding a little more oil if necessary, and cook until soft and opaque. Add the carrot and toss through, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chile flakes, wine, and reserved mushroom liquid, stirring well and bringing to a simmer.
Toss the chopped herbs with the mushrooms and return to the pot, stirring through. Nestle the chicken pieces on top, being sure to add any of the juices that have accumulated. 
6. Cook until chicken is tender and red wine reduced on stovetop or in oven: 
FOR STOVETOP: Simmer pot for 15 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered, turning chicken once, until chicken is cooked through and sauce slightly reduced.
FOR OVEN: Cover the pot with a parchment lid, and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for at least one hour, preferably more, until the chicken is falling-apart tender and the sauce thick and reduced. 
7. Add salt to taste. Serve over grain of your choice with a sprinkle of chopped flat leaf parsley or thyme sprig on top.

*Only complete this step if you plan on baking the stew. If keeping on stovetop, skip.

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