Why do we cook and push our culinary boundaries? I mean besides the obvious fact that we're always hungry....okay, maybe I should say "I'm" always hungry. Well, for me, especially in January when the whole month is all about trying new recipes and finding new food goodness to stuff myself with, it's because every now and then you get that "Holy shit, this is so freaking good!!" moment. There are platefuls of food that I like. New things we make at home that get added to the regular repertoire. Then there are those rare moments when a recipe exceeds every expectation, and from the first bite you're experiencing that all too rare mouthgasm, that aforementioned "oh fuck, this is insane", the dish that makes you immediately check your calendar and schedule the next dinner party, because this is too good not to share.
w and I had that moment the other night, when searching for something new and delicious, I came across the following recipe in what ahs become over the years one of my go-to cooking inspirations, "The Dean and Deluca Cookbook". The recipes in here have been money so many times. An amazing Spanish white bean, lamb & chorizo stew; a great Bolognese; one of w's favorites, a simple dish of boned and broiled drumsticks with a perfect gremolata; and a slew of other hits. All of us who cook at home and explore new recipes have those moments where we go "WTF? Did they even cook this before they printed it?" With the DandD cookbook, it seems they actually did try everything, and nailed it down tight before committing it to print. Plus it is filled with explanations of why they do it that way and why this method works best.
Ready for plating!
Which is a roundabout, overlong intro to this kick-ass dish of balsamic and porcini braised chicken thighs. This was stunningly good with rich, deep, intense, complex flavors. The sauce could not have been better or more satisfying, the thighs were perfectly moist and slightly crisp from the browning. Oh, and it is also way easy. The recipe calls for six thighs for six people. I would probably bump up the proportions, maybe eight or nine thighs and a corresponding increase in the other ingredients, because I guarantee some of your guests will be coming in for seconds. We made the six thigh dish for the two of us, had three left over with some sauce, and last night used the leftovers for an absolutely killer pasta (see bottom of post for hints). You've got to try this one, because as my friend Andrew says about his favorite ski runs, "This is SO sick"!
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Bone-In Chicken Thighs Braised with Balsamic Vinegar and Porcinis
from The Dean & Deluca Cookbook
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
6 large chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
Salt and pepper to taste
5 garlic cloves, peeled
all-purpose flour for dredging
two 1/4" thick slices of slab bacon (see cooks notes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fruity red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
3 tablespoons industriale (read: inexpensive) balsamic
1 tablespoon arrowroot dissolved in 2 teaspoons cold water
3/4 cup drained and chopped canned tomatoes (save extra from can for leftover pasta sauce)
1 tablespoon traditional balsamic (read: aged balsamic)
chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1.In a small bowl let the porcini soak in one cup hot water for 10 minutes, or until soft. Drain them well, strain the liquid, and reserve.
2.Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Chop two of the garlic cloves, adding a little salt, until a rough paste is formed. Cut a horizontal slit in each thigh, just above the bone, and divide the garlic-salt paste evenly among the six. Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour, shaking off excess, being careful not to lose the garlic-salt mix. In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat, stirring, until browned and crisp. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels. To the skillet add the chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook them, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until it is golden and crisp. Transfer the chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate, season it with salt, and discard the aft in the skillet.
3.Mince the remaining three cloves of garlic. Add the olive oil to the skillet, and cook the garlic over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the reserved porcini liquid, wine, broth, and and 3 tablespoons of industriale balsamic. Increase the heat to high, and boil for 5 minutes. Add the arrowroot mixture in a stream, stirring. Stir in the tomatoes and add the chicken, turning it to coat with sauce. With chicken thighs in sauce skin-side up, reduce heat to moderately low and simmer the mixture, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in the porcini and bacon, and simmer, covered, for abut 10 more minutes (do not allow the sauce to become too thick.
4.When ready to serve, stir in the one tablespoon traditional balsamic vinegar, season to taste, and sprinkle the dish with chopped parsley.
*Cooks notes: We used bacon ends from the store, which the meat guy was too happy to give us, for about 99 cents a pound. They worked perfectly, and I'd recommend this money saving tip for any dish that calls for chopped bacon for flavoring. We served the thighs with polenta with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, and they went brilliantly together!
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Leftover Chicken Thigh Pasta
All you need to do (assuming you have some leftovers!) is shred the meat off the thighs, add about five tablespoons of the leftover chopped tomatoes...you did save them, didn't you??...and heat the whole mess over low heat while the pasta water bois and the pasta cooks. Perfect with 1 pound dried fusilli or penne pasta.