Friday, October 21, 2011

Because I Have To Cook Again Sometime

After eating all of that fabulous food in Italy I swore I could never eat my own cooking again.  There are a couple of problems with that though.

1.  I have to eat to live.  So does my husband.
2.  I have a food blog, and food blogs aren't much use without content.

So this week I did have to drag myself back into the kitchen.

Since I am the (dis)Order cook, I do tend to do things backwards all over the kitchen.  I cook what I feel like cooking when I feel like cooking it, regardless of season.  If I want to make ice cream in January and fried chicken in June and soup in August, I will do just that .

I'm actually managing to get with the season right now.  Maybe Italy had a good influence on me.  After all, while I was there I ate vegetables grown on the farm and locally produced cheeses, eggs, and meats.  I was beginning to understand true seasonal food.

I have been thinking quite a bit about about stews and braises lately.  I want to expand my horizons with that type of cooking.  The only thing I ever braise are chickens because that's all my husband will eat, but I really want to try other meats.  It's time to make the effort and make two meals and start looking at ways to prepare lamb shanks (something I love to order in restaurants) or beef stew (like the one I had in Italy). 

Despite wanting to expand my horizons, I  wanted to start with chicken this week.  One of my favorite braised chicken recipes is my cider braised chicken with cream.  If I wanted to do another chicken braise, I should at least try a new recipe.

This month's issue of Food & Wine had an article about hard cider.  I went through one very brief period in my life where I drank hard cider.  I decided to try it when I was in Ireland 8 years ago.  I didn't love it, but it was better than beer and less fattening than Baileys or Irish coffee.  I haven't touched the stuff since.  Seeing the article made me think about how I might use it in my cooking.  Cider is a fall beverage and would be an interesting braising liquid for fall recipes.  It would be better than beer, but less sweet than sweet cider.

As an interesting coincidence is that the local Whole Paycheck was pushing a certain brand of hard cider in the Darien store this week.  I considered that fortunate and bought that very bottle.  The cook had to taste a bit before putting it in the pan.  This was sweeter than the cider I drank in Ireland, but still had a bit of bitter aftertaste that wasn't to my liking.  I knew I would rather cook with it than drink it.

I was braising chicken, which doesn't have a very strong flavor.  I needed to enhance my dish with things that could really stand up to the strong flavor of hard cider.


 Sausage!  (I used turkey sausage, but pork would be just as good)

Carrots, mushrooms, and lots of onions.

This ended up as one very tasty dish.  The flavor of the cider was sweeter and mellower after a good long braise and the chicken had great flavor without having to add a lot of unnecessary seasoning.  It had a lot of steps, but it was worth it.

It wasn't Italy, but it was good!  I served some braised swiss chard on the side (made me think of Italy) and some roasted potatoes (ditto).

Hard-Cider Braised Chicken and Sausage

  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 3 lb chicken pieces of your choice
  • 1 lb mild Italian sauasage (about 4 large links) cut into small links
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 3 large carrots, cut into chunks
  • 10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cups hard cider
  • Olive oil (as needed)
  • Chicken stock (as needed)
In a large saute pan or saucepan, cook bacon until crispy and fat renders out.  Drain off excess fat.  Set aside.

Brown the outside of the sausage links over medium heat.  Set aside.

If you feel your pan is too dry, add a little olive oil.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pan, skin-side down and brown well on both sides (about 5 minutes each).  Remove from pan.

Add your onion to the pan and saute until soft.  Add the carrots and cook them to allow them to take on a little color.  Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.

Add chicken and sausage back to the pan, nestling everything well among the vegetables.  Add the cider.  Simmer another 30 minutes.  If you need more liquid, add some chicken stock (or more cider!).

Serve with potatoes or noodles.


Sue said...

I LOVE hard cider and I love how you used it. I think you showed great restraint in not adding a bit of cream at the end.

The Blonde Duck said...

LOL-- "I have a food blog and food blogs don't have much use without content."

The Blonde Duck said...

Any cool dishes for Halloween?

bellini said...

I find myself cooking more with the seasons since having a food blog and dreaming of trips to Italy.

The Blonde Duck said...

I hope you had a good Halloween!