Monday, June 18, 2007

Chicken Basquaise

Making chicken stews such as this, I used to throw away the fat in which I had browned the chicken before proceeding with the rest of the dish. I still do that with beef and lamb stews. But chicken can be browned at lower temperatures, so the fat is less likely to burn; and it seems a shame to throw away anything flavourful.

I made this dish, for two, in a Le Creuset casserole.

1 dstsp olive oil
4 chicken thighs
I onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 plum tomatoes, blanched for 20 seconds in boiling water, peeled and chopped
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces

You need only a little oil, because the chicken will exude fat. Warm it over a gentle heat, and add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Sizzle them, taking care that the pan does not get hot enough to burn the oil, for about 10 minutes each side, or until browned. Remove to a plate.

Tip the onions, garlic and bay leaf into the casserole, and soften for five minutes. Add the tomatoes (you do not have to skin them -- it depends whether you are bothered about finding skins in the finished dish), peppers, and salt to taste. Nestle the chicken pieces among the other ingredients, bring to a simmer, and bubble gently, with the pan uncovered, for about an hour.

You will find at first that the chicken is sitting on ingredients that have not merged into a sauce. Do not worry: they will soften and give up a lot of moisture as they cook. You may find that the sauce is still too liquid after an hour: remove the chicken pieces to a plate, put them in a warm oven, and turn up the heat under the casserole to bubble the sauce fiercely and thicken it. (Chicken legs do not toughen easily, but they are probably best kept away from fast-boiling at this stage.) Return the chicken to the pan for a couple of minutes, and serve.

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