Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cooking Through Fine Cooking Issue 97: Wine Braised Chicken with Pancetta

Fine Cooking, one of my favorite magazines, is hosting a cook through an issue challenge featuring the current Jan/Feb issue #97. The cover features a yummy looking wine-braised chicken with shallots and pancetta, so I decided to start with that recipe.

Even though mine looked nothing like the final picture, I know where I went wrong, and I'm brave (or stupid, sometimes they're so close it's hard to tell the difference) enough to share.
Note: Photography still needs work, and I unfortunately did not grab a white plate for the final dish, which makes it look even worse than it did in person.

So I gathered the starring players, the ingredients, and the supporting cast, the equipment:

Not shown, measuring cup, and I replaced the called for slotted spoon with a stainless strainer with a handle that handled the task of removing the pancetta and veggies much more efficiently.

Instead of chicken thighs and drumsticks, I bought quarters and did not cut them apart (potential problem #1). I heated the pan and the oil and tucked them in to brown.

Then the phone rang (potential problem #2). And I helped myself to a glass of the open wine (potential problem #3). Sense a pattern yet?

So it's sizzling away, I am chatting and sipping and keeping an eye on it, then I commit browning sin #2, I try turning it too soon and the skin starts sticking to the pan. Sin #1 was cramming all 4 quarters in the pan at once. I should have done them two at a time. So instead of lovely, golden brown skin, I am heading towards skin stuck to pan and pale chicken. So I pulled it, in retrospect, too soon.

Onto browning the pancetta and pouring off at least a cup of fat before moving on to the vegetables. Which did a pretty good job of deglazing my stuck skin from the pan. I still wish it was on the chicken, but hey, too late now.

It smells good. In fact the aroma still lingers this morning. In a good way, not in a "Did you have fish last night?" kind of way.
So I finished sweating the veggies and garlic, put my pallid chicken and pancetta back in the pan and tucked in the oven for it's 35-45 minute braise.

Timer buzzes, removed the chicken and veggies, and proceed to reduce sauce per instructions, to 2 cups. Seems like a lot of liquid in the pot to start. I used cheap wine and expensive chicken stock, a combination that did not produce the desired results. My sauce mostly tasted like free range chicken broth. Again my fault, not the recipe.

Ok, I warned you, this picture is just ugly.

It tasted pretty good, despite the less than attractive appearance on the plate. It's harder than you think to take photos, cook, talk on the phone, and drink simultaneously.

How much does it cost to make this recipe in Akron, OH? The chicken set me back $3.58 for 4 quarters at the grocery.

Pancetta is not easy to find in the regular stores, but I always grab a pound at the West Side Market in Cleveland, so for this recipe probably about $3 worth. Shallots, fresh fennel and fresh herbs are also more affordable there, and I love, love, love the pre-peeled whole garlic cloves. The herbs and garlic are $1 for small container; the grocery packages run more like $2 a piece. I also get 5# of organic carrots there for about $4.

Cheap wine was $4 and good organic chicken stock was $4 on sale.

Would I make it again? Maybe only to redeem myself from doing a less than stellar job this time or to take a better photo, but probably not. There are a lot of other recipes in the issue to make. I was hoping to use some of the leftover chicken to make the Poblanos Stuffed with Cheddar & Chicken, but the only poblano in the grocery (pre-blizzard frenzy) looked like it had been there since Thanksgiving. Another ingredient best purchased at the market.

I'll be eating the leftovers since it appears that I will be snowed in for the weekend. I wish I had gone to the market and stocked up, but I just couldn't get it in gear yesterday.

I will be out of commission for a few weeks. My kitchen is finally getting a much needed remodel. I'm looking forward to cooking the rest of the recipes on my new gas 6 burner (goodbye glass flat top!!!).

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