Chicken is everywhere, from road-side shacks to four-star restaurants. The problem with chicken these days is that it has been bred more for quantity than quality. Luckily in the past few years, local farmers have been producing chickens that have amazing flavor and texture (and that are raised in much better conditions than typical supermarket birds). At the farmers markets around the area, chicken is one of the easier products to find now that most vegetables are out of season.
This recipe is perfect for the cold weather. Braising produces rich and hearty results every time as long as you are willing to do the work up front. Browning the meat before braising it is the hard part; the vegetables do the rest. The picholine olives are fantastic but might be hard to find (they are available at Whole Foods). You can substitute with any bright green and briny olive you can find (but try to stay away from canned kind).
Braised chicken with olives
Makes: 8 servings
8 chicken thighs or 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces (I get my chicken from Albright Farms)
2 medium onions, large dice
2 ribs celery chopped into 1/4-inch wide pieces
2 large carrots chopped into 1/4-inch inch wide pieces
1 medium eggplant, medium dice
8 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
4 bay leaves
5 ounces picholine olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup prunes, chopped
4 cups (1 quart) chicken stock
3 cups white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and minced
2 sprigs sage, leaves stripped and minced
8 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from the sprig
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour for dredging
4 tablespoons all purpose flour for the sauce
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
bread and butter (optional) for dipping
Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the 1/4 cup of flour into a large dish and dredge the chicken, knocking off the excess for frying. In a large pot over high heat, add the olive oil and when it starts to shimmer, add the butter and stir until melted and bubbly. Depending on the size of the pot, fry the chicken in batches on both sides until dark brown (about 3 minutes per side on high heat); then remove chicken from the pot. Once the chicken is browned, add the onion, celery, carrot, eggplant, garlic, bay leaves, olives and prunes to the hot oil and cook until the vegetables begin to wilt (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle the flour onto the vegetables and stir to mix together thoroughly. Stir in the tomato paste and cook the mixture until it starts to become browned and caramelized. Add the wine, vinegar and stock and stir until everything is combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and turn the heat down to medium low. Add the chicken to the pot, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover the pot and maintain a simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the rosemary, sage, and thyme and simmer for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the parsley and serve immediately with bread and butter for dipping. If you want to make this a night or two before, be sure to cool the meat in the braising liquid or the meat will become tough. Reheat and serve as you would any cold dish.
Tip: To make this a heartier dish, serve over mashed potatoes, rice, or a large slice of thick toasted bread.