Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Random Cookbook is back! The Best Recipes in the World

Even though I'm still busier than usual, I decided I missed randomly cooking. All work and no play and all that.

So, this week I drew The Best Recipes in the World, by Mark Bittman, wherein he offers a sampling of recipes from the great world cuisines made accessible for the home cook. (It's a long cookbook.)

Busy as I am, I wanted something with a nice short ingredient list, so I selected...

Chicken With Vinegar
(A French peasant classic, though Bittman cut the butter content from a whole stick to two measly tablespoons plus an optional extra.)

- 2 T butter or olive oil (I used butter)
- 1 chicken, 3-4 lbs, cut into serving pieces, or 2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken parts, trimmed of excess fat (I used ~2.5 lbs of drumsticks and thighs)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/4 c. minced shallot
- 1 c. good-quality red wine vinegar
- 1 T butter, optional (I exercised the option)

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Set a large skillet, preferably with steep sides, over medium-high heat. Add 2 T butter and wait a minute. When it is good and hot, place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is nicely browned. Turn and cook for three minutes on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.

(I did this step in two batches, because even though all the pieces fit in my skillet, I didn't want to brown them all at once because the pan would've been too crowded and they wouldn't have had as much of a Maillard reaction.)

Place the chicken in the oven. Cook 15-20 minutes, or until it is just about done (the juices will run clear, and there will be the barest trace of pink near the bone). Transfer the chicken to an ovenproof platter and place the platter in the oven; turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar.

Pour most but not all of the cooking juices out of the skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and add the shallot, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and cook, stirring until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and raise the heat to high. Cook for a minute or two, or until the powerful smell has subsided somewhat. Add 1/2 c. water and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is slightly reduced and somewhat thickened. Stir in butter if desired.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet and turn the chicken in the sauce. Serve immediately.

Not too exciting to look at, but this is a very good recipe--straightforward and simple but with a distinctive, interesting taste. I bet it'd be AMAZING with the full stick of butter, but I'm on Weight Watchers (I've lost 25 lbs since December 1!), so I should probably stick to this version.

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