Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chicken Sofrito

Of the three lovely ladies with whom I share dinner night, two others have a birthday in July, one – Architect – earlier in July and one – Foodie – later in July, the day after me.  We celebrated Architect’s birthday earlier in July and the menu included these little jewels: 

Eggs poached in peppers on the grill…easy and so damn stinking good.

Anyway, we knew Architect received the Jerusalem cookbook for her birthday.

Now we all have a copy.

She agreed to host the late-July birthday celebration.

She said she wanted to make something special.

We were all waiting in mouth-watering anticipation!

Yep, she made a dish from the Jerusalem Cookbook, Chicken Sofrito.

The cookbook explains that “sofrito” is actually more of cooking method than a name of a dish and is “a perfect example of how frugality yields some superb delicacies and it is tremendously popular in Jerusalem.” Many inhabitants of the city are comfortable financially but just as many are struggling and this cooking method “reflects the scarcity and costliness of many ingredients.”  The word sofrito comes from the Spanish verb sofeir (to fry lightly) and the frying the chicken is the starting point for this method of cooking that culminates in a wonderful, slow-cooked braise that encourages the meat to just fall off the bone while eating….I am a witness to that effect! 

Architect prepared this dish in a beautiful 8 quart Cuisinart Dutch oven.  With a pan that big you can lay the whole chicken flat by butterflying it through the center of the breast…a butcher can do this for you too.

Chicken Sofrito
From:   Jerusalem Cookbook

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 small free-range chicken, butterflied or quartered
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 ½ tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
Sunflower oil for frying
1 ¾ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into ¾” cubes
25 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the oil into a large, shallow pan or Dutch oven and place over medium heat.  Place the chicken flat in the pan, skin side down, and sear for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown.  Season all over with paprika, turmeric, sugar, scant ¼ teaspoon salt, a good grind of black pepper, and 1 ½ tablespoons of the lemon juice.  Turn the chicken over so that the skin faces up, add the onion to the pan, and cover with a lid. 

Decrease the heat to low and cook for a total of 1 ½ hours; this includes the time the chicken is cooked with the potatoes.  Lift the lid every now and then to check the amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan.  The idea is for the chicken to cook and steam in its own juices, but you may need to add a little bit of boiling water, just so there is always 1/4”  of liquid at the bottom of the pan.

After the chicken has been cooking for about 30 minutes, pour sunflower oil into a medium saucepan to a depth of 1 ¼” and place over medium-high heat.  Fry the potatoes and garlic together in a few batches for about 6 minutes per batch, until they take on some color and crisp up.  Use a slotted spoon to lift each batch away from the oil and onto paper towels, then sprinkle with salt.

After the chicken has been cooking for 1 hour, lift it from the pan and spoon in the fried potatoes and garlic, stirring them with the cooking juices.  Return the chicken to the pan, placing it on top of the potatoes for the remainder of the cooking time, 30 more minutes.  The chicken should be falling off the bone and the potatoes should be soaked in the cooking liquid.  Drizzle with lemon juice and serve. 

As our birthday cake, we had a fruit tart, then we exchanged gifts...a picture, perfect celebration.  We are so lucky to be able to enjoy this dinner club with each other.

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