Sunday, May 15, 2016

Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives

We seem to have trends at dinner club. For a while, we religiously cooked from the Jerusalem cookbook and, thankfully, every now and then a meal or dessert from one of the Ottolenghi books graces our table.  Lately, NYTimes Cooking seems to be the reliable go-to, and for good reason.  The recipes are interesting, satisfying, flavor-packed, fairly easy to follow and the introductory comments are both informative and often entertaining.  

I am behind in my posts, so it's a good thing the chicken that A. made three (yes, three) weeks ago was completely delicious and memorable (what else is new….all of our meals are so good), and it was courtesy of NYTimes Cooking, Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives.

What can go wrong when you braise chicken and add a Mediterranean brew of artichokes, garlic, mint and olives?  And, if those flavors are not temping enough, introduce the bright notes of white wine and lemon juice and, by golly, you’ve got yourself a tasty little dish.

Really. Tasty.

A note about the artichokes…they are a lot of work and frozen artichoke hearts are just as good and way less effort than the peeling, slicing and scooping required in this recipe.  The good folks at NYTimes cooking are probably gasping at the thought but, we’re all busy and why not benefit from shortcuts when someone has already gotten to the heart of the matter, or in this case, the artichoke.  

Seriously, this recipe is crazy good and once you surrender to the fresh artichoke alternative, it’s also pretty easy, especially for a fancy week-night meal.You’ll want to serve this with crusty bread so you can sop up all the garlicky/lemony/winey/savory juices.  
We started the evening with a wonderful bottle of rose...crisp and light, the tasting notes describe this wine as "a subtle rose, with deep pink color; notes of strawberry and cherry; light body and a dry, refreshing finish."

Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives
By:  NYTimes Cooking

1 ½ lemons
3 medium artichokes, about 1 1/2 pounds
3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Pinch red pepper flakes
¾ cup dry white wine
⅓ cup pitted olives, halved (use black, green or a mix)
2 large rosemary branches
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, as needed
Chives or mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

Use frozen artichoke hearts OR to use fresh artichokes squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a large bowl of water. Discard the outer leaves of each artichoke. As you do so, and as you continue cleaning the artichokes, dip them into the lemon water to stop the cut sides from browning. Use a paring knife to peel the base and stems. Slice off the top third of each artichoke. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, scoop out the hairy chokes inside, pulling out any prickly purple leaves as well. Slice each half into three pieces. Put trimmed artichoke pieces in lemon water until needed.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. In a large (12-inch) ovenproof skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and sear in batches until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add artichokes and garlic to pan, adding more oil if needed, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute more.

Pour in wine and stir in olives, rosemary branches and grated zest of 1/2 lemon. (Do not discard after zesting.) Return chicken to pan. Bring liquid to a simmer.

Cover pan and transfer to oven. Cook until chicken is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. (Check white meat after 25 minutes and remove from oven if done.) Transfer chicken to a plate and place skillet over medium-high heat. Simmer until pan juices thicken and become saucelike, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in butter.

Return chicken to pan and sprinkle with cheese. Adjust oven heat to broil and place pan in the oven until cheese is melted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it does not burn.) Squeeze juice of remaining lemon half over pan and serve garnished with chives or mint if you like. A. used parsley because parsley makes everything better.

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