Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chicken sautéed with Red Wine and Sun-Dried Tomatos Over Grits Polenta

Sometimes the bell rings, the winning bell. It happened last evening with a North Italian-style chicken dish I made for guests to accompany the wine-jalapeño-cheese grits I've gotten into recently (see blog posting of 8/23/08), which are like polenta, only tastier to my Georgia-influenced palate. The guests were a couple we've known for years, the husband of Italian ancestry and the wife from Southern Thailand. She is an excellent cook and Thai food teacher and caterer. There was no way I was going to serve them something Southeast Asian.

The dish evolved out of what I developed at our restaurant in Athens for a Croatian dinner at the university to serve with roasted polenta cakes. It was influenced by some cooking methods I read about for hunter-style rabbit and venison. But I used the much less exotic chicken thighs, my favorite part of the chicken. The combination of caramelized onion and garlic, red wine, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes is made even richer with whole herbs and spices. Served over a bed of soft polenta, or my preference of stone-ground grits prepared like polenta, it makes a hearty and (if I'm allowed to say so) exciting main dish.

We served red-stemmed Swiss chard lightly stir-fried in butter as the side dish. A fragrant dry red wine, particularly a good California Cabernet Sauvignon, accompanies this well. The recipe serves six people.

Chicken Sauteed with Red Wine and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Tim

1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup red wine
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh
1 medium-large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound mushrooms, rinsed and cut in half
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 to 3-inch sprig of fresh rosemary (length depends on leafiness)
12 whole juniper berries
3 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup chicken, beef, or vegeable broth, or water

Cut the dried tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice if they are not already cut. Soak them in the wine. Trim away tough parts and excess fat from the chicken. Cut chicken into 1-1/2-inch pieces and set them aside. Prepare the onions, garlic, and mushrooms and keep them separate.

In a stewing pan over medium heat, fry the onions gently in the olive oil, stirring frequently, until becoming pale golden in spots. Add the garlc and simmer until onions are medium golden in color. Add the wine and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms, salt, rosemary, juniper berries, cloves, and pepper. Simmer until the mushrooms begin to shrink. Add the chicken, and while stirring frequently, cook until the surfaces change color. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the chicken is tender and the sauce has been reduced, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt, if needed. Remove from the heat.

It is best to make this at least half an hour in advance (if longer, refrigerate it) and rewarm it to serve. Serve it spooned over a bed of polenta or grits prepared like polenta (see my blog of 8/23/08 for a recipe). Alternatively, this can be served with buttered noodles.

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