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Today is actually National Butterscotch Pudding Day. I love butterscotch but am not a huge fan of pudding. I thought I would celebrate by making one of my favourite childhood treats: butterscotch brownies. Then I realized that B had already blogged about “blondies”, and my hopes were dashed. I considered buying a sundae with butterscotch sauce, but that seem a bit, well, * yawn *

So instead, I went completely off-grid and decided to blog about one of my very favourite rainy-day meals: braised chicken.

As one news announcer said today, it’s seemed more like the beginning of winter in Vancouver instead of the beginning of fall. It’s been raining, gray, and miserable. Basically February in September. Perfect weather for a hot, salty, saucy, soupy, hearty meal of braised chicken.

it was this kind of day

I admit, I didn’t come to this idea on my own. I’ve been laid up lately and watching a LOT of television. My “crack” is cooking television. I particularly like Michael Smith’s “Chef at Home”. Well, good ol’ Michael had a recent “vanilla” episode, in which he created a lovely vanilla braised chicken. I thought “hmmm”. I wasn’t really all over the vanilla; I prefer Italian flavours in my braised chicken. But I was definitely inspired. After all, as Michael says,”A recipe is merely words on paper; a guideline, a starting point from which to improvise.”

Here, without further ado, is my recipe:

Eva’s Braised Chicken

  • 2 lbs chicken thighs, bones removed and reserved
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 anchovies, chopped (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 C sherry or brandy
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 5 or 6 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 C large green olives, pitted & halved
  • 3 T capers, drained
  • 5 or 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 C chicken broth (or white wine if you prefer)
  • salt & pepper to taste

1.       Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a very large pan over medium-high heat. Brown chicken thighs and bones in oil. Remove and set aside (at this point you can remove the skin from the chicken if you want). DON’T clean the pan. The yummy browned bits at the bottom are essential to the taste.

leave those yummy browned bits in the pan

2.       Toss the onion and celery into the pan and stir until slightly softened. Add the garlic and anchovies and stir until anchovies dissolve.

softening the onions and celery

3.       Reduce heat to medium-low and deglaze the pan with the sherry or brandy. Scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the browned bits into the onion mixture.

4.       Add the chicken and bones back into the pan. Top with the tomatoes, olives, capers, thyme, bay leaf, half of the basil, and the chicken stock. Add a healthy dose of pepper but no salt yet; there’s already plenty in the sauce.

ready to braise!

5.       Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for at least 40 minutes. Poke the vegetables into the broth from time to time.

6.       Remove the bones. Tear up the remaining basil and add to the sauce. Taste and salt if necessary.

7.       Serve over rice, noodles, or couscous (I had mine with toasted-garlic couscous).

"Italian" braised chicken over toasted garlic couscous.

Perfect for a rainy February day in September.

xx Eva

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I grew up eating from the hot pan and cooling rack of a Swiss housewife.  So dishes centered around a tasty cutlet of meat feel like coming home.

Schnitzels feature prominently in Swiss cuisine (as they do around the world), but the Wiener schnitzel is something special.  Vienna in German is “Wien”—hence the “Wiener” schnitzel originates in the Austrian capital.  According to some web sources, the appellation is protected by Austrian law; restaurants are forbidden to sell Wiener schnitzels unless they are made from the traditional veal.  If they are selling the ubiquitous (and cheaper) pork version, they’re required to call it “Schnitzel Wiener Art” (i.e. schnitzel in the Wiener style), or tack on “vom Schwein”, leaving no doubt as to the paucity of baby cow in the dish.

So special is the Wiener version of what the yanks call “chicken-fried beef”, that no lesser authority than the Oxford English Dictionary gives it the “esp.” nod in its general definition for schnitzel:

schnitzel

A veal cutlet, esp. in Wiener ({sm}vi{lm}n{schwa}(r)) schnitzel, one coated with egg and breadcrumbs, fried and often garnished with lemon, capers, anchovies, etc., in the Viennese style.

Now, there are all kinds of recipes on the Interweb for Wiener schnitzel, but being a sometimes word nerd, I’ll jump at using the OED as a cookbook.  I also happen to love the similar Holstein schnitzel served up at the Rathskeller, since it combines in one dish at least four different and extremely efficient vehicles for salt.  So I’m going to assume that by “etc.”, the mouldy old dictionary academics on the River Thames meant “fried egg with paprika and black pepper.”

In my preparations for today, I also consulted my only Austrian friend, Rita, for her family recipe, which she was happy to divulge despite being a vegan!  One thing she said surprised me a little and wasn’t reflected in all the North American recipes I saw online.  She said I should fry in 1-2 cm of oil so the meat is floating.  I guess the real deal is practically deep-fried.  Hmm… my mouth just watered as I thought about meat and typed “deep-fried”.  Rita: you’re such a good sport.

I made a half-hearted attempt to locate some veal outside of the agribusiness-dealing grocery chains, but discovered that even specialty butchers have to special order it.  It seems the average Victoria shopper just ain’t that into mewling calf meat—must be those big brown eyes.  With two kids starting Kindergarten and pre-school this week, buying good veal took more foresight and planning than I could handle.  So instead, I sourced three cuts of Berkshire pork from Sea Bluff farms in Metchosin by way of the Village Butcher in Oak Bay.  Mr. Butcher was also kind enough to inflict his special tenderizing hammer-machine on the little strips of swine, prior to purchase.

After making sure the fire extinguisher was within arms’ reach, I set to flouring, egging, breadcrumbing and frying.  Here’s how things progressed:

When I dropped the first cutlet, I was a little intimidated by the furious popping, crackling and awesome bubbling racket that ensued.  But by the last one, I felt I’d got the hang of it.  The recipe calls for a 1/4 inch cut, and now I can see why.  I had to leave my thick cuts in a little too long to ensure they were cooked through, overcrisping the breading a little.  The bread I used was the densest loaf I could find at Cob’s, but my wimpy little food processor may not have ground it finely enough.  The breading was less-than-even and very thick, resulting in one crunchy piece of meat.  But the lovely squirts of lemon, the salty tangs of caper and anchovy, and the smooth mellow yellowness of the egg all served to temper the intensity of the fried pork.

A week ago, in preparation for today’s meat-frying adventure, I tried a schnitzel from the culinary sorceresses at Devour.  A thyme-breaded and prosciutto-wrapped pork schnitzel with lentils du Puy and stewed fruit sauce, to be precise:

It was damn fine.  But I think my Mom would prefer my bastardized OED schnitzel.

~ Rolf

This is not Caesar Salad. It's not Apple Turnover, either.

Well, actually it’s National Apple Turnover Day, but I already told everyone that I was going to talk about Caesar Salad.

So here I am. Except, as you’ve probably noticed, the picture above is neither caesar salad nor apple turnover.

I have an explanation. In related (sort of) news, I bought a camera today. Which means fewer shitty phone camera pictures on this blog. Except the ones I’ve taken already.

Sorry about that.

So I did make a caesar (potato) salad, topped with some grilled fish:

It was delicious. First you mash 3 cloves of garlic in a mortar and pestle. Then you add some fleur de sel or other course salt and mash again. The salt acts as its own mortar so the garlic turns to paste.Then you add several anchovies and mash again. Then some olive oil, mustard (keep mashing), pepper and capers.

Then you scoop the whole mess out into a bowl and whisk in the juice of 2 lemons, some sugar (just a pinch), and some olive oil.  Maybe some red wine vinegar.

In the meantime, dice and cook some potatoes. Dice radishes, chop sweet onions (into small-ish pieces), heirloom tomatoes and parsley, that kind of thing.

Toss the dressing with the veggies.

Yum.

lots of anchovy!

And buy a G-D camera, Eva.

So, I did.

P.S. the risotto was lobster. Jim had it with steak. I thought it turned out pretty well.