If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
Credit where it’s due: this recipe comes to us today via the Great Alton Brown with one major change: I was never comfortable cooking chicken in red wine (Brown suggests Pinot Noir). Call me fussy, but I believe that white wine – especially a nice Riesling – lends a fruitier and more delicate note to the dish.
24 to 30 pearl onions
4 chicken thighs and 4 legs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces thick bacon, diced
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon butter
2 (750-ml) bottles Riesling
2 tablespoons plain tomato paste
1 medium onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
2 medium carrots, cut into thirds
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock or broth
Cut off the root end of each pearl onion and make an “x” with your knife in its place. Bring 2 to 3 cups of water to a boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove the onions from the pot, allow them to cool, and then peel. You should be able to slide the onions right out of their skin. Set aside.
Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large (1 or 2-gallon) sealable plastic bag along with the flour. Shake to coat all of the pieces of the chicken. Remove the chicken from the bag to a metal rack.
Add the 2 tablespoons of water to a large, 12-inch saute pan over medium heat along with the bacon. Cover and cook until the water is gone, and then continue to cook until the bacon is crispy, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, add the pearl onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until lightly brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. Next, brown the chicken pieces on each side until golden brown, working in batches if necessary so as not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer the chicken into a 7 to 8-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
Add the mushrooms to the same 12-inch saute pan, adding the 1 tablespoon of butter if needed, and saute until they give up their liquid, approximately 5 minutes. Store the onions, mushrooms and pork in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Pour off any remaining fat and deglaze the pan with approximately 1 cup of the wine – then whisk in the chicken stock, tomato paste, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Pour this into the Dutch oven and then add all of the remaining wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the pot in the oven and cook for about 2 1/2 hours or until the chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.
Once the chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place it in the oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce and remove the carrots, onion, celery, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Return the sauce to the pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3. Depending on how much liquid you actually began with, this should take 20 to 45 minutes.
Once the sauce has thickened, add the pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon and cook for another 15 minutes or until the heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, remove from the heat, add the chicken and serve. Serve over wide egg noodles. Baby spinach sauteed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic makes a nice vegetable accompaniment.
Note: If the sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together. Start with 1 tablespoon of each. Whisk this into the sauce for 4 to 5 minutes and repeat, if necessary.