Sunday, January 9, 2011
An Old Chicken Recipe
This is good if you like sweet-and-salty things. I make a lot of snarky comments about the deli I used to work at when I was in my 20's, and indeed they were in the vanguard of Ann Arbor foodie hipsteremia, but they had some good recipes. They called this "venetian" chicken, but what a chicken ever had to do with Venice more than any other place I can't tell you.
Chicken. I used some frozen thigh meat, which is cheap, but this would actually be better with skin-on birds. The skin browns better.
Marinate the chicken. If it's frozen, put on some salt, pepper & olive oil, and let it thaw in the fridge for a few days. The night before you want to cook it, mix equal parts cider & sherry vinegar with a teaspoon of dried marjoram and a couple cloves of crushed garlic and coat the meat with it.
The next day, assemble some prunes, yellow dried figs, and mixed olives. Do get some half decent olives, but try not to have them be the kind that have a lot of herbs and things on them, it'll throw off the flavor of the dish. Don't be tempted to get dry cured olives either, they're way too salty!
Pour off most of the marinade and put the chicken in a baking pan. Cut the prunes & figs in half and throw them in along with the olives. The amounts are up to you. I used about 8 or 10 each of the fruits, and about 1/2 a container of TJ's mixed greek olives, the ones from the refrigerator case. Just the olives, not the brine. Try to get about half the fruit and olives under the meat and half on top.
Bake covered at 350 for about 30 minutes if, like mine, there's no skin on your bird. You can leave the cover off if it's skin-on, since the meat won't dehydrate as much. After the first 30 min, uncover the dish and bake another 15 minutes. For my 3 thighs, that was enough to get the chicken actually cooked, but there was still a lot of liquid in the pan. So I pulled it out and poured the drippings into a saucepan and set it on medium-hot to reduce into a glaze. Then I cranked the oven heat to 500, got all the fruit piled on top of the meat, sprinkled a light dusting of white sugar over the dish and browned it for another 10 minutes or so. Once there were little crispy looking spots on the olives and figs, I dumped the glaze back on the chicken and said the hell with it. If you get to the point where your birds are cooked and you don't feel that there is too much juice in the pan, just skip the part about making a reduction. I do wish I'd had some parsley to go with this, I'm having that midwinter craving for green crunchy bitter things.
When I worked at the deli, I made this with whole birds. The procedure is roughly the same, but you need to loosely stuff the cavity with some of the fruit, and adjust the cooking time to account for the thickness of a whole carcass. It makes a neato looking presentation, especially if you put some rosemary branches under it when you serve it, but having the chicken cut up already both speeds cooking and gets the meat more evenly seasoned. I bet it would be fun to do with cornish hens!