For me, a once yearly must-have recipe is my version of Michael Chiarello's long-cooked hen in tomato sauce. I have had this dish at least once for each of the past 7-8 years now. It takes a bit of work, but the recipe is almost foolproof and I am always impressed with the great flavor. The following is my take on his wonderful creation.
Serves 4, with sauce for days
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
4 minced garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
4 tbls kosher salt
2 cups dry red wine
6 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes, pulsed in a blender or Cuisinart
5 tbls freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1/4 cup minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Preheat your oven to 325ºF. At the same time, preheat a large Dutch oven on the stove top over high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves) and 1 tbls salt.
Saute the aromatics, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 20 minutes until the vegetables are caramelized. This caramelization process is an important step as it contributes a great depth of flavor. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any flavorful stuck-on bits. Let the wine simmer for 3 minutes.
Add all of the tomatoes, the rest of the salt and the pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. It is important to add enough salt and pepper now, so that the chicken seasons as it cooks. You won't be able to taste the sauce once the chicken goes in the pot.
Place the chicken, breast side down, in the sauce, and bring the sauce to a simmer on the stove top. Transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender, about 2 hours, spooning the sauce over the chicken from time to time.
Remove the pot from the oven and let the chicken cool a little in the sauce for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken, carefully as it is still very hot, and place on a cutting board. Stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and allow to cook in the sauce while you carve the chicken.
Generally I serve the chicken and a few spoonfuls of the sauce over a bowl of creamy polenta, but I had some fregola in the pantry so I used that instead. The nuttiness of the small pasta worked well. And the best part, there were about two quarts of that delicious pasta sauce left over.
The pasta can be frozen into different containers for easy dinners on other nights. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.
Note: I have always used a standard supermarket bird for this recipe, but I want to try an actual stewing hen the next time I try it. According to Chiarello, his grandmother's used her own homegrown hens. "They were tough and sinewy," he says, "but they had excellent flavor, and the slow cooking in tomato sauce tenderized them."
For photos and more, click here: http://nochoiceatall.blogspot.com/200...