The Flat Possum Gazette  

Test Kitchen

Courtesy of the Road-Kill Press

BRAISED CHICKEN, A MEXICAN VARIATION

Braised Chicken

Bill,

In this lesson we are going to talk about "braising". I say "lesson" because I am giving you a lot more conversation in this recipe than usual. I think a lot of peoples' eyes glaze over when you bring up that word "braise" in a conversation. Mainly because they don't know what the Hell it is. They probably think you're getting "Frenchified" in your cooking talk. Not so.  To braise a food means simply to cook it slowly in a small amount of liquid. That's it. Braising is the basic technique used in most stews, fricassees (now, that's a word for you) and ragouts. By the way, "fricassee" (pronounced FRIHK-uh-see) and "ragout" (pronounced ra-GOO) are just French words for stew.  No big deal. This is a great way to deal with tough or very lean cuts of meat because the long, slow exposure to heat breaks down the tough connective tissues while maintaining the necessary moisture you want in a finished piece of meat.

Chicken is certainly not tough meat, but it responds well to braising, so let's do

BRAISED CHICKEN, A MEXICAN VARIATION

Use about 3 to 4 pounds chicken parts. (I bought a whole bird or two and cut them up to suit me, but you can buy just breasts or thighs, if you want.)

About 1/4 cup lard or Crisco (lard helps make the outside of things crispy)
1 Cup yellow onions; cut them so they are chunky, not diced.
3 or 4 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 14 oz. can whole tomatoes with juice. (Break up the tomatoes with your fingers.)
1 Cup chicken stock or broth
1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (I have it on good authority that garlic is an aphrodisiac, therefore I routinely use excessive amounts in all my recipes.)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 Cup pimento-stuffed olives, sliced (If you've used them all in Martinis, use black)
1/2 Cup crushed pineapple, drained (Use one of those small cans of pineapple.)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, with 2 1/2 tablespoons soft butter, mixed together into a smooth paste for thickening.

Use a heavy, lidded skillet or pot that is about 10-inches in diameter. Heat the lard and brown the chicken parts to a golden brown color.  Be sure and wipe the chicken dry before browning; wet poultry or meat does not brown properly, it steams instead. Remove the chicken to a warm platter. Saute the onions and peppers for about 4-5 minutes in the same pot, until softened but not browned, blend in 1 Tbls. flour, or maybe a little paprika for a change, stir and cook for a couple minutes. Then add the tomatoes with juice and chicken stock. Raise heat to moderately high and simmer, scraping the bottom for browned bits. Stir in the seasonings.  Return the chicken to the pot.

You may need to add some more stock to bring the level of the liquid up to about 1/3 of the way up the chicken. The dead bird parts should not be covered with liquid ( we are not poaching the fowl, we are braising). Bring to a fast simmer and then turn heat down to where the liquid barely bubbles. Cook "low and slow" is the technique. Cover and cook about 15 minutes.

Add the olives and pineapple. Cook another 10-12 minutes until you are positive the chicken is definitely tender. Punch around with a fork; if you're still getting reddish juices, it ain't done. You want it to exude clear yellow juice. At this point remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

You should have maybe 1 1/2 cups gravy in the pot by now. If you think it looks weak, raise the heat to high and reduce it to a concentration that you find desirable before thickening.  With the gravy at a fast simmer, stir in, one teaspoon at a time, the thickening (flour and butter paste); simmer for about 3-4 minutes until the gravy thickens.  Taste and adjust your seasoning now.

Return the chicken to the pot, basting with the gravy, and simmer slowly for several minutes until everything is harmonized and heated. Yep, harmonized and heated. Its always good to be harmonized and heated. I like that.

Serve this stew over rice. (You might want to make Mexican Rice, since this is supposed to be a Mexican variation of braised chicken.) Have some Tabasco handy.

Since this is summer, serve this dish with sliced ripe tomatoes and avocados or guacamole on leaves of Romaine Lettuce Hearts.

The leftover stew can be refrigerated and served again in a couple of days. This time, alongside mashed potatoes with some green beans cooked in ham stock.

Dad

 

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