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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring has sprung!

Man, is it ever nice outside! (Sunny and 71°F in my neck of the woods.) If your grill isn't ready to go yet, open all the windows in your house while you make this.

Vernal Equinox Chicken
Serves 4, with leftovers

8 boneless chicken thighs (or 6 bone-in), skin removed
1 large yellow onion, chopped medium
1 yellow pepper, cleaned and chopped
5 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
12 fingerling potatoes, quartered
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs capers
4 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 lemon
2 tsp red pepper flakes
small amount of chocolate
olive oil
Amontillado Sherry
heavy cream
white pepper
dried basil
dried marjoram

Pour enough olive oil into the bottom of a large sauté pan to cover, and sauté chopped onions over medium heat until soft. Remove onions from pan and cook chicken on both sides until browned; add a splash of sherry and a bit more oil if necessary to prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan.

After chicken has browned add the onions back into the pan, followed by the chopped garlic, mushrooms, potatoes, yellow pepper, red pepper flakes, a palmful (about 1 1/2 Tbs) of basil and another splash of sherry, perhaps 1/4 cup. Cover pan and simmer until mushrooms are soft and brown, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add diced tomatoes, capers, Dijon mustard, 1 Tbs marjoram and the juice of one lemon and simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Also add a bit of chocolate to moderate the acidity of the tomatoes -- one square of unsweetened baker's chocolate should do it, or a small handful of semisweet morsels. To thicken sauce, combine flour and cream in a mixing bowl to make a thick, viscous liquid and stir into the pan until sauce is thickened. Grind fresh white pepper to taste over the entire mixture and stir in. Simmer uncovered on low heat until desired consistency is reached, no more than 15 minutes. Remove from heat for 10 minutes to rest; stir one final time before serving.

This would be good served with rice, risotto or buttered pasta. Pair with a Rhône-style red, or if you prefer white, a good Muscadet or a moderately oaky Chard.
M. Zane Grey, 6:45 PM