Chicken Thighs with Rosemary and Prunes
If there’s anything having a baby during your first year of law school will teach you, it’s to cook in bulk. (Ok, that’s definitely not even on the list of things it will teach you, but cut me some slack, first sentences are hard.) On the weekends, Francesco will cook up a seriously enormous batch of ragù and that’s pretty much what we’ll eat for the next seven days. While we get the baby ready for bed our conversations usually go something like this:
Me: What do you want to do for dinner?
Me: Ok, but what?
He: I don’t know, you?
(Then we do this little dance in which I bring the baby upstairs, he puts on the pasta water, I text him when I think she’s almost out for the count and he throws the pasta in and prays I come down soon because WE DO NOT EAT OVERCOOKED PASTA IN ITALY. Yes, we live in Australia, but that, I’m told, is not the point.)
SO EXCITING, RIGHT!??!? And then after a few steaming bowls of pasta lashed with butter and creamy meat sauce washed down with a bottle of red?
I sit down and read the law until my eyes begin to close and he puts on headphones and watches episodes of Justified.
But you know what? It’s kind of great. And maybe that’s what having a baby during my first year of law school has taught me: that a whole evening to read, or veg, or navel gaze or do whatever it is one wants to do, is precious. Especially if you get to start it off sharing a civilized, home-cooked meal with someone you love. (It has also taught me that I am capable of eating more ragù than I thought possible. This year, I said, would be the year I’d stop eating meat raised and killed inhumanely, the year I’d check the labels, avoid hormones and blah blah blah. Instead, for better or worse, it’s the Year of The Meat Sauce.)
Of course this ragù streak has meant less tantalizing new things to blog about. I’m pretty sure we’ve done some meat sauces here before (like this and this for example), and I wouldn’t want to bore you with the countless variations on our favorite (read: easiest) breakfast cake. I also don’t think you’d be interested in hearing about the few new things I am cooking quite a bit of: baby food. (Just in case: Pear Sauce [also delicious on ice cream!]: boil chopped pears in water for a long time; puree until smooth. Same for squash. And apple. And…that’s about as far as we’ve gotten.)
Naturally there’s a whole list of things I’ve made in the past and haven’t blogged about, and so, for want of something fresh out of the oven (besides my focaccia, which will be coming to a screen near you tout de suite) it is out of that oft-forgotten pile that I pull today’s rabbit.
Behold: chicken thighs with rosemary and prunes.
I know I write about chicken a lot. I like to think this sad-ish fact doesn’t reflect what I actually cook (which, at least in my own mind, includes a lot more quiche than I’m wont to admit. But you can only blog about quiche once, am I right?).
This chicken dish is a simple but delectable little throw together and has been in my repertoire for years now. It’s truly easy, it’s truly good, and it’s special enough for company (in the event of which you could call it “chicken with rosemary and dried plums”). You just have to fry some chicken thighs, fry some onions in the same pot, then add white wine and broth, add the chicken back in and cook it all on low for awhile with a few branches of fresh rosemary. Reduce a bit, throw the prunes in towards the end, and that’s it. It has a great broth, so I love to serve it over thick egg noodles, but mashed potatoes or rice work well, too. Oh, and fresh crusty bread is practically a must. To mop it all up. Because dinners that including mopping something up (out of your dish, not off the floor) are the very best kind.
Tonight, alas, it’s ragù for us – this time served over boiled potatoes (Italian love boiled starch, lemme tell you) and maybe baked with a bechamel if I can get my act together. But for you? You could still have the chance to try something new, something hearty and heartwarming. Chicken with prunes. It may not be the most exciting dinner you’ve ever made, but it could be kind of great.
BRAISED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ROSEMARY & PRUNES
This is one of my favorite stews, and it fills the house with the most amazing smells. You can make it a few days it advance – just skim the fat off the top and reheat to serve. And whatever you do, don’t forget the bread to mop up the sauce. Serves 4.
8-10 boneless chicken (or turkey) thighs, excess fat trimmed
1 large onion, quartered (shallots would work, too)
1 1/2 – 2 cups white wine
4 rosemary sprigs
2 – 3 cups chicken broth
1 cup (around 20) pitted prunes
Soak prunes in wine 1/2 cup wine. In a large pot with a lid, heat olive oil and fry salt and heavily peppered thighs over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 5 minutes each side; transfer to a plate. Add the onions, brown for about 5 minutes, then add the wine and cook about 10 mins, scraping up the browned bits, until reduced by half. Return meat to pot, add the rosemary and just enough broth to cover meat.
Cover and lower heat, simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour, flipping thighs over halfway and checking on them regularly. Add prunes (and soaking liquid) about 5-10 minutes before chicken is done. The meat will be ready when very tender and almost breaks apart with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to overcook it, as it will dry out.Using a slotted spoon, remove everything from the broth and reserve (discard sprigs). (To make a more refined meal of it, discard onions and rosemary; strain sauce and discard any residue.) Bring broth to a low boil and reduce by half, about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, using fingers, tear chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Return meat, prunes and onions (if desired) to the stock, reheat and serve. Serve hot in individual bowls over a bed of wide, flat pasta (such as fazzoletti or lasagne), egg noodles, steamed rice or creamy mashed potatoes.