Friday, September 23, 2011

Chicken Marengo

There is just a hint of fall as you can feel that little nip in the air in the mornings. Plus some of the Japanese Maples are beginning to turn color. For me, that means that it is time to bring back the stews that I love so much when the weather is cold. Oh, I know that tomorrow might be warm again and there are still some lovely summer vegetables to use, but today I was craving some comfort and I wanted Chicken Marengo, a dish that I have been making since I was 12. At that time, I was trying to make Chicken Cacciatore but I didn't have any red wine or mushrooms and all that was in the cupboard was some white cooking wine. Looking back now, I'm sure it wasn't very good wine and the dish ended up looking rather anemic compared to the picture of Cacciatore in my Italian cookbook. But, oh it was good - even with the bad wine. I liked it even better than Chicken Cacciatore and still do. I learned much later that I had actually made Chicken Marengo instead. 

 In this dish, the sauce is light, but complex and simply perfect for dunking in pieces of toasty baguette or spooning over some rice - actually my favorite accompaniment now, but pasta is good too. It became an instant hit for my family and I made it again and again. But, I realized that I hadn't made it in a very long time and it was time for some comfort from the past. I used a package of drumsticks from the freezer, but you can use thighs or breasts as well, or even a whole cut up chicken as I used to do. I like to leave the skin on as I think it adds more flavor, but you can use skinless chicken just as easily. Make sure to use a can of good Italian tomatoes. Yes, I could have used fresh tomatoes, but the flavor I was craving required this ingredient and is much easier to get when the weather really does get colder. Chicken Marengo uses onions and garlic as the flavor base along with the wine and please use a good light white wine to flavor this dish. Chicken Marengo is easy to put together and requires very little fuss once it starts cooking. It can also be made ahead and reheated and it may even be better this way. Serve with crusty bread, pasta or rice. Enjoy!

Chicken Marengo

1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces or 8 drumsticks, 6 thighs or 4 large breasts (cut in half) preferably with the skin left on
1 14 1/2 oz can of Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Optional: 2 Tablespoons chopped Italian Parsley

In a large pot, add in the olive oil and heat. Then put in chicken pieces and cook until the skin is slightly browned. Add the garlic and onions and cook until onions are soft, making sure to stir frequently so the garlic doesn't burn. Add in chopped tomatoes and wine wine and stir up all of the little browned bit on the bottom of the pan. Add in the salt, sugar, pepper and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let cook for 45 minutes (for drumsticks) or up to one hour for thighs and mixed pieces, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken to a bowl and cover with foil. Turn up heat and bring broth to a boil again. Boil for 4 - 5 minutes until slightly thickened - stirring frequently so it doesn't burn. Add in one Tablespoon of butter and pour over the chicken to serve. Sprinkle with a bit of Italian Parsley for some extra color if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and the olive oil adds a bit more. The tomatoes and the white wine bring in the Fire Element. The garlic, thyme and parsley add just a bit of the Metal Element so using rice would bring in even more and the long cooking onions and the method of cooking contribute the Earth Element. The bit of butter is the only source of the Water Element so try serving this with a side dish of some eggplant or sauteed kale. Then you will have a balanced five element meal.

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