Tony writes: The construct may be tired – “I would eat ___________ (insert inedible objet here) if it were _________ (insert prep method) and then _________________ (insert cooking technique)!” -, but it speaks to me in one instance: dredge something, anything, in flour and then braise it in a tomato broth and I’m in my comfort food happy place. Yeah, I would eat”shoe leather” in this equation, but bone-in chicken is really my thing. The fat from the chicken (what my grandmother called schmaltz) blends with the flour to form the most wonderful of rouxs that then thickens the tomatoes. Cacciatore has always been my favorite, but I like to use this basic flour-chicken-tomato formula to branch out, adding in whatever other fresh herbs and vegetables I’ve got on hand. My new thing has been to steer the pairing in a Spanish direction. The broth gets its cue from a Basque piperade sauce with peppers, onions, cumin and espelette pepper leading the way. Here’s how:
The Recipe: Serves 4
1. Prep the chicken and vegetables: Rinse a whole chicken (about 4 lb.) and pat dry with paper towel. Cut into 10 pieces and then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, about 2 tsp. and 1 tsp. respectively. Core 2 red bell peppers (about 1 lb.) and cut in 1/2-inch dice; finely dice 1 Spanish onion (about 3/4 lb); smash 2 garlic cloves and chop 2 tsp. fresh thyme. Stem and then coarsely chop 1 bunch Tuscan kale.
2. Saute the chicken: Add 1 cup all-purpose flour to a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake to remove any excess. Add 2 Tbs. olive oil to the pre-heated pot and reduce the heat to medium. Add half of the chicken, evenly spaced. Cook, undisturbed, for 2 min, so the chicken browns and easily releases when you lift an edge. Flip and cook the other side for 2 min so that it, too, browns. Transfer to a large plate. Add another 1 Tbs. olive oil and the remaining chicken pieces, cook in the same manner, and transfer to the plate.
3. Saute the vegetables and make the broth: Add another 1 Tbs. olive oil to the pot and the diced onion and pepper. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. kosher salt and cook, still over medium heat, until the onions brown lightly and soften, about 10 min. Add the smashed garlic, 2 tsp. ground cumin and 1/2 tsp. espelette pepper (or 1/4 tsp of pimenton or chipotle powder) and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds so the spices become fragrant.
4. Braise: Add a 28-oz can whole tomatoes (pureed) and 2 bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer (medium-low), return the chicken to the pan, cover, and cook, checking every 15 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked through and the broth intensifies in flavor, about 1 hr.
4. Season and serve: Stir in 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar and the Tuscan kale and stir until the greens wilt. Season with S+P to taste and serve.