Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pollo al Vin Cotto aka Winey Chicken

For Thanksgiving I intended to roast a lovely capon.  However, my butcher didn't come through and so I had to quickly rethink my plan within 48 hours.  Luckily, the recipe I landed on was amazingly delicious, comforting, and somehow elegant and rustic simultaneously.  I found the recipe for Pollo al Vin Cotto in a Mario Batali cookbook, and although I stayed mostly true to the ingredient list, I found Batali's instructions lacking, and so using the ingredients and basic method, I changed things up a bit.  Also, I adapted the recipe to make it good for leftovers, and easy to prepare ahead.  Instead of using a single cut up chicken as the original recipe called for, I used all chicken thighs, for we prefer dark meat and I happened to have a bunch in the freezer.  This recipe served 5 people as part of a multi-course holiday meal, with leftovers for dinner for 2.  This certainly isn't a quick weeknight dinner, and in the ingredient list may seem daunting, but for a special Sunday or holiday dinner, totally worth it.  To make it easier, this is certainly a dish to do all of your prep in advance and have everything lined up and ready to go.  As for making good leftovers, the sauce of course became more complex after a couple days.

Ingredients for vin cotto:
  • 4 1/2 cups red wine (use something basic, but definitely drinkable)
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
To make vin cotto:
  • Combine ingredients in your big pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Stir occasionally until liquid is reduced to one cup.  This will take over an hour of simmering.  You can do this the day before to save time.
Ingredients for chicken and sauce:
  • 3 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on, seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup vin cotto
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, large dice
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup green olives, chopped (large ones, packed in brine only)
  • 3 generous TBS golden raisins
  • 1 TBS capers, well rinsed, dried
  • 1 generous TBS pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 generous TBS almonds, blanched and toasted
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
To make chicken and sauce:
  • In your big pot (heavy-bottomed, such as a dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • In batches, so as not to crowd the pan, brown the chicken thighs on both sides, do the skin-side first.
  • Put browned chicken aside.
  • Lower heat to low and add onion and carrot to pan.  Cook, stirring regularly, until onion and carrot is caramelized, and browned all over.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the vin cotto and use it to deglaze the pan. 
  • Return to chicken to the pot, nestled into the vin cotto, and cover pot.  Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, until chicken thighs are cooked through.  Then remove chicken again and set aside.
  • Add remaining vin cotto, raise heat, and reduce liquid by half.
  • Add olives, raisins, capers, pine nuts, and almonds.  Stir to coat.
  • Dissolve sugar into the red wine vinegar, then add to sauce.
  • Raise heat and simmer hard to reduce sauce to a glaze.
  • Add lots of freshly ground black pepper, and taste sauce for balance, add salt if necessary, although it shouldn't be thanks to the capers and olives.
  • Remove skin from cooked chicken and place onto a baking sheet
  • Return skinless chicken to pot, covering each piece with glaze to coat and cover pot to keep warm.
Ingredients for finishing chicken:
  • cooked, buttered orzo (cooked from 10 oz. dry orzo)
  • chopped parsley
  • high quality extra virgin olive oil
  • red pepper flake
To finish the chicken for service:
  • In a 400 degree oven, roast chicken skin until crisp (about 5 or 10 minutes).  Roughly chop, place in a small bowl to serve alongside chicken.
  • Spread buttered orzo on a large platter.  Place chicken atop orzo.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and red pepper flake.
To prepare ahead:
  • After removing chicken skin, refrigerate.
  • After coating chicken thoroughly in glaze, pack tightly in an air-tight container.
  • Scrape glaze in a separate air-tight container.
  • When ready to serve, heat glaze and chicken together over very low heat, perhaps adding a TBS or so of water to rehydrate glaze.  
  • Proceed with service preparation.