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Braised Chicken with Shallots

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Generally, I like my chicken one of two ways: 1. Whole, roasted, and with some mayonnaise on the side. When you buy a whole chicken, it feels a little more like you know where the bird's been. 2. Breaded/battered and deep fried. Any deadly bacteria is surely gone after a boiling oil bath and it will just taste like whatever sauce is all over the top. Otherwise, chicken gives me the heebie jeebies. I know, right? I'm so random.

It might have to do with my 7th grade home ec teacher and her terrifying lectures about the risks of salmonella. Or, it might have to do with--yes, by George, I've got it!-- all of the terrible chicken I've eaten in my young life. When I think about icky meals, a chicken breast with an orange-flavored glaze comes to mind, whether it be on an airplane, at a wedding, or in a Lean Cuisine. I know, there are people starving in this world and I need to check my chicken privilege. I'm with you. I'm being completely spoiled.

But then there's shopping for chicken. I cannot bear the bloody, sticky plastic-wrapped packages upon packages that often take over the refrigerated shelves in the butcher section of the grocery store. Meat that should be plump and pink is often a yellowy-grey color and practically shriveled in texture. I won't continue to make my point by embedding those horrifying videos of chicken farms, images of what's REALLY inside a chicken nugget, nor links to my most recent Google search, "gross chicken" (don't open that box, Pandora!), but all this is suffice to say, I don't like chicken. So I'm not totally sure why I decided to make chicken this weekend.

I guess it was because I decided to dig through the many cookbooks I've collected over the past few years that sit, a display, on top of my book shelf. I use them rarely and, having demanded that Dan tidy up his side of the shelf, I figured I should dust off mine too. A friend once gave me Williams Sonoma's A Taste of the World for my birthday, and I'd looked through it before, but I gave it a more thorough read this time around. It's an oversized book with gorgeous pictures and recipes from a variety of countries and regions. As I flipped through it anew, I bookmarked a few recipes, this braised chicken dish out of France being one of them.

When Dan and I ended up at Fairway later that day, the chicken was looking particularly unrepulsive, so I figured, "what the heck?" It turned out to be a lovely day off kind of meal that was hearty, yet light and tastes exactly how I hope all food out of the French alps taste--boozy, creamy, and good. The tarragon (a earthy, cinnamony herb I hadn't ever used, but am glad to have met), shallots and reduced white wine turned into this lovely sauce that reminded me of a whiter, lighter pot roast. Here's the recipe; I definitely recommend it regardless of your stance on chicken:

Braised Chicken with Shallots

4 1/2 lb chicken pieces (preferably legs with thighs attached)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6-8 shallots, about 1/2 lb chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bottle full-bodied white wine such as Riesling

3 Tbsp small pieces dried mushrooms such as chanterelle

2 cups chicken stock

2 Tbsp coarsely chopped tarragon

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp chives

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then rub with olive oil. In a large pan over medium-high heat, brown the chicken in batches, turning occasionally, 10-15 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.

2. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of fat from the pan and place over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. add the wine, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, 10-15 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, stock and half of the tarragon. Pour the sauce into a roasting pan at least 4 inches deep and large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Arrange the chicken on the sauce.

3. Bake the chicken until opaque throughout when pierces with a knife, 35-40 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F and continue baking until the edges of the skin are crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a deep platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.

4. Spoon off any fat from the sauce. Place the pan over high heat, bring the sauce to a boil and cook, stirring until reduced by half, 7-8 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender. Stir in the cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chives and remaining tarragon. Makes 4-6 servings.

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