In this round of o-rama posts, Portland, ME-area bloggers are writing about a dish they made using a Maine-made beverage.
Photo courtesy of Kennebec Cider
Only the most egregiously particular people think of themselves as picky. I have eaten with people who say that they would be happy to eat anywhere! Really! But when push comes to shove, they don’t want to eat red meat, or things that are cute, and maybe chicken is okay, but they don’t like cucumbers, and fish might be okay, but no bones and nothing raw or undercooked and the soup sounds nice except is it spicy? It’s not just food. Someone will promise you that they give need a minute to get ready, but after a certain number of minutes, you will inevitably reach an hour.
What I’m saying is that this is a really simple, straightforward recipe that works nicely as a weeknight dinner and also that I made it with three different local ciders in an effort to find one that worked well in the dish (plus the French cider that I originally used).
Cooking with cider is relatively easy, in theory. It’s sort of similar to cooking with white wine or vermouth. I like dry hard cider, which is easy to find in Quebec or France, a little harder to find in the US, and easy to cook with.
The first local cider I tried tasted like a really unpleasant vinegar. It was not good, and while I think of myself as pretty forgiving, it was undrinkable. It did not get any better in the cooking.
The second cider was fine, but not dry enough, so when it cooked down the sauce because very sweet and syrupy.
Finally, Dawn of Appetite Portland recommended Kennebec Cider. I have personally seen it at RSVP Discount Beverage on Forest Ave* and the Rosemont Market on Brighton Ave**, and it’s stocked at a number of other local shops. They make a really nice semi-dry cider, which is still drier than what many people expect from a cider. Even better, they make their cider from local (Kennebec Valley) apples. It worked perfectly.
Braised Chicken, Norman Style
Adapted from An Apple Harvest by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva.
This recipe requires very little hands-on work. You brown the chicken, then basically abandon it for half an hour, then come back to make a really simple sauce from the cooking liquid. Chicken thighs are cheap, flavorful, and relatively hard to mess up (they don’t dry out like chicken breasts do), and the finished dish is rich and hearty. It would be nice with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts.
You really want to use a dry or semi-dry cider, or the sauce will become cloying.
I cook this in my small enameled casserole and it all just barely fits, but it works really well. You could cook it in a larger enameled casserole if you have one or a deep frying pan. I don’t think you want a ton of space around the chicken thighs, though, or you’ll have to use a lot of cider to reach the upper sides of the thighs.
The original recipe calls for 6 chicken thighs and says it serves six. I make it with four chicken thighs and think it serves two. Your mileage may vary.
- 4 chicken thighs, bone in
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 2 or 3 fresh sage leaves
- About 1 cup Kennebec hard cider (more or less)
- 1/4 or 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Calvados (the recipe calls this optional, but I always include it)
Salt and pepper the chicken thighs.
Melt the butter over medium to medium-high heat in the enameled casserole. Brown the chicken thighs well on both sides, about 10 minutes (I have to mash them in there to get them to fit, but it’s fine).
Add the sage and pour in the cider, it should cover all but the tops of the thighs. Once everything is boiling, decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
Remove the thighs to a warmed platter (read: a plate either left on the oven top if the stove is on or microwaved in 15-second increments) and cover to keep warm. Add the cream to the cooking liquid, raise the heat to high, and boil for 5 or 6 minutes, until thickened. Add the Calvados for the last two minutes of cooking. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken thighs and garnish with sage leaves.
Bonus Round! Sauté unpeeled apple rings in butter until golden/slightly browned and serve over the chicken.
The rest of the O-Rama posts about cooking with Maine beverages will be collected on the Portland Food Map website.
* RSVP is kind of scuzzy looking, but the staff were really helpful and knowledgeable when I went and they have a great selection of stuff.
** Rosemont’s website is INSANE (so many fonts! so many colors!) but the market is really nice.