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FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION: CHICKEN DINNER
In every cook’s repertoire there’s often a single recipe that is the go-to can’t-fail meal they turn to time and again. A signature dish, if you will. For me, that’s chardonnay chicken, a mixture of ingredients culled from favorite memories sprinkled liberally with thyme.
As a child, I’d watch my mother sauté in a mixture of oil and butter in her square electric fry pan, pieces of chicken. Hearing the sizzle and smelling aromas of garlic, onion and chicken fat wafting through the air, just the thought of it, to this day still get my salivary glands going. To that pan she’d add mushrooms and cooking wine. The fricassee’d chicken, was delicious but surprisingly not my favorite. It was her very basic roast chicken I’d award a blue ribbon. Coated in garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and paprika, it always came out-of-the-oven with crispy spiced skin and tender meat.
Years later I came to realize that I was working hard to reproduce those flavor memories with mostly disappointing results until I changed the ingredients I was using. I started buying chickens that were free-range, organic, and farm-raised on natural feed. They taste and have the same texture of the chickens of my youth. Getting the right ingredients together, I came up with a recipe, perfected over the last twenty years that you just can’t mess up. It’s all of the flavors I love — coq au vin, fricassee, and roast inspired — coming from a single enormous dutch oven.
Ingredients: 1 large roasting chicken
1 bottle dry chardonnay
2 large onions
2 large Idaho potatoes
3 large carrots
2 small turnips
1 small head of garlic
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Peel and chop potatoes, carrots, parsnips and turnips into large pieces and cut onions into thick slices. Break apart garlic and remove skin but leave the cloves whole.
In a deep, heavy oven-proof pan such as a Le Creuset, sautee in olive oil the garlic and onion until just barely translucent. Add all of the root vegetables to the pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary.
Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry with a paper towel. Place chicken on top of the vegetables and pour ¾ bottle of chardonnay over the chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and paprika. Add water or chicken stock to just barely cover the vegetables and place in a oven heated to 400 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Some of the liquid in the bottom of the pan will cook out so about half way through cooking time check and if necessary add a little more water or wine.
Seasonally I’ll adjust the recipe and use fresh herbs from the garden in the summer. I’ve also added chopped zucchini and mushrooms about halfway through cooking time with excellent results.