My friend Sophie and I were discussing making dinner for tonight, and she mentioned she’d like chicken for dinner, in the vein of being healthy. I said “Sophie, there is no way I’m blogging about cooking chicken”. But I found a whole set of chicken recipes in this months Bon Appetit, and decided to make the Negroni Chicken with Braised Blood Oranges. Here’s the link: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/01/negroni_chicken_with_braised_blood_oranges
The Italian Negroni cocktail inspired this recipe, which is a cocktail of gin, vermouth and oranges. I’m not sure why I picked this, as I don’t like gin, but I’m glad I did. Dinner was so delicious and I think my guests agreed (they said they did, but they could have just been being nice) as they cleaned their plates! Go me!
I’ll admit it was a bit of a project – you have to brine the bone in skin on chicken breasts (icky) and then marinate them over night. It also requires juniper berries – you need six, but can only purchase them in massive quantities (and by that I mean a full spice jar, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of juniper berries, so what in God’s name am I going to do with the rest of them!?!?!). You also need a spice grinder – and the only one Bed Bath and Beyond had available for purchase yesterday turned out to have the blade set too high to even touch the cloves and juniper berries, but more on that later.
This adventure had its ups and downs – while placing the chicken in the pot to brine, one slipped out of the tongs and splashed up chicken juice in my eyes, all over the kitchen. If you can get salmonella though your eyes, I definitely have it. I’ve never brined anything before, but I highly recommend it – the chicken was so moist and tender, even down to the bone.
The prep work I did yesterday wasn’t difficult, but I encountered some challenges. First, the spice grinder. The cloves that I had to toast and then grind were no where near the blade. What sorts of spices is this spice grinder meant to grind? Giant spices? Frustrating to say the least. I improvised with the end of my whisk and a little bowl to make a pestal and mortar. Not perfect, but it did the trick. I put it in the pan, the smashed garlic, the thyme, the cinnamon and the blood orange peel gratings. I went to measure out the vermouth, and discovered I’d bought dry white vermouth (as one puts in martinis) and that I was meant to buy sweet, red vermouth. This is where the tears came in. I may or may not have dissolved into tears in my kitchen, sat on my step stool, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. Luckily I have a smart brother on call who did not judge my tears or my mistakes, and told me I could shake the grinder to get the cloves ground (moot point (or a moo point, if you will) as I’d already solved that issue of the cloves, but helpful as I knew I had to grind the juniper berries for the sauce) and that since the vermouth was going into the marinade I could use what I’d bought and add a little sugar. I stopped my sniveling, measured out the vermouth (which ended up being a tiny amount anyways) and added sugar. Go Matt! The marinade quantity isn’t a lot – it just covered the bottom of the pan – which I wasn’t expecting. It was, however, wonderful. Even though the top of the breast was the only part that sat in the marinade, you could taste the cinnamon and cloves throughout the whole breast (I did marinate overnight, and then all day today). I plan to make this marinade again, it was so wonderful. The recipe did say to flip the breasts a couple of times, which I did not do. It seemed to me that with the bones in, if I flipped them there wouldn’t be any marinade touchin the chicken. It didn’t seem to have an effect, but when I make this again, I’m going to use chicken cutlets and will flip them.
Today was the cooking part – I made the braised blood oranges – very easy to make and they made my apartment smell wonderful. When making this dish, you have to consider the timing. The sauce takes about 45 minutes or so to make as you saute the onions to a dark brown, and the chicken takes about 25 minutes in the oven, plus you brown the skin in a skillet first. You don’t combine them until you plate, so plan ahead! I started the onions, and then prepared the chicken. I have to say I was fairly impressed with myself, as I had to brown the chicken skin on the stove before you bake the breasts and monitor the sauce at the same time. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really that hard, but I was still pretty proud of myself! In the end, the sauce finished up before the chicken, so I turned off the burner, put a lid on the skillet, and let the heat from the oven keep the sauce warm. This is also how I kept the oranges warm, as I made them first.
I loved the sauce – the juniper berries weren’t overwhelming like I feared, and it was so simple to make. But of course it was delicious – anything with 3 tablespoons of butter can’t possibly taste bad! My friend Beth and I were thinking that it was such a general sauce (onions, chicken broth, a bit of red wine vinegar and a bit of marjoram) that you could not include the juniper berries and maybe add mushrooms and serve with steak.
While this wouldn’t be a dish you’d make after work, it really wasn’t too difficult in the end. You need to plan ahead as you have to marinate the night before, and allow about an hour and a half to make the oranges and chicken.
Here’s the recipe that can be found in the January 2011 edition of Bon Appetit, Volume 56, Number 1.
PREP TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 14 hours (includes brining and marinating time)
Recipe by Jason Stratton
Photograph by José Picayo
4 quarts cold water
3/4 cup coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (21/2 to 3 pounds total)
6 whole cloves
8 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup sweet (red) vermouth
3 large fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated blood orange peel
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2 large)
6 juniper berries, ground in spice mill
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
Braised Blood Oranges (click for recipe)
Fresh marjoram sprigs (for garnish)
Juniper berries are available in the spice section of most supermarkets.
Stir 4 quarts water, 3/4 cup coarse salt, and sugar in large pot until salt and sugar dissolve. Add chicken in single layer. Chill 11/2 hours. Remove from brine; pat dry.
Toast cloves in skillet over medium heat until beginning to smoke, about 4 minutes. Cool; grind finely. Transfer cloves to 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk in next 6 ingredients, then 3 tablespoons oil. Add chicken. Cover and chill overnight, turning chicken occasionally.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down. Cook until skin is deep brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken, skin side up. Place skillet in oven. Roast chicken until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and ground juniper. Sauté until onions are deep brown, about 45 minutes. Add broth. Boil until juices thicken, about 3 minutes. Mix in vinegar and chopped marjoram, then 1 tablespoon butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide Braised Blood Oranges and chicken among plates. Spoon some sauce over. Garnish with marjoram sprigs.