Saturday, January 19, 2008

Using up some leftover bottles of beer: Emeril's Chicken Simmered in Beer

As the excess of red wine inspired Mario's Chicken Stemporata, the beer taking up room in my fridge is pushing me to find recipes that use beer. Definitely one of the benefits of having our annual holiday party is the alcohol that comes our way! As we don't drink wine or beer with dinner every night, the bottles do last a bit but I do try to use them, and I'm especially determined to free up the space that the beer is taking up in my fridge!

So I found in my four inch binder (!) of downloaded and printed recipes one that I'd forgotten, Emeril's Chicken Simmered in Beer. I'd originally downloaded it seeking to use up the juniper berries I'd bought for making sauerbraten, a braised beef comfort food that I look forward to making every winter. (Ironically the sauerbraten that I favor is by my braising maven, Molly Stevens from an appearance she made on Sara's Secrets after her award winning All About Braising was published, but that appearance wasn't actually what prompted me to explore the world of braising, it was a braised beef rib dish that rocked my world and showed me a world of braising that I had to explore, accompanied by my beloved Le Creuset "French oven")

Incidentally another delicious dish that uses crushed juniper berries is Choucroute Royale, braised sauerkraut with meat (bacon, pork chops, kielbasa, duck, bratwurst, you get the idea), potatoes, and apples that I found on the Food Network by none other than the doyenne of TV cooking in America, Ms. Julia Child (and the oft-forgotten Simone Beck). Emeril also has a good recipe for this dish that must be Alsatian considering its ingredients. I would surely serve this winter comfort food if I ever found myself hosting a super bowl party (which frankly is an unlikely prospect). Choucroute Royale is a perfect slow cooker recipe and is surely unexpected as most folks favor chili on that Sunday.

Pardon my digressions. Emeril's recipe for Chicken Simmered in Beer is what this post is supposed to be about. Not much to comment on really though it is a flavorful dish. I finished the sauce with organic lowfat sour cream and was quite pleased to spoon it over my preferred wild rice blend. One surprise was that the flavor of the spicy Cajun seasoning I used was basically absent amidst the other flavors, so next time I'd probably use my go to season all, fennel spice rub. I had all the ingredients except for the gin, which seemed redundant to use with the juniper berries anyway. I just increased the number of berries used to 10 rather than 6. I also just used two bone in chicken breast halves rather than a cut up chicken. Oh, and I finished the braise in the oven for 30 minutes at 325 degrees as I'd cooked the dish using my other beloved Le Creuset casserole dish.

Chicken Simmered in Beer

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, from New New Orleans Cooking, published by William and Morrow, 1993.

1 (4-pound) chicken, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 8 pieces [I used two HUGE chicken breast halves, 2 ½ pounds total]
Essence, recipe follows [I used Penzey’s spicy Cajun seasoning]
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter [didn’t use]
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh parsley
6 lightly crushed juniper berries
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 ounces small button mushrooms, or large mushrooms, quartered, wiped clean and stems trimmed
3/4 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons gin [didn’t have so I used 10 juniper berries]
1 (12-ounce) bottle lager beer
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Hot white rice, accompaniment
Hot French bread, accompaniment

Lightly season the chicken on both sides with Essence [or seasoning of your choice].

In a large braising pan, heat the oil and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Make a bouquet garni: In the center of a 6-inch square piece of cheesecloth, place the bay leaf, thyme, parsley sprigs and juniper berries. Draw up the sides to form a pouch and secure with kitchen twine. Set aside.

Sprinkle the flour over the oil and drippings in the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the gin and cook until almost evaporated. Add the beer and bouquet garni, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. [Alternatively complete the braise in a 325 degree oven. Check for doneness after 30 minutes and remove from the oven or continue cooking as warranted.]

Discard the bouquet garni and add the creme fraiche.

Stir to incorporate and simmer until warmed through (do not boil). Adjust the seasoning, to taste and sprinkle with the parsley.

Place the rice in the center of 4 large plates and top each with 2 pieces of chicken. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve immediately with French bread on the side.

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Yield: about 2/3 cup

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