Monday, February 11, 2013

Beer-Braised Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

Beer-braised chicken and sweet potatoes

The weather's up and down, raining, snowing, melting, freezing. It seems like almost everyone I know is or has been sick with this terrible flu, and we're starting to get desperate for springtime. Now's the time to decide there's nothing in the world that could get you out of your pajamas, to spend the day watching Downton Abbey. It's time to look at pictures from vacations to warm locales and be glad that even though you're not going anywhere fun, at least you have a few more months until you have to be seen in a swimsuit. Now is the time for comfort food.

Chicken and veggies

This recipe is a riff on some unforgettable mussels I had years ago at a Belgian restaurant in New York. The restaurant has since closed, and good chicken is much easier to come by here in the heartland than good mussels, so here we are. Braising is perfect for cold winter days, warming the house and filling it with delicious smells, and it's perfect for busy weeknights since most of the cooking time is in the oven. And don't worry, there's not much of this winter left. Spring is just around the corner. Braise while the braising's good!

Beer and broth>

Beer-Braised Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

4 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
1 tablespoon rendered bacon fat (or olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup French-style country ale (or similar mild ale)
1 cup chicken stock
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the fat in the bottom of a Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the chicken with the thyme and salt and pepper, add it to the pan and brown it well, 3-4 minutes per side. Scatter the onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes over the chicken, and pour the beer and chicken stock over everything. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and tent loosely with foil, and use a slotted spoon to remove the sweet potatoes to a bowl. Increase the heat to high and boil the sauce to reduce it slightly, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, stir in the cream, and return the chicken and vegetables to the pan. Serve with rice or crusty bread for sopping up the broth.

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