Jan’s friends are descending upon us this weekend for the annual quilt festival. They are always a challenge to cook for because Barbara does not eat raw tomatoes and Pat does not eat “any animal with a face.” This means the “cute animals,” cows, pigs and sheep—chicken and fish apparently do not count as having faces.
I thought that something with chicken and Madeira wine would be satisfying. Looking up recipes on-line I found lots of Cheese Cake Factory copycat versions. These did not appeal to me at all, the current penchant for adding cheese to everything is slightly disgusting. I wanted something saucy, but a healthier take than the recipes I found.
A few weeks ago, I made a beef Bourguignon influenced by Julia Child and America’s Test Kitchen. Beef Bourguignon is a stew of meat and wine; chicken Madeira is a stew of meat and wine. What would happen if I used the same techniques I had used with the beef on the chicken?
One adaptation I had made in the beef recipe was to keep everything in the same pot. In French cooking you frequently do each step in a separate pan. Besides all of the cleanup, you then have to try to scrape the “flavors” from one pot to another. By keeping everything in one pot, you lose nothing along the way.
Many recipes for chicken Madeira called for mushrooms and onions. However, taking a page from the beef recipe I decided to handle them in an uncommon way. White wine and apples seemed natural to me, but I thought that fresh apples would fall apart too much while cooking. I decided that dried apples and some celery were the additions I wanted. The herb thyme pairs well with all of these flavors.
Karl’s Chicken Madeira with Dried Apples
1 whole chicken
1 bottle of Rainwater Madeira, separate uses
½ cup Madeira
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. black pepper
½ lb. Crimini mushrooms, halved
½ lb pearl onions, frozen
4 cloves garlic
½ tsp. sugar
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 oz. dried apple rings (about 15)
½ Tbs. fresh thyme
½ tsp. black pepper, to taste.
½ tsp. Kosher salt, to taste.
2± Tbs. butter, unsalted (see note in directions)
2± Tbs. flour, AP
1. Peel the skin from the chicken and cut off the first joint of the wings.
2. Sprinkle these lightly with salt and set them aside to dry.
Note: I leave the skin on the wings and I cut a bit of the breast meat free with the wing—the chef’s portion.
3. Cut the chicken into portions and reserve
Note: There are many ways to cut up a chicken. For this dish after I remove the skin, I separate the breasts from the breast bone and ribs to have a boneless breast. I cut this into three to four portions-depending on the size. I cut off the wings, so that each has a good bit of breast meat. If the thighs are large, I also cut them in half along the bone and I separate the leg. Reserve the bones and bits for chicken stock.
4. Put the marinade in a gallon plastic bag and add the chicken portions.
5. Press the air out and marinate the chicken for at least four hours in the refrigerator.
Tip: Overnight is better.
6. Four hours before dinner, put the chicken skin and any fat scraps in a wide Dutch oven and set it as close as possible to the broiler element in the oven.
Tip: Throughout this recipe, you will leave the pot uncovered so that the sauce will reduce by evaporation.
Note: I am using my large 10 quart Dutch oven because I will eventually want all of my meat to lay in a single layer.
7. Broil the skins, on high heat, for 20-25 minutes.
Tip: Turn the bits frequently to prevent them from burning. The chicken skin will render out a lot of grease into the pot. How much you used of this will depend upon your diet. If you desire you may remove it all and use olive oil for the sautéing.
Note: You will be adding the browned skin to the sauce to extract the flavor compounds created by the Maillard reaction, but you will discard it before serving. No one really needs all that fat and the skins will also be flabby and disgusting at that point.
8. Remove the chicken skins to a plate and spoon out all but two tablespoons of the grease.
Tip: Reserve the excess grease for later.
Note: If any of the skin has turned black break it off that bit and discard it.
9. Using the heat of the pot, deglaze the Dutch oven with a splash of Madeira.
10. Add the mushrooms, frozen onions and the sugar and toss the vegetables in the schmaltz.
11. Broil the vegetables for 20 minutes, tossing frequently.
Tip: Keep an eye on the bottom of the pot. If it is in danger of drying out and burning, call the vegetables “done.”
Note: Vegetables should be spotty brown when done.
12. Remove the Dutch oven to the stove top and fish the roasted garlic cloves out of the mushrooms and onions.
13. Transfer the rest of the vegetables to a bowl and reserve them for later.
14. Return the garlic to the Dutch oven and mash them to a paste.
Tip: The cloves will be very soft at this point.
15. Add ½ a cup of Madeira and deglaze the pot.
16. Scatter the apple rings and celery evenly over the bottom of the Dutch oven.
17. Return the chicken skins and wing tips to the pot.
18. Lay the chicken pieces on top of the apple rings and celery.
Tip: Place the chicken pieces “good side down”—outside of the thighs, top of the breast, etc. You will be turning the pieces over during cooking.
Note: If you are squeezed for pot space, chop off the lower ends of the legs.
19. Add enough Madeira (1-2 cups) to bring the liquid level halfway up the sides of the chicken.
20. Bring the pot to a boil and transfer it, uncovered, to the oven.
21. Change the oven setting from broil to bake and set the temperature to 350º F.
22. Cook for the chicken for 40 minutes and then turn the meat chunks over.
Tip: The dry air of the oven will brown the meat where it is not submerged in the liquid. This allows you to get the flavor of the Maillard reaction without the messy job of browning the chicken pieces separately.
23. Brown the second side of the meat for 30-50 minutes, until well browned.
Tip: The chicken pieces will shrink and release liquid as they cook. However, keep an eye on the liquid level and add more Madeira, if necessary.
Note: I eventually used the entire bottle of Madeira for this recipe.
24. Transfer the Dutch oven to the stove top.
Tip: Don’t forget to turn off the oven.
25. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a bowl.
26. Fish the wing tips and the bits of skin out of the sauce and put them in a small cup.
Tip: Use the back of a spoon to squeeze any sauce out of the skins and return the sauce to the pot.
27. Check the seasoning and add more pepper and salt if necessary.
Tip: If you want more sauce you may add more of the wine.
Note: Leave the apples and celery in the sauce. If you prefer a smooth sauce you may blend the sauce now.
28. Bring the pot to a simmer and stir in the thyme, pepper and salt.
29. Mix the softened butter and flour together into a paste.
Tip: Make an estimate of how many cups of sauce are in the pot. Use one tablespoon of both butter and flour for each cup of sauce.
Note: This is called a Beurre manié.
30. Whisk the flour paste into the sauce, and cook until the sauce has thickened.
31. Return the chicken and the reserved mushrooms and onions to the pot and gently toss to coat.
Tip: Be careful with the meat chunks and onions, because they will easily turn to mush.
32. Simmer the stew for 3-4 more minutes on a very low heat to meld the flavors.
33. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Problem: I had a problem when I moved the stew to the serving bowl. It was best for the chicken portions to move them first. This left a large amount of the sauce in the pot. When I move it to the serving bowl the meat became completely buried.
Solution: I took a chop stick and slid it in along the edges of the plate. I then pried the chicken pieces up out of the sauce.
34. Serve warm with fresh bread and/or potatoes on the side.