San Francisco has almost perfect weather year round for braising. When it’s chilly and foggy out and I want something tasty, yummy and comforting to eat, I braise. Braising is a classic moist heat cooking method that crosses cultures. I love braising boneless skinless chicken thighs for a couple of reasons. It’s fast, open to endless variations, reheats exceptionally well, is tasty and did I mention it’s fast?
This weekend, with rosemary fresh from my San Francisco herb garden and Nicoise olives in the fridge I decided to do a Nicoise style dish with chicken thighs. I added a strip of orange zest for a warm Mediterranean feeling. I included some baby fingerling potatoes from the Stonestown farmer’s market and got to work. You could easily add sundried tomatoes to this dish or roasted peppers. Either would be delicious. It was completed in an hour.
Nicoise Style Braised Chicken Thighs
3 slices prosciutto or pancetta, diced (optional)
1 carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 ½# boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ cup flour for dredging the chicken thighs
1 Tbsp. Chopped Rosemary
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of white wine
(1) 2” long strip of orange zest
1 cup of chicken stock
½ # new potatoes or fingerling potatoes, halved
½ cup mixed green and black olives (pits removed)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
- Trim the chicken thighs of excess fat, season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.
- Heat a tablespoon or two oil in a wide saute pan with high sides. Brown the chicken thighs in the oil, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the prosciutto if using, carrot and onion to the pan and allow to brown slightly.
- Add the garlic to the pan and saute until aromatic.
- Deglaze with white wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the rosemary and orange zest to the pan along with the chicken thighs.
- Add the chicken stock and potatoes and bring up to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer until the chicken and potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Rinse the olives of excess salt or brine and add to the chicken.
- 10. Taste the sauce for seasoning and enjoy.
Gazpacho gives me the cold shoulder. I immediately think thin, cold, totally uninteresting, insipid tomato soup. Yech. However when I came across the picture of Salmorejo with shrimp, tomato and avocado in Sam and Sam Clark’s Moro East cookbook and read the description as being the ‘prawn cocktail of Andalucía’ I was immediately and completely intrigued. Salmorejo, go ahead, let it roll off of your tongue—is a classic chilled Córdoban soup or sauce, similar to but richer and thicker than gazpacho. It is thickened with day old country style bread. It is wonderful. Heady with the flavor of ripe tomatoes and pungent olive oil, touched with garlic and laced with the herbal notes of fresh oregano I stood by my blender compulsively eating it off of a spoon. It was delicious. This fragrant sauce served as a bed for sweet- tasting, sustainable bay shrimp, creamy avocado, citrusy sun gold cherry tomatoes and slivers of pungent red onion. It was a completely satisfying meal, and I will definitely make the Salmorejo sauce again soon to complement grilled vegetables, chicken or fish.
Salmorejo with Bay Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado
Adapted from Moro East, by Sam and Sam Clark
1 quantity of Salmorejo Sauce, see below
1 ripe avocado, sliced
A handful of cherry tomatoes cut in half
A few slivers of red onion, more if you like or none if you don’t
¾ # bay shrimp
2 tsp. fresh Oregano leaves as garnish
1 pound ripe tomatoes, diced
1 garlic clove mashed with a pinch of salt
1 thick slice of country bread or leftover baguette, crust removed, diced
5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil—Pull out your best! This is the kind of recipe that lets that expensive olive oil shine!
1 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
2 tsp. fresh oregano
Put all of the Salmorejo ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth. The sauce should be the consistency of applesauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Assembly: Pour equal amounts of the Salmorejo Sauce on two plates, and garnish with the avocado, shrimp, tomato, onion and Oregano leaves. You can drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top if you like. Serve with flatbread, crackers or baguette.
Inspiration for my cooking comes in many different forms. Magazines and cookbooks, trips to the farmer’s market and exquisite in season produce all inspire me. Sometimes, I just like to look a picture of a finished dish, glimpse a recipe and re-interpret it . That’s what I did this week with these lamb meatballs. The picture that I saw called them ‘Polpetonne di Agnello’ which is Italian for lamb meatballs. I loved the idea of a spring meatball with lamb and mint—mint is such a classic pairing for lamb, and my garden is full of it at the moment. I added a little parmesan cheese for richness, flavor and mouth feel. Then, I wanted to add a little bit of texture and a little bit of an eastern Mediterranean flair, so I incorporated some steamed bulgur and toasted pine nuts into the mix. I browned the meatballs and braised them in chicken stock. I tossed in fava beans, spring onions and asparagus at the very end and finished the sauce with a walnut sized lump of butter and a generous pinch of chopped fresh mint.
Phoebe’s Lamb Meatballs with Spring Onions, Fava Beans and Asparagus
1# ground lamb
1 egg yolk
2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
¼ cup of cracked bulgur, cooked
*To cook simply cover the bulgur with boiling water, cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
¼ c. grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
4-6 Tbsp. of chopped mint, depending on how much you like mint
¼ cup flour to roll the meatballs in
1 cup of chicken stock
½ cup white wine, water or more chicken stock
1 bunch of spring onions, outside layer peeled off
1 bunch of asparagus, about 12 ounces, ends trimmed, and remaining stalks chopped into 1 inch lengths
1 # of fava beans, shucked, blanched and peeled or if you don’t have the time for favas you can easily substitute 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped mint
Combine the all of the ingredients and go ahead and make meatballs. Roll the meatballs in the flour, gently knocking off the excess. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a 10” sauté pan with sides. Brown the meatballs in the oil and remove from the pan. Drain any excess oil from the sauté pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the onions. Brown the onions lightly and deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the meatballs and the chicken stock to the pan. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer covered for 10 minutes. Add the fava beans to the pan and simmer for an additional five minutes. Add a little more chicken stock if necessary to keep the pan from drying out. Add the chopped asparagus to the pan and cover. Cook for just a couple of minutes more—until the asparagus is just tender. *If you are using peas instead of fava beans, they will cook more quickly so just add them in with the asparagus to preserve color and flavor. Finish with a tablespoon of butter—this will add richness and texture to the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining chopped mint.