Friday, September 21, 2012

Braised Cinnamon Chicken with Buttercup Squash

   

      While I'm not so thrilled to see summer fade away and I'm certainly not a fan of cold weather, I do love cold weather food. Comfort food. It's the kind of food I love to cook and the kind of food I love to eat. This dish is just the kind of thing I start to think of when the cold winds start blowing. It features what I call "the Fall Spices" - cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg - cinnamon being the star of the show here. Those rich spices are perfect match for the buttercup squash and it give a nice depth of flavour to the chicken.

     This is a good go-to dish when you want something that's delicious and comforting, but simple to make. It's a perfect example of what professional cooks like to refer to as a "One-Pot-Wonder." Everything is thrown into same pot, simmered together, and it's done. It's not the prettiest dish around, but it's damn tasty. Just roughly chop up your ingredients and throw them in the pot. Cutting all the vegetable big and chunky will give the final dish a nice hearty texture. I even chop the garlic into big chucks, because it will mellow out and give all its flavour to the broth as the stew cooks.

      I used buttercup squash, but any variety will do the trick. If you can't find yellow beets, I would not recommend using red beets. Besides the fact that they will turn everything purple, their flavour is too strong for this dish, and wouldn't go well with the cinnamon. If you can't get your hands on yellow beets, just double the amount of squash.  

         To make this dish I used one whole chicken, which is enough for 2 big portions, or 4 smaller ones. Buying whole chickens is the most economical choice, and I personally find it fun to butcher it myself. For braised chicken, legs and thighs are better than breasts (which tend to dry out when stewed) so feel free to just use a package of pre-cut dark meat. About 6 drumsticks or 6 thighs can take the place of the whole chicken in this recipe.                    

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken
1 cup onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups buttercup squash, peeled & cubed
1 cup yellow beets, peeled & cubed
1 cup potato, peeled & cubed
3 sticks cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
2 cloves
2 tbs vegetable oil,
salt & pepper


1. Start by breaking down the chicken into drumsticks, thighs, wings & breasts. Discard the skin from the breast & thighs because they will make the broth too fatty, but keep the carcass because it will add flavour to the broth. Generously season all the cuts of chicken with salt & pepper. If you don't know how to break down a whole chicken, Gordon Ramsay has a good how-to video on You Tube.

2. In a large pot with a wide bottom, heat 2 tbs of oil and then add the onions. Sautée until the onions are translucent and then add the chicken. Let the chicken brown on one side, about 4 minutes, and then turn the pieces to brown the other side. If your pot is not wide enough to fit the whole chicken in one even layer, use a frying pan to brown what doesn't fit and then add it to the pot. Add the garlic and sautee for 1 minute more.

3. Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup chicken stock and then use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom. Add the remaining chicken stock, followed by the vegetables and spices.

4. Bring to a boil and then gently simmer for 30 minutes.




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