Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chicken with Pomegranate

I recently acquired a new item for the kitchen—a lovely enameled cast-iron cocotte from Staub.

Of course, a new pot requires a new recipe, so I decided to break open a tome that has been sitting on my shelves for years and getting no use.

The Silver Spoon is supposedly the Italian bible of cooking, and it contains a huge number of recipes, but the layout and instructions are not inviting. The instructions are written in one long paragraph, which is a pain to follow when you're half way through and need to check something. Worse yet, instructions can be incomplete, unclear, and quantities imprecise. Even for someone who doesn't always follow instructions and quantities to the letter, this can be frustrating.

But it does seem such a waste to have it sitting there, not getting spattered by water, wine, and sauces. So I decided to make Gallina alla Melagrana. Well, actually, I adapted it. The recipe calls for roasting the chicken whole, but I decided to cut it into pieces and braise it in the oven. I also add the soaking water from the soaking the porcini mushrooms, which the recipe does not call for.

The pomegranate was an interesting feature. The seeds are both tart and sweet, and the resulting dish reminded me of having cranberry sauce as an integral part of the chicken. I liked it.

Chicken with Pomegranate

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 chicken, cut into pieces
2 small onions
20 grams dried porcini mushrooms
4 pomegranates
1 cup cream
4 leaves of sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Heat half the butter and oil in a casserole, Dutch oven or other dish that can go from stove-top to oven.
  3. Fry the chicken pieces, turning them from time to time until browned.
  4. Add one onion, whole, to the chicken, sprinkle a little bit of water on it, and roast in the oven for 50 minutes.
  5. Put the dried porcini in a bowl and pour on boiling water to cover. Let it stand and soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates into 6-8 segments and scrape the seeds into a pot or large bowl, using your fingers. 
  7. Reserve some seeds for garnish and crush the rest with a potato ricer to extract the juice. (Since I don't have this, and my potato masher didn't do a great job, I ended by just squeezing the seeds with my hands and pressing them through a sieve. The seeds still retain a fair amount of flesh so they still look good when added to the dish at the end.)
  8. After about 45 minutes, take the chicken out of the oven and add the pomegranate juice, pouring it through a sieve, and reserving the seeds. Return the chicken to the oven.
  9. Chop the remaining onion, and sauté it in the remaining oil and butter for about 5 minutes.
  10. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid, and add them to the frying onions. Cook for another 10 minutes and then add them to the casserole.
  11. After 50-60 minutes in the oven, the chicken should be tender, at which point you can remove it to a plate along with the whole onion. (I like chicken to be very well done and the leg meat to almost slip of the bone.)
  12. Chop the onion, and return it to the casserole.
  13. Put the casserole on medium heat on the stove, add the reserved mushroom soaking water, and reduce the liquid by about half.
  14. Add the cream and sage and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  15. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with reserved pomegranate seeds. 

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