This is Abbey’s husband. With Abbey being less than energized lately (due to pregnancy), I’ve been cooking more and more. And, I’m very OK doing that. I was a former executive chef in another life, so I’m capable. Abbey would tell you that the only things that are are different when I cook are: 1) It usually takes me about twice as long for reasons unknown. 2) I dirty every pot and pan in the house. & 3) It usually costs me at least twice as much for the very same meal. Luckily, tonight, the ingredients were already here, so I just had to prepare and serve.
Tonight, I made a very simple dish (Abbey’s been craving simple. Also, sweet and sour – which is also part of this meal). We always have chicken thighs in the freezer, so that was the ingredient to build around. Abbey also picked up some swiss chard this week, so that would be the side. And, to me, there’s nothing that finishes a dish quite like a sauce does. So, I looked around for inspiration and came up with homegrown figs. Definitely sauce-able.
To start, always work on the sauce first. A good one will take at least 45 minutes. The reason is that most sauces need a reduction of the ingredients to thicken and develop flavor. Mine started with 8-10 chopped figs, about a cup of vinegar (1/2 white, 1/2 rice wine), 3/4 of a cup of sugar and 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat. Let it cook down by at least 1/2. This will take some time, so start here.
The next step was to prepare the chard. I learned from Tom Colicchio (Top Chef) that most chefs overcook swiss chard, as the stalks take 2x as long to cook. So, by the time they’re done, the greens are mushy and devoid of fun. So, take the stalk off the leaf and cut into 2 inch pieces. Then, cut the greens in half and again. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath for later. Move onto the chicken now.
The chicken either has bones and skin, both or neither. Ours was boneless, skinless. So, I planned on about 20-25 minutes of cooking time. Add another 10-15 minutes if there is a bone. I heated olive oil in a large cast iron skillet on med. high. Added the chicken, and let brown for 5 minutes or so to develop a nice crust. Then, turn the heat down to med. low/low and add a bit of butter for flavor.
With your boiling pot of water, blanch the chard greens first. Put all the leaves in, and when the water starts boiling again (1 minute), scoop out the greens and put directly in the ice bath. This will stop the cooking, and otherwise the “greens” turn into “browns.” Now, place the cut stalks into the water and cook for 5-7 minutes or until tender. They too will go in the ice bath when done. Now dump the greens and the stalks into a colander and pat dry with a towel.
Jumping back to our sauce, it should be reduced by about half by now. Either use an immersion blender or an actual blender and puree the sauce until smooth. Return to the heat and contine reducing. Taste it to see if there is a good balance between sweet and sour. You could add some salt here as well.
Check your chicken. It should be nice and golden brown and close to being done. I like using digital thermometers to check the temp on things – especially poultry. Abbey thinks it’s cheating and that somehow you’re just supposed to know when meat is perfectly done. But, I think seeing a 160 on the digital thermometer guarantees that chicken will be juicy AND fully cooked.
Heat up another saute pan (I told you I use everything in the house) with some olive oil and drop in your chard. Heat for about 5 minutes. The chard is already cooked, so you’re just looking to warm it back up and season it. At this point, you’ll need salt and black pepper. Lots of both.
Time to plate it up. Place the chard in the center of the plate and put two chicken thighs on top. Generously top the chicken with the sauce. Add a pinch of salt and you’re done. The sauce will make this dish seem much more elegant than it actually is. Plus, it’s easy enough that anyone can do it.
This concludes my first blog hijak. I assume that I’ll be making more things to satisfy pregnancy cravings and relieve the overworked boss, so I might post again if something feels worthwhile. Until then..eat well.