In the quest for new recipes I went to the trove of cookbooks on the shelf in my kitchen. Even with so many recipes available on the internet I still love paging through cookbooks and finding something new to try. Michael Symon's Live to Cook is one of my favorites, it reads almost like a novel to me. As I'm flipping through I land on his recipe for Braised Rabbit Thighs
I ran to the freezer to get out my package of rabbit thighs and then remembered I don't have a big package of rabbit thighs. Chicken thighs would have to do. The recipe has them as an optional replacement.
The original recipe was Braised Rabbit Thighs with Olives and Orange.
Mine wound up as
Cider Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives.
6 bone-in rabbit thighs or chicken thighs (about 1.5 pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Montreal seasoning
1/2 cup all purpose flour1/4 cup olive oil, or more as needed
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 serrano chili, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup apple cider
1.5 cups chicken stock
12 black oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Chop the onion garlic and chili pepper and set aside.
Add the olive oil to a pan large enough to hold all the thighs, or just plan to brown them in batches. Heat the oil to medium high.
In a bowl or deep plate mix the flour and the Montreal seasoning and dredge the chicken in the flour and seasoning mix. Brown the thighs on both sides for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Add your onion garlic and chile to the pan and saute for 4-5 minutes, add the cider, wine and chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Once the liquid is at a simmer add the chicken thighs back in. At this point you can put the pan right in the oven (assuming its oven safe) for about 3 hours at 225. Or you can do what I did and put it in the crock pot on low for about 4 hours.
When the chicken is fully cooked and tender remove the chicken from your cooking vessel and set aside, pour the liquid into a pot and bring it up to a simmer (do this right in your oven safe dish if you did it in the oven) Simmer for 10 minutes or so to let it reduce, then add in your olives and chopped fresh parsley. Add the chicken back to the liquid and serve it up.
Now a dish like this would be great served over a bed of rice or pasta, however, since we are trying to avoid those foods at the moment I had to come up with some kind of a nest for this delicious chicken and sauce.
Braised leeks were the perfect choice. Leeks are one of my favorite onion variants, they are fresh and plentiful this time of year. I first encountered braised leeks a few years back and try to fit them in wherever I can. They are really really simple and when they are cooked this way they get very soft and have an almost pasta like texture. I would never try to tell you that it is just like pasta or any such ridiculous notion, they are however, delicious in there own fashion while providing the textural element and the solid base for a dish with a lot of liquid. You will need:
3 large leeks
3-4 Tbsp butter
1-2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 cup (or less) chicken stock
salt and pepper
Trim the root ends form your leeks and cut them off about an inch into the green part, you want to use mostly the whiter portions for this application. Save the tops they make great soup stock material. Cut the leeks in half and look at them closely, leeks can often contain a lot of grit, soaking them in a sink full of water for 5-10 minutes after you cut them in half will help remove any grit. Once they look clean, cut them lengthwise into strips about 1/4 inch wide. A little wider is no problem but you don't want them to be any more than 1/2 inch wide otherwise your cook time might be longer.
Heat the butter and olive oil up in a pan that has a good tight lid. Put the heat to medium and add the sliced leeks. Cook them for 4-5 minutes until they just start to brown a bit and get soft. Add the chicken stock and sprinkle with some salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low cover and cook for 10-12 minutes. When time is up remove the lid, and if necessary turn the heat up a bit and stir until the liquid is almost fully gone. Twist them up with a serving fork and set a nest of leeks on a plate for service.
I would eat these as a side unto themselves, the soft, buttery, oniony almost sweet flavor is a great accompaniment to any dish but as a pasta replacement it worked admirably and really added its own character to the dish as a whole.