Monday, October 27, 2008

Chicken thighs in gravy

When I first planned the menu for Saturday's Home and Garden Show, my thought was to serve hot turkey sandwiches to the crew. I wanted to spread a layer of sausage stuffing on the bread for the open faced sandwich. A couple slices of turkey and a generous ladle of gravy would top the bread and stuffing.

Once at the market, I realized that I'd have to change direction. The stock of fresh turkey products was slim last Friday night. Two drumstick packages wasn't enough to feed 17 hungry volunteers.

Although I looked forward to fixing hot turkey sandwiches, I settled on chicken breasts. At $2.99 per pound, the chicken breasts became an attractive alternative.


Instead of printing a traditional recipe, I've written the instructions in a pictorial format. Tonight's dinner is essentially the same dish that I cooked for Saturday's event. Here, I used a package of 12 chicken thighs in place of the breasts.

For chicken thighs, I removed the skin and trimmed the fat with a pair of kitchen shears. Seasoning the chicken with any seasoning mixture that compliments the finished product. Kosher salt and ground black pepper work well for most dishes. I used a mixture of kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic granules and paprika here.

To sear, pour 1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, sear chicken in hot oil in batches. It takes no more than 5 minutes per side when the skillet is heated to the right temperature. Adjust the heat as needed to avoid burning the chicken.

I used an older Lodge #12 skillet here. The skillet, which has a 13-1/2-inch diameter, will hold about 8 thighs or 6 breast halves without over-crowding. Once brown on both sides, remove chicken to a waiting platter. Pour off and save the fat. Add enough vegetable oil to bring it to 1/2-cup.

Next, heat 4 ounces (about 1/2-cup) oil in 12-inch Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 8-ounce mirepoix to hot fat and saute until browned. An 8-ounce mire poix is a mixture of 4 ounces chopped onion, 2 ounces chopped carrot and 2 ounces chopped celery. Browning the mirepoix will add a robust element to the gravy.

Remove mirepoix if desired and discard. When left in, most chefs strain the mirepoix out at some point to enhance the gravy's appearance. In my experience, many home cooks leave it in. The choice is yours.

Add 4 ounces flour to the fat and stir to make a roux. Brown roux to desire color over medium heat.

In the camp kitchen I add a slightly cooled roux to hot chicken stock while vigorously whisking. This ensures a smooth, lump-free gravy. I reverse the process when working outdoors to save a step. Slowly pour hot stock over the roux, while vigorously whisking to prevent lumps from forming.

Place chicken thighs in gravy, being careful to prevent splattering. Simmer gravy for 30 to 45 minutes, until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes or buttered eggs noodles.

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