Delicious reunions

With family in the house, braised chicken with leeks on the stove and roasted potatoes and squash in the oven, things could be a lot worse.

bluepotatoesandbutternutsOh, hello there – did we have an appointment? Sorry I’ve been sending you straight to voicemail for the past several weeks, especially after all that yammering about how great autumn can be. I’m not at all sure how it happened at first, but it may have ended with my blacking out from joy and relief at 11:01 p.m. on November 4th and just now waking up this morning. There may also have been a vague attempt to sleep through this hideous economy. But a girl gets hungry at a certain point and has got to get cooking, and chatting, again.

Anyway, now that we’re all here, it couldn’t be clearer that the wind has finally – finally – started to blow a new season into the world. It feels like hope for the future, to be sure; but it also feels like a time to make good on the promises of the past. Maybe I’m romanticizing, but I’m suddenly feeling the prospect of reunions of old friends, long penciled in but pushed back time after time these past years in favor of our collective opportunism. Was it just me? For a while there, it was getting awfully easy to focus only on the relentless trajectory of our own days, forgetting to factor the value of soulfulness into the calculation of our progress. Today, though, if you stand very still for a moment, I think you’ll start to hear some old voices piping back in – whispers of a reunion of peace with patriotism; one of rhetoric with reality; one, I hope, of us all with each other.

Maybe it is just me feeling this way, in which case you may be more interested in the uptick in SPAM than in brewing up a pot of love for old friends. But if you’re feeling the need to make amends for losing track of time, and do it fast, nothing paves the way back to familiarity like a bubbling pot of chicken and veggies scented with wine and herbs. With maybe a little roasted gorgeous on the side.

Braised Love

-serves 4-

4 strips bacon, chopped
8 chicken thighs, or 4 drumstick-thigh pieces, or 1 whole chicken cut into pieces
4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced
2 big handfuls shiitake mushrooms, caps sliced
2 big handfuls cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1/2 cup heavy or light cream or half and half
Salt and pepper

Heat a large dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pot. Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. Place half the chicken pieces in the pot skin-side down and cook, without disturbing them any more than necessary, until golden brown on the skin side. Flip over the pieces and brown for a couple of minutes on the bottom side. Remove the first batch of chicken to a plate and repeat with the other half. Remove the second batch of chicken to the plate.

Pour off all but 3 Tablespoons of fat from the pot, and return the pot to the heat. Add the leeks, mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring often, until all the veggies have begun to soften. (If the leeks start to brown, turn down the heat.) Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two. Then add the wine, chicken stock and rosemary, along with the browned chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate, and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring the liquids to a boil; then partially cover the pot, lower the heat to maintain the liquids at a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. This dish can be prepared up to this point several days in advance. It only gets better as it sits.

Immediately before serving, remove the chicken from the pot and reduce the sauce by half by boiling it over medium-high heat. Stir in cream or half and half. Serve the chicken with the veggies and sauce spooned over top.

Roasted Gorgeous

-serves 4 with plenty of leftovers-

1 butternut squash
2 pounds potatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel the squash, and cut the squash and potatoes into similarly sized pieces. Toss the squash and potatoes with the garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet until it all glistens. Roast until slightly browned on the outside and tender on the inside, about 45 minutes – more or less, depending on the size of the pieces.

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