Sunday, February 20, 2011

Home Alone: Domesticity Strikes Back

I've had a bit of an unusual weekend: Jon and John and Sam - all three of my flatmates - are out of town!  They've all gone to their respective homes in the country to spend a few days with their families.  I was supposed to head to Suffolk with Jon, but the thought of a boy-free weekend was too tempting to resist and so I proposed that I bury myself in our flat instead and Sort Things Out.

This involved a major clean of the house and two loads of laundry as well as a major grocery shop - all things that I, in a very strange way, find incredibly cathartic.  (Okay, the mopping was a pain in the you-know-what.  But otherwise I think that domesticity is very calming, don't you?)

A friend came over for dinner last night, which gave me the excuse to try out a new recipe for braised chicken.  You see, we have a very small oven in our flat and so I like to cook as much as possible on the stovetop to free up the oven for those recipes that demand it; this explains why I make so many braises and stews and soups!  Anyway, I thought for a hot second about trying out Julia Child's coq au vin (via Smitten Kitchen) but decided that it wasn't worth making for only one guest and without a real occasion. (All you who say it's easy - pah.  I read the damn thing.  I know you're lying.)  I looked up a bunch of recipes from here and here and here and then, with a little help from trusted sources (you know who you are) put together my own recipe!  Voila, though sans photos, sorry:

Braised Chicken with Lardons
serves 6

6 chicken thighs, skin on
1/2 lbs lardons
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 c flour
2 onions, diced
6 tbs garlic, minced
4 tbs Dijon mustard
1 1/2 c dry white wine
1c chicken stock
3 tbs parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Mix flour with salt and pepper and coast chicken thighs with the mixture.  Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven on moderately high heat and brown the chicken on each side.  Set the chicken aside.

Saut√© the lardons in the same pot, stirring frequently.  Set the lardons aside.

Add the onions and garlic to the pot, stirring occasionally, and cook for five minutes or until softened.  (Don't let the garlic burn!)  Degalze with the wine and mustard, scraping up all the bits from the bottom of the pot.

Pour in the stock and bring ti a boil.  Nestle the chicken and lardons in the pot, making sure all is as submerged as possible.  Cover the pot and simmer for at least an hour.

Serve, garnished the parsley and with the sauce used as gravy.

Nom, if I do say so myself.  The chicken was lovely and rich; the mustard and the lardons really rounded out the flavour without making the dish too heavy.  I used a lovely Spanish wine (the better to drink with, my dear) and it worked out even though I know nothing about Iberian whites.  The sides, of course, were roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic and my mac and cheese with mushrooms - I kept things simple.  We were too full for dessert, but I'm dying to try this recipe for chocolate cake doughnut holes.  Hey, maybe that's a good project for this afternoon!

I did think about just vegging out all weekend, but when I started to try to do nothing I got kind of anxious and lonely.  It seems I need Things To Do or else I start to get, as my mother would say, eh-ey.  (That is the name for what a small child does when he is frustrated; the accompanying actions involve much bending of the knees while standing still, a possible flailing of the arms, and definitely a whimpering sound emanating from the mouth.)  Don't get me wrong - I took a gorgeous nap and started catching up on my American crime shows.  (If I'm ever a witness to a murder I'll be able to tell the investigators that there was lateral  arterial spray as well some petechial hemorrhaging consistent with strangulation.)  But, really, I need projects and/or company or I will go stir crazy.  Out of curiosity, what do you do when you have the house to yourself?  I could use some ideas.

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