I haven't cooked much lately. Aside from the Arts & Appetizers event this past weekend for the touring company of Legally Blond, I haven't yeilded a knife at home in days. Circumstances drained my desire to cook. Thankfully, dear friends brought food, well wishes, and shoulders to cry on.
I thoroughly enjoyed cooking for the Arts & Appetizers pretty-in-pink party. It was happily driven by diversion, non-thoughts, and mise en place. 130 champaigne glasses filled with strawberry shortcake topped with pink fresh whipped cream, 400 meatballs in light alfredo sauce tinted pink with marinara, 120 cucumbers filled with pale smoked salmon mousse, 500 chilled cocktail shrimp, fresh strawberries and pineapple shards with pomegranate yogurt dip, and pickled daikon radishes, broccoli and steamed pink fingerling potatoes with beet hummus. It was a fun and successful event.
Last night, I craved a low impact return to our home kitchen. I had a small whole free-range chicken I wanted to cook. I wasn't up to cutting it into serving pieces. Besides, my knives weren't as sharp as I needed them to be for the task. I knew chicken junk would've splattered the counters, coffee pot, sink, and cabinets had I tried to wrestle the limp chicken into submission with a dull knife. I cut out the backbone, smashed the chicken with my hands to crack the breast bone, and spatchcocked it. One easy piece.
I seasoned it liberally with paprika, salt, pepper, and minced fresh garlic. I drizzled oil into the bottom of a heavy dutch oven, allowed it to heat to a ripple, and browned the whole flattened chicken on both sides before removing it to a side plate. After tossing a diced red pepper, diced green pepper, diced onion into the fond to saute until caramelized, I deglazed the pot with 1 cup of white wine and 1/2 cup of sherry. When the wines reduced to a syrup, I added 3 cups of chicken stock, placed the spatchcocked chicken into the liquid, covered the dutch oven, slid it into a 350 dregree oven, and took to my couch to nap.
I don't even know how long the chicken braised. I simply let it go.
Eventually, I carefully removed the chicken from the pot and set it aside. I cranked a flame to medium high heat and reduced the vegetable studded braising liquid. While the sauce reduced, I boiled 1/2 pound of whole wheat spaghetti in heavily salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes.
When the pasta was perfectly cooked, I blended 1/2 cup of sour cream into the pepper sauce, removed it from the heat, and tossed in the spaghetti to absorb the sauce.
I swirled the pasta into large pasta bowls and topped it with the meltingly tender chicken.
I tumbled halved cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley, and thinly sliced peppers around the base of the pasta for pops of freshness.
The whole wheat pasta had an earthy nuttiness that I hadn't expected. It had flavor and character that challenged the richness of the long braised sauce. The ridiculously tender chicken fell apart when sliced, melting into the pasta, falling through the strands, and becoming part of the sauce. Light, rich, and soothing.