Sunday, 24 February 2013

All Together Now!

Pollo al Aceto con i Mirtilli, Cicoria e Puré di Patate
Vinegar Chicken with Blueberries, Dandelion Greens & Mashed Potatoes

There are some dishes, where the ambitious Chef will insist that you "get a bit of everything on your fork when you try it", in order to fully appreciate the complex flavors and how they work together so well as a whole. Well... I made one of those dishes this evening!  So make sure you have a large fork because there is a lot of flavor to be taken in here!

I love vinegar chicken- made the way mother makes it back in Sicily, with red-wine vinegar and onion- a simple and tasty affair... but I wanted to up the stakes a bit and make something a little more complex and a little more fun. And that handful of blueberries was just staring at me in the fridge... hoping that it would live another day and be added to tomorrow morning's breakfast yogurt... No such luck! I decided to turn the vinegar chicken into a sweet and sour version instead and to serve it up with some mildly bitter dandelion greens and gentle mashed potatoes. With some cool herbs and spices to bring all of those flavors together and to take them to a whole new level.. behold!

This was actually very easy to make. I started off by boiling the potatoes and steaming the greens as the same time in the same saucepan on my little steam rack... I love that gadget! One cool thing I did was to use a trick I picked up from one of my favorite Chefs, Heston Blumenthal. Don't panic- but the thing to do, is to scrub the potatoes well before peeling them- and then to keep the peel and to boil it in milk at a low simmer for as long as the potatoes take to cook. I will explain in a few minutes... it isn't as crazy as you may think!

Whilst the potatoes boiled, I began frying the chicken drumsticks in a little olive oil with some crushed garlic and ginger. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, a pinch of cinnamon, a sprinkle of paprika powder and sprig or two of rosemary. I kept rolling them around until the chicken was lightly golden on all sides and then added a good splash of balsamic vinegar and about a cupful of water, then popped on the lid and let the chicken simmer and steam away for around 15-20 minutes at a medium low heat.

After 5-7 minutes of steaming, the dandelion greens were almost done, so I set them to one side and let the potatoes continue boiling. The greens then went into a small frying pan with just a little olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a tiny pinch of sugar, to be tossed and glazed lightly. 

For the mashed potatoes, I decided to use olive oil rather than butter to give them a light sheen and a smoothness of flavor and I seasoned them with a little salt, pepper and nutmeg as I usually would- but then came the fun part Remember the milk I boiled the potato peel in? Well by now, it had become totally infused with a rich potato flavor from the peel- and so after removing the offending outer layer and straining the milk through a sieve, that is what I used to fluff up the mash with... it was a revelation! One you will like as well- I promise!

By now the chicken was tender and the liquid had practically reduced away completely... no problem! I added a little more oil and a finely sliced shallot, a good pinch of fresh rosemary (I took the old one out as it was looking a little tired) and gave everything a good stir. I turned the heat up high and then added a splash of boiling water to bring up all of the cooked-in flavors from the base of the pan... there was plenty accumulated there! Within 3-4 minutes, the onions had cooked down and were soft and had begun to bind the juices into a light gravy. At this point I added a handful of blueberries, a little honey, a little fresh vinegar and brought everything to the boil for just 1-2 minutes... and then it was ready to serve!

Like I said- try to taste everything at once here- it is so amazing! Deep, rich flavors which are so harmonious when you eat them together that you will be delighted! At least I hope you will... because I most certainly was! Hope you all try it out too!

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