Monday, September 6, 2010



l buy and serve organic free range chicken at La Cusinga, bought from only one source, for two reasons. The first, is that sadly, it is difficult to find organic chicken here, and the second is that the chickens l do get are just so good. l buy them from Mauren and Ademar and when l first met them l went so far as to visit the farm to see what the chickens ate. The meat is moist and flavorful. lt tastes like chicken should.

lf you are reading this in the US you will have access to good free range organic chickens and l urge you to avail yourself of them. The difference in flavor is substantial and anything that can be done to put a dent in the sales of mass produced chickens is a good thing.

Buy whole chickens and break them down yourself. lt isn’t at all difficult and the bonus is that you end up with good quality bones from which to make stock. l prefer chicken on the bone for more flavor so no matter how you break your chicken down, these recipes will work for you. At La Cusinga l roast the breasts so that they retain their moisture and l braise the legs so that they stay juicy but become fork tender.

Cooking Chicken Breasts

To cook bone-in chicken breasts, preheat the oven to 450. Sprinkle both sides of the breasts with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put an oven-proof sauté pan on medium high heat and cover the bottom with a thin layer of light cooking oil. When the oil is close to smoking, carefully put the chicken breasts in the pan skin side down and cook for 6-7 minutes until the skin is crisp and golden. Remove the breasts from the pan, pour out the oil, return the chicken to the pan, skin side up and put the pan in the oven. lf the chicken breasts have all the bones still attached, roast them for 15-16 minutes. lf you have partially boned them allow 10-12 minutes for roasting.

When the chicken comes out of the oven, put it on a plate, and pour whatever liquid is in the pan into a cup. Put the hot pan on a burner and add some chopped garlic, chopped fresh herbs (l like thyme and/or oregano) and a splash of white wine. Allow the wine to boil and reduce and when it is nearly gone, add 4-6 ounces of good chicken stock plus the liquid from the cup and bring to a rapid boil. You now have a lovely light sauce for your chicken, or the base for something more. At this point l will often add a big spoonful of the roasted tomato mixture, or a fruit glaze, like my Salsa de la Jungla, bring it to heat and pour it over the chicken.

Cooking Chicken Legs

I am a leg man. Give me a chicken and I immediately begin to scheme on a way to serve the legs; umm, love that thigh. I used to have a girlfriend who would only eat the white meat of the chicken and it drove me crazy so I devised a cooking method that even she liked.

The best way to cook a chicken leg, to my thinking, is to braise it. Yes, crisp the skin, flip it over, splash in some wine and stock and pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes until it is meltingly tender. I have won over numerous “white meat only” people with this recipe. When served over mashed potatoes, risotto, or a good rice, this is tender and delicious.

Braised Chicken Legs

Preheat oven to 400

4 Full Chicken Legs (thigh and drumstick);

½ Cup Dry White or Red Wine;

1/2 Cup Chicken Stock or broth;

3 Cloves Garlic, chopped;

1 Cup Chopped Tomatoes (or better yet, home roasted tomatoes)

Salt and pepper the chicken legs, dust them with flour and crisp them in a bit of cooking oil, skin side down in a sauté pan you can put in the oven. Take them out when the skin is crisp and pour out the oil. Return the pan to the flame and add the garlic. Pour in the wine and allow to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes and the chicken legs, letting them settle into the liquid. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and remove the legs from the pan. Pour the liquid into something that can be easily skimmed and remove the fat from the top. To serve, return the chicken and the sauce to the pan and put them back in the oven for ten minutes.

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