Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chicken Stew with Polenta, Celery Root and Sage

Ever since blowing a significant wad of dough on my Le Creuset Dutch oven last year, I've been looking for any excuse to use it. Flipping through Mario Batali's cookbook Molto Italiano, I found a recipe for Chicken Stew with Polenta, Celery Root and Sage. Talk about comfort food, and definitely a dish for my flame-coloured beauty.

This was my first time making polenta, and in all honesty I'm not sure I'm a fan. It was nice in the stew but on its own it was a bit bland. Next time I may use half chicken stock, half water instead of all water to give it a bit more flavour. Still, I realize it's supposed to be the starch here and not overpower the other flavours.

On the other hand, I am loving celery root! I've used it in a number of recipes lately and I love its texture and flavour. And as Mario notes, this stew reheats well, so it's nice to make on a Sunday and then have it Monday night when you've come home from work and are in no mood to cook. My favourite kind of recipe.

Chicken Stew with Polenta, Celery Root and Sage

Makes 4 servings

5 cups water
1 cup quick-cooking polenta or fine cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 3.5 to 4 lb chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces, rinsed, and patted dry
4 ounces chicken livers
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large celery root, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cups Barbaresco or other fruity red wine
1 cup basic tomato sauce
8 fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp parsley, chiffonade
1 tbsp lemon zest

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Pull the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the polenta is as thick as molten lava. Pour into an 8-by-10-inch baking pan and allow to cool.

Season the flour with salt and pepper and spread on a plate. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, then dredge the chicken livers in the flour. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Brown the chicken pieces in two batches, then transfer to a plate. Add the livers, onion, and celery root to the pot and cook until the vegetables are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the wine, tomato sauce, and sage and return the chicken pieces to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the thighs are nearly cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the polenta into 1/2-inch cubes. Add the polenta to the pot and cook for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, place on platter, sprinkle with parsley and zest, and serve immediately.

Courtesy Molto Italiano, Mario Batali, HarperCollins, 2005

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