Is a meal ever just a meal?
I don’t know about you, my friends, but for me, food is rarely just a means to an end. It’s a journey. Wow… That sounded profound, didn’t it?
But it is! Every time I cook something up in the kitchen, I’m preparing myself – and those who dine with me – for an adventure. I have a tendency to visit Italy… A lot…. What can I say? I’m a carb lovin’ kinda gal.
I’m conscious of the history behind each meal – be it my own whilst chowin’ down on a dish my parents made when I was a kid or crafting a delicacy from a country I’ve (wished I’ve) been to. I can’t not be. A degree in Women’s Studies has forced me to see the inequities (and white guilt) in everything. In doing so, I’m keenly aware of how we consume other cultures in this sense. When we eat food or dishes from cultures other than our own, do we owe it to the originating culture to understand the importance of what we’re eating? Do we impose a new imperialism upon them by appropriating something as intimate as food? Or is it just that? … Food. …I know right? Who brought the Feminist to the party, anyhow? Jesus.
All that being said, cooking and food – regardless of location or space – is a way to connect with others, whether that be in growing the harvest, preparing the dishes, enjoying the meal… Or in this case, sharing a recipe.
I’ve been a member of the Secret Recipe Club for a few years now and this month’s assignment really re-enforced my awareness of the connection behind food, identity and culture.
This month I was assigned From Brazil To You. Now living in the states, Denise’s blog is a love story to her original home, Brazil. I spent some serious time perusing her recipes and posts and one thing quickly became evident: Food is more than a way to survive physically – it’s a way to survive emotionally, spiritually and culturally. It’s also friggin’ delicious and can be a lot of fun.
Denise – thank you for sharing your story with me this month. Your beer braised chicken was moist, flavorful and perfect for the Autumn weather. It was a pleasure.
Beer Braised Chicken (Frango na Cerveja)
Yield 4 servings
- 6 Strips Thick-Cut Smoked Bacon, cut into 1/4” pieces.
- 1 Shallot, peeled & finely diced.
- 1 Lb Brown Mushrooms, sliced.
- 4 Chicken Legs.
- Coarse Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper.
- All Purpose Flour, for dredging.
- 700ml Dark Beer.
- 1 1/2 C Chicken Stock.
- 1 C Pearl Onions, peeled.
- 2 Large Carrots, sliced.
- 2 Tbsp Ground Mustard.
- 4 Tbsp Local, Organic Honey.
- 3 Bay Leaves.
- 1 Large Sprig Fresh Thyme.
- 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste.
- 1/4 C Heavy Cream.
- 2 Tbsp Fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped.
- 30 Minutes before cooking, remove the chicken from the fridge to allow the meat to come to room temp so it cooks evenly.
- When you're ready to cook, heat a large heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.Add the shallot and onions to the bacon fat, season with salt and saute about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, stir well and saute until the mushrooms start to brown (approx 2 – 3 minutes). Again, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- As the onions cook, generously season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess. Once you remove the onion and mushrooms, turn up the heat to medium-high and place the chicken into the remaining bacon fat, fleshy side down. If necessary, add a Tbsp or two of oil. Allow to brown (approx 5 minutes), flip and brown the other side for one minute. If your legs are quite large, you may need to do this in batches. Don't crowd the pan or you'll steam your chicken, rather than brown it.
- Once all 4 legs have been well browned, place them all in the pot and add the beer, broth, onions, carrots, mustard, tomato paste, honey, bay leaves and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover and allow to cook for 60 minutes. Watch that the beer doesn't foam all over the place – it may try to a couple of times.
- Remove the cover and allow the sauce to reduce for about 30 minutes.By now the chicken will be cooked, juicy and fall off the bone tender.
- Discard the bay leaves and remaining thyme stem. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, bacon and parsley. Serve with a hunk of bread or atop polenta. Or both.
Adapted from Denise
Our kitchens are a testament to our histories, where we come from, where we are going, and our values; what does yours say about you?