SOME DAY, I hope you’ll try my Purple Poulet — a fast stew of mushrooms, onions, garlic and boneless chicken breasts, all enrobed in an aromatic red wine sauce. You can serve it atop a crispy potato galette, as above, or on rice, egg noodles, or toasted Pain de Mie. When I served the dish to my partner last night, he thought we were eating beef. Indeed, the wine had turned the chicken a pretty purple shade, and the meat was so incredibly moist and tender that it tasted, even to me, like long-simmered pot roast.
The stew is prepared in the French manner. In other words, the chicken morsels are first sauteed until golden, then the skillet is deglazed with wine. Even the mushrooms are sauteed in butter before you add them to the stew. These extra steps, although simple, make all the difference in the final product’s taste and texture.
Purple Poulet: Chicken in Red Wine
Ingredients for about 8 servings
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (do not use chicken “tenders” — they are too thin)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 bottle good quality Cabernet Sauvignon
18 small boiling onions
12 oz package of whole, fresh button mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled and minced
2 Turkish Bay Leaves (McCormick sells these – they are marvelously-flavored)
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp salt
3 fresh grinds of black pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 1/3 cup of water
1 12-inch diameter Potato Galette (recipe here – omit herbs and cheese); OR rice or egg noodles or slices of Pain de Mie
1. The chicken breasts – Roughly cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Blot the pieces dry with paper towels (wet chicken won’t brown well). Film a 12-inch skillet with olive oil, add one tablespoon of butter, and heat over a high flame until the butter melts and the foam subsides. Then, working 2 batches, add the chicken morsels, and saute them just until they brown — about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to your casserole.
2. The deglazing sauce – Pour 1 cup wine into the skillet, and let it come to a boil, while you scrape up, with your wooden spoon or spatula, all the flavorful, stuck-on bits of chicken. Pour the deglazing sauce into the casserole.
Then, in the same skillet that held the chicken, add more olive oil and another Tbsp of butter. When the butter stops foaming, add the mushrooms and saute them until they begin to color — about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the casserole.
4. Blanching and Peeling the Onions – To make the onions easy to peel, first blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water. Then, with a sharp knife, cut off the root end, and remove the papery peel, as above. To insure the onions cook evenly, pierce, with your knife-tip, the root-end of the onion. Add onions to casserole.
5. Simmering the stew – 30 minutes in a 325F oven – Pour the remaining wine into the casserole just to cover the ingredients. If the wine doesn’t cover the stew, make up the difference with water. Then add the 2 bay leaves, the garlic, and the thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the pot to the simmer on top of the stove, then immediately put on the cover. Transfer the pot to the preheated 325F oven, and let cook for exactly 30 minutes.
6. While the stew simmers, make the potato galette, toast the Pan de Mie, or prepare the rice or egg noodles.
7. Finishing the stew – Set a colander over a large bowl. Pour the stew into the colander, remove the bay leaves, and let all the winey, aromatic liquid drip into the bowl. Then return the contents of the colander back to the casserole.
Pour the liquid (you should have about 2 1/2 – 3 cups) into a saucepan set over high heat. Add the cornstarch mixture, and stir constantly until the boil is reached. Then pour this sauce — it should be just thick enough to enrobe the chicken mixture — into the casserole. Taste carefully for seasonings — you might like to add a little more salt.
If you are hosting a dinner party, and don’t wish to be stuck in the kitchen when guests arrive, I can tell you that Purple Poulet will come to the rescue. For you can make this heavenly main-course a day in advance. Let it cool completely before refrigerating. At party time, simply reheat over low heat until it has warmed throughout.
And if you think this dish is terribly complicated, consider this: It took me longer to write this post and upload photos than it did to make the stew!
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