Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cubano Chicken

I enjoyed making this recipe for Cubano Chicken Legs with Peppers, Tomatoes and Citrus from Daniel Boulud's Braise for several reasons. First of all, the recipe includes the chicken recipe as well as the accompanying Cucumber, Jicama and Avocado Salad - so you get an entire meal all put together. Second, you do most of the work for the chicken part the night before. And finally, I was excited to try something from Daniel Boulud.

A few of the ingredients in this recipe are a bit exotic. Cuban oregano, which is purple, was impossible for me to find. But I just substituted with regular fresh oregano. The piquillo peppers were really hard for me to find. They ended up being available at the olive bar at my local Whole Foods Market. They are really small and I don't see how the four little ones really added any flavor so I suggest giving this recipe a try even if you can't find the piquillo peppers - just leave them out.

I fed this to my mother and her boyfriend and they both raved about it. My mother rarely eats chicken because she had so much of it while she was raising her children. She was wrinkling her nose when I told her I was preparing chicken for dinner. To my pleasure she was so surprised and how tender and flavorful the chicken turned out. I was pretty confident we would all like it because of the combination of marinading over-night and cooking them slowly. Also, I absolutely love chicken legs/thighs. But it was the vegetable combination was what was really fantastic. I know this one will be asked for again and again.

As for the braising, I am excited to have an entire cookbook dedicated to the technique. Braise has recipes for so many different types of meat that I know I will not get sick of it. Even the seafood section looks promising!

Cubano Chicken Legs with Peppers, Tomatoes, and Citrus
(makes 4 servings)

4 chicken legs, thigh attached (about 2 pounds)

Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced paper-thin (use a mandoline, if you have one)

Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 large oranges

Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, preferably Cuban

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas, drained

4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

4 piquillo peppers, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Cucumber, Jicama, and Avocado Salad (see additional recipe below)

The night before you plan to serve this dish, season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in a nonreactive pan (Pyrex is perfect for this). In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, the orange and lime juice and zest, and the oregano and pour the mixture over the chicken legs to coat them evenly. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken legs from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Pat the legs dry and sear until well browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. When the chicken is golden brown, transfer to a platter. Add the bell peppers and onion to the pot and cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pot, along with the reserved marinade and the chickpeas, plum tomatoes, and piquillo peppers. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven to braise until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve with the Cucumber, Jicama, and Avocado Salad.

Cucumber, Jicama and Avocado Salad

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small unpeeled English cucumber
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1 small head iceberg lettuce, cored and chopped
1/2 pound jicama, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
1/4 cup celery leaves, taken from the heart of the celery

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lime juice. Season to taste with sale and pepper and set aside until needed.

Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the cucumber into paper-thin slices and place in a medium bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the avocado into thin strips and add to the bowl, tossing with a bit of the vinaigrette to keep the avocado from darkening. Add the lettuce, jicama matchsticks, and celery leaves and toss to combine.

To serve, whisk the vinaigrette and pour over the salad, tossing until the vinaigrette coats the salad evenly.