Since the demise of the US version of La Cucina Italiana, my go-to recipe magazine has become Fine Cooking. It’s an easy-to-read magazine and they actually treat their readers like they have a bit of intelligence. Not a bad start.

They also come up with some interesting ideas for food. Tonight’s dinner is compliments of two past issues.

I had a whole chicken in the ‘fridge and just wanted to cook up half of it and freeze the other half for another day. I thought braising the chicken would be an easy dinner and set out to look for a recipe.

I have – or, rather, had – a few hundred recipes bookmarked under a “food” folder in my browser. It’s my new way of finding and keeping recipes I’ll probably never make. I was actually going through them and organizing them a bit – and deleting all of the dead links from who knows how long ago – when I came upon a Fine Cooking recipe I had bookmarked for a Sicilian Pollo Agrodolce – Sweet and Sour Chicken. I decided it was kismet and I printed it off.

A little further down the list was a recipe for Potatoes Boulangère – a potato gratin without the cheese and cream. I think that on any other day I would have made one or the other, but today, I decided to make both. It’s a holiday, after all, right?!? Right!

I spent some time going through and deleting things I know I’ll never make and creating folders for the other stuff I probably will never make but aren’t ready to delete and then it was off to the kitchen…

Chicken Agrodolce

adapted from Fine Cooking

  • 1/2 chicken, cut into 5 pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 small rib celery, cut into small dice
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small dice
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. good-quality white-wine vinegar (I used an aronia berry wine vinegar from Jalma Farms in Cape May)
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 18 grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 Tbs. capers

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season them with salt and pepper, and dredge them lightly in the flour.

Heat a-large sauté pan fitted with a lid over medium-high heat and add the 1/4 cup olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces (in batches, if necessary), browning them very well on both sides. When browned, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sauté until they’re soft and fragrant, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan and let it bubble for about 1 minute. Add the peppers and tomatoes.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them over in the vegetables once or twice to coat them. Increase the heat to medium and add the wine, letting it boil until almost evaporated. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf, cover the pan, and simmer on low heat until the chicken is just about tender, 30 to 35 minutes, turning the pieces once or twice during cooking.

Add the raisins, pine nuts, and capers and simmer to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes. longer. The sauce should be reduced and thickened but still pourable. If it looks too dry, add a splash of chicken stock or water. Taste for seasoning. It should have a nice balance between sweet and sour but not be too aggressive. Add more salt, pepper, a splash of vinegar, or a pinch of sugar to balance the flavors.

Arrange the chicken on a large serving platter and pour the sauce over.

I like braised, saucy dishes and this one has a lot of future possibilities. I can see this with boneless thighs and served over creamy polenta…

Stay tuned.

And then we had the potatoes…

I do have to admit that these wouldn’t be my first choice for serving with a dish like this – but I wanted to make them, so I did.

Potatoes Boulangère

adapted from Fine Cooking

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3-1/2 oz. diced pancetta
  • 2 cups onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Scant 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick half moons
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Heat the oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a medium (9-inch) Dutch oven over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the pancetta. Sauté until it just begins to crisp and turn brown, about 4 min.

Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally and more frequently toward the end, until the onions are deep golden, about 14 min.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil and then remove from the heat.

Add the potatoes to the onions and cook, stirring for a minute or two. Pour the hot broth over the potatoes and onions and bring the pot to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Cover the pot, put it in the oven, and bake for about 15 min.

Uncover the pot, gently and evenly push the potatoes down with a spatula, and continue to bake uncovered until the potatoes are completely tender and have started to brown, about another 25 min.

The potatoes seriously rocked. They may become my new go-to!

So meals are completed for the first day of 2018. Well… other than dessert, that is.

It was a great day to be inside and in the kitchen. And that’s where you will probably find me most of the year!