Well, it looks like we all made it through the weekend without being raptured. Thank goodness, I would have missed you (when YOU got raptured, not me…you’re funny), I really would have. Also, it would have cut the rhubarb season in half and that would have been a shame.
I got smacked with a pretty serious case of spring fever last week while I was at the Union Square farmer’s market. I meant to buy a tomato plant (and I did, success!). But I also ended up with spring garlic, fiddleheads and a pound of this gorgeous rhubarb. The garlic and fiddleheads went fast. This rhubarb I hung onto for a week, contemplating what to do. The problem with rhubarb is that it lends itself so so well to pies and crumbles, things which I, a single chick with very very little self control around baked goods, cannot have in the house. Do you realize what would happen to an entire fruit crumble left in my presence? Are there oats in the crumble? I bet you can guess. So I got to some internet browsing and landed on this recipe.
Chicken? A savory dish? Weird right? Yes, but why not? Rhubarb is not sweet. Yes, it pairs nicely with sweet things, but why in gods name did we decide to take something decidedly UN-sweet and dedicate it to desserts? This recipe looked perfect for the season, which, this weekend, can be described as “chilly, cold, windy, rainy not-quite-spring, ha, we had you fooled.” Chicken, coated in cajun spices, browned and then braised with rhubarb, onions, garlic, white wine and herbs. Simple and much less threatening to have around that a butter crumble-topped pie.
The resulting sauce was tart and tangy and flavorful, with just enough wine and just enough herb to make it pop. I modified it slightly, adding some sugar (just a little) to temper the tartness and a knob of butter to mellow it all out. The texture of the sauce was unexpected, to say the least. When I think of rhubarb, I think fibrous, I think of celery. But this sauce was nothing less than silky in the end; silky and thick and coating, almost like it contained cornstarch, which it didn’t. Yes, the fibers were still there, but they were so soft, they were nearly unidentifiable as their previous, stringy selves. Honestly, I loved this. It was even better on day two (as most things are). I served it (to myself, ha) with rice, but I think it would be great with potatoes too, which could be added directly to the pot, or, if you’re really getting creative, some cauliflower. I love finding recipes like this that broaden your horizons when it comes to a particular ingredient that you already know so well. I’ll never feel tied to pies again.
Chicken Smothered in Rhubarb
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse. Serves 4ish.
This recipe calls for a whole 3.5 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces. Because I was going for healthy, and just cooking for myself, I opted for 2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I know, blasphemy, but it turned out just fine 🙂 Also, since this is an Emeril recipe, it calls for “Emeril’s Essence.” I’ve included the ingredients below, but you can feel free to sub ~2/3 c. of any cajun seasoning you have on hand (omit the paprika through the thyme) and I’m sure it’ll be lovely.
3 1/2 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
2 1/2 T paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T dried leaf oregano
1 T dried thyme
1 T flour
2 T olive oil
1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, sliced into half moons
1 T minced garlic
1 bay leaf
Fresh thyme sprigs
1 c white wine
3 T finely chopped parsley
2 t sugar
2 T butter
- In a mixing bowl, toss the chicken with the next 8 ingredients (or cajun seasoning, if substituting) and flour
- In a large heavy pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the coated chicken and brown well (be patient) on both sides, ~6 min per side. Remove the chicken to a plate and reserve
- Add the rhubarb and onions to the pot with the olive oil and chicken fat, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened and starting to brown (~10 min), scraping up brown bits as you go
- Add the garlic, bay, thyme, wine and chicken (plus any accumulated juices) and bring to a boil
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook ~45 minutes or until chicken is tender
- Add the parsley, sugar and butter
- Serve with rice or potatoes