Braised Chicken & Carrots and Why you should have your kids help you cook

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My husband had been working non-stop for over a month. The end was finally near and he was going actually arrive home before it was dark. For this very special occasion, I decided to make a dish I just read in Alice Water’s new book The Art of Simple Food II. It was titled Chicken Braised with Carrots and Coriander. For some reason the idea of braising carrots never dawned on me – well lets just say it is the way to go.  They were soft and flavorful – I couldn’t stop eating them and I really don’t care for carrots that much. The recipe instructs to use dry white wine but I was too lazy to go to the wine store so I substituted 2 heads of garlic for the flavoring agent. This meal was fast, easy, looked fancy and was absolutely delicious.

However we did not eat it for dinner – he decided he really wanted to go out on a date night and was unaware I had made this nice dinner. I obliged because I jump at any opportunity to have someone else do the bedtime routine. He enjoyed it for lunch the next day and so did I. The kids had bits and pieces of the meal for dinner while we were out – Matty loved the israeli couscous which he kept calling “yummy rice”. He started getting ornery when I tried to explain it was israeli couscous so I dropped it. He could call it anything he wanted as long as he ate it.

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So in regards to the bit about why your kids should help you cook. Matty is almost always sitting on the counter “helping” me when I am making something. I had the chicken breasts in the pan browning and was rummaging in the fridge for something when I hear Matty go – “uh oh! Mommy! Pot!”. I venture over and discover the reason for his alarm is a rapid caramelization of the olive oil, lemon and chicken juices on the bottom of the pan – it is quickly turning dark brown and almost smoking. To fix it, I added some water to the pan and used a wooden spoon to scrap off the dark bits, which thanks to Matty, were caught right before turning the corner to being too dark/burned to use. This actually added to the flavor of the dish and gave the skinless chicken breasts the nice golden color you see.

I also had Emilie help with the carrots – I peeled them and told her to just break them into pieces with her mighty little hands. It was a great way to get her involved and didn’t involve arming her with a knife. Which she is always eager to use.

I used whole wheat israeli couscous for the grain portion but you could easily substitute mashed potatoes, regular pasta or rice. After draining the couscous I added soft goat cheese and chopped flat leaf parsley because that was what I had around. You could substitute cream cheese and dill, parmesan cheese and pepper or just butter and salt on any of those aforementioned grains.

When serving this, pluck out the chicken and carrots and then tilt the pan to gather up all the delicious juices produced. I caught some chopped onions and an occasional clove of garlic that slipped out of its home – which was a good thing. Just more flavor. Now if you really want to go balls out, what we would have done in culinary school is put all that was left in the pot after removing the chicken and carrots through a fine sieve (chinois), pressing everything to extract as much flavor as possible. Then returning it to a saucepan to warm and check for any needed seasonings – salt, pepper or lemon juice. If I would make this for a dinner party that is a step I would add. But I kept it “rustic” (aka simple) for this weeknight meal.

Two days later I added the leftover carrots to a farro salad with some other roasted veggies I had in fridge. Plopped in some feta cheese and you have a totally new meal! Perfect mommy lunch.

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Braised Chicken & Carrots with Goat Cheese Israeli Couscous
Usually you braise in the oven, but this is a fast stovetop braise which is just as effective!
Ingredients
  • 4 organic chicken breasts or chicken thighs
  • 1 lb carrots peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 2 heads of garlic sliced in half across the equator – don’t have to peel or anything
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  • few pinches ground coriander if you have it
  • chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a large enameled cast iron pan – or something similar – heat up 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Dry the chicken breasts, salt and pepper them and add a light sprinkle of ground coriander if you have it on hand, and add to the hot oil.
  2. Add more oil if it seems dry in areas. When it is starting to look a bit dry, add the juice of 2 lemons. You know when it is time to flip them when they actually release easily from the bottom with just a little assistance from a spatula. If they are really stuck and you can tell the bottoms are sufficiently browned, add 1/4 cup of water to loosen things up – it will evaporate. Flip over and brown other side and remove. Won’t be cooked through – will return to pan in a bit.
  3. There should be enough liquid to work with in bottom of pan – if it is too dark you can use tongs pick up a crumbled paper towel with them and whip out pan and add new oil. If it is ok, add chopped onions and the whole garlic heads cut in half.
  4. Cook for a minute or two to just soften up. Then add carrots and 1 cup of chicken broth – you want it to come half way up the side of the carrots.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  6. Place the chicken on top of the carrots, add another cup of chicken broth and cover with lid slightly ajar. Want it at a mild simmer. Check if chicken and carrots are done in about 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle of chopped flat leaf parsley is a nice way to finish dish – I added that component into the couscous I cooked. Be flexible. It is also totally great without it!

 

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