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Last night's adventure in "WHAT DO WE HAVE IN THE FREEZER?"

Chicken thighs are pretty innocuous - you can do anything with them. Sometimes that kind of choice can actually stifle creativity - you can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices.

I think I ended up with with a bit of a 'Red' theme, peppers and the port wine comes in a lovely dark red labelled bottle. (Wolf Blass Reserve Tawny Port)

It's been so cool and damp this week I'd been craving something hearty and warm and ... stew like. So I started with chicken thighs, port wine seemed like a nice choice (hey it always is!) and went from there....


Port Wine and Roasted Red Pepper Braised Chicken

6-9 chicken thighs
salt
pepper
basil
tarragon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion - diced
2 carrots - diced
1 stalk celery - diced (I was out of celery and replaced this with 1 tsp celery seed - it worked but a stalk of celery would be better)
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
chili powder
2 roasted red peppers (brush peppers with canola oil and roast in a hot oven, or on a hot BBQ grill, cool, remove skins, and slice thinly)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup port wine

season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, basil and tarragon. Heat olive oil in a heavy (cast iron enamel works wonderfully) casserole or dutch oven. Brown chicken pieces in oil, then remove and set aside. Add onions carrots and celery to the pot and cook till onions are softened and translucent. Add the red wine vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan, add garlic, bay leaves, roasted red peppers, and port wine. Sprinkle a light amount of chili powder on the chicken thighs and add them back into the pan. Roast in an 350°F oven for 1 hr.

Serve over fragrant rice like basmati or jasmine, or a broad egg noodle.

Asparagus - blanch in boiling salted water for 5 minutes or just until bright green. Plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the colour. To reheat heat 2 tbsp sesame oil in a saute pan over high heat, add asparagus and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Toss in the pan to heat through, add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of course salt.

For dessert I wanted a bit of warm fragrant spice as well, and reworked a simple Chef Michael Smith fruit pudding.

Place 2 cups of frozen mixed berries in a 2 qt sauce pan, add 1 cup orange juice (or as suits - I had orange guava passionfruit.. *shrug*). Add 1 small dried chili, 1 3" piece of cinnamon stick broken into two, 1 tbsp lemon peel, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 3 cloves, 1/4 tsp all spice, 1 vanilla bean pod (open, scraped and cut into two pieces), and 2 tbsp port wine. Simmer over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes or until berries are soft and disintegrating.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve, reserving the juice, and working the pulp to save as much juice as possible. Set aside 2-3 tbsp of the juice, return the rest of the juice to the pot. Add 2 tbsp of cornstarch into the reserved juice - stir well. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the pot of juice. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and translucent. Remove from heat. Pour into 4 dessert bowls, and cool in fridge. Serve with a small dollop of whip cream, or a spoonful of vanilla ice cream

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July 2011

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