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Seasonal spring bites

May 17, 2010

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Braised Chicken with Fennel, Potatoes and Saffron.

Braised Chicken with Fennel, Potatoes and Saffron.

The power of spring means the much-welcomed arrival of spring produce. Join Jayni Carey in the kitchen this week for a spring menu featuring seasonal vegetables and fruit.

Braised Chicken with Fennel, Potatoes and Saffron

1 3 1/2-pound whole chicken, cut up

Marinade:
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/16 teaspoon (a pinch) saffron
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise, cut into thin slices (cut one fennel stalk in half and reserve)

1 cup fresh or canned chopped tomatoes, juice included

4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 sprigs each fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

Rinse the chicken pieces in cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken pieces in a large baking dish.

Marinade: Combine the vinegar, saffron, salt and pepper and whisk to dissolve the salt. Whisk in the oil. Pour the marinade over the chicken, turning to coat with the marinade. Cover and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight, turning once or twice.

When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade and drain well (do not pat dry). Reserve the marinade. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in large braising pan or skillet with a lid. Add the chicken pieces (do not crowd) and brown on all sides. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Transfer the browned chicken pieces to a platter.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil in the pan and discard. Add the onion and fennel to pan. Scrape the reserved marinade into the pan and stir to combine with the onion and fennel. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Sweat the onion and fennel for about 5 minutes. Lift the lid, add the garlic, stir and cover. Cook for 2 minutes more.

Stir in the tomatoes. Arrange the browned chicken pieces in the pan, skin side up. Add the chicken broth. Tie the reserved fennel stalk and the herbs together with a piece of string and tuck the bouquet in the middle of the chicken. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and braise the chicken for 30 minutes, basting twice with the pan juices. Add the quartered potatoes, tucking the pieces around the chicken. Baste with the juices. Cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes more, basting once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender.

Discard the fennel and herb bouquet. Skim the fat from the pan sauce, if desired. Serve the chicken with the potatoes and ladle the sauce over top. Serves 4 to 6.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with Fresh Strawberries, Individual Meringues and Balsamic Vinegar Syrup

Vanilla Ice Cream:

3 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringues)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chilled whipping cream

16 ounces fresh strawberries

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste

Balsamic Vinegar Syrup:

1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

Meringue Shells:

4 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

Vanilla Ice Cream: Pour the milk into a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until very hot and steamy, just below simmering. While the milk is heating, place the egg yolks in a bowl (reserve the whites for the meringue shells), add the sugar and whisk until the mixture is light yellow in color and ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Slowly pour about half of the hot milk into the egg yolks and sugar, stirring constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Pour the egg mixture slowly into the saucepan of remaining hot milk, stirring constantly. Cook the custard over medium-low to low heat, stirring continually, until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes.

Place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the custard through it to remove any curdled bits. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover the custard and refrigerate overnight, or until the custard is well-chilled. Just before freezing, stir 1 cup of chilled cream into the chilled custard. Freeze the custard in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Makes 1 quart of ice cream.

To prepare the strawberries: Stem and rinse the strawberries. Cut about half of the berries into small dice and place in a bowl. Lightly mash the berries using a potato masher. Thinly slice the remaining berries and add them to the mashed berries. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar, or more to taste. Cover and refrigerator the berries for at least 3 hours to allow time for the strawberries to release their juices and the mixture to chill.

Balsamic Vinegar Syrup: Combine the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture boils and the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 9 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly and lightly coats the back of the spoon. Do not let the vinegar scorch. Pour the mixture into a small container and cool to room temperature. Makes about 1/3 cup of syrup.

To make meringue shells: Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat together the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla extract on high speed until frothy. Gradually add the sugar while beating on high speed. Stop to scrape the sides of the bowl once; then continue beating until stiff peaks form. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. To make individual shells, spoon a large dollop of meringue onto the paper. Using the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula, shape the meringue into a 4-inch circle, about 1-inch thick with a slightly concave center. Repeat with the remaining meringue. The recipe should make 6 to 8 shells. Place the meringue shells in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Bake for 1 hour, turn off the heat and leave them in the oven until completely cooled, 4 to 6 hours. Do not open the oven door during this time. To store the shells, wrap each shell in plastic wrap or place them in an air-tight container or sealed storage bag. Store the shells in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks. Makes 6 to 8 shells.

To serve, place large scoops of ice cream in each meringue shell. Top the ice cream with the strawberries and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar Syrup. Serves 6 to 8.

— Recipes by Jayni Carey

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