Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dionysus is a woman.

It was the inexplicable sort of depression that led Marlon Brando to eat ice cream by the gallon, me to read, prone, the upside-down sole-stamped brand name of an unhappy Philadelphia police officer's boots between a choir of stars--more than once.


For any kitchen nut educated on food blogs--so many of us are these days, Smitten Kitchen is required reading. Deb's pornographic journal of rich productions provides all the enticement a novice could ever require to venture into the wilderness of the kitchen. As well, her recipes contain a consistent pedagogical element. For every dish a lesson--often disguised in self-effacing anecdote. She is the Pitchfork Media generation's Paula Deen; she could hide a stick of butter in a glass of water.

After my good friend, Shmuel, turned me on to her, by way of this tomato sauce recipe, I not only became an ardent reader I took that recipe as my own. I'll likely never make red sauce any other way. The essence as you'll see lies in butter.

I try never to mistake consolation for the advent of happiness, but when the conciliatory agent is butter I find it difficult to differentiate. This concoction, which relies on Deb's tomato sauce recipe as a technical reference point, was born of an early December depression. There are evenings in which the dearth of light and the record on the turntable whisper in your ear: put a stick of butter to good use.

Chicken thighs braised in butter, chilies and spinach

5-6 chicken thighs
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
three small sprigs rosemary
1 lg can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
3/4 lb roasted Hatch chilies, skins removed, seeds if necessary, chopped*
1 tbsp white vinegar
three fistfuls of raw spinach, cleaned

Add olive oil to a hot dutch oven and brown chicken. Upon flipping the parts add aromatics and butter. As the butter melts and the aromatics soften slowly add crushed tomatoes, vinegar and chilies. Cover, simmer.

Stir every ten minutes.

After about half an hour the chicken will begin to pull easily from the bone. At this point cut the heat on the stove, add spinach and cover. With about five minutes of steaming the spinach can be turned into the chicken stew.

Serve with baguette or rice.

* I use Hatch chilies since our beloved Reyna Foods imports them from New Mexico--a wild luxury. They vary in degrees of heat. If you prefer a milder stew remove seeds after roasting. Naturally, you can select different chilies or peppers to suit your taste.