Chicken braised with balsamic vinegar and mushrooms

One of the easiest ways to have no-fuss midweek meals is making extras for the freezer, something that works especially well with soups and stews that can handle microwave nuking. Here’s a favorite — a sort of cross between Italian Chicken Cacciatore and French Coq au Vin. The tomatoes and balsamic vinegar give it a brighter livelier taste than most Coq au Vins, while the bacon, mushrooms and wine contribute depth that’s often lacking in Chicken Cacciatore versions that are little more than chicken in tomato sauce. This recipe serves 2-4 people, but I usually double or triple it, because it freezes beautifully. Dried porcini (called cpes in France) can be found in many grocery stores. The dish will still be delicious without them, but their intense, woodsy flavor makes them worth seeking out. 
  • 1 oz. dried Porcini mushrooms, optional
  • 1 c. chicken stock, divided
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, dark meat preferred salt and freshly ground pepper flour for dredging
  • 6 minced garlic cloves, or to taste
  • 1 T. olive oil, plus additional if necessary
  • 4 oz. diced bacon, either slab or thick cut
  • lb. cremini mushrooms, also known as baby bellas or brown mushrooms, or portabellas, halved, quartered, or cut into bite-sized chunks
  • c. fruity red wine
  • 4 T balsamic vinegar — best quality not necessary
  • c. drained and chopped canned tomatoes

chopped fresh parsley, preferably flat-leafSoak porcini in 1 c. hot stock for 20 minutes, or until softened. Swish them in the liquid to remove any grit, and drain them. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter and reserve.

Sauté bacon in a heavy pot over moderate heat until crisp. Remove from pot and drain on a paper towel, leaving the drippings.

Cut the chicken into large pieces; dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Sauté in the drippings and olive oil until golden and crisp. The chicken won’t be cooked through. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Set one tablespoon of drippings aside (if drippings are burnt, use fresh olive oil) and heat remaining drippings over high heat. Add the fresh mushrooms in a single layer and sauté, stirring constantly. It’s important to not crowd the pan, so if your pot isn’t large enough to fit them in comfortably, do this in batches. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

 Sauté the garlic in the pot over low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add porcini liquid, stock, wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomatoes and add the chicken, making sure to coat it thoroughly. Reduce heat to low and simmer.

After simmering 20 minutes, add the bacon and mushrooms and heat through. Check for seasoning. Serve over polenta or noodles, or in shallow soup plates accompanied by good chewy bread, garnished with the chopped parsley.

—Adapted from a recipe in The Dean and DeLuca Cookbook by David Rosengarten.

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