Monday, March 23, 2009

Chicken with Raisins, Olives and Red Wine

This is probably weird, but I do a lot of meal planning in the wee hours of the morning when I can't sleep. I have so many restrictions on what to cook that it drives me a little nuts. I need food that won't upset my stomach (a good trick in itself), and I'm moving in less than two months, so I need to clear out the freezer and fridge, and as much of the pantry as I can manage.

I looked in the freezer the other night for some ice cream that I knew wasn't there, but I was craving it, so I looked anyway. I saw that I had some chicken breasts in there that I needed to use up, so I pulled one out and put in in the fridge to thaw. Then, last night, when I couldn't sleep, the gears started turning. What should I do to make the chicken interesting? Well, I had an onion I was pretty sure was about to go bad, so I should use that. And I had a glug of red wine, maybe half a cup, that I wasn't sure I was going to drink. Okay, chicken, onions, red wine. Raisins? I always have golden raisins around. Then I got the idea that olives would taste really good with that combination of flavors, but I didn't have any olives. (I ended up buying six oil-cured olives at the Whole Foods olive bar this afternoon for under $1.)

Then I realized I had a bowl of chicken soup in the fridge that I'd thrown together the other day when I wasn't feeling well. It was nothing but chicken broth out of a carton, frozen peas and egg noodles. I decided I could probably pour all of that into my chicken dish too, and use up an extra leftover in the process.

So I went about fixing the dinner. Normally I would butterfly and pan-sear the chicken, but I was feeling too lazy, so I set the oven to 375 while I worked on the sauce. One corner of the onion had started to get moldy, but I cut that out and the rest looked and smelled beautiful, so I sliced it thinly and started cooking it down over medium heat in some olive oil. I stirred the onion constantly so that it didn't burn.

While the onion was getting nice and brown, I seasoned the chicken breast lightly with salt, pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, Mexican oregano and ground ancho pepper, and I popped it in the oven. I ended up cooking it for 12 minutes on one side and 5 on the other.

Back to the sauce. When the onions were brown pretty much all over, I added a tablespoon or two of white wine vinegar and stirred the onions around to deglaze the pan. (Do NOT inhale the vinegar while it's deglazing, or you'll be sorry.) Then I threw in the half-cup or so of red wine and a small handful of golden raisins, maybe 40 or so. Next I chopped my six olives into approximately raisin-sized pieces and threw those in. Then I added the chicken broth from the soup (maybe 3/4 cup), turned the heat up to medium-high, and waited for the sauce to reduce.

When it started to thicken, I gave it a taste. It tasted a little too bitter and definitely salty enough. I added a teaspoon or so of sugar, a splash of lemon juice, and a small sprinkle of garlic powder. That did the trick. I dumped in the egg noodles and peas from the soup, then chopped the chicken breast into biggish chunks and tossed those in too.

It sounds so weird, but it was so delicious. I'm excited that I saved half and get to eat it tomorrow.

Who knows what my barely-conscious mind will come up with tonight.