Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Braised Chicken Agrodolce with Dried Plums
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Agrodolce (pronounced "agro-dolchay") is an Italian term for any sweet and sour sauce made with vinegar and sugar. A traditional version of this ages-old sauce would be similar to a French gastrique, containing nothing more than vinegar, wine, and sugar — although butter, dried fruit, and nuts may be added. The sauce lends a mouthwatering pucker to everything from sautéed vegetables like onions to proteins such as pork chops, meaty fish, and ground beef. In this recipe, agrodolce pairs very well with the boneless chicken breast. You may also opt to use bone-in chicken cut-up in manageable pieces.
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
• 1 (2½ to 3-pound) chicken breasts, medium size
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large onion, minced
• 1 cup minced celery
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 can (14½ ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
• 1 cup (about 6 ounces) halved pitted dried plums
• ½ cup dried raisins
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
• 1 cinnamon stick or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1½ teaspoons fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
Combine flour, salt and pepper. Lightly coat chicken with flour mixture. In large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken.
Add onion; cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes or until soft but not browned. Add celery and garlic; cook and stir 1 minute. Add broth, dried plums, raisins, vinegar, sugar, red pepper, cinnamon and sage; bring to a boil. Return chicken to pan; reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer about 8 minutes or until chicken is tender. Skim off fat, if necessary; remove and discard cinnamon stick or use in presentation. Remove chicken. Increase heat to medium-high; cook remaining sauce, uncovered, 3 to 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour over chicken breast and serve hot. Large chicken breast may need little more cooking time. Adjust accordingly.
There really is no difference between dried plums and prunes in most cases — it's just a new name for a classic product. Prunes have become associated as a “health food” for older people and children because of their fibers content. Plums of the Japanese type are usually eaten fresh, but if they are dried, they are dried plums, not prunes. The dried prunes from Japanese plums are quite different in taste from what most people in the US think of as plums. They are usually not partially reconstituted, as are prunes, after the drying process.
Balsamic vinegar is a reduction made from grapes, but it is not considered wine vinegar because the grape juice used is unfermented. The unfermented white sweet grape juice that is used is called must and comes from the Trebbiano grapes and other local varietals. You will find lots of balsamic vinegars in your local stores. Some are worth their high price and others are not. Often, the less expensive ones may suit your needs just fine. Only one can be classified as “True” balsamic vinegar, but there are three other types that you will encounter on your next shopping experience. Determine which type of balsamic vinegar is for you to use in your cooking and different recipes:
Here I listed some helpful clues offered by the Consortium of Balsamic Vinegar:
• Make sure the consortium seal is over the cap, as well as on the label.
• Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is only bottled in the distinct bulb-shaped, 100-milliliter bottle.
• Modena brands use red and silver labels to indicate aging of 12 and 18 years respectively.
• A gold cap indicates a minimum age of 20 years.
• Look for a bottle that comes in a box with a book containing recipes and a description of the process of manufacture and recipes.
• Locate traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena in fine gourmet shops
Find a good-quality medium-priced one to use in your cooking.
The commercial grade or "cheap" balsamic vinegars work great in vinaigrettes. Lesser balsamic vinegars have brown sugar or caramel added to mimic the sweetness of the better-quality ones.
If a company produces”traditional" balsamic vinegar, they will also produce a less expensive, but high quality vinegar as well. This is the same vinegar with the same heritage but not aged as long. Always read the labels very well.
Related Slideshow: Fall’s Best Foodie Events
4th Annual Rhode Island Seafood Festival, Providence, Sept. 6-7
September signals the re-birth of Providence as its sleepy streets bustle with college students and locals back from the shore. We know...you need one more taste of summer without having to day-trip for it. In that vein, we present the 4th Annual Rhode Island Seafood Festival. On the weekend, India Point Park comes alive with scores of fresh, local seafood and hungry patrons. You can sample food and drink from the state's top chefs and food trucks and wineries and breweries. Grab some local oysters and a Narragansett and fend off the impending cold! www.riseafoodfest.com
Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, Newport, Sept. 19-21
This is the Rhode Island festival that all others are judged against. Newport Mansions Wine and Food is in its ninth year of bringing together sublime food talent in a gorgeous Newport setting. This year is no different as the main headliners are Martha Stewart and Sara Moulton. They don't stop there though...imagine hundreds of wines to be sampled on the lawn of Marble House, tasty treats from lots of local restaurants,and appearances by local chefs like Champe Speidel preparing and serving their creations. You've got a bona fide classic! Tickets starts at $135. www.newportmansions.org/events/wine-and-food-festival
New England Whiskey Festival, Lincoln, Sept 27
this one sounds promising: Twin River Casino’s first New England Whiskey Festival. The finest companies in the hospitality industry will gather at Rhode Island’s premiere entertainment facility to show off the latest whiskey products, trends and innovations. Discover new brands and the hottest beverage trends while enjoying great food, samplings and entertainment. The festivities start at 2 p.m. in the Twin River Event Center. 21+ of course. Tickets are $30 ($5 of each ticket will benefit the RI Hospitality Association Education Foundation). 100 Twin River Rd. 1-877-82-RIVER, www.twinriver.com
Taste Trekkers Food and Travel Expo, Providence, Oct. 3-5
This is a second year for the Taste Trekkers Food and Travel Expo and we are excited to be hosting it again here in Providence. This event, started by Seth Ressler, aims to bring together like-minded food travelers for a weekend of food and fun. This year's event features a new "industry day" that brings together local food and travel professionals. On Saturday, the events unfold at the Biltmore with a series of talks and then the Hope and Main sponsored Tasting Pavillion. Tickets start at $50. www.tastetrekkers.com
Chefs Collaborative Autumn Harvest BBQ, Exeter, Oct. 19
Chefs Collaborative is one of the real unsung heroes when it comes to changing our food system. They have 11 chapters nationwide that bring together chefs and food producers in an attempt to help the chefs source better local foods. In other words...we diners win! Our local Rhode Island chapter features some of the state's best and brightest chefs. Their annual fundraiser is the Autumn Harvest BBQ. Held at Schartner's Farms, this is a must-attend party. You may never get the opportunity to enjoy all of these chefs on just one night in this great a setting. Sunday October 19th is the date and all the information is on their website. 1 Arnold Pl. www.chefscollaborative.org
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