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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Braised Chicken Agrodolce with Dried Plums

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

 

Braised Chicken Agrodolce with Dried Plums

Servings
: 6

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.

Ingredients

• 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

Preparation

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.

Ingredients knowledge

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.

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well."  www.chefwalter.com / http://www.chefwalter.blog.com/

 

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