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Disclaimer: Totally stole Michelle’s title concept from the post linked below after a brilliant twitter friend, @scottsweep,  suggested we start a “Becky’s Day with…” blog. My contribution to the effort. Also this is a longer post, but its a whole meal, not just 1 recipe. 

I do not think that I can do a better job than my friend Michelle when describing our mutual friend, Becky. so I’m not going to try, just head over here and give that a read. That is Becky at the top of Michelle’s post about an all womens most excellent winter trip to the zoo. Becky is the most amazing ball of energy and happy that is pretty much contagious ever to grace my existence. Everyone should have a Becky, albeit not MY Becky, in their lives. Its not that I dont like to share…its just that we all already share her enough.

Well Becky claims she can’t cook. She also owns a really nice collection of AllClad cookware. This is a paradox that I struggle with. Well that and the urge to go take all her pans and cook in them so they are happy, but that doesn’t have much to do with her, that’s my own lil bit of crazy. Anywho Becky has asked me to show her how to make a couple different things and we just never got there. I’m not totally sure how we ended up agreeing that I would teach her to make beer braised chicken, but that is what we decided on. So Becky went to the store, armed with the list I gave her, and got all the stuff we needed to make dinner: Beer Braiser Chicken, Cauliflower Smash & Honey Cashew Roasted Carrots.

Becky took most of our pics while I walked her through how to make everything. She also claims she can’t take pictures. I think Becky underestimates herself…given the inherent shitiness of my camera I think she did pretty awesome.

I would let Becky be my sous chef any time. She may not have the kitchen chops but holy fuck is she a good time and any time you spend laughing yourself silly over a stove is, in my mind, pretty fanfreakingtastic.

I usually only use bone in, skin on chicken thighs for this dish and braise them in the sauce. Becky prefers white meat chicken so she got a couple bone in, skin on chicken breasts, too. For the bone in, skin on breasts I seasoned, seared and finished roasting in the oven, they will not braise well in the pan and are better that way. You would build the sauce the same, just skip the part where we add the thighs back into the sauce and pour it over top instead when its finished. This can also be made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, just cut the stock and braise time in half.

A note about the bone in skin on thing: The meat is plain better, white or dark, and I generally prefer to cook with these even though the cook time is longer; well worth it for the difference in quality of the finished dish. For fast and convenient boneless skinless is nice for breast or thighs, just not my thing. The healthiness argument can be made because of the fatty chicken skin, but just because it is there doesn’t mean it must be eaten if that is a concern; the meat is still better when cooked on the bone with the skin in tact – thats where all the flavor is.

The procedure for the chicken also includes the when for how to not only make the chicken but the sides, too, and most importantly how to get it to the table at the same time. Multitasking FTW. The best pot or pan to use for a dish like this one is a 10″ or 12″ diameter one with at least 2″ sides. When in doubt go too big, too small and you will end up with stock all over the place. That sucks, trust me.

Beer Braised Chicken – recipe written for 4 large, saucy portions w 2 thighs per person. Add more chicken for more people and it won’t hurt a thing up to 12-ish thighs.

  • 6-8 Bone In, Skin On Chicken Thighs
  • Salt, Pepper & Dried Thyme to season chicken
  • 4 slices Thick Cut Bacon, diced
  • 1 each Sweet Onion, julienne
  • 1/2 Bell Pepper, small dice
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1# Crimini Mushrooms (or really any other kind you want)
  • 12 oz Brown Beer **
  • 3 cups Chicken STOCK – never broth. Ever.
  • 2 each Bay Leaves
  • 2oz Butter, softened
Put your pan on the stove over medium heat (my burners go from 1-6 then HI. I set the pan on 4) to let it heat up. While the pan is heating open up your chicken thighs, rinse and pat dry. Season on the skin side with salt, pepper & thyme. By now the pan should be hot enough. Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil and wait a minute to let it heat – the pan and oil must be hot. Place the thighs skin side down in the heated oil. DO NOT OVERLOAD YOUR PAN, it will drop the temp too quick and make it take forever to sear; no more than 6 at a time in a 10″-12″ pan. Season backs with salt & pepper. WALK AWAY (you have prep to do anyway). At a moderate temp you want to let that chicken sit until the skin is rendered crispy. This takes a solid 5 minutes if not more. Be patient. Don’t touch it. After a few minutes take a look, if you try to move it and it is stuck to the pan STEP AWAY. It isnt ready yet. When the skin has crisped it will flip over easy as pie. This is a process that requires patience. Resist the urge to fuck with your chicken, just let it sear on moderate heat. When the skin is crisped and browned flip over to sear quickly on the other side. When done remove from the pan and hold on a plate until later. Repeat with all the chickens. Same process with all the other kinds of chicken, too.

What they should look like post searing

While you are patiently waiting for the chicken to sear, and to keep you occupied so you dont fuck with it, start your prep. Julienne the onion, dice the pepper, mince the garlic – these go in all together so toss them into a bowl to await their turn. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and quarter the caps – put them in the little container they came in until its their turn. Cut up the potatoes for the smash and get them in a pot of salted water. Break the cauliflower for the smash up into florets & do any other veg prep you may need to. Then cut the bacon up into a small dice. By magic you have just done all of your prep in an order that 1) prevents any kind of meat cross contamination because you cut it last AND 2) only dirtied 1 cutting board. WIN!

By the time you’ve done all this the chicken should be about done. Don’t totally ignore the chicken while you’re prepping, but don’t screw with it. Just keep an eye on it.

When you are all done with the chicken searing dump off the fat in the pan and add the bacon. Render the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. NOT BURNT.  {Kitchen Rule: If ever you burn the bacon, onion or garlic start over. There is NO coming back from that.} When the bacon is crisped add the onion/pepper/garlic and sweat over medium heat until sweet & tender, about 5 minutes. That raw smell should be gone and a sweet, more mellow aroma should replace it. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and cook the mushrooms until softened. Add the beer and reduce by 3/4 at a heavy simmer.

The beer...its reducing!!

At this point add the stock and bay leaves and bring to a simmer again. Put your seared chicken thighs into the sauce and let them cook at a simmer for about 45 minutes. The chicken is cooked much sooner, but the sauce needs to reduce and flavors develop. You will again just be leaving this alone and letting it cook. No need to mess with it at all.

While the chicken cooks put the pot of potatoes on the stove over medium heat to cook until fork tender. Also put a quart of salted water on the stove at med low heat to blanch baby carrots for the honey cashew carrots (I use the saute pan I am eventually going to cook them in, 1 less thing to wash). Now go have a glass of wine or a beer. You’ve earned it and probably have about a half an hour to kill.

Simmering in its flavorful hot tub of awesome.

When you come back to check on things the sauce should have reduced by about half or more, the potatoes should be cooked and the carrot blanching water should be simmering. Game On!!

Remove the chicken from the pan w a slotted spoon and put on your serving platter/bowl, cover with foil. Up the heat and continue to reduce the sauce at a harder simmer. You want it to reduce by about 3/4, or more, so whats left is more chunks than broth and it starts to thicken – should take about 10 minutes or so, stir periodically.

While that is going on add the cauliflower florets to the potato water and bring up to a boil. The cauliflower will need about 5 minutes to cook. You want it to me mooshy. Also toss the carrots in the water and blanch. Carrots are so forgiving as far as cooking. I cook them at a simmer for about 4 minutes then drain into a hand strainer and let them sit until I am ready to saute them. With most veggies you need to shock them in cold water fast, not necessary with carrots. We also used baby carrots, they are just easy & uniformly sized, both of which are nice.

When the cauliflower is soft drain and make the smash (recipe of sorts down further), then follow the directions below for the carrots and get those on the table that you set while you were waiting for the veg to finish cooking. At this point the sauce should be ready for its final touch.

Taste the sauce – now is the time to adjust seasoning with more salt & pepper if you need to. DO NOT DO THIS ANY EARLIER. As it reduces you concentrate the salt, you dont want to add any salt until its fully reduced and you know if it needs it. Once properly seasoned slice the stick of butter into 8 pieces. Dot the top of the sauce with the butter and swirl in to melt it and thicken the sauce. Another piece of chef magic w stock reductions – butter magically marries all the flavors together and rounds everything out while thickening and making it glossy – but the stock has to be properly reduced for it to work, so reduce the liquid until it is thickly bubbling before mounting with butter.

Let most of the liquid reduce before adding butter

Serving from the pan put the chicken back in the sauce, on a platter (or using the bone in, skin on breasts) pour the sauce over the top. This is a rustic dish, not a lot of garnishing necessary at all, its colorful enough without.

Taking a swim in the sauce

This is a relatively easy meal to prepare, takes a little over an hour ~ hour & a half, to go from start to finish, including sides, and looks and tastes like you slaved all day. I wont tell them you didn’t!

Cauliflower Smash

Its mashed potatoes with cauliflower in it. Probably one of the easiest and most delicious ways to get veg haters to eat a veg. You can taste it, but not really – most people don’t know its in there until I tell them. For 4-6 people I would use about 2-2.5# of Yukon Gold potatoes to half a head of cauliflower. I also do NOT peel for mashed potatoes, pretty much ever; all the good stuff is in the skin and I prefer the texture.

Cook off the potatoes to fork tender in salted water. Add the florets and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Drain really well, put back in the pot and hand mash with a stick an a half of butter and a little bit more salt & pepper. Should be chunky, rough and not at thick as mashed potatoes. I dress this up with aged cheddar, crispy bacon, sour cream, fresh chives…it really is as versatile as mashers, and a tad healthier since its about half vegetable.

Honey Cashew Baby Carrots

Really easy to make such a simple veg amazing – for 4-6 people use 2# of baby carrots. Blanch the carrots in simmering water (I use the pan I am going to saute them in to save on dishes) for 3-4 minutes, drain off w hand strainer. Return pan to stove and add 3 Tbsp of butter and melt until its foamy and starting to brown some at the edges. Add the blanched carrots and a handful of cashews. Saute to coat in butter. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of honey and toss to coat. Cook over medium high heat until the cashews crisp up and smell toasty and the carrots start to take on a little bit of color. Season with salt & pepper. Done! Pecans are also really good here, I just had cashews.

Hey Becky – instead of emailing you the recipe I posted here so here you go!! And next time me & Becky spend a day in the kitchen I think we are going to make pierogi and halushki from scratch, I’ve promised I would teach her a bazillion times. Should probably make good on that. Anyone want tickets to watch that shit show? I promise you will laugh and eat well, but I won’t promise not to put you to work.

** the beer for this needs to be a brown ale, something that tends toward sweet with a very low hop profile, you don’t want all that bitter after it reduces. Some of my more beer geeky people might cringe at this but Becky & I used a Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin in this version and it was divine. I would usually use a Gulden Draak, Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, New Holland Poet…you want something with some balls, but not bitter balls, more malty balls and some wine-like flavors. If you dont want to use beer a dry red wine also works very well. Or just sub extra stock if you are anti-alcohol.