Sunday, May 06, 2007

Newest TV Addiction

This is our newest TV addiction. It's like watching a train wreck; you know it's going to happen, but cannot turn away.

Chicken legs with kumquats, prunes and green olives

Last Wednesday my brother and sister-in-law left their Tucson winter nesting spot and stopped by Palm Springs for a visit. They sold out everything in Chicago a couple years ago, bought a motor coach, hitched the Honda SUV to the back, loaded up the golden retrievers and hit the road. They rented a spot at a nice RV park in Cathedral City and just drove over for visits. The dogs loved it here, nice green lawn to do their business on, not desert sand. They were good fun and company.

While here we took Dan and Carol to the Coahella Valley Nature Preserve, an area of natural palm groves which sits atop the San Andreas fault line. Water bubbles up at that exact spot; the docent told us the seeping water from the mountains filters down, and when it hits the fault, and cannot go anywhere else, it bubbles up through cracks. Aside from the palms, there are nice hiking trails with signs explaining the surrounding plants and animals.

Friday we all took a ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tram. Even though it was fiercely windy in town, the ride up was surprisingly calm. Very strong gusts kept us close to the building at the top, but we all enjoyed the ride. Totally breathtaking. The rotating cars ascend two and a half miles to an altitude of 8,516 feet. Eddie and I bought summer season passes for a very reasonable price of $50 each, and just two more trips up and the tickets will be paid for. We look forward to lots of time up there this summer to escape the daily heat of the desert.

That morning, before leaving, I started to prep dinner, a recipe I saw last week in the LA Times food section. I actually had kumquats in a tree on the side of the house, so I wanted to try this recipe. I browned the chicken thighs in the morning, covered and chilled them, and also did all the slicing of the vegetables and fruit. When we got back from the tram, the rest was easy to throw together.

We started dinner with sliced Campari tomatoes, sliced fresh mozarella, fresh basil from the yard, drizzled with good olive oil, seasoned only with kosher salt and pepper. Jasmine rice was a perfect starch to soak up the yummy, but limited, sauce. For dessert, I broiled sliced golden pineapple, sprinkled with brown sugar, then topped with vanilla ice cream and a swirling of reduced berry-wine puree from the freezer.

All in all, a definite keeper to be repeated again many times in the future. A good substitute for kumquats would be lemon rind, sour orange, or Meyer lemon.

Chicken legs with kumquats, prunes and green olives

Total time: About 2 hours, 15 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Adapted from "The Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook." "This dish was inspired by Moroccan braises with preserved lemons and an old favorite 'Silver Palate' recipe," writes Saltsman. Serve with couscous or rice. Harissa, Moroccan hot sauce, can be purchased at Middle Eastern markets and gourmet stores such as Nicole's in Pasadena, Monsieur Marcel in Los Angeles and Surfas in Culver City.

1/2 pound prunes, or 6 ounces pitted prunes (used pitted, whole)
1/2 pound kumquats (last of the crop from the yard)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 pounds whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh) (used all thighs)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped (used shallots)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped (used 2)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup mild green olives, pitted (used Lindsay ripe green pitted canned olives)
About 1/2 cup chicken stock
Harissa (optional)

1. If using prunes with pits, bring one cup of water to a boil and pour the boiling water over the prunes to soften, about 15 minutes; drain and use a scissors to pit them. Quarter the prunes. (Left whole)

2. Quarter the kumquats lengthwise, remove the seed and center pith, and if you feel energetic, cut the quarters in half again lengthwise. Set the prunes and kumquats aside.

3. In a wide pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, add the chicken, season generously with salt and pepper, and brown, turning as needed, until golden on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate. (Browned in the A.M., cooled, covered and put in fridge until dinner time.)

4. Pour off all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the onion. Stir well, scraping the pan bottom to loosen the brown bits, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Add the garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine, raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring to deglaze the pot, until the liquid is reduced by slightly more than half, about 3 minutes.

6. Return the chicken to the pot and add the prunes, kumquats, olives, and a little salt and pepper. Stir, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Add one-fourth cup of the stock, and simmer covered until the chicken is very tender, about 1 hour, basting occasionally with the sauce and adding stock, if needed, to keep the chicken half-submerged in the sauce. The dish may be made a day ahead and reheated. Serve with couscous or rice. To serve with harissa, remove a little of the sauce from the chicken and stir in harissa to taste; drizzle over plated dish.

Each serving: 368 calories; 28 grams protein; 21 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 93 mg. cholesterol; 318 mg. sodium.

(Next time double the liquids so there’s more yummy sauce. Served with jasmine rice made with part stock, part water, salt, splash of xvoo.)