Driving home from work a few days ago I saw a man dressed as Wonder Woman walking hand-in-hand with a woman who had an ax sticking out of her head, a sexy pink and black Play Boy bunny in the cross walk, and a group of women who were far too old to be Girl Scouts and wearing uniforms several sizes too small. It must be October 31st, Halloween. The only day of the year when such sights are considered “normal” (unless you live in San Francisco) and when children are actively encouraged to go door-to-door asking complete strangers for candy.
Now before you get the wrong idea, I’m not anti-Halloween. I had a blast filling up pillowcases full of candy as a kid and going to costume parties in college. But I’m no longer a kid, so Trick-or-Treating is out, and getting dressed up and going to a party with a bunch of twenty-somethings doesn’t do it for me any more. I had to find something a little more “significant” to participate in on October 31st.
So now I celebrate Reformation Day. That’s right, October 31st has great historical significance for more reasons than All Hallows Eve. At least to those of us who claim to be Protestants. On this day in 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. An action which sent ripples through the Catholic Church and brought about most of the Christian faith traditions we have today. It was Martin Luther who first translated the Bible into the language of the common man and gave us the idea of Sola scriptura (scripture alone), Sola fide (faith alone), and Sola gratia (grace alone). Three foundations of the Protestant faith.
Pope Leo X, in response to Luther’s writings said, “It is a drunken German monk who wrote these, when sober he will change his mind.” It is in honor of the “drunken monk” Luther (and my German brothers), and thankfulness that Pope Leo was wrong, that in my house we take time to celebrate this day by cooking German food and identifying with the Reformation in some way. This year I made Beschwipster Hähnchen (Drunken Chicken in Red Wine Sauce) and watching the movie Luther!
This dish of braised chicken thighs, carrots, onions, leaks, and crispy bacon is economical and tastes amazing! The process of braising the chicken thighs allows the connective tissue and fat to break down and add great flavor to the sauce while keeping the meat tender and moist. The red wine serves as a great braising liquid and goes well with the chicken. Beschwipster Hähnchen is traditionally a peasants’ dish as it would allow those of lower economical and social status to use what they had on hand. I love to serve it over a large pile of mashed potatoes (ingredients and recipe not included).
- 6 chicken thighs (or any chicken you have on hand)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper, freshly ground
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped (optional – however, I like the flavor the leek brings to the dish)
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 10 large mushrooms, halved or quartered (personal choice)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 2 cups (1 can) beef stock (you can you chicken or vegetable also)
- 3 cups red wine (I like an inexpensive Merlot – feel free to add more if you want, I do!)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried if substituted)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme (1 1/2 tsp dried if substituted)
- 1 bay leaf
Take your bacon and brown in the bottom of a dutch oven or large pot. Just before they are crispy add in your leeks and onion, continue to brown for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from pot while trying to leave as much bacon grease as you can. I mean, really, everything taste better cooked in bacon grease right?!
Combine your flour, salt, and pepper on a plate or in a bowl to be used to coat your chicken. Add butter to bacon grease and allow to melt. Take your chicken and pat dry with a paper towel then dredge in flour mixture. Brown each piece of chicken bacon grease and remove to plate. Remember not to crowd the pan or your chicken will not brown as much as it will steam. This may take a batch or two.
Once chicken has been browned, add carrots, celery, mushrooms, and garlic and saute for 3 minuets. Note: As this is a peasants dish you may want to leave your carrots and celery in larger chunks. However, the trick to great looking “rustic” food is consistency in your chopping. Try to keep each cup to about the same size. Add onion, bacon, and leeks back in and then add your red wine and beef broth. Stir to bring together. Add sprigs of rosemary and thyme (if you tie them together they will be easier to remove later) and bay leaf. Allow to simmer for 10 minuets.
After sauce has had a chance to simmer on its own for a few minutes add the chicken pieces back in and put the lid on. I like to have my chicken half submerged in the sauce but that is a personal choice. Allow your sauce and chicken to simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. If you would like the sauce a little thinker just add a tablespoon of flour to a little water and then stir in to sauce. Remove sprigs of herbs, place on top of a pile of mashed potatoes (or spaetzle if you wanting to get really creative) and enjoy. Happy Cooking!Adapted From: http://shawna3377.blogspot.com/2011/04/beschwipster-huhn-mit-spaetzle.html http://germanfood.about.com/od/meatbasedrecipesandmenu/r/drunken-chicken.htm http://www.kochbar.de/rezept/129133/Anka-s-beschwipster-Haehnchen-Toast-Auflauf.html