Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Hunter’s Style Chicken With Saffron

Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert

Serve 4

Ingredients

1 young chicken, about 3 pounds, cleaned and cut into eights

Salt and black pepper

½ cup flour

¼ cup Redoro extra virgin olive oil

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces lean pancetta

1 medium onion, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 cup Pinot Bianco wine, or any dry white wine

4 cloves

3 bay leaves

2 cups, canned chop Italian plum tomatoes

1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon chicken broth, plus extra if needed

10 saffron threads, crushed

For the vegetables

1 pound baby carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

1 pound pearl onions, peeled

1 pound new potatoes

2 tablespoons Redoro extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

Directions

Make the chicken: Season the chicken with salt and pepper; dust with flour. In a terracotta pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with the butter. Add the pancetta, onion, celery and carrots; cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Heat the remaining olive oil in a saute pan and brown the chicken on both sides, turning once, about 10 minutes. Add to the vegetables and pancetta. Deglaze with the Pinot Bianco. When the wine evaporates, add the cloves, bay leaves, tomatoes, and 1 cup of the broth; meanwhile dissolve the saffron in the remaining broth. Cook the pot over low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour adding more broth if the liquid in the pot dries out.

Make the vegetables: Cook carrots, onions, and potatoes in olive oil and broth over medium heat for 20 minutes or until tender. Add the vegetables to the chicken; cook for 10 minutes. Add saffron broth to the chicken and vegetables in the pot. Cook 5 minutes more; let rest for 15 minutes and serve hot.

Saffron info and use

The stigma of a type of crocus, saffron threads have a pungent and distinctive aroma and flavor - slightly bitter, a little musty, and with a suggestion of something floral. It's a labor-intensive crop, which means that saffron commands a high price; each crocus produces just three stigmas, which are hand-picked and then dried, and it takes thousands of stigmas to make just one ounce of the spice. Happily, the flavor is better if you use just a little - too much, and it tastes too bitter. The main saffron-growing countries are India, Iran, Spain, Greece and Italy, although it was once grown in Saffron Walden, Essex, hence the town's name.

Availability All year round

As a rule of thumb, the deeper the color of the threads, the better the quality. Deep red with orange tips is considered to be the best. If the tips aren't orange it might indicate that the saffron is inferior and has been dyed. Inferior saffron can also look slightly frayed and worn. If you're buying saffron in markets abroad, beware of cheap deals - the real thing is always expensive. Avoid anything that's too yellow, as it is probably a fake. You can also buy ground saffron, but it loses its potency quite quickly and is sometimes adulterated with other ingredients. Prepare it to draw out the color and to ensure that it's evenly distributed throughout the dish it's to be added to, steep saffron threads in a little warm water, stock, milk or white wine for about 30 minutes before using. Then add the liquid to the dish, usually towards the end of cooking.

If you like, you can strain the threads out before you add the liquid, but it's a fiddly job, and the threads look good in any case. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It will keep for several years. Cook it in Spanish paella, French bouillabaisse or Italian risotto Milanese. Use in baking, or add to tomato sauce. Add to the water when making rice.

 

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." Check out the Chef's website and blog

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