About a week ago, I signed up for the Dark Days Challenge, hosted by food blogger (not so) Urban Hennery, in which locavores strive to keep in touch with their local foodshed throughout the long, cold, dark days of winter and to “cook one meal each week focused on SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients” and write about it on their blogs.
Shouldn’t be such a challenge for a self-styled Local Kitchen blogger, no? Well, you might be surprised. Atlhough I have a chest freezer stocked full of goodies for the coming cold season, I too find myself slipping into old habits over the winter; buying pasta instead of making it from scratch, slipshod use of olive oil, blindly following recipes that call for out of season ingredients simply because, well, everything is out of season. This recipe is a perfect example: after a lovely stew of totally in-season fall flavors, the recipe finishes with basil and orange zest. I remember thinking, “Basil? With apple cider and onions? That’s weird.” I immediately decided to use instead the farmer’s market sage that I had in the fridge. But, I also had an orange in the fridge, so without thinking much, I pulled it out and started zesting away. Right as I was finishing the dish, before adding the zest I thought “Wait – do I need this orange zest? This meal is 100% local wihtout it.” I tasted it, and it was fabulous. No non-local citrus required here, thank you very much.
Obviously it is easier to eat in season when the farmer’s markets are bursting with the variety and flavor of summer; it is more a challenge when you are staring at yet another dinner of beans, squash and kale and you are desperately trying to think of something interesting to do with them. And I’m not against the occasional citrus, or nut, or chocolate, especially thoughout the long days of winter. But it is nice to have a reminder of why we eat locally and the pleasures of our own foodshed, even throughout the Dark Days, and nice to be able to connect with other folks across the country who feel the same; I’m looking forward to it. Interested? You can check it all out by clicking the Dark Days button to your right.
Adapted from Apple Cider Chicken in For Goodess’ Sake by Terry Joyce Blonder
Apple Cider Chicken with Sage Mashed Potatoes
Apple Cider Chicken
- 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp local chile powder (dried, ground local chile peppers)
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 lb), diced to 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp clarified butter or olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1, 16-oz jar of tomatoes, drained, or 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, or 1 tsp dried crumbled sage
Sage Mashed Potatoes
- 3 lbs potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, chopped to 2-inch cubes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 6 – 8 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp sliced fresh sage, or 1 tsp dried crumbled sage
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring once or twice, until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to the pot. Add butter, stock, salt and pepper. Mash with a waffle masher, adding more butter or stock as necessary. Taste, adjust spices, and mix in sliced sage. Cover and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven.
- Add flour, salt, black and chile peppers to a plastic bag. Toss chicken cubes lightly in the flour mixture until coated.
- Heat butter in a large saute pan until hot. Shake excess flour off of the chicken pieces and brown lightly, in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan. Set aside.
- Add onions to the same pan and saute until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add a touch of cider if the onions start to stick. Add the tomatoes, cider and chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is reduced to a gravy-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Add sage and simmer for 1 additional minute. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve hot, over mashed potatoes.
- The original recipe called for fresh basil instead of sage and the addition of 1 tsp of grated orange zest. I like it better my way.
- You could use milk, cream or buttermilk in place of the stock in the mashed potatoes (I did not have any in the house). Because the sauce of the chicken dish is so flavorful, I do not think you need the added fat of milk or cream in the potatoes.
- The elimination of black pepper would make this recipe completely local, but I simply cannot make mashed potatoes without black pepper. I think the cider chicken could do without it.
Refrigerated, 3 to 4 days.
Apple cider is available at farmer’s markets in the fall and early winter.
- Flour: Wild Hive Farm, Clinton Corners, NY
- Sea salt: Kenyon’s Grist Mill, Usquepaugh, RI
- Chile powder: dried hot chile peppers from my summer CSA, Ryder Farm, Brewster, NY
- Boneless chicken breasts: Empire Organic, Mifflintown, PA
- Butter: Ronnybrook, Ancramdale, NY
- Onion, sage: Madura Farms, Goshen, NY (available at the Gossett Brother’s Nursery Farm Market, South Salem, NY, Saturdays, 9-1pm, through the winter)
- Tomatoes: home-grown, fire-roasted and home-canned in August
- Apple cider: Red Jacket Orchards, Geneva, NY
- Potatoes: Stored in cold storage (aka “the garage”) from the CSA
- Chicken stock: Homemade, frozen