Chicken In A Pot
Apucara is a clay pot whose tall, bulbous shape—similar to an urn—makes it superb for cooking chicken. Pucaras can be bought all over Portugal, but I found excellent, beautifully decorated ones in Sao Pedro do Corval, near Reguengos de Monsaraz in the Alentejo.
Traditionally this dish is made by tossing a whole chicken and the other
ingredients into the pucara and then roasting. The result is a juicy bird, but one with pale, flabby skin. I use chicken pieces and cook them on the stove in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid—the way my mom taught me. Not only can I mix and match dark and light meat to suit my guests’ preferences, but the dish cooks faster and the pieces brown nicely. Serve the frango with roasted potatoes or rice to sop up the delicious sauce.
Aguardente is a potent distilled spirit made from the skins and seeds of pressed grapes. Brandy can be substituted. Don’t worry, though: even with three types of alcohol, this isn’t a boozy dish.
10 ounces pearl onions, a scant 1 inch in diameter
3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
4 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and legs), patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
One 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably san marzano, drained, half the juice reserved, and chopped
Two ¼ inch thick slices presunto, serrano ham, or prosciutto, trimmed of excess fat and cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 cup raisins
2 turkish bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup tawny port
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup aguardente or brandy
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1. Have a bowl of ice water at the ready. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, drop in the onions, and blanch for 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and plop them into the ice water. To peel, snip off the tips and remove the papery outer layers. Set the onions aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over high heat until very hot. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Working in
batches, sear the pieces, skin side down, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and sear 2 minutes more. Transfer the pieces to a bowl.
3. Drain off all but a thin film of oil from the pot. If the pot is dry, drizzle in more oil. Lower the heat to medium and plonk in the onions. Cook, stirring often, until well spotted with brown, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Nestle in the chicken and add the tomatoes and their juice, the presunto, raisins, bay leaves, and parsley.
4. Whisk together the port, wine, aguardente, and mustard in a small bowl and pour over the chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, turning the pieces to keep them submerged, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
5. Heat the broiler. Lift the chicken from the pot using tongs and lay the pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet. Set aside. With a slotted spoon, scoop the tomatoes, presunto, and raisins into a small bowl. Toss out the parsley and bay leaves. Turn the heat under the pot to high and boil to reduce the liquid to 1 ½ cups, 3 to 5 minutes. Skim any fat from the top.
6. Meanwhile, zap the chicken under the broiler to crisp the skin, 1 to 2 minutes—watch closely so the pieces don’t burn or dry out.
7. To serve, arrange the chicken in the middle of a large platter and ring with the onions, presunto, and raisins. Pour a bit of the sauce over the top to moisten, and serve the rest on the side.
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