Milk Street: Tuesday Night Mediterranean (Ep 521)

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Provençal Braised Chicken
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Think of this dish as bouillabaisse made with chicken instead of seafood. Fresh fennel,
garlic, white wine, orange zest and saffron give the braise rich, heady perfume and an
unmistakably Mediterranean flavor. Any unoaked dry white wine works well here,
but ideally look for one produced in southern France, such as white Côtes du Rhône or marsanne. We use strips of orange zest instead of grated zest to lend citrusy notes to the braise. A sharp Y-style vegetable peeler is the best tool for peeling away zest strips, but try to remove only the colored peel, not the bitter white pith just underneath. Serve the chicken with toasted crusty bread drizzled with olive oil.

Don’t be shy about cooking the tomato paste. Allowing it to brown not only adds
color, it also helps develop flavor in the braising liquid.

INGREDIENTS
11⁄2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, patted dry
and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 wide strips orange zest (each about 2 inches long), plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
1⁄4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn

INSTRUCTIONS
In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1⁄2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, fennel and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, pepper flakes and orange zest. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste begins to darken and stick to the pot, about 4 minutes. Reduce to medium and add the wine. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken, 3 cups water and the saffron, then stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 15 minutes.

Off heat, remove and discard the zest strips. Stir in the orange juice and about half the basil, then taste and season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining basil.


Sardinian Herb Soup with Fregola and White Beans (S’erbuzzu)
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Traditionally, the Sardinian soup called s’erbuzzu is jammed with wild herbs and
greens—sometimes more than 17 varieties. And with both fregola (a pea-shaped Sardinian pasta) and white beans in the mix, the soup—which we learned from Chef Luigi
Crisponi at Santa Rughe restaurant in Gavoi—is as hearty and starchy as it is herbal. For our version, we narrowed the list of herbs and greens to those we felt had the most impact: parsley for grassiness, tarragon for sweet anise notes and arugula for pepperiness. We also used pancetta to build a savory backbone and ricotta salata cheese,
as Sardinians do, for complexity. If you can’t find fregola, substitute an equal amount of
pearl couscous, but cook it for only 5 minutes before adding the beans, parsley and garlic. And if ricotta salata is not available, finely grated pecorino Romano is a reasonable swap, but halve the amount.

Don’t forget to reserve the minced parsley stems separately from the chopped leaves. The stems go into the pot early on so they soften and infuse the broth with their
herbal, minerally flavor; the leaves are added near the end so they retain their freshness and color.

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
3 to 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems minced, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately
11⁄2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
3⁄4 cup fregola (see note)
151⁄2-ounce can large white beans, such as butter beans, rinsed and drained
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese (see note), crumbled (3⁄4 cup)
4 ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups lightly packed), roughly chopped
1⁄2 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS
In a large pot over medium, heat the oil and pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley stems and fennel seeds, then add the wine and 1 teaspoon pepper, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil over high. Stir in the fregola and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the fregola is just shy of tender, about 10 minutes. Add the beans, garlic, parsley leaves and half of the ricotta salata, then continue to cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to maintain a bare simmer, until the fregola is fully tender, about another 10 minutes.

Off heat, stir in the arugula and tarragon, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the remaining ricotta osalata and drizzled with additional oil.


Spanish Shrimp & Chickpea Stew
Start to finish: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

At Palacio Carvajal Girón, in the Extremadura region of Spain, we tasted a delicious shellfish and chickpea stew. Requiring a ham- and langoustine-infused broth and made with dried chickpeas, the dish was a time- and labor-intensive preparation. Our much-
simplified version captures the essence of the stew in a fraction of the time. A combination of Spanish smoked paprika and standard sweet paprika give the stew deep color and earthy complexity without overwhelming the shrimp.

Don’t forget to reserve 1⁄2 cup of the liquid before draining the can of
chickpeas. The liquid adds both body and flavor to the broth. When peeling the shrimp,
don’t remove the tails because they also flavor the broth. But do remove the tails when
halving the seared shrimp so that the pieces are easier to eat in the finished stew.

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails left on),
deveined and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 medium leek, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, thinly
sliced, rinsed and dried
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
151⁄2-ounce can chickpeas, 1⁄2 cup liquid reserved, drained
8-ounce bottle clam juice
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS
In a medium bowl, stir together both paprikas and 3⁄4 teaspoon pepper; measure 2 tablespoons into a small bowl and set aside. Add the shrimp to the paprika mixture in the medium bowl and toss to coat; set aside.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp in an even layer; reserve the bowl. Cook without stirring until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, return the shrimp to the bowl.

In the same pot over medium, melt the butter. Add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the reserved paprika mixture, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the chickpeas, the reserved chickpea liquid and the clam juice. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Meanwhile, remove and discard the tails from the shrimp and cut each shrimp in half crosswise.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the shrimp along with accumulated juices. Cover and let stand until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with parsley and drizzled with additional oil.


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PHOTO CREDITS: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES