Friday, 14 March 2014

Poached Chicken with Dried Tomatoes & Shiitake Mushrooms

I was a little surprised to realise I have never posted this recipe. It was a staple for us at one point, being very quick and easy to make; a good after-work dinner. It turns out if you replace most of the butter in the mashed potatoes with buttermilk, so it works pretty well on the low-fat diet too.

Dried Ontario shiitakes are available from time to time, if you know the right spot to buy them and the moon is in the right quarter. You are far more likely to find them fresh. They seem pretty expensive, compared to regular mushrooms, but they provide a lot of bulk to the pound. I also cruise the marked-down produce table at our local grocery for them, and pounce on any I find there. They are very firm, almost dry, and meaty in texture, and hold up better than produce managers give them credit for. But, shhh! Don't tell them I said so! If there are more on sale than I can use at once, I de-stem them, and dry them myself - they dry pretty quickly, and I would think you could dry them in any warm, not too humid room just by leaving them out on a rack for a few days. The stems do have to be eventually discarded, being too tough to eat, but I dry them and save them for soup making, where they are very useful.

I'm calling for chicken stock, but I have to admit that most of the time I just use water. It's fine. Between the tomatoes and the mushrooms, the sauce ends up full of flavour anyway. You could serve this with polenta, it occurs to me, but mashed potatoes are what I always make. Prepare them and start them boiling just before you start collecting the ingredients together for the chicken, and they should reach the finish line at about the same time.

4 servings
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

500 grams (1 generous pound) boneless chicken thighs
OR other skinless, boneless chicken pieces
1 cup fresh shiitake mushroom caps, diced
and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
OR 1/2 cup dry shiitake mushrooms, broken up
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock or water
3 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Skin the chicken thighs and remove all the fat from them, assuming they have been bought with the skin. Cut them in half. You can use instead skinless, boneless chicken breast pieces, cut into pieces of similar size, or a combination of the two.

If you are using fresh shiitakes, remove and discard* the stems. Cut them into rough dice, then heat the butter in a stove-top casserole or heavy-bottomed pot. Add the shiitakes, and cook until softened and slightly browned, stirring regularly. Otherwise, the broken-up driied shiitake (sorry, can't help meself) should just be put in the pot with everything else.

And, once the fresh shiitake are ready - or not, if you are using the dry ones - put all the remaining ingredients except the last 1/2 cup of chicken stock or water and the arrowroot or cornstarch into the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken is done and the vegetables quite tender.

Mix the cornstarch with the 1/2 cup of cold broth or water and stir it into the pot. Simmer, stirring well to blend, until the broth thickens - just a minute or two. Serve over mashed potatoes.

*And by discard, I mean put them in a single layer on a dish in the windowsill for a week or so, until thoroughly dry, then keep them closed up in a jar to use as a flavouring agent in making soup stock. 

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