From my (J.’s) point of view, many folks have made a lot out of “bistro” food lately. Perhaps that’s to do with the rise of foodie-ism in popular culture, or the romantic notions associated with unpretentious French food, or some combination in varying degrees there of. Regardless, the simple elegance of slow-cooked food, prepared with rustic ingredients seems to be gaining popularity.
However, like many good minimal-istic designs, bistro food tends to get bastardized by the time it ends up on a menu. For example, like the iPod, some of my favorite bistro dishes seem swapped – even burdened – by add-ons; the iPod is wonderful and easy to use, then you add a phone… then you add the internet… then you add a camera. All of these things are great, and when put together they might help some to multi-task.
I believe that the same can be true with something like short ribs. Bistro short ribs don’t need anything if they’re braised correctly. You don’t need short ribs with ziti pasta and cippolini onions (a “bistro” dish I found on the internet). All of these things are great, but they don’t necessarily need to be on the same plate just because the ingredients have a lot of vowels.
OK, so that’s my soap-boxing, and here’s my simple slow-cooked food. This is my variation of a recipe that N. and I found in a book that isn’t really a bistro classic, but it’s something that I could easily see on a bistro menu. It’s simple, the sauce is quite slow cooked, and it’s really pretty unpretentious.
1 Pablano pepper
1 Clove Garlic, smashed
2 TBS chopped Basil
2 Cups Port
1-1/2 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup packed-brown sugar
6 Cups chicken stock
1 TBS peppercorns
1 Cup frozen blackberries
2 TBS cold unsalted butter
Fresh ground pepper
1 Cup all purpose flour
2 TBS chili powder
4 Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
Stem and seed pablano, place in food processor with the garlic, basil and a 1/4 cup of water. Pulse and blend until pureed.
Preheat oven to 400 deg.
Bring port to a boil in a medium sauce pan over high heat. Reduce to 1/4 cup. Add pbalano puree, cranberry juice, brown sugar, stock, peppercorns and boil. Reduce by half. Strain into clean saucepan, return to the heat, and cook until reduced by half again. Stir in the blackberries, and cook until they’re tender. Add butter and season, then keep warm.
Combine flour and chili powder in a bowl. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, and shake off excess.
Heat the oil in a large ovenproof saute pan over high heat until nearly smokey. Place chicken in pan, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown. Drain off excess oil, turn chicken skin side up, and roast in the oven until just cooked through. Let rest once cooked for 5 minutes, then serve with blackberry-pepper sauce.
This is not something that you can come home from work and just whip up. It is something that you can cook in you don’t have anything to do for about an hour and a half or so before a Sunday dinner. Try this, and let us know what you think, but also let us know what you like that is homey and simple. Let’s all come up with the new American Bistro menu.