Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Belgian Beer Braised Chicken with Fava Beans

I have never cooked with beer before, let alone Belgian beer, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Beer has much in common with the food we eat: beer contains grain (barley), herbs (hops), water and yeast. Wine contains grapes. As with any liquid, when you cook with beer, the liquid reduces which magnifies its flavours, so it makes sense to use a good quality beer. This recipe for Belgian Beer Braised Chicken Stew with Spring Vegetables is surprisingly light and delicate, with just a subtle hint of caramelized malt in the background.

I like to use Duvel Belgian Beer in the Braised Chicken Stew

First the chicken is marinated in an aromatic mixture of roasted anise seeds, saffron, sweet paprika, cayenne, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, and chilled for at least an hour. The wonderfully fragrant saffron coloured chicken is then seasoned with salt and pepper, browned on both sides, and added to a medley of mixed wild mushrooms, scallions, thyme and bay leaves which have been gently sauteed in butter. 

Cremini and Shitake mushrooms sauteed with scallions and thyme

A small bottle of Belgian beer is added to the chicken stew, and simmers over a low heat for about half an hour. Just before serving, the fava beans, green peas and cream are added to the casserole, creating a rich and delicious sauce that infuses the whole dish. The Braised Chicken Stew is lovely served on a large platter over a bed of Tagliolini or Tagliatelle noodles, with the fava, pea and mushroom sauce poured overtop, and garnished with a little parsley. 

Belgian Beer Braised Chicken Stew with Fava Beans and Peas
Serves 8

2 tbsp anise seeds
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp loosely packed saffron threads
2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp pure olive oil
1 whole chicken, skinned and cut up into pieces or 8 skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shelled fava beans, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup fresh peas, fresh or frozen
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb cremini and shitake mushrooms, sliced
8 scallions, thinly sliced
4 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
One small bottle Belgian beer (330ml Duvel)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley 
Tagliolini noodles (optional)

In a small skillet, toast the anise seeds over moderate heat, shaking the skillet, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let the anise seeds cool slightly, then crush with the side of a knife.

In a mini food processor, combine the toasted anise seeds with the chopped garlic, saffron, paprika and cayenne. Add the lemon juice and puree. Transfer the mixture to a large, shallow bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add salt and the fava beans and cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fava beans to a small bowl and let cool slightly. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook until tender. If you are using frozen peas, cook 2 minutes. If using fresh, cook 5 to 6 minutes; drain. Peel the fava beans and add to the peas. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or enameled cast-iron casserole. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off the excess. Season the chicken with salt and black pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter.

Wipe out the casserole, add the butter and heat until melted. Add the sliced mushrooms, sliced scallions and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are browned, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the beer and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the casserole. The sauce will foam up a little with the carbonation from the beer.

Return the chicken pieces to the casserole and season with salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Add the cream, fava beans and peas, increase the heat to moderate and cook uncovered until the sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs. Serve the chicken stew on a large platter with the sauce poured overtop, and garnish with the parsley. I serve this dish with some Tagliolini noodles, which is lovely with the rich sauce. And of  course, a nice bottle of chilled Pinot Grigio.

Guerrieri Rizzardi Veneto Pinot Grigio is available at the LCBO