Now that almost two weeks has passed since the big turkey feast, it seems that poultry may be back on the menu for some. While I enjoyed our turkey (brined to perfection I may add!) and I will surely be grateful for the stock I made over 8 hours out of the carcass, the bird, of the genus Meleagris, will be the last served at our house for a while. I am not one to roast a turkey other than for Thanksgiving mainly because the inevitable overload of leftovers allow us all to get our fill, tackling any possible “craving” for roasted turkey for a good six months, if not until next November. However, we are back to partaking in a bird of a different feather – chicken.
Personally I like to buy and prepare whole chicken for the most part. I have some decent knives, I know the technique required to properly cut up a whole bird so there’s no reason not to. I also prefer organic or “natural” (hormone and antibiotic free) chicken so buying whole birds and preparing them myself is less expensive too.
Since the time change, and as cooler weather approaches here in the Lowcountry, its time for comfort foods like soups, stews, and all manner of slow cooked goodness. There are several Southern specialties that fall into this category. Maybe you’re heard of some of these and wondered, what the ??? Here are four of which I am familiar:
- Bog: Typically a chicken bog that includes smoked sausage and rice in its ingredient list. This is a “South Carolina thing” for sure. Similar to a “pilau” but well, more “boggy”, and less “highfalutin”. Usually made for a crowd this pairs well with an oyster roast (and beer) on a cold night.
- Pilau: Also called ‘purloo’ and pronounced PER-low. Specifically associated with Charleston, (also in South Carolina) with rice as a central ingredient and incorporating chicken or shrimp as the protein, the typical celery and onion duet and perhaps, okra and tomatoes. Basically fancy ‘chicken and rice’. The main difference in this and a bog is that the rice is fluffier (drier?).
- Burgoo: My experience with this is at Derby parties as it is typically a Kentucky dish or in the least folks from that state have taken ownership of this concoction made from “whatever the good Lord provided” – venison, squirrel, game birds, raccoon or opossum. This is a thick stew and it is said a good burgoo should be able to have a spoon stand up in it. The ones I’ve tasted included lima or butter beans and corn plus a good kick of heat.
- Brunswick Stew: Tomato based and includes chicken, but historically rabbit and/or squirrel were utilized in this stew. Includes lots of veggies like corn, okra and lima or butter beans as well. Versions and bragging rights for formulating this stew run the Southern gamut from Brunswick, Georgia into North Carolina up to Virginia. I see this served quite often these days as a side to barbeque in NC and Virginia. But not in SC – sacrilege!
In my home state we serve another distinctively South Carolina dish called ‘hash’ with our barbeque (along with coleslaw, potato salad and brown or red rice, perhaps). But hash deserves its own post so I’ll leave that for another day…
While my recipe for braised chicken with leeks is neither a bog nor a burgoo nor a pilau, it is quite tasty nevertheless and relatively simple. The good Carolina girl I am serves this with fluffy rice – and lots of sauce spooned over the top.
Braised Chicken with Leeks
- 2 leeks, washed thoroughly and sliced into 1 inch pieces
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 cut-up chicken (or a combination of breast, thighs and wings and legs) extra skin removed
- 2 slices pork belly (or side), chopped into pieces
- 1 tsp Montreal chicken seasoning
- ½ tsp dried tarragon
- 1 tsp dried sage
- ¼ tsp ground thyme
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbl all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cream sherry
- 1 1/2 tbl butter
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth
- ½ cup light cream (half & half)
- fresh cracked pepper
In a small bowl mix the Montreal chicken seasoning, tarragon, thyme, sage and ½ tsp salt with the flour. Set aside. In a large, heavy pan or Dutch oven cook the pork belly until crisp. Remove and drain the cracklings on paper towels.
Heat pork drippings remaining in the pan. Dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour mixture. Brown chicken well in two or three batches in the drippings. Remove chicken to a platter. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wipe out the Dutch oven and melt the butter in the pan. Sauté the leeks and garlic in the butter until soft, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tbl of flour and cook another minute, stirring often. Add 3 cups stock, stirring or whisking to combine. Bring up to a low boil and carefully add chicken pieces back into the pan so the chicken is in one layer. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and several cracks of black pepper (or about 1 tsp ground pepper).
Cover and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove cover, turn chicken pieces, and reduce oven heat to 325 degrees and place back in oven for another 25-30 minutes. Remove chicken to a large, deep platter and cover to keep warm. Place Dutch oven back on the stove top and heat remaining pan sauce, adding sherry and stirring to combine. Allow to bubble and simmer about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add the cream, stirring to combine. Pour sauce over chicken and add more cracked fresh pepper over the top if you like. Serve immediately with fluffy brown or white rice or broad noodles. If your cholesterol is in check, top each serving with a few of the leftover pork belly cracklings’ if you like. Serves 4-6.