Island Flavor

"Simply put - I love to eat, and I'm constantly experimenting with new flavors and ingredients. But when it comes to comfort food, there isn't anything better than chicken - whether it is roasted with herbs and garlic until it's crisp and golden, braised in red wine with bacon and wild mushrooms, or baked with forty cloves of garlic, it is always so nurturing and satisfying. My grandma, Inez DuPuis, taught cooking in Bremerton and it was her wonderful chicken and noodle casserole that first got me hooked on the tasty bird. The night before, she rolled out thin golden sheets of homemade egg noodles, which she dusted with flour and covered with a dishtowel to dry. The next morning, she sliced the pasta into 1/4-inch ribbons, scattering the noodles over the counter to dry further. My sister and I became adept at sneaking doughy noodles from under the dishtowel. They were soft and chewy and, oh so good. Grandma baked what noodles were left in a casserole layered with chicken broth and pieces of juicy roast chicken, all topped with sharp cheddar cheese.Another of my favorite chicken recipes comes from my friend Patty, whose brother Matt Groening created the cartoon The Simpsons. It was a stormy night in Portland, Ore., with gusty winds and biting rain. Patty decided we should have a girls night, and invited me and another friend. She seasoned a plump chicken with salt and pepper, covered it with chicken broth, and baked it with more than 40 cloves of garlic (unpeeled, but separated). I still smell the fragrant garlicky aroma that filled the kitchen when she pulled the chicken from the oven. We lucked out, because as soon as the chicken was cooked, the lights flickered and the power went out. We lit the room with candles and gathered around the dining table. We shared a bottle of pinot noir, and a crusty loaf of bread that we dipped in the broth and spread with buttery-soft cloves of garlic. It was magnificent. Here are a few more of my favorites:Chicken in pinot noir with wild mushrooms and baconThis is a northwestern rendition of the classic French dish coq au vin. It's simple to prepare and all you need to serve with it is a simple salad, a loaf of bread (to soak up the tasty sauce), and a bottle of pinot noir.Serves 42 tablespoons olive oil1 3-4 pound chicken, cut into serving piecesFlour seasoned with salt and black pepper, for dusting the chicken2 tablespoons brandy2 cups pinot noir, or other dry red wine4 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces2 large onions, quartered4 ounces fresh porcini, chanterelles, or other wild mushrooms, dicedIn a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Dust the chicken with the flour and sauté it in the oil until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. You may need to cook the chicken in batches.Drain the cooking liquid from the pan. Pour the brandy into a warmed soup ladle and ignite with a match or cigarette lighter. (Stand back, but don't panic, the flames may look scary, but they are really harmless.) Pour the ignited brandy over the chicken and let the flames die out.Pour the wine over the chicken and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. In the meantime, in a skillet, sauté the bacon over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook over medium heat until tender.When the chicken is cooked, drain the cooking liquid into the mushroom-bacon mixture and simmer rapidly, stirring often, until the liquid is reduced to a syrup like consistency, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cover the chicken to keep warm. Add the chicken to the sauce to heat through.Recommended wine: Pinot noirRoast chicken with orange, garlic and cranberriesThis flavorful chicken is cooked on a bed of cranberries, garlic and orange peel, which cook down to form a tangy compote. Baked acorn squash and a green salad topped with red onions, toasted hazelnuts, and a blue-cheese vinaigrette are delicious with this entrée.Serves 41 12-ounce package fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)1/4 cup sugarGrated rind of 1 orange12 garlic cloves, peeled1 3-4 pound chicken1 tablespoon olive oil1/2 teaspoon dried sageSalt and freshly ground black pepper to tastePreheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil the bottom of a large baking dish. Sprinkle the cranberries, sugar, orange rind, and garlic cloves evenly over the bottom of the pan and pour 1/2 cup water over the top. Rub the chicken lightly with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the sage, salt and pepper. Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the cranberries.Bake, uncovered, basting occasionally with the pan juices, for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the chicken is tender. To serve: Set the whole chicken on a platter and spoon the cranberry compote around the chicken, or spoon into a bowl and pass separately.Recommended wines: Pinot noir, full bodied Chardonnay-------------Lori McKean-Casad is a Northwest chef with 15 years of hands-on experience and a particular love for Northwest foods. She is the author or co-author of three cookbooks, Pacific Northwest Flavors, The Northwest Best Places Cookbook, and John Sarich at Chateau Ste. Michelle. She has also contributed food articles to a number of newspapers and food magazines, including Bon Appetit and Better Homes & Gardens. She lives in Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island. "

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