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Try Dutch oven for tenderness

November 03, 2009|By SUSAN SELASKY / Detroit Free Press

Braising and Dutch ovens go hand in hand.

A Dutch oven, said by some researchers to have been named for the Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania who used similar pots, is a large kettle-type vessel that has a tight-fitting lid. The heavy lid prevents steam from escaping, keeping the moisture in. It's used for slow, moist cooking methods - such as braising - so the end result is a super-tender piece of meat.

To braise means to brown on all sides in a small amount of fat. The meat is then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid for up to several hours. A Dutch oven keeps the moisture in, allowing the meat to cook in its own juices. To make sure no steam escapes or liquid evaporates, you can cover the pot with foil and then place the lid on top so it's sealed well.

A Dutch oven is also ideal for many cooking methods because it can be easily transferred from the stovetop to the oven. The cookware is usually made of a heavy cast iron and often has an enameled finish.

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On the high end, the round 3 1/2-quart Le Creuset white cast-iron French oven in Sur La Table's early spring catalog is $174.95. A red enameled cast-iron 5.5-quart chili pot from the Martha Stewart collection is $100 at www.macys.com; the sale price recently was $55. Even less-expensive versions are available; you can get a Lodge cast-iron covered Dutch oven for $29.99 at Target.

Today's dish gets its intense flavors from a sweet Spanish paprika and crushed red pepper flakes.

BRAISED PAPRIKA CHICKEN



Serves: 6

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

If you are using a combination of chicken pieces, cut the breasts in half crosswise to make smaller pieces and separate the thighs and drumsticks. With the pieces the same size, they'll cook evenly.

3 to 3 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks, breasts), skin removed, trimmed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 cups finely diced onions
Pinch of sugar
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley, dill and chives

Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.

In a large heavy casserole dish or Dutch oven, heat oil and butter over medium high heat. Add onions and sprinkle with sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and light brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in bell peppers, tomato paste, paprika and crushed red pepper. Add the chicken and stir it gently into the onion mixture. Sprinkle with marjoram and add broth. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over medium-low heat until the chicken is very tender, about 50 minutes.

Just before the chicken is done, in a small bowl whisk the sour cream, flour and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.

When the chicken is done, remove it to a plate. Stir the sour cream mixture into the sauce; return to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce coats the spoon. Reduce heat to low, return the chicken to the sauce and reheat, about 1 minute. Serve garnished with parsley, dill and chives, if desired.

Cook's note: Once chicken is cooked, you can cool the mixture and refrigerate for up to 1 day. When ready to serve, remove the chicken from the mixture and prepare sour cream as above for the sauce. Follow remaining instructions allowing more time to heat the chicken through.

Nutritional information per serving: 338 calories (44 percent from fat), 17 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat), 17 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 316 mg sodium, 98 mg cholesterol, 70 mg calcium, 4 grams fiber.

From Eating Well magazine, February 2009 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

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