Don't you just love the way that sounds. Say it. Smothered chicken. I like it. But I'm crazy. Food crazy. Nuts. Like Macadamias(my mom's favorite). But it's catch 22. Since I know I'm crazy, that makes me sane. Have you ever read Catch 22? It's a really good book by...Joseph Heller?
Once when I was at band camp...(no, I'm not joking - I really did go to band camp. That was the only way I could leave home for the summer. I wasn't allowed to go on vacation with my friends or anything)I had this friend who kept talking about Catch 22 all the time. Finally I read it.
Then later on, he eventually went to school where I went to school - Florida State. The sad part, is that we were there at the same school for maybe 2 semesters. I think I saw him once or twice. But I do remember that I took him to Good Time Charlies for all you can eat - shrimp creole, I think. It was this creole restaurant in Tallahassee on.... Tennessee Street, I think. Now there is some chain restaurant there instead. I'm going to have to double check with the Food Pimp on that one. Anyway, the trick was to eat until you were full. Then you got one more plate of the stuff. And you took a bite or two, then you asked for a box. Genius! My friend, Detachable Fangs, got his plate to go, but he ate most of the shrimps. But he figured he'd just buy shrimp at the grocery store and add them in.
Ahh, to be a college kid. Oh wait, I still live like a college kid. Except, I do not have a futon or a halogen lamp any more in my apartment. Oh, and I don't sit around all day chain smoking with my friends watching the stories and wondering whether we were going to eat at McDonald's, Miami Subs, Wendy's or Gumby's Pizza.
So what was my original topic? Oh, yeah, ssssssssmothered chicken. I don't think I've ever made it before. I was thinking about Nawlins after watching the New Orleans episode of Tony Bourdain, No Reservations. So I was pining for some heavy buttery rouxy food. But I didn't want to make any of my usual suspects. I wanted chicken, but I wanted that etouffee buttery vegetable flavor. So of course, I opted for smothered chicken. Etouffee, by the way, (quick culinary lesson, free of charge) means smothered. Etouffee is usually crawfish (yummmy) or shrimp etouffee. Goddamn what I would give for some Looziana crawfish right now...well, moneywise, I couldn't give that much. But we are going to eat some on Saturday.......
So since I've never made smothered chicken, I didn't feel any need to follow any certain traditional way of making it, I made it Food Ho style.
The Food Ho's Sssssssssssssssssssssssmothered Chicken
1 T veg oil or butter
3 onions, nicely diced small
5 stalks celery, nicely diced small
1/2 bulb garlic, minced or smashed
5 bay leaves
cayenne - however much you want to use
Tony Chachere's seasoning - if you don't have it, you can use salt and pepper and more cayenne
10 chicken thighs- bone in, skin on - fuck that healthy skinless boneless flavorless breast shit!
1/4 lb butter
flour - oh, I used to be so good with proportions and all that culinary school crap, but let's just say 3/4 a cup
1/2 bag of frozen peas - I love these even though chefs make fun of them
several cups cooked long grain rice
So the first thing I did, was I heated up a big stew pot with that little bit of oil and got it....you know...smokin'. I'm not trying to use cliches, but that's how hot the pot has to be. I seasoned the chicken thighs. So then I seared the chicken thighs. I got about 4 in the pan in one layer without crowding them too much. So I let them go for about 6 minutes. I was dicing my veg at this point. Then I flipped them and let that side go for 3 minutes. Then I took them out and browned the rest of the thighs. Now, if you're following along at home, as you continue this process, the fat will render out. This is good. Do not be scared. Try new things that go against what your doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer and mom said. Especially Mom. No offense, but you know when you were little your mom was probably feeding you sticks of butter coated in sugar for breakfast - unless she was one of those granolas - fashionable before her time.
So when I finished searing the chicken, I let the pot get hot again. Give it a minute or two to reheat, then gently place your onion, celery and garlic in it. Don't throw it! You don't want to spatter chicken grease all over your lovely blemish- free face! So take your utensil - I prefer a wooden spoon when cooking southern grub - and stir the veggies around. Let them get all coated in the fat. Then lower the temperature and let those veggies get soft, but slowly. Take your time. Watch the suntea brew or something. As the veggies start to get soft, throw in your bay leaves - but not literally. Keep an eye on it. This is your baby. Add a little Tony's. Go head. Add a lot of Tony's.
So when the veggies were all translucent and tender, I added the butter, then the flour. I slowly added it as I stirred my wooden spoon. Make sure when you do this, you get your utensil in the corners, so that there is no flour sticking in there and burning. So as all the flour incorporated, I added some water. Enough so that the consistency was like white gravy. Then I put the chicken thighs back in. I let it come up to a boil, then I lowered the flame pretty low. I kept babying it, stirring gently. Don't be rough with it though, cause I personally like to have the thigh intact. I want the whole package when I put it in my bowl - skin and all. It cooked for about 2 hours, but it could have gone another 40 minutes too. At the end, I added the peas and more cayenne and lots and lots of Tony's.
It was pretty good, but the key is to only eat a little the night that you make it. Then you let it sit in the fridge overnight. Then the next day, put that pot back on the stove and reheat it. Oohoowee Boy! I can't tell you how good that is, you have to taste this shit for yourself! It's crazy!