The longer you leave chicken to cook, the deeper and more intense its flavour will be
I can almost see readers eyebrows raising whenever I suggest leaving a pot on the stove to cook slowly for an hour or two. I think Im expected to justify the time involved, even though Im not asking anyone actually to do anything in the kitchen while its bubbling away. Much of the work is done for you while it cooks, leaving you free to get on with something else.
The advantages of slow cooking arent merely functional. The longer and slower you cook something, the more tender and concentrated in flavour the end result will be. This is heightened when theres a minimal amount of liquid in the pan, because that means the meat braises and steams in its own juices, rather than dispersing the flavour in an ocean of sauce or gravy; this also helps facilitate an exchange of flavour between the contents of the pan, which generally features a mixture of meat and starch.
Chicken, with its mild flavour and soft, yielding texture, benefits from this method in particular. One of the best examples I know is the Jewish Sephardi dish of sofrito, in which chicken is cooked for many hours on a very low heat, leaving it melting and falling apart; Ive even seen recipes that call for it to be left to cook from Friday afternoon right through to Saturday evening.
Ive used the sofrito approach in two of todays recipes, pairing chicken with pasta and with celeriac, and it would also work with other starchy vegetables, such as potato or carrot. For me, this is the ultimate family friendly way to cook: a hearty one-pot dish packed with intense flavour and made in such a way that everyone has the chance to hang out and play, including the cook.
Slow-cooked chicken with bucatini (and lots of garlic)
Bucatini is a thick, hollow spaghetti. You can find it in large supermarkets and Italian delicatessens, but if you cant get hold of any, penne makes the best alternative. It wont look the same, but its better to stick with a tubed pasta, rather than use spaghetti, so the garlic, spices and cooking juices can find their way into the pasta. Serves four generously.
8 large chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (about 1.1kg in total)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
tsp ground turmeric
15 garlic cloves, peeled
2 beef tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
10g flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Put the chicken in a large bowl with the oil, paprika, allspice, turmeric and a teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat, then leave to marinate for 10 minutes.
Put a large, heavy-based casserole for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Lay in the chicken skin side down and fry for 10 minutes (there is no need to add any oil to the pan), turning regularly, until golden brown all over. Turn the heat to low and add the whole garlic cloves, tomatoes, lemon juice and two tablespoons of water. Pop on the lid and leave to cook slowly for 45 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through.
Fifteen minutes before the chicken is cooked, fill a large pot with water, salt generously and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and return to its pot.
Once the chicken is done, transfer both it and the garlic cloves to a plate. Pour the remaining contents of the casserole over the pasta and toss to combine. Return the chicken to the casserole skin side down and lay the soft garlic in between. Pour all the pasta and cooking juices on top, cover the pot and leave to cook on a low heat for another 45 minutes.
Transfer the pasta to a shallow serving bowl, then stir in the parsley. Arrange the chicken on top skin side up (some of the skin may have stuck to the base of the pan, but dont worry), then pour over the garlic and cooking juices, and serve.
Braised chicken pappardelle
Pappardelle are broad, flat noodles whose name comes from pappare, meaning to gobble up, which is exactly what youll do to this dish. If you cant find pappardelle, use tagliatelle or, at a pinch, fettuccine. Dont be put off by the anchovies, even if theyre not your thing: they bring an extra depth to the dish, rather than any pronounced fishy flavour. Serves four.
4 chicken legs (ie, with thighs and drumsticks), about 920g in total
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
Salt and black pepper
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1.5cm chunks
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
5g thyme sprigs
500g vegetable stock
50g anchovies in oil, drained and finely chopped
400g pappardelle, ideally fresh
40g rocket leaves
Put the chicken in a bowl and toss with the oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of pepper.
Put a medium, heavy-based casserole for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Sear the chicken legs (in two batches, if need be) for five minutes, turning them once, until the skin is dark golden brown, then remove from the pan.
Put the carrot, onion, garlic, bay and thyme in the pan and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly, until softened. Return the chicken to the pot, add the stock, anchovies and a good grind of pepper, then cover, turn the heat to medium-low and leave to simmer gently for an hour.
Lift out the chicken from the pot, turn up the heat and boil for 10 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by a half and you have about 300ml left. Meanwhile, pull the meat off the chicken bones in large chunks; discard the bones and thyme stalks.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. Add the chicken meat and pasta to the reduced sauce and vegetables, mix well, then divide between four plates, layering the rocket between tongfuls of the pasta mix. Drizzle with oil and serve.