These are my newest articles for the September issue of Dominical Days
I’m going to share a secret with you. You can get chicken here in Costa Rica that has flavor. Yes, you can buy chicken that is not laced with hormones and chemicals, too. You just have to know where to go, and I’m here to tell you.
There are two companies that have a stranglehold on the poultry business in Costa Rica and I’m sure you, like me, have at one time or another found yourself behind one of their trucks touting the freshness of their poor tortured chickens. Those chickens may have, at some time in their miserable lives been fresh, but by the time they reach you, they are all cottony flavorless breast meat and scrawny legs and thighs.
Chickens that are mass produced to meet the demand of a busy market are forcefed and hormone primed so that the can be rushed to you in just over three weeks. This is so unnatural as to be horrifying.
A happy, grainfed chicken should take somewhere between six and eight weeks to reach a size suitable for cooking and also to develop a flavor and firmness brought on by not being penned. This is not nearly fast enough for a busy chicken “production plant” that is more concerned with stocking freezers than producing good-tasting healthy chickens.
Fortunately for those of us who are passionate about serving quality ingredients to our families and friends I have found a source for organically raised free range chickens. I am now pre-ordering and buying beautiful healthy delicious chickens through Ademar and Mauren who are at both the Uvita and San Isidro Ferias, and so can you.
And if you don’t think I’m serious about this, I visited the two of them at their finca so I could personally witness what the chickens ate and how they lived. These birds get the Chef Dave stamp of approval for health and flavor.
I am a leg man. Give me a chicken and I immediately begin to scheme on a way to serve the legs; umm, love that thigh. I used to have a girlfriend who would only eat the white meat of the chicken and it drove me crazy so I devised a cooking method that even she liked.
The best way to cook a chicken leg, to my thinking, is to braise it. Yes, crisp the skin, flip it over, splash in some wine and stock and pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes until it is meltingly tender. I have won over numerous “white meat only” people with this recipe. When served over mashed potatoes, risotto, or a good rice, this is tender and delicious.
Braised Chicken Legs
Preheat oven to 400
4 Full Chicken Legs (thigh and drumstick);
½ Cup Dry White or Red Wine;
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock or broth;
3 Cloves Garlic, chopped;
1 Cup Chopped Tomatoes (or better yet, home roasted tomatoes)
Salt and pepper the chicken legs, dust them with flour and crisp them in a bit of cooking oil, skin side down in a sauté pan you can put in the oven. Take them out when the skin is crisp and pour out the oil. Return the pan to the flame and add the garlic. Pour in the wine and allow to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes and the chicken legs, letting them settle into the liquid. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and remove the legs from the pan. Pour the liquid into something that can be easily skimmed and remove the fat from the top. To serve, return the chicken and the sauce to the pan and put them back in the oven for ten minutes.