About a year ago, I resolved to bring my lunch to work at least three days a week, and with very few exceptions, I've done it! One of the ways I manage it is to make something on Sunday that will see me through a lunch or two. Braised dishes and stews are fantastic for this, since they not only keep well, but actually get better after a couple of days in the fridge.
(A quick aside: I highly recommend bringing your lunch to work. Not only do you save money, you also eat so much more nutritiously and consciously. It's made a huge difference to my working style, too - since I don't have to run out for fifteen or twenty minutes in the middle of every day, I can more easily meet with people over lunch or run out to do errands at 3:00, when the stores are empty. I love it.)
I've made chicken with barley and a (somewhat) traditional coq au vin, but one of my favorite braised chicken dishes is one I've adapted from a recipe I first made during my eGullet days. My friend Susan created this recipe, and I've loved it from the very first bite. She makes hers with fresh plum tomatoes and creme fraiche; I sub in half-and-half, since it's what I keep in the fridge for my coffee, and during the winter I use canned tomatoes - but, in spirit, it's still the same dish.
And I'll be damned if it isn't delicious. It's substantial from the vegetables, creamy from the cooking time and the half-and-half, and tangy from the vinegar. During the summer, I use basil and parsley to season things, but this time of year I keep it wintry with a little woodsy thyme. Most of the time, I eat it by itself, but it's also fantastic with buttered noodles or some mashed potatoes. Really, anything goes. Anything at all.
Susan's Braised Chicken with Tomatoes & Vinegar
1 tbs. canola oil
Dark meat of one chicken (two legs, two thighs, two wings)
1/2 white onion, cut into a 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1 stalk celery, cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1 tbs. fresh thyme leaves
1/8 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
14 oz. whole canned plum tomatoes in puree, crushed with your hands
1 or 2 tbs. half-and-half, milk, creme fraiche or cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed pot (enameled cast iron is ideal), heat the canola oil over high heat. In the meantime, season the skin side of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot enough (a droplet of water should sizzle and skitter across the surface), place half the chicken pieces in the pot, skin side down, and turn the heat to medium high. Cook until the chicken is well-browned on one side, then flip and cook for a few more minutes. Using tongs, remove the cooked chicken to a plate and repeat with the rest of the chicken.
Pour off all but 1 tbs. of the fat from the bottom of the pot and return to the heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until softened and a little browned. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant and slightly golden. Add the carrots, celery, thyme and a pinch of salt; saute until the vegetables soften, about five minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, then add the wine. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then add the tomatoes (with their puree). Stir to combine evenly, then add the chicken back to the pot, nestling the pieces in the vegetable mixture. sprinkle with a bit more salt and some pepper, then turn the heat to low, cover and simmer (Do NOT boil!) for 25 to 30 minutes.
Once the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has turned a bit creamy-looking, remove the chicken to a plate and stir the sauce. Add the half-and-half and stir to combine. If you're planning to store the stew overnight (or longer), add the chicken back to the pot and let things cool down a bit on the stovetop. Once the pot is no longer hot to the touch, place in the fridge. The dish keeps for five or six days, easily.
If you plan to serve immediately, taste and adjust for seasoning, then place a piece or two of chicken on each plate and top with plenty of sauce.