Chicken with Juniper Berries

We picked up Bistro Chicken by Mary Ellen Evans recently at a local grocery store, Kowalski’s®, because the recipes looked intriguing. Once we brought it home and started reading, we realized why this cookbook was for sale in the store: Mary Ellen Evans lives in Minneapolis! Turns out Ms. Evans was trained at the Sorbonne and La Varenne and she also has a house in Provence. Well, we are certainly glad Ms. Evans wrote this book. We look forward to trying out many more of her dishes and we appreciate the tips she includes with every recipe.

Our first attempt at making one of Ms. Evans’ recipes is Chicken with Juniper Berries. What appealed to us was the choice of ingredients and the cooking method. Juniper berry is one of those spices which does not receive the attention it deserves.  The berry is native to Great Britain, and was first used with wild game and cabbages. There are records of its use even in the Roman Empire. Juniper berries are available at specialty food stores; we get our juniper berries at Penzeys®. We recommend you buy them whole and crush or grind the berries as needed for the recipe at hand. If you can’t find the berries substitute a shot of gin! (Gin is distilled from juniper berries.)

Ms. Evans makes a point of what she means by an 8-piece cut up chicken. Because the breast pieces are so much larger than the thighs and drumsticks, cooking the whole breasts makes it difficult to have all the pieces cook at the same rate. So, Ms. Evans makes an 8-piece chicken by cutting the breasts in half crosswise across the bone. She then has 4 breast pieces, 2 thighs, and 2 drumsticks for her 8-piece chicken. The wings are reserved for other recipes.

We made the recipe with only two tablespoons of cream, and we omitted the gin. We used sauvignon blanc for the white wine, and also substituted thick-cut bacon for the salt pork. We served our chicken over a combination of basmati and brown rice. Delicious!

Ingredients

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp juniper berries, crushed

1/8 tsp coriander seeds, crushed

1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp canola oil

2 oz salt pork, rind removed, cut into strips

One 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp gin

2 tsp cornstarch

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375℉. Combine the salt, juniper berries, coriander seeds, and pepper; set aside.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the salt pork; sauté until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a Dutch oven. Add the chicken, in batches; sauté until well browned on both sides 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove to the Dutch oven, layering the breast pieces on top of the drumsticks and thighs. Add the carrot and onion; sauté until just beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon; scatter over the chicken. Sprinkle the juniper berry mixture over all. Pour off any fat from the skillet; add the white wine. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet; pour into the Dutch oven.

3. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the thighs are no longer pink in the thickest portion when cut with a knife. Remove the chicken to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

4. Strain the cooking juices into a saucepan; add the cream and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced by a third, about 5 minutes. Stir the gin and cornstarch together; whisk into the cooking juices. Boil until thickened and the alcohol flavor of the gin has dissipated, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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