Chicken with beer and twice-baked potatoes

After a few light dinners, it was time for a hearty meal. Whole chicken. check. Beer. check. Combine! check. David and I really enjoyed this dish the last time he made it. I thought it might taste too beer-y for someone who isn’t a huge fan of beer, but it was moist and flavourful in a way that I wouldn’t realize it’d been braised in beer. I’ve always really loved the twice-baked potatoes that I get at Hy’s Steakhouse in Vancouver, so I thought it would be neat to try alongside it.

Recipe

Chicken with beer
from The Country Cooking of France
Serves 2

1 5lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1-1/2 tbsp juniper white alcohol
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1-1/4 cup mushrooms, halved
3/4 cup dark beer
1 bouquet garni
1/8 cup heavy cream
1 tsp white wine vinegar

Sprinkle chicken pieces with flour, salt and pepper. Heat oil and butter in pan over medium heat, add chicken pieces skin side down and brown thoroughly. Turn them and brown the other side. Add juniper alcohol and flambe it, standing back as flames may rise high. Remove chicken and set aside. Lower heat, add onions and cook until soft. Spread mushrooms on top, pour in beer and add bouquet garni. Replace chicken pieces, pushing them down among the mushrooms. Cover and simmer, turning occasionally, until tender, 40-50 minutes.

To finish, remove chicken to platter and keep warm. Discard bouquet garni from pan, add cream, and bring to a boil, stirring to mix into sauce. Take pan from heat and whisk in vinegar. Adjust seasoning.

Twice-baked potatoes

2 Russet potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1/6 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
grated sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place potatoes directly on rack and bake for 30 minutes. Then pierce each potato with a fork in a couple spots and bake until tender, about another 30 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and turn down heat to 375 F. Trim off tops of the potatoes and scoop out the potatoes into a bowl, leaving enough in the skin so the shell stays together. Mash potatoes with butter and sour cream. Stir in nutmeg, salt and pepper. Refill shells with potato mixture, mounding it slightly. Sprinkles cheese on top of the filling. Set potatoes on baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Musings

A few notes on preparation: For 2 people, we usually just use half a chicken (though we pan-fried the rest to use another night). For juniper alcohol, if you can’t find it, the recipe also suggests using gin with a few crushed juniper berries. As for the flambeeing, they aren’t kidding about the standing back. For whatever reason, the last time we made this dish, the alcohol didn’t ignite, so we weren’t really expecting much from the flambeeing. However, upon lighting, the fireball was most impressive…nothing gets your heart beating like the fear that you’re setting your kitchen on fire. The flames rose a good two feet, licking the bottom of our cupboards. The chicken was most certainly flambeed.

The combination of beer with chicken is always a favourable one. It was nice and moist, with a tasty sauce that even a non-beer lover could enjoy quite heartily. David noted that the choice of dark beer certainly plays an important role, as this was a much darker beer than the first time we’d made it. David thought a slightly hoppier beer lent a more complex flavour to the dish. However, it was very tasty nonetheless. It paired well with the twice-baked potatoes and its sour creaminess. I quite enjoyed the potatoes, though I think perhaps putting it under the broiler for a bit might be good to really given the top of the potatoes a nice crispness.

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