- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Put cocktails and comfort on the menu if you want to be cutting edge this year. That’s the word from Mintel International Group Ltd., an international company tracking consumer trends.

Although the Mintel prognostication is aimed at restaurateurs, trends trickle down to the home kitchen.

Comfort food makes a lot of sense. You may be craving dishes that remind you of mom’s nurturing if you’re stressed about your job or your finances. Look for slow-braised or slow-baked dishes, say the Mintel experts.

Apparently interest in cocktails hasn’t been affected by the economic downturn. Last year bartenders-turned-mixologists excited palates with ginger, lemon grass and organic vodka and gin. You can expect even more this year, according to Mintel.

Two’s Company cooks can combine comfort and cocktails in one recipe: martini chicken. This luscious combination of chicken with olives and pearl onions gets its distinctive flavor from vodka and vermouth. You can shake or stir the dish. Either way it’s delicious.

Martini chicken

Makes 2 servings.

8 red pearl onions

4 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 8 ounces

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup vodka (see note)

1 tablespoon dry vermouth (see note)

1 cup chicken broth

8 jumbo pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced widthwise into 2 or 3 slices

1/8 teaspoon crushed, dried thyme

Salt to taste

Cooked egg noodles

Trim ends off onions. Drop in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and pinch off skins. Halve onions lengthwise and set aside. Place chicken on a plate with flour and pepper. Coat chicken with flour mixture, reserving any leftover flour. Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add chicken and brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove.

Pour in vodka and vermouth; scrape up any browned bits in skillet. Add broth, olives, onions and thyme. Return chicken to skillet. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

If desired, thicken skillet juices. Stir 1 teaspoon reserved flour and 2 tablespoons skillet juices together in a cup. Stir into skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Season with salt to taste. Serve chicken and skillet juices over noodles.

Note: Not all alcohol burns off during cooking. If desired, skip vodka and vermouth and use a total of 1 1/4 cups chicken broth in the recipe.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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