The sun sets, the moon rises in the smoky, Colorado sky.
By now I'm sure you're aware of the wildfires here in Colorado raging their vicious wars upon the forests and mountains I hold so dear. The fiery sun sets and an orange moon rises through an angry haze of dense and acrid smoke which burns the eyes and scorches the throat, turning the light such otherworldly hues of blood and rust that I'm quite sure Armageddon is fully upon us. I'm anticipating the day when the sun returns - clear and pure - and the air is clean once more. Soon, hopefully soon!
And so we wait. Still nature charges on, and we're amazed by what we find on our evening walks. From the thorny spines of the cacti, growing in the most barren, rocky soil, spring delicate flowers, like an oasis, in the most dainty shades of pale green and yellow. They remind me of the inside of a tender, early summer leek. So, while we're waiting for the sun I decided to cook up some magic in the kitchen, like a personal ray of sunshine streaming in through the window of my stove. The early leeks are magic in themselves. Plump, crisp and zesty, they fill the shelves at my local market. Braise them in wine and add a few specks of smoky bacon and something truly extraordinary happens. They become creamy, rich and softly mellow. Like a bed of velvet and satin on which the chicken rests.
Since the thought of turning on the oven in the heart of summer makes me sweat, Braised Chicken with Leeks is the perfect summertime dish. Simmered gently on the stove, it requires little effort aside from cleaning the sandy leeks. I find the best way to clean them is to cut off the root ends and most of the dark green leaves, slice the leeks in half lengthwise and then chop. Place the chopped leek in a big bowl of cold water and swish to separate all the pieces. Let them sit for a minute. All the dirt will settle to the bottom and you're left with squeaky clean leeks floating on top. (You may need to do this twice, depending on how dirty your leeks are.)
Want to help those affected by the wildfires? Buy a shirt. All proceeds benefit wildfire emergency relief efforts in Colorado.
Braised Chicken with Leeks and White Wine
4 chicken leg quarters (thigh and legs with backbone removed)
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup pinot grigio
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan with a lid cook the bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper and brown on both sides in the bacon fat. Remove to a platter and keep warm. Add the leeks and garlic with a pinch of salt and stir, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken broth and bay leaf. Place the chicken pieces on top of the leeks. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over med-low heat for 35 - 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.