Thursday, October 24, 2013

Polish Wedding Chicken


During our travels to heritage Polish festivals throughout the Mid Atlantic region of the U.S. a lot of new friends asked if we have a recipe for Polish Wedding Chicken.  Truthfully, Peter had never even heard of it, but that’s probably because he didn’t go to any Polish weddings while growing up.  So Laura did the research...checked the usual on-line cooking websites, Peter even checked Polish websites and we found them -- a lot of recipes for Polish Wedding Chicken.  Well our research suggested that that this dish actually is a Polish-American invention created by preparing roast chickens for hundreds of Polish American weddings in Polish American communities throughout the U.S.  And as many weddings as there were, each big pan of roast chicken was prepared by just as many church ladies in just as many church halls of just as many Polish churches.  And we found just as many variations.

So, you may ask, isn’t this just a “glammed up” roast chicken?  Can’t anyone stick a chicken in the oven and pull it out after 90 minutes?  Well, yes that’s technically possible, but then it wouldn’t be Polish style, and it wouldn’t have the love of an authentic Polish Wedding Chicken!  

Here’s a recipe that Laura prepared for yesterday’s supper and how it looked right out of the oven. 
It was a far cry from the fast food chicken joints, or the Latino chicken joints, or the rotisserie chickens from the Safeway.  This was moist, flavorful, and just plain delicious. There was no residual taste of the vodka and the sauce had a distinct flavor of the dill. 
If you take the time to do it right, everyone around the table will love you for it, and who knows...could there be another wedding in your future?  

1 roaster chicken, 3 to 5 pounds
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt, more or less to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, more or less to taste
1½ cups chicken broth, low sodium
1/3 cup vodka  (Polish potato vodka is smooth)
2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped finely ( or 3 tbsp dried dill)
2 tablespoons sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Remove giblets from the chicken; discard or keep for making homemade stock.  Remove big pieces of excess fat from the bird but don’t take it all because some fat will keep it moist while roasting.  Dry insides with a paper towel.  Use your fingers to slightly loosen the skin in a few spots on the breasts and thighs but be careful not to tear the skin.

Combine onion, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.  

Spread half of onion puree in the bottom of a roasting pan.  Place chicken in pan on top of the puree.  Rub the rest of the puree under the skin around the breasts, thighs and in the cavity.  Tuck wings back and tie legs.

Roast the chicken for 20 minutes.  Baste on top with 1/4 cup of broth and roast for 40 minutes more, basting with pan drippings and/or broth every 15 minutes or so.  Watch the color of the skin to be sure it doesn’t turn too dark.
When the skin goes just past golden brown, place a “tent” of aluminum foil loosely over the top.  Continue roasting and basting for an additional 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, reads 175 °F and the cavity juices are clear.

Transfer chicken to a platter and cover with foil while resting.  The inner temp will rise about five more degrees. Pour off the pan juices (those fat separating cups are genius) and chill until the fat has risen to the top.  While the pan juices are cooling, add remaining chicken broth and vodka to roasting pan and bring to a low boil over medium heat, scraping up all the little brown bits of goodness stuck to the bottom of the pan. 

Skim off fat from chilled pan juices and add back to the roasting pan. Bring back to a boil for just a couple of minutes.  Strain juices through a fine sieve into a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Blend water and cornstarch in a small bowl; whisk into the sauce pan to make the gravy. Cook about a minute while continuously stirring, until slightly thickened. Whisk in dill and sour cream.  Taste and season as needed. 

Carve the chicken.  Arrange on a pretty platter.  Serve with Vegetables Polonaise (Polish Classic Recipes, page 65).  Pair with ice cold vodka, a light red wine such as Pinot Noir, or a dry Rosé.

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