It is, every week, a bit of a challenge to devise a nice Shabbat dinner. “Nice” doesn’t have to be particularly elaborate, and often, here, it is not. I have been known to make a giant tray of nachos for Shabbat dinner; in fact, Shabachos are regarded as a big treat.
But the truth is, I feel it’s not quite cricket of me to do things like this. I much prefer to come up with a plan that has some element of the traditional Friday night dinner about it. Chicken. Rice. A vegetable.
This morning I awoke and wondered what I would make; I really had no idea. However, determined that I could come up with something if I just wandered to the store and bought some chicken, I went to the store, and purchased two boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a very large cucumber, and some fresh broccoli. I took all these things home and set them on the counter and then I stared at them. It was a quarter to three.
At three p.m., I was standing at the stove sautéing onions in olive oil and searing the chicken breasts. I had at my side an opened can of whole-cranberry cranberry sauce I’d purchased by accident last month, and a small jar of Colman’s mustard also purchased by accident (I had thought it was dry mustard, but it turned out to be the pre-mixed stuff, not what I wanted). At 3.15, the Dutch oven was in the oven, and it’s now 3.45, and the house smells wonderful. In the fridge, furthermore, is a little bowl filled with cucumber slices that are soaking in a pepper vinegar-brown sugar marinade. These two things will be served alongside plain sides: boiled broccoli and white rice. But it will be a sterling meal, I am absolutely positive. (Yes, there will also be challah; I bought a loaf of the best challah in Connecticut, as far as I’m aware, which is made by Bread and Chocolate in Hamden. Infinitely better than Judie’s, and really worth whatever they charge for it.)
CHICKEN in CRANBERRY MUSTARD SAUCE
Slice one small onion into slices about 1/2″ thick. Saute in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil heated in a Dutch oven. Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel, add to pot, sear both sides of chicken pieces. Remove chicken from pot, and lay on the inside of the lid of the pot (saves some dishwashing effort later). Set lid aside (it will balance on the knob nicely if it’s a Le Creuset pot). Add four fat cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced so that there is a flat side to caramelize in the pot. Continue to stir onions and garlic for a couple of minutes until the bottom of the pot begins to show browning and deglaze pot with some rum (light or dark, it doesn’t matter; about 1/2 cup). After pot is deglazed, add to pot the contents of one can of whole cranberry cranberry sauce and about two tablespoons of very sharp prepared mustard (I used Colman’s but you could use whatever you wanted). Stir to melt the cranberry sauce, adding about 1/2 cup of water. Add a teaspoon of salt and one bay leaf; stir; then carefully move the chicken breasts back into the pot. Bring contents of pot to a boil, then stir once, turn heat off, cover pot, and place in oven.
Slow-cook in the oven for three and a half to four hours, stirring occasionally, turning over the chicken so that all sides of it soak in the sauce.
Serve with plain side dishes, as this is highly flavored and will not need much embellishment. Any chicken leftover will make for really fabulous chicken sandwiches for lunch on Saturday, too…