Comfort Food at Its Best
|By Meg Jones - wife, mother,
In the early 80’s when I first moved to New York City after college, I didn’t have much money for anything after the rent was paid. I figured out early on that if you bought a draft beer for $1 at one of the Irish pubs on Third Avenue, you could help yourself to the “buffet” so I mainly subsisted on chicken wings and whatever pasta casserole was offered.
Of course I aspired to more elegant dining out experiences, and I would glance at menus on display outside of restaurants on my walks home, figuring out where I would eat and what I would order when I had a smidgen of discretionary income.
Dining on Third Avenue New York City
One place I settled on was situated on the northeast corner of 81st Street and Third Avenue. Or maybe 80th and Second. I don’t remember, it was a long time ago.
The place (the name? still a long time ago) had an interesting and varied menu, including nouveau Italian dishes that were reasonably priced, relatively speaking, plus a peanut butter & jelly sandwich on raisin toast entrée that was listed at $130.
So, either it was really special peanut butter, or the restauranteur had a sense of humor. I’m going with the latter.
The other thing the restaurant had going for it was that it had two entrances – one led into a super fancy and upscale dining room and the other opened up into a room more neighborhoody and casual – with food all prepared in a common kitchen.
So, I determined that I could eat on the casual side for less money while still enjoying the culinary talents worthy of a posh NY establishment. Win-win!
Over the course of my 10 years living on the Upper East, as my salary increased, I was able to eat out more frequently. This restaurant became one of my customary stops.
I’d eat there every six weeks or so, and without fail I ordered the same thing: endive and avocado salad (a combo I still love to this day) and a chicken/mushroom/artichoke dish. I don’t remember if it came with rice or pasta or potatoes, but I remember how much I loved the combination.
Now In Philadelphia Suburbs
Fast forward to our years in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A great find for me was the frozen artichoke hearts at Trader Joe’s.
Have you ever tried to find artichoke hearts that aren’t soaked in some kind of oil mixture? Ugh. So whenever Trader Joe’s has these in stock, I stock up.
I throw these in everything – pasta with tuna dishes, sautéed with kale or spinach, defrosted in a salad……. but I digress.
Every once in a while, I will remember my old favorite and throw together some boneless skinless chicken thighs, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. It’s become one of my top comfort foods.
Give it a try. If you can’t find frozen artichoke hearts, then try rinsing the jar variety to see if you can get rid of the brine.
Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Artichoke Hearts
- 8 chicken thighs skinless and boneless and cut into bite-sized pieces
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter unsalted
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 4 ounces mushrooms quartered - I use whatever I have on hand: button, baby bella, cremini, etc,
- 1½ cups white wine chardonnay or other white wine that happens to be open and you would drink
- 1 bay leaf
- sprigs thyme
- 6 ounces artichoke hearts frozen and thawed
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons cream or half and half or even sour cream if you don't have anythng else
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Combine the flour (I use about ½ cup), salt and pepper in a bowl or plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and mix or shake until coated. Tap off the excess flour.
- In a large oven-proof skillet or shallow flameproof casserole, melt the butter with the oil. Add the chicken pieces and cook over high heat, turning occasionally, until deeply browned and crusty 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a large plate.
- To the same skillet or casserole, add the onion and mushrooms and cook over low heat until softened, 5 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook over high heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
- Add the bay leaf, a few thyme sprigs, artichokes and stock and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan. Transfer to the oven and braise until the meat is tender, 45 minutes or so.
- Return the skillet or casserole to the stove, over high heat, and stir in the dairy (cream, half and half or sour cream).
- Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.
- Remove the bay leaf and what’s left of the sprigs before serving.