Saturday, January 12, 2008

Comfort Food: Sausages and Chicken Wings with Shitake Mushrooms

Every winter we go to the Sundance Resort in Utah where my wife runs a feature film program at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. She stays for most of the month but I go back to LA after a long weekend, then fly back four days later to go to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.

When we're at the resort, my sons go skiing. I tried it a couple of times and realized it just isn't my thing. I wish I had my sons' athleticism. I don't. But I'm completely happy because Sundance is the perfect setting to cook. The condo has a simple kitchen set-up. No oven and only a 2-burner stove top, but outside the snow covered mountain is postcard perfect and inside it's nice and warm.

I do a lot of cooking at the resort, but I'm not cooking for the time we're here. I'm cooking and then freezing the food so we can have home-cooked meals when we're at the Festival, where watching 3-4 films a day means there's no time to cook. If you're lucky there's the occasional party where you can grab a mini-crab cake or some cheese and crackers.

I wanted to make comfort food. Nourishing, warm dishes that would revive us after a very long day.

Before we came up to the resort, we stopped at Macey's, one of the local supermarkets, and picked up basics: 2 Gold'n Plump organic chickens, a couple of pounds of extra lean ground beef, a package of Italian sweet sausages, and a selection of fresh vegetables.

Since all the dishes had to be able to survive freezing and reheating, everything would have a sauce or be in a soup, that would protect against freezer burn and drying out. That meant the first thing I needed to do was to make chicken stock.

Cutting up the 2 chickens, I had the carcasses and wing tips for the stock. Simmered on a low boil with 16 cups of water for 1 hour, then strained to remove the bones, I had 8 cups of stock. I pulled 1 cup of meat off the bones, perfect for chicken soup. Because I needed a lot of stock, I used the now-picked-clean bones for a 2nd boil by covering the bones with water and simmering for 30 minutes. Straining out the bones gave me an additional 2 cups of stock. If possible, refrigerate the stock overnight so the fat can be removed.

wings, washed, cut into pieces, the tips used for stock
2 Italian sweet sausages, cut into ¼” rounds
½ bunch spinach, washed, roughly chopped
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, fresh, or dried, soaked for 2 hours in hot water, stems removed
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup shiitake mushroom soaking water
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

On a medium flame, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Saute the chicken wings until brown on all sides. Remove and sauté the sausage rounds until brown, drain and remove. Pour off the excess oil.

Add the 2nd tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the shiiake mushrooms and garlic until lightly browned. Deglaze the pan with the 2 stocks, add the spinach, then put back the wings and sausages. Simmer for 30 minutes lightly covered with a sheet of tin foil.

Serve in a bowl with soup spoons and lots of napkins because this is finger-eating food. Or, to make a more substantial entree, add pasta or rice to the bowl.

Serves 2-4. Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Cooking Time: 60 minutes.

For everything going into the freezer, I use an airtight container, like the ones made by Ziploc, and make sure that the liquid covers the meat and vegetables to avoid freezer burn.

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