A tasty bit o' Irish coddling for St. Paddy's 'Ham' from chicken
In these tough times, we could all use a little coddling.
And, given the season — St. Paddy's Day, isn't it? — a coddle is a most appropriate choice for tonight's dinner.
Dublin coddle is a classic Irish dish that brings together simple staples in a slow-cooked form that's somewhere between a soup, a stew, a braise and a boiled dinner. I tested this recipe the other night and loved it; it reminded me of the beloved Portuguese stew called cozido, in which different meats are cooked slowly with vegetables added throughout the cooking process. I even gave it a Portuguese touch, thinly slicing leaves of Portuguese cabbage that are thriving in pots on our lānai garden.
You begin with the best quality plain pork sausages and thick-sliced bacon you can afford, broil or brown them a bit to give them some color and caramelized texture, then you cook them slowly, slowly together with — what else, me boyo? — potatoes. Customarily, the only flavorings are stock (traditionally a ham stock, the leftovers from cooking a bone-in ham), chopped parsley and onions. Carrots may be added. Some people use an apple or two.
Don't use Italian sausages or other mixtures highly flavored with spices or herbs; you want a plain pork sausage here. (I used English bangers, which can be found at some Safeway stores.) Standard U.S. breakfast sausages are fine. By the same token, look for a "basic," sort of bacon, not one highly flavored with maple syrup or brown sugar. Best for this, in fact, are the bulk bacon ends you can find in many grocery stores.
Be sure to use starchy potatoes rather than waxy; that is, bakers (such as Russets) rather than salad potatoes.
You can, if you wish, coddle in a Crock Pot (slow cooker) or in a Dutch oven or other heavy, tightly lidded pot either in the oven or on the stove top. You can cook a coddle for as long as is convenient for you: I've seen recipes that suggest three or four hours in a slow oven and others that suggest an hour on the stove top at a low simmer.
Here's the recipe I tried last week.
• 1 teaspoon bacon fat or vegetable oil
• 1 pound pork sausages*
• 1/4 pound thick, chunky bacon ends (or coarsely chopped good-quality ham)
• 2 pounds peeled and thickly sliced baking potatoes
• 2 medium onions, sliced and broken into rings
• 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
• 1 tart cooking apple, seeded and cut into thunks (optional)
• 1 cup thinly sliced greens, such as collards, leeks, Portuguese cabbage (optional)
• 1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
• Generous salt and pepper
• 2 cups water or chicken or ham or pork stock (the richer, the better)
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat bacon fat or vegetable oil over medium-high heat and fry sausages and bacon for a few minutes, just until somewhat browned. Remove meats.
In the same pot, layer potatoes, onions, meats and parsley (as well as carrots, apple and greens, if using) until all are used, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired, then gently pour water or stock over. Bring stock to a gentle simmer, cover and cook 40-60 minutes on medium-low heat, until the potatoes are tender and the flavors have melded.
• Per serving: 550 calories, 32 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 750 mg sodium, 45 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 21 g protein
Option: Finish the dish with a little heavy cream.
P.S. Got so many calls on my story earlier about Chinese ginger chicken. That recipe really seems to be a favorite. A reader named Naomi e-mailed to say that her mom pours hot oil over the whole, poached chicken to crisp the skin a bit. And a friend of hers, a chef at a major hotel, purees the sauce and displays it, in all its vibrant green glory, in fancy swirls and dots around the plate instead of just drizzling it all over.
Ruth Fujita wrote to say that if you cut the skin between the leg and the breast before poaching the chicken, it assures more even cooking; the breast doesn't overcook while the thick thigh is still underdone. She also said that she doesn't salt her poaching water so she can use it for stock, throwing in all the bones from the chicken plus vegetables, herbs or whatever. After she has strained and stored the stock the bones go into her vermicompost bin (the long cooking causes them to break down).
Thanks to all the readers who came forward with ideas and who reminisced about ginger chicken recipes from their families and favorite restaurants.