A few weeks ago, the same day it was announced that evidence had been found to support the existence of the Higgs boson, that wee particle that explains everything about the universe, I made a wee discovery of my own.
I happened to have been making a commonplace dinner that involved sautéed chicken thighs. Shortly after the meat was brown, I decided to experiment. I poured a good amount of red wine into the frying pan and started to cook it down. I got busy with something else, and ended up cooking it quite a bit. Lo and behold, I had discovered evidence of a red wine reduction. It was rich and thick and delicious, and I figured I was on to something.
Tonight I had the chance to experiment some more. Much like those folks at CERN who keep the collider running all the time, I’m always cooking. Santa Maria and the kids were out of town, and I was on my own. I had to work later than I expected, and I didn’t have the time after I got home to make what I had planned on cooking: my roast chicken arugula salad with red peppers and onions. The chicken parts were defrosting, but I didn’t want to wait to cook that dish.
Instead, I hunted around the fridge, and found some leftover black beans and a bit of rice. I took two of the chicken thighs, which were bone-in and still a bit frozen, and put them in a cast-iron frying pan with a bit of oil, and started to sauté them. That chicken had been a bit tired when I froze it a few weeks ago, and as such was a bit, er, rich, smelling, so I needed a way to freshen it up as it cooked.
I shook some salt on the thights and tossed on a bit of dried thyme, but I knew it would take more than just that to make them taste good. I made sure to cook them well, which helped: I like the thighs because they brown up nicely, even if, as was the case here, the skin had been removed (I take most chicken skin off before cooking as a rule).
After I had the thighs good and brown, I poured a good inch or so of wine in the pan. I only had some white wine on hand, but I recently read some article somewhere with the cheeky headline along the lines of “Anything a Red Wine Can Do, A White Can Do Too,” so I didn’t hesitate to use what I had.
I left the heat on medium high, and the wine started to boil. There was a fair amount of chicken fat in the pan, and I added a bit more thyme. If I were a French chef, perhaps I would have augmented the sauce with butter, but I didn’t go that far.
I was pairing the chicken, rice, and beans with what Santa Maria calls my Hot Robot Spinach, and at this point in the meal prep, I was just sautéing the garlic for that. I took some the sliced garlic and flicked it into the pan with the wine reduction. This turned out to be a genius move. It gave the sauce a deep note that made a big difference. Apparently, as the scientists in CERN would certainly attest, it’s the small things that matter.
Note: The above image of the Higgs boson comes courtesy of The Browser, which also has a link to this nifty animated video explaining what a Higgs boson is. Or at least it tries to explain it. Here it is: