Friday, January 27, 2012

Probably Not Papa Tom’s Chicken Spaghetti

My maternal maternal great-grandfather, by which I mean my mother’s mother’s father, was a life-long employee of the railroads, the mayor of his small town of Abbeville, LA for a couple of years, the brewer of his own beer and a good cook.  His name was Thomas Fleming and we called him Papa Tom.

I don’t remember him really, although I have seen photographs and heard the stories so many times, that I feel I must.  But one thing stands out in my mind about him, who knows why these things stick and even if they are accurate, but he used to make spaghetti sauce with chicken and start with a roux.   The family called it chicken spaghetti.  Why not tomato sauce with chicken that we happen to serve over noodles?  Well, probably because that’s just too long.  

Anyhoo.  That’s what I made for dinner tonight.  Possibly it’s not anything like Papa Tom’s but it was made with him, and my grandmother and my mother, fondly in mind.

1 whole chicken
2 medium onions
7-8 garlic cloves
4 sprigs of rosemary or 3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of sugar
Olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Canola oil
1/4 cup  or 30g all-purpose flour
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 can (14 oz) or 390g whole peeled tomatoes with juice
3 oz or 85 grams tomato paste

Cut your chicken into the usual pieces:  Breasts, wings, legs, thighs.  I also cut the breasts into two pieces.  You may choose to do the same.  Season liberally with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Set aside.

Chop your onions and garlic into small pieces.  Pull the rosemary leaves off the stalk and mince.  If you are using bay leaves, leave them whole. 

Drizzle a good amount of olive oil in your pot and add in the two tablespoons of butter.  When it starts to sizzle, add the chicken, a few pieces at a time.  Brown on one side, then the other.  This could take as much as 10 minutes a side.

As the chicken pieces brown, remove them from the pot and set them aside on a plate.  When all the chicken is browned and on the side plate, turn off the pot.  Scrape off the lovely brown bits and heap them on the chicken plate.

Pour the oil from the pan into a heat resistance bowl and allow it to settle.  Wash the pot out thoroughly.

Pour the reserved oil from the bowl into a measuring cup, leaving behind the sediment.  Fill the measuring cup up to the 1/4 cup mark with new Canola oil.  Pour it into your clean pot and add an equal amount (1/4 cup) of flour.

Cook over a medium heat , stirring constantly, until the roux turns a medium dark brown.  Do not let it burn.

Add it the onion, garlic and rosemary or bay leaves.  Give the pot a good stir.

Add in the can of whole peeled tomatoes and the tomato paste.  Add in one can’s worth of water.

Put the chicken back in the pot and add enough water to cover.  This took one more can full.

Add a good sprinkle of salt, a good couple of grinds of fresh black pepper and the tablespoon of oregano.  Mix in the teaspoon of sugar and stir.

Bring to the boil and then simmer until the chicken is tender and trying to fall of the bone.  Serve over freshly cooked spaghetti noodles.  This is the richest tomato sauce you'll ever taste.

This cooked down and thickened for about two hours.  Just because we
had nothing better to do.  It was probably cooked and technically ready to
eat in less than 45 minutes, albeit not as thick.


A P.S. to family members who would like to correct my poor childhood memory, please do!  I will add updates or retractions to this post, as need be. 

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