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Welcome-home-and-relax dinner

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A rustic chicken braise over polenta is a warming start to the holidays.

Have a house full of family for the holidays? Make them feel extra welcome when they arrive with this comforting, rustic meal of braised chicken, polenta and butterscotch pears. The menu serves four, with extra salad, but if you have more houseguests, it can be doubled; just be sure to use a larger pan for the chicken if you’re making extra.

Menu Timeline

Up to one day ahead:

  • Make buttermilk dressing, cover and store in the refrigerator.
  • Toast the walnuts, store in airtight container.

90 minutes before the meal:

  • Start making the polenta.
  • When the polenta goes into the oven, start making the chicken.

60 minutes before the meal:

  • Prep the pears, begin making their butterscotch sauce, and arrange them in the skillet.

30 minutes before eating:

  • Take polenta out of the oven, cover with foil and stir occasionally to keep a crust from forming.
  • Increase oven temperature to ­375°F and bake the pears.

Just before sitting down:

  • Check on the pears; if they’re done, remove them from their liquid with a slotted spoon and cover to keep warm; if not, let them continue to bake during the meal.
  • Assemble and dress the salad.

When It’s Time for Dessert:

  • Finish the butterscotch sauce and serve over the warm pears.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce:

  • 2 apples (preferably Gala, Fuji, or Pink Lady)
  • 4 ripe but firm pears
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 lb. baby arugula
  • 1 medium head radicchio
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 2 portobello mushrooms

Meat, Eggs & Dairy:

  • 8 bone-in chicken pieces (3 to 4 lb. total), or one 3-1/2 lb. chicken
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 7 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. Gruyère

Pantry Staples:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • Table salt
  • Black pepper

Other Groceries:

  • 3/4 cup (about 3 oz.) walnuts
  • 1 cup medium-ground cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 Tbs. Scotch whisky (optional)

The Menu


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