Before cornmeal starred in polenta and rice became risotto, cornmeal was fried up as cornmeal mush and rice was eaten in beans and rice.
These were peasant dishes at their best – based on local, inexpensive ingredients available to all.
These foods weren’t gussied up with fancy sauces or garnishes; instead they were meals that conserved (and recycled) and made do with little.
Peasant dishes, with their earthy, honest ingredients, now star in hip restaurants across the country, a testament to their lure and durability.
Here’s a dish born out of a lean pantry.
It’s perfect for adapting to what you have on hand and improvising at length.
Braised Chicken and Vegetables
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 bone-in chicken thighs
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3⁄4 cup white wine such as Chardonnay
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tomato, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon slices (optional, for garnish)
Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium.
Add chicken and cook until brown on both sides, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from pan.
Add potato, onion and carrots; cook 5 minutes.
Return chicken to skillet (with any juices).
Add garlic, wine, broth, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
Add chopped tomato, lemon juice, salt and pepper.