Cooking with Joy

Sop up some drunk chicken

January 7, 2014 

To sop or not to sop – that is the question.

Some say yes. Some say no. I say absolutely!

I say yes because the best part of your meal is often left on your plate, such as the au jus from a nice prime rib dinner. Who could possibly want to leave that behind? Take a nice piece of bread (a small one, thank you), sop it in the gravy, and taste the goodness. Once you start you’ll never look back.

Speaking of prime rib and au jus, isn’t that what a French dip sandwich is all about? It’s a totally acceptable form of sopping. I rest my case.

Another good example of mainstream sopping is dipping bread into those cute little dishes of flavored olive oils served by many restaurants. Everybody knows that the good stuff is at the bottom of the dish and you can’t wait to soak it up. This is upscale sopping, but sopping never the less.

I learned the art of sopping from my father. His dinner wasn’t finished until his plate had been meticulously cleaned by a nice piece of Merita bread. Nothing ever went to waste with him.

Whether it was chicken and dumplings, chopped steak, or his favorite, red eye gravy and country ham, he sopped the leftovers with gusto. My mother just rolled her eyes and pretended not to notice.

I’ve happily carried on my father’s tradition of sopping. My husband just rolls his eyes and pretends not to notice. Aside from French dip sandwiches and dipping oil, I’ve found the leftover balsamic vinaigrette at the bottom of my salad bowl irresistible. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

The garlic butter served with escargot provides a wonderful sopping experience. Bread is traditionally served with this dish. It’s a forgone conclusion that sopping is expected. You may not like the escargot but you’re going to just love the garlic butter.

The best thing I’ve ever sopped were the flavorful juices left over from a meal I had in New York City. I remember sitting in the courtyard of Barbella restaurant on a beautiful spring day having lunch with a friend. I ordered the special of the day, which was a pan-seared rabbit cooked in red wine, mushrooms and onions. It was exquisite.

Not only was it one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten, but the leftovers sopped up with a nice piece of crusty bread were indescribably good. I remember every detail vividly.

That fantastic meal can never be reproduced, but it can be copied. The closest I can come to this heavenly experience is a dish we love at our house called coq au vin, which translated means chicken cooked in red wine. It also has bourbon, bacon, mushrooms and onions in it.

Because of all the alcohol that goes into it we renamed it Drunk Chicken. The good news is that the alcohol cooks away, leaving a delicious flavor that permeates everything. The essence that remains on your plate is a sopper’s dream come true. Grab a piece of bread and have a go at it.

Just know that my father is smiling down at you while you’re doing this. My mother is rolling her eyes. Pay no attention to her.

Joy Smith is a resident of Fort Mill. Contact her at ohjoy@comporium.net.

Drunk Chicken*

6 slices of bacon, diced

2 T. butter

4 large split chicken breasts, skin left on

Salt, pepper

½ cup sliced onions

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 15 oz. jar onions

1 large can button mushrooms

2 T. flour

¼ cup bourbon

2 cups Burgundy wine

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

¼ t. thyme

Chopped parsley for garnish

Brown bacon in large skillet and set aside. Add butter to bacon drippings. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown on both sides in the skillet. Remove chicken and put in a large casserole dish. Add sliced onions, sliced fresh mushrooms, and garlic to skillet and brown. Remove and put in the casserole dish, along with the jarred onions and canned mushrooms.

Stir flour into grease in skillet. Pour in bourbon and wine and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for a few minutes until it begins to thicken. Pour over ingredients in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and bacon. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 1 ½ hours, uncovered. Garnish with more chopped parsley and serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.

*Be sure to serve with crusty rolls or bread for sopping your plate.

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