Smothered—or choked—chicken is made using the age-old technique of slow cooking. The latter name comes from the actual act of wringing a bird’s neck and the former from smothering the bird slowly in a heavy-bottomed pot with onions, celery, and bell pepper. You can add garlic, if you like, or if you want heat, add fresh or dried hot peppers. Add fresh or dried savory, marjoram, thyme, or any herbs you like to enhance the flavor, or try it with rosemary and potatoes. Throw in one or two tomatoes. The options are endless. Have patience with this meal—it will take nearly two hours to make, but it’s worth the wait.
1 (5-pound/2.3 kg) good-quality whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (see Note) and skin removed
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons hot sauce, preferably Original Louisiana Hot Sauce, plus more as needed
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
3 pounds (1.35 kg) yellow onions, finely diced
1 tablespoon water or chicken stock, plus more as needed
1 1/4 cups (135 g) finely diced celery
1/2 cup (70 g) finely diced green bell pepper
Cooked rice, for serving
1/4 cup (13 g) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
1/4 cup (20 g) finely chopped green onions, for garnish
Put the chicken in a large bowl and season with the salt, black pepper, cayenne, and hot sauce. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Warm a heavy-bottomed 4-gallon (15 L) Dutch oven over medium heat for 2 minutes, then add the oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes on each side. Add the onions and the water and stir vigorously to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
Reduce the heat to its lowest setting, cover the pot, and smother the chicken for 20 minutes. Add the celery and bell pepper and stir to combine. Cover and smother together until the chicken is falling off the bone, 1 hour 40 minutes, giving the pot a quick stir every 20 minutes. If it looks dry, add a bit of stock or water. (Usually the chicken and vegetables will release enough liquid that you don’t need to add any, but sometimes they need a little help. Adding a cup or two of stock won’t hurt anything.)
Taste the finished product and season with salt and black pepper, if needed. If you’d like more heat, add a touch more cayenne or hot sauce.
Serve the chicken over rice, garnished with the parsley and green onions.
Note: When you break down the chicken, save any offal for another meal and save the backbone to use for stock—just pack them in bags, label, and store them in your freezer for up to 3 months.
Excerpted from Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2020. Photographs by Denny Culbert.
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