According to Burkhard Bilger, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, much of traditional southern food, including the bog, is bland enough to border on flavorless. He blames modern ingredients for the stodgy cast of southern dishes, and muses that a return to heirloom crops and heritage breeds would improve things, but perhaps not much.
Perhaps he eats a different bog than we do, but the dish is one of the Editor’s more frequently requested dinners, and she makes it with modern foodstuffs. This recipe, which has the added bonus (at least in terms of britishfoodinamerica) of obvious English antecedents, represents an effort to rectify any misperception about the legitimacy of the bog. It is adaptive rather than derivative, a salient example of how American cooks modified the British culinary canon to meet the distinctive conditions that they encountered on a daily basis in the new world.
For four and may be extended in like proportion to serve an infinite number of diners.
-salt, pepper and cayenne
-4 skinless chicken thighs
-1 Tablespoon neutral oil
-½ lb andouille (see the Notes)
-about 1 cup onion cut into thin crescents
-about 1 heaped Tablespoon minced garlic (or however much, or little, you like)
-a generous teaspoon dried thyme
-3 bay leaves
-a small diced red (preferred) or green bell pepper
-about 1 lb peeled and seeded tomatoes
-about a cup of decent red wine
-about 2 cups chicken stock
-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-about ½ cup minced scallion greens
- Season the chicken generously with salt, pepper and cayenne.
- Put the oil over high heat in a heavy skillet (nonstick is most handy) until shimmering, then brown the chicken and remove it from the pan.
- Reduce the heat to medium and fry the andouille, onion and garlic until the andouille browns and the onion softens.
- Add the thyme, bay, bell pepper and tomatoes, then the wine, and scrape the debris up off the bottom of the skillet.
- Increase the heat to high and evaporate the wine; you should have a thick slurry.
- Add the Worcestershire and chicken stock. When it boils, return the chicken to the bog, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook it until the chicken is done, usually in about 30 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the pot. Once it is cool enough to handle without immoderate pain, shred the chicken and throw away the bones.
- Return the shredded chicken and simmer it until the bog thickens.
- Whisk the butter into the bog and when it marries add the scallions.
- The andouille to use is of course the spiced Louisiana variety, not the vaguely fecal stuff from France. If you cannot find andouille (but really, you can; Aidell’s, D’Artagnan, McQuade’s Market and other people sell it outside the south) substitute kielbasa or another coarsely ground smoked sausage.
- Chauvinists insist that you need some kind of heritage chicken to make an acceptable bog. We demur. The bfia version tastes damn good to us, made with Bell & Evans chicken.
- Depending on where you lived in the south, the traditional accompaniment to bog was either rice or grits. We like both alternatives and, if you are feeling particularly Tuscan or British, you also might try mashed potatoes.
- A good way to prepare grits for service with bog involves the leek. To make cheese grits with leek, melt 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium low heat and soften up about ¾ cup chopped leeks seasoned with salt, cayenne and white pepper. Then pour about ½ cup white wine into the pot, increase the heat to high and boil it off. Dump about 3 cups of chicken stock, more or less depending on how runny you like your grits, into the pot (or half stock and half milk for something richer), bring it to a boil, slide a cup of quick (not, ever instant) grits into the stock and immediately reduce the heat to the barest simmer. Once the grits obtain a satisfactory consistency, gild the proverbial lily with about ½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar or grated Parmesan. Quite good and not just for bog.
- If you are lucky or rigorous enough to get some artisanal grits from Anson Mills, The Old Mill or elsewhere, by all means use them--if you have time. They will take considerably longer to cook than Quaker or other mainstream grits and consequently you will want more liquid; check the instructions from the particular mill.