Porchini and Black Olive Chicken Stew - Serves 4

½ ounce dried porchini mushrooms
5 Tablespoons Olive Oil (I like using Robbins Family)
1 Large Chicken cut into 8 pieces (if the Chicken breasts are unusually large, cut in half)
Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper (try an unusual peppercorn here)
Flour for dredging
½ cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped red onion
2 teaspoons fresh garlic – minced fine
½ teaspoon hot paprika or Basque Chili Pepper Piment D'Espelette
fresh herbs – use what you may have on hand or try available winter herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth
15 ounces San Marzano Tomatoes – chopped fine with the liquid from the container
1 cup Chicken Stock (I like to use the chicken demi-glace to create my stock – it has a better flavor)
Soft Polenta – to serve the stew over

Soak the dried mushrooms in 3 cups of hot water until soft (about ½ hour) Remove mushrooms from water and save 2 cups of water being sure not to get the sediment from the bottom.

Salt and pepper the chicken, dredge the chicken in flour, then sear in the olive oil in a deep pot that can be put into the oven. After the chicken is browned, remove from the pot and reserve.

Add the vegetables and cook for approximately 15 minutes, add lemon juice.

Add wine to deglaze the pot and be sure to scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for approximately 5-7 minutes to reduce the wine and cook off the alcohol. Add the mushroom water, chicken stock, tomatoes and olives. Cook until starting to bubble, then add the chicken back to the pot. Place pan in the oven and cook at 350 for approximately 1 hour, basting the chicken every once in a while. When chicken is tender, serve over soft polenta.

One thing I found when I traveled to Europe years ago was they served a cheese course in between dinner and dessert. The rule of thumb with a cheese course is to keep the portions small and varied. For a nice cheese course I would suggest Roquefort blue Cheese, A goat cheese (local is always best), Pierre Robert Triple Crème and a Vermont Cheddar or White Stilton type cheese such as Wallace Gromitt Wensleydale. Serve the cheeses with something interesting like Candied Chestnuts in syrup, Plain Chestnut Honey or Dried White Calabrian Figs in Chestnut Honey and a small handful of Crème Brulee Almonds. The sweet and salty is a nice balance of flavors and would work really well with a local port.