French Chicken, the quick and dirty way
I have a few recipes that are “go-tos” – recipes that I will use for dinner parties that never fail to elicit ceases in conversation and lots of ‘mmmmmm”. One of those recipes, the name of which has been lost in time and replaced with the innocuous “French Chicken” is a recipe that I have found I can now make much more easily than the original version – happily with much less mess, also.
We are continuing in our Alsace theme, and this dish is a version of Coq au Riesling. The original recipe I had was not called Coq au Riesling, but it essentially was, and involved cooking the whole chicken in wine and veg. Delicious, but a bit of work, as everything needed to be browned separately on the stovetop before cooking in the oven. The original recipe included potatoes which are not in this recipe (but you could serve this on steamed potatoes instead of the noodles). Needless to say, serving it was a bit of work also – cutting up the chicken while keeping the veg hot, reducing the sauce, etc…exhausting!
Basically, this is my adaptation of an abbreviated Coq au Riesling recipe from one my idols, Nigella Lawson (yes, I still love Chef Feenie also). Her recipe eliminated a lot of the fussy prep, and I added flourishes from my original oven-cooked recipe. It captures the taste of the beloved “French Chicken” and is so much simpler!
This recipe is great when served immediately that it is cooked, but is even better if you make it the day before and reheat it very gently over a very low heat (don’t boil!). This will generously feed six happy people.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
150g (about 6 ounces) pancetta, chopped
3 big leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly (white part only), OR two medium onions, sliced (can use a combination of onions and leeks if you wish)
4 cups sliced mushrooms (can use chanterelles)
3 bay leaves
1-750mL bottle Riesling (does not need to be expensive!)
1-2 tablespoons Maggi sauce (for those unfamiliar with it, this is a magic little ingredient that rounds out many sauces beautifully – use sparingly as you just want to “enhance” the sauce)
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each chopped into three pieces
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons whipping cream (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
hot, buttered egg noodles or Spätzle (German noodles…traditional!)
In heavy 5-qt Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter until melted and combined, and add pancetta, garlic, onions and/or leeks. Fry over medium-low heat until soft. Remove from pan onto plate with slotted spoon, and add the mushrooms into the Dutch oven and fry them in the pancetta-ish oil until they are brown and yummy-looking. Add the pancetta mixture back into the Dutch oven and add the bottle of wine, the bay leaves and the Maggi sauce. Stir to mix evenly.
Now add the chicken thighs, and tuck them into the liquid. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat immediately and simmer gently, covered, for about 40 minutes.
With your slotted spoon, remove all the chicken and veg into a bowl. Boil liquid, uncovered, until it is half its original volume. You can measure before with a chopstick to determine where “half” is. Once liquid volume is reduced, turn heat right down and replace chicken pieces and veg. Stir, then taste sauce. Add a bit more Maggi sauce if you would like, and salt and pepper to taste. If using the cream, add it at the end of the cooking time.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in cooking pot at the table, over the buttered noodles or Spätzle. Now wait for the “mmmmmmm” 🙂