Formerly known as "Chicken Stew with Pancetta and Mushrooms" this is one of the oldest recipe on this blog. I posted it long before I started taking pictures. Well this past weekend, the weather was sort of funky. Bright, moderately warm sunshine during day quickly gave way to gray clouds and with it, thick drops of rain. It got me thinking about cozy food, this stew in particular. I realized with regret a few weeks ago that I'd gone all winter long and made hardly any braises. There was plenty of soup but practically no braises. I had long been wanting to try my hand at making osso buco. That didn't happen. I wanted to make a classic boeuf bergeron. That didn't happen either. Nor did chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, coq au vin, or pot roast. I took the rain as a sign. It might be my last chance to do a braise before the weather warmed up and the thought of heating up the kitchen became completely foolish. I thought back to this chicken dish, which comes from Donna Hay. It's kind of the perfect transitional braise. It's rich and homey and yet the tarragon makes it utterly spring.
about 3 1/4 pounds of chicken (you can used boneless skinless breasts, thighs or just a whole chicken that's been cut up into 8 pieces - whatever floats your boat)
Plain all-purpose flour (for coating)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 thick slices pancetta (about 5 ounces)
2 leeks, sliced and cleaned
4 cloves garlic, minced
7 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced or quartered
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces and then dredge the in flour and shake off any excess. Coat the bottom of a large, deep sauté pan in oil and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook until browned on each side.
Such a nice golden color. Unless you have a giant sauté pan, this will likely have to be done in two batches. Remove the browned chicken and set aside.
Add more oil if necessary and cook the pancetta until crisp. Remove and set aside. Add the garlic, leeks, and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook until leeks are soft and mushrooms are golden. Remove and set aside.
Combine the chicken stock and wine in the pan. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits from the base of the pan if there are any. Turn down the heat a little, return the chicken to the pan and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.
Add the pancetta and the leek, garlic and mushroom mixture as well as the cream, tarragon and parsley. Simmer, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes or until reduced and thickened.
Sprinkle the chicken with the chopped parsley and serve in a wide, shallow bowl with something to soak up the creamy sauce, like couscous, potatoes or steamed basmati rice. I did the latter which I simmered in vegetable stock.
I've made this dish a number of times and it's very reliable. It's nice to have go-to recipe that you know will work out well and this would bring an earthy elegance to a casual dinner party. (Note to self - have a casual dinner party soon) Braising is such a great way to cook meat. The chicken winds up succulent, juicy and tender. The velvety sauce is imbued with the flavors of delicate tarragon, woodsy mushrooms and smoky pancetta. The next time I make this I may add some peas right at the last minute, either frozen or fresh that have been blanched. I think they'd work really nicely with the tarragon and pancetta and would add a fresh green pop.
Serves 4 to 6