I hate to be all about the weather all the time, or as a friend once described her mother, “weather dependent,” but baby, it’s cold outside. After a week of faux printemps in mid-January which was so very hopeful, our illusion crashed and we were smacked back to reality: the deep freeze of winter has parked outside.
That’s where this warming chicken stew comes in. Slurpy stews over rice, that’s the ticket when you can’t heat the house over sixty-six degrees no matter how high you set the thermostat. So bring on the soups, stews, hot chocolate, SmartWool socks, and long underwear. Winter is here for the duration, which means until at least mid-March.
This hunter’s chicken is an adaptation of a stew taught to me by my mentor chef Eugene Bernard. The name (chicken chasseur) presumably comes from the notion that after bagging a pheasant, or rabbit, or whatnot, hunters would gather mushrooms on their way home to add to the cooking pot. Bernard (a Frenchman) boned whole chicken legs with thighs attached, stuffed them with a sausage stuffing, and cooked them in a tomato mushroom sauce. I’m way too lazy to do that now, especially since this version is pretty straightforward and wiki-wiki in comparison. An Italian version of this same dish (chicken cacciatore) would include peppers and maybe some other vegetables, and the herbs would be oregano and basil, not tarragon. However you choose to prepare it, you can enjoy it in front of the fire, or sit, wrapped in a blanket, and watch your favorite thriller on television. Now you’re not just getting through winter, but reveling in its pleasures.
8 chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), with skin and bone
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 teaspoons flour
1 can (15-ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1. With paper towels, pat the chicken dry. Sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper.
2. In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin sides down. Cook for 5 minutes on a side, until browned. Transfer to a dinner plate. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet.
3. Add the mushrooms to the skillet, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until golden. Stir in the shallots, garlic, and thyme and cook for 3 minutes longer. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, and stock. Bring to a boil and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like.
4. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet. Decrease the heat so that the sauce simmers, and cover with a lid. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Sprinkle with parsley and tarragon.
5. Arrange 2 thighs on each of 4 plates and surround with sauce. Serve with rice, if you like.