I indulged myself when I made this on Sunday, I have to admit. I was feeling pretty lousy, so a luxurious few hours in the kitchen (not just making this, don’t worry!) was just what I needed. I could have made this more quickly, but I really enjoyed the calm preparation. There are so few ingredients but it’s packed full of flavour, and it can be served in so many different ways. A perfect winter warmer.
If you don’t like chicken thighs, you could absolutely make this with chicken, either baked in foil in the oven for about 20 minutes and then dressed with the sauce, or sautéed in large pieces for around 10-15 minutes. Personally, I think the slower cook works better. The thigh meat is more tender, and cooking it on the bone adds lots of natural flavour.
If you don’t like brandy, you could use white wine, but honestly the strong alcohol flavour cooks out either way so you don’t really taste it, but it definitely improves the sauce.
1 pack chicken thighs – I bought 8 with their skins on and bones in for £3 and this made 3 meals for me (or your preferred chicken cut)
3 rashers smoked bacon
3 cloves garlic
1 punnet chestnut mushrooms
100ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh
Good crack of black pepper
2. Add a little oil to a large saucepan/casserole pot/sauteé pan (whichever you have or prefer; I used my big non-stick soup pot) and put onto a high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot, add the chicken thighs, skin down, and leave in until the skins are nice and crisp, then turn over. I did this in batches of 4 to try to keep the moisture in the pot down to make sure the skins can brief nicely. Flip over each piece to brown on the bottom.
Once you’ve done the first batch, set aside on a plate. They will be cooked through later so don’t worry too much about that. I then dried off the pot a little, carefully, using a piece of kitchen towel held by my kitchen tongs. This helps to get rid of any excess fat and water. Then repeat with the second batch and set aside on the plate.
3. Chop, crush or grate the garlic then slice the mushrooms. Remove the fat from the bacon then chop it up into nice even small pieces. I know I’m breaking a hygiene rule by cutting raw meat and vegetables on he same board but they’re about to go to the same place!
4. Brown the bacon in the pot you used to brown the chicken, then throw in the brandy and garlic, and turn down to medium. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side up, and add the herbs and bay leaves.
5. Leave the heat at medium, and carefully add in the chicken stock. This should just simmer away at the bottom of the pot, otherwise you’ll risk the skin going soggy.
6. After about 20 minutes of simmering, add the mushrooms, trying to keep them down in between the chicken pieces so they can’t throw out too much water into the chicken. Add in batches if this is easier. Cook for another 20 minutes, adding a little more stock if it starts to go dry.
7. Check the chicken is nicely cooked through and serve! If you’re using chicken breasts, these can be gently browned on both sides as for the chicken pieces at stage 2, although it will take less time if you use skinless breasts (or skinless and boneless thighs!), then make the sauce and let it simmer away to itself for around 20 minutes before adding the chicken for the last 10 – 15 minutes so it can cook but won’t dry out.
Because I’m trying to eat healthy, I actually decided to skin and bone my chicken after going to the effort of browning the skin (like I say, I was in the mood for cooking!). It doesn’t look as pretty but it’s much easier to eat. Traditionally, I think you would just serve up a couple of thighs per person with some if the sauce and perhaps some potatoes and vegetables.