Chicken Stew with Bacon, Baby Onions, and Crimini Mushrooms
This chicken stew, very reminiscent of the classic French coq au vin, is best made a day ahead of time, but will work just fine if you cook it a few hours before you’re going to serve it. All the classics go best— parsleyed potatoes, potaoes gratin, mashed potatoes, polenta, egg noodles. We had leftover stew for two days and, trust me, it only gets better and better.
A good wintry salad—mixed greens, watercress, tangerine sections, and a crumble of blue cheese—would also be great, along with some good crusty bread for sopping up all those red wine juices.
- 2 strips bacon
- About 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- About 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 leek, dark green section discarded, and white and pale green section cut in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch pieces
- 4 scallions, ends trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 12 pearl onions, peeled and left whole *
- 2 large carrots, peeled, and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 ½ teaspoons dried and crumbled
- About 1 cup flour
- 1 four-pound roasting chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 3 cups dry red wine **
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 11 ounces crimini mushrooms, or button mushrooms, washed gently and cut in half ***
* Or 4 medium size sweet onions, peeled and quartered.
** You want a really well-rounded red wine, but not too fruity. Choose something you would like to drink with dinner or a lesser wine made from the same grape that you’ll serve with the stew.
*** Don’t place the mushrooms under cold running water to clean. Use a vegetable brush and lightly scrub the mushroom caps clean without using any excessive water.
In a large, heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) cook the bacon strips over moderate heat and let them get crisp; drain the bacon on paper towels, but keep the bacon grease in the skillet. Add ½ tablespoon of the olive oil to the bacon grease and place over low heat. Add the leek, scallions, pearl onions, carrots, salt, pepper, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the flour on a large plate and season liberally with salt and pepper. Dry off the chicken pieces with a paper towel and then dredge them in the seasoned flour, making sure all sides are well coated.
In a large, heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal), heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and ½ tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat. Brown the chicken pieces, a few pieces at a time, being careful not to crowd the skillet, adding the additional oil if needed, about 3 minutes on each side. If the chicken or the oil starts to burn reduce the heat to moderate. Remove the browned pieces of chicken to paper towels or a brown paper grocery bag to drain off any excess fat.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
When the onions are tender sprinkle in 2 tablespoons flour from the flour you used to dredge the chicken. Let cook 2 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the wine, the bay leaf, letting it come to a rolling boil. Add the chicken pieces, spooning the wine over the chicken so it is almost completely bathed in it. Sprinkle on half the parsley. Cover the casserole and place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour, basting the chicken pieces once or twice during that time.
After an hour add the mushrooms, baste the chicken making sure the mushrooms are in the wine sauce, cover and bake another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. If you make the stew a day ahead of time be sure to let it cool down and refrigerate over night. The next day use a spoon to remove any fat that has risen to the surface. Serve hot, sprinkled with the remaining parsley.
From the blog and soon-to-be-book Notes From a Maine Kitchen by Kathy Gunst