Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chicken Forestière


Oh, people, this dish is just a fancy way to say "Chicken with Mushrooms" (and cream).  Forestière means "of the forest" or "in the forest manner." Or in a more vernacular manner, "This has got mushrooms in it."

And there is no one I would rather trust with chicken and mushrooms than food writer and journalist Diana Henry.



From her traditional English pea soup to a Japanese-inspired chicken and her warm duck salad, Henry has been a hit on this here blog. In part because of her commitment to a wide range of flavors and the other part because of her gentle peroration on the foods she loves, I just cannot get enough of her work. Lucky for me, she has a plethora of cookbooks. 

This recipe comes from her cookbook, A Bird in Hand, a book entirely devoted to the bird. Because we eat so much chicken (according to this website, the US meat and poultry industry processed 38.4 billion pounds of chicken in 2015), it seems only fitting that we turn to a book that celebrates poultry in its homeliest and most comforting to its most elaborate and celebratory. And what's lovely about this book is that you can find a bit of both throughout.



Henry's own essay on how the book came about is delightful, for she details her early affection for chicken, and she nudges us to celebrate this meat that so many others scoff at as being tasteless or cheap. She argues that chicken is flavorful and abundant and worth every penny (or pence). But she also encourages us toward organic, free range chicken that is sustainably raised and away from factory-farmed birds. She says that we can coax a lot of flavor out of a chicken, and all we need is a little inspiration and maybe a little bit of time.

Enter Chicken Forestière. Hearty and earthy, this braise of chicken thighs and mushrooms is a classic blustery day dinner. Some Forestière recipes call for cognac and others eschew any vegetable; Henry relies on the readily available (and cost-encouraging) Madeira or sherry and includes carrots (I swapped out some of those carrots for potatoes, for I am not a fan of cooked carrots, as I have admitted ad nauseum on this blog. A moral failing, yes; but the fact remains). 



I am going to admit it right here and now: I more than doubled the amount of mushrooms in the sauce. I love mushrooms (always have), and she calls for 2 cups. I call for 5. (I updated the amount below in the recipe.) I don't know your life, and if you feel as if your "Forestière" needs a little less "forest," well, you do your thing.  But I am telling you, I've got mushrooms. Plenty of mushrooms. Oodles and oodles of mushrooms.



It seems there are as many ways to cook Chicken Forestière as there are chicken recipes in Henry's book. But I am glad to play around with her recipe and make it my own.  You should, too.

So, go ahead and be creative: add more onions, chop up wild mushrooms instead of button mushrooms, shower the dish in cognac, reduce the cream, substitute milk. But be sure to crack big chunks of pepper over the top and chop up plenty of mushrooms (of any kind) to make this dish truly an earthy Forestière.

This here dish has got mushrooms, indeed.


Chicken Forestière

Adapted from Diana Henry's A Bird in Hand: Chicken recipes for every day and every mood


Yield:
4-6 Servings

Ingredients:
1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms
salt and pepper 
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, halved and cut into thing crescent moon-shaped slices
1/3 cup Madiera or dry sherry
3 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into batons
3 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut into batons
3/4 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
5 cups quartered button or crimini mushrooms
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions:
1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and pour in about 1/3 cup boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, season the chicken thighs with last and pepper, and heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides (don't turn them early or their skin will tear). When the chicken is well browned, remove it from the pan and set aside. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp chicken fat from the pan into a separate bowl (do not discard). 

3.  Heat the fat remaining in the pan, and sauté the onions until golden and soft, about 15-20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the Madeira or sherry.

4.  Add the carrots, potatoes, stock, and the wild mushrooms with their soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Return the chicken to the pan along with any juices, placing it skin-side up. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes.

6.  Stir the cornstarch in with the water. Remove the lid, stir in the cream and cornstarch mixture, return to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid off.

7.  In a separate pan, heat 1 Tbsp of the reserved chicken fat and quickly sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown. The mixture should be dry, so cook until the liquid in the mushroom has evaporated. Season and toss in with the chicken, stirring to gently combine everything. The "sauce" should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

8.  Taste for seasoning. Scatter with parsley and serve from the pan.

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