This is the definitive chicken casserole, ideal for guests who have big appetites and treasure good wine. Serve it with the smoothest mashed potatoes, ‘pommes purée’, and begin with a crisp and light vegetable starter. Don’t use bad wine, because you will be able to taste it. A simple bottle of decent French table wine is best. Also, buy a large free-range, corn-fed chicken which retains its texture after a slow simmer.
- Put the wine, stock, bay leaves and garlic in large saucepan and bring to simmering point. Simmer for 20 minutes to reduce the liquid and thicken it slightly. After 15 minutes, add the mushrooms. Strain, set aside the mushrooms, and keep the liquid ready to add after cooking the chicken. In a large, heavy-based casserole fry the lardons in a little of the duck fat, then scoop them out of the pan and set aside. Fry the onions briefly until they colour, then remove and set aside with the lardons.
- Brown the chicken pieces in the remaining fat until golden on all sides. Turn down the heat and add the brandy – it might flame but it will die down. Ideally, you should set it alight, but if this is not for you just let it simmer at a low heat for 1 minute. Add the lardons and onions back to the casserole with the simmered wine, the whole garlic cloves and the bouquet of herbs. Bring to simmering point then cover and cook very slowly for 40 minutes, by which time the meat will be tender. Use a slotted spoon to lift out the cooked chicken pieces and lardons. Pick out and discard the garlic and bouquet. Put the chicken in a low oven to keep warm, covered with a loose piece of foil.
- Boil the liquid for 10 minutes to reduce it more. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the flour and cook until it becomes pale and sandy-coloured. Add this to the liquid, but do not stir it. Bring the liquid back to the boil, let it simmer for just a minute then turn it off and stir it – it will thicken to the texture of single cream. If too thick, add a little stock or water to thin it. When ready to eat, pour the hot thickened wine sauce over the chicken and serve straight away, with croutons and pommes purée.
For the starting broth
- 1 bottle red wine (choose an inexpensive French Merlot or Pinot Noir)
- 300ml chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 400g button mushrooms
For the chicken
- 120g unsmoked lardons
- 2 tbsp duck fat
- 8 small pickling onions, peeled and left whole
- 3–3.5kg chicken, jointed into 6–8 pieces and seasoned
- 90ml brandy
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 1 bundle of herbs, with a carrot, all tied together
For the roux, to thicken
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- pommes purée
large oval platter
Recipes are from Dinner & Party by Rose Prince. Published by Seven Dials, RRP £25 hardback, from all good booksellers.