Can there be too many chicken recipes? I don’t think so, because for as many as I try, and as many that Jim gives the thumb’s up on, they keep working for me.
Chicken is like cauliflower, the Meryl Streep of the cooking world. They both can take on any role and pull it off successfully. And they are totally different in each role, just like Meryl. What makes this chicken recipe even more special, is that it is basically an hour in the kitchen, no longer! Come on, that’s pretty good, wouldn’t you say? From start to finish, this dish can be on the dinner table on a busy weeknight, or served most confidently for a weekend dinner party. But the thing is, it will taste like it took much longer. So you come off looking like a superstar!
This dish actually didn’t even start with chicken. Back in the day, rabbit was quite popular, both at home, and in restaurants. One restaurant I worked in had a braised rabbit in a mustard sauce on the menu. It always sold out quickly. But on the menu it was called ‘Lapin a la Moutarde’. Quite chi-chi!! Quite French. And yes, a rich mustard sauce is a French classic. I already have a basic mustard sauce on the blog. It comes together most easily, and is so versatile: from chicken to pork chops, from chicken livers to over roast beef. I always tried to grab the rabbit meal when I could (staff could order off the menu when we were on break) if there was still some available. Serving it with mashed potatoes, the sauce settled into the nooks and crevices of the potatoes and flavoured them most perfectly. And whatever sauce was left over, was always wiped up with a dinner roll. It was THAT good. Those were good times- sitting around a wooden table in the staff quarters, eating a meal that I loved, getting the energy to go back and serve a busy section on a Saturday evening.
This dish is really a substantial riff on that recipe. And it was that restaurant dish that inspired me. Now, Jim is not going to eat rabbit. So I decided to substitute chicken thighs for the rabbit. Besides, most rabbit that you will find today is farmed. It really doesn’t taste any different from chicken. I know, that sounds cliché, but it’s true. Only wild rabbit will make a difference in flavour- just ask any of our parents or grandparents- they laugh at what we think is the real deal. They remember how things used to taste. I digress.
I also knew that if Jim asked what was for dinner, that I couldn’t reply with “Poulet a la Moutarde”. He’d laugh in my face. So I just said chicken and left it at that. When he had it that first time, there was no speaking. When I finally asked him what he thought of it, he looked up, as he finished cleaning up the plate, “Excellent. It’s a keeper!” I swear it is the sauce. Plus, cooked this way, you are guaranteed that the chicken will be tender, juicy, cooked through, not dry at all.
I recommend using chicken thighs, drumsticks, or full legs, depending on their size. If a good size, a full leg should feed one person comfortably. You could easily use chicken breasts in this recipe as well, but keep them on the bone. In fact, any time you are going to braise meat in some way, keep it on the bone if at all possible. The bones actually impart lovely flavour and structure to the finished dish. And because it is a braise, you really can’t overcook the chicken. It will never dry out, surrounded in the luscious liquids of this recipe.
The sauce is basically white wine, cream (or a combo of creme fraiche and heavy cream) and two mustards: grainy and dijon. The first step is sautéing up onion, shallots and garlic. See, it will be a very aromatic dish! Then some herbes de Provence are added to the softened alliums. Then the liquids are added. Stirred all together, they become the ‘hot tub’ for the seared-off chicken pieces to simmer in till they are cooked through. Towards the end, fresh thyme is added. Searing of the chicken should take about 10 minutes. Sautéeing the onions etc is another 5 minutes. Settling the chicken into the sauce and letting it simmer till cooked is about 30 minutes in total. See what I mean about this dish not taking long at all? While the chicken is simmering away, you can get your starch cooked off, and a salad made. And Bob’s your uncle!
This dish works wonderfully with mashed potatoes, boiled mini potatoes (very European) or even roasted potatoes. Or if you are so inclined, basmati rice makes a lovely bed for the chicken and sauce to settle on. And for fun, why not try serving the chicken and sauce over pasta?! Jim loves the rice, but I could present it on any of the above, and he would be a happy camper.
The only things needed to complete this dish are a crisp bright green salad to add necessary contrast to the richness of the dish. And lots of bread. Because you will not want to waste a drop of that sauce, and bread dipped into the pan will become an addictive part of the entire meal! Oh, wash it down with a great dry Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, and your taste buds will thank you. See what I mean about it being totally company worthy?
So, another chicken recipe is in the books. It is one that you’ll turn to all winter long.
Chicken in a Wine and Mustard Sauce
This dish is elegant but deceptively easy. Seared Chicken legs or thighs are added to sautéed onions, shallots and garlic, and then simmered in a combination of white wine, cream, herbes de Provence and two mustards. The final result is a sauce that you will want to soak up with crusty bread, and tender juicy chicken.
- 3-4 lbs chicken legs thighs or even breasts on the bone (if whole legs are large, one leg per person is good)
- Kosher salt
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/2 medium onion diced small
- 4 large shallots or 6 small to medium thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil if needed
- 1 tbsp herbes de Provence see Notes below for making your own
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche if you don't have access to any, and don't wish to make your own, just use 1 cup of the heavy cream- next ingredient
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 5 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp grainy mustard
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
Dry the chicken pieces with paper towel and season liberally with salt. Don't be shy.
Heat a large frying pan or shallow pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and melt until it is starting to bubble.
Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and sear, cooking until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Don't rush this. You want a deep brown skin. Remove to a plate.
Add the onion, shallots and garlic to the pan. Add a touch of olive oil if needed.
Cook until just softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the dry herbs and the wine. Stir to combine. Bring the liquids to a rolling simmer/boil.
Whisk in the creme fraiche and cream, as well as both of the mustards.
Drop the heat to a simmer and cook to help the flavours meld together. Add another 1/2 tsp of kosher salt to start with to taste. If needed, add a bit more.
Place the chicken pieces in the sauce, skin side up. Add any juices that may have collected back into the sauce as well.
Keep the heat at a good simmer, and cook uncovered until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. You can partially cover the pan, but it will cause some of the moisture to fall back into the pan, causing the skin to lose its crispness.
About 10 minutes before the chicken is done, sprinkle the fresh thyme over everything and continue cooking.
This dish can be served with boiled baby potatoes, mashed potatoes, basmati rice, or even pasta. Whatever carb your family is into!
Herbes de Provence recipe
2 tbsp plus 11/2 tsp dried oregano, 2 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 2 tbsp dried savory, 2 tbsp dried crushed lavender (optional), 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried sage, 1 tsp dried crushed rosemary. Blend and store in an airtight container (glass jar)
Creme Fraiche recipe
Combine 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk or kefir in a glass container. Cover and let stand at room temperature 24 hours, or until very thick. It may seem to take a longer time. Don't worry, it will come together. Stir well before covering and refrigerate up to 10 days.