- 10 slices bacon, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 organic chickens, about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds each, quartered, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 30 small pearl onions, peeled
- 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large shallots)
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- 1 pound button mushrooms, wiped clean and halved or quartered if large (should match size of pearl onions)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 3 cups full-bodied dry white wine, such as white Burgundy, or a California Chardonnay
- 1 1/2 cups rich chicken stock
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Egg noodles, cooked according to package directions, accompaniment
- Braised Leeks, recipe follows
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large, heavy Dutch oven over high heat fry the bacon until crisp and all of the fat is rendered. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crisp bacon bits to paper towels to drain. Set aside and reserve.
Season the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper. Brown the chicken pieces in the hot bacon fat, working in batches, if necessary, until golden on all sides. Transfer the chicken pieces to a large plate or bowl and set aside. Remove all but about 4 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the Dutch oven. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the chopped onion, pearl onions, shallots and garlic cloves to the Dutch oven and cook until soft, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook for 7 minutes longer, or until they've released most of their liquid and have begun to brown. Add the flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly add the wine and stock, stirring constantly. Add the thyme, bay leaves reserved bacon and chicken. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the sauce at a gentle simmer for 15 minutes, until liquid is slightly thickened. Bring the sauce to a boil and cover the pot. Place in the oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the chicken is very tender. Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish and cover loosely to keep warm. Return pot to medium-low heat. Skim any fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the heavy cream and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Return the chicken to the Dutch oven and cook for a few minutes to heat through, then serve.
*This dish may be prepared 1 or 2 days in advance and then reheated slowly just before serving.
For the Braised Leeks:
- 4 large leeks, tough outer leaves discarded and leeks trimmed to about 7-inches in length
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch pepper
Using a sharp knife, trim most of the roots off the ends of the leeks, leaving enough so that the leek remains attached at the bottom. Cut each leek lengthwise into halves or quarters, as desired. Run leeks under cold running water, using fingers to loosen and remove any dirt or sand from between the leaves.
In a heavy skillet or saute pan that has a tight fitting lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks to the skillet with any water that is clinging to the leaves from washing them. Cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the stock and thyme and lower the heat to medium-low. Braise the leeks, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until the leeks are very tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings as a side dish