I love this luxurious coq-au-vin-style dish and make it quite often for friends when I’m looking for a comforting recipe with a complex flavour, but don’t have time to fiddle around with a lot of chopping or stock-boiling or slow cooking. You can made this dish in half the time by chucking everything together in a pan and hoping for the best, but I’ve designed the recipe so that it creates its own deep-flavoured stock and sauce as it cooks, drawing wonderful earthy flavours from the bacon, mushrooms, leeks and chicken.
Any dry cider will do for this recipe, but you will get a superior result from a carefully brewed craft cider. I’ve used, on various occasions, two excellent South African ciders – Everson’s and Terre Madre – and was interested to note the subtle differences in the final result.
There is not a speck of flour in this recipe, yet the sauce reduces quite quickly to just the right state of silken thickness. You can’t achieve this in a small, crowded pot, however, because there isn’t enough surface area for the sauce to reduce in a hurry. Make it in a large, shallow pan, such as an electric frying pan, or a paella pan if you have one.
If you can find fresh tarragon, use it by all means, but I find that good quality dried tarragon is just as pungent. You can find good-quality freeze-dried tarragon at Woolies and in better supermarkets.
If you don’t use alcohol in your cooking, use a not-too-sweet apple juice (such as Appletiser) instead of cider.
Recipe from Scrumptious: Food for Family and Friends (Random House Struik)
Chicken with Bacon, Leeks & Cider
two free-range chickens, or chicken pieces of your choice
3 large leeks
3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
250 g back bacon
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
500 g tiny button mushrooms
3 cups (750 ml) dry cider
2½ tsp dried tarragon
a 10-cm sprig of fresh thyme
1½ (375 ml) cups cream
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp (60 ml) finely chopped curly parsley
Remove any visible fat from the chickens and cut them into 16 portions (or ask your butcher to do this for you). Cut a lengthways slice halfway through the leeks and rinse, fanning out the leaves, under cold water. Finely slice the leeks (you’ll use the white and pale green parts only). Heat the butter and olive oil in a very large, shallow pan, add the leeks and bacon and fry over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, without allowing the leeks to brown. Add the garlic and fry gently for another minute. Remove the leeks, bacon and garlic using a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Be sure to remove every trace of leek and garlic, as these will blacken during the next step and make the sauce bitter.
Brown the chicken pieces on both sides, over a high heat, and in batches, for 3-4 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden (add a little more butter or oil to the pan if necessary). Set aside on a plate. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, add the mushrooms and fry over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden. Pour in the cider and bubble briskly for 3 minutes, stirring and scraping to dislodge the sediment on the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken (skin side up), leeks and bacon to the pan and add the tarragon, thyme sprig and a big pinch of salt. Reduce heat and bubble, uncovered for 25-35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked right through. Turn the chicken pieces over three or four times while they cook. Remove the thyme sprig, stir in the cream, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook gently for a few more minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced and thickened.
Scatter with parsley and serve hot with mashed or crushed potatoes and a green salad or vegetables.
Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE
Jane-Anne Hobbs is a food writer de luxe. Recipe developer and photographer, she has written a stunning cookbook Scrumptious, click here to read my review. Always on the look out for low carb dishes, she has latterly come up with some stunners. When she is not in her kitchen Jane-Anne runs one of South Africa’s most successful food websites and Facebook page – http://www.whatsfordinner.co.za/
CLICK HERE to go to her website.