The Gamekeeper, by Richard Ansdell (1815–85)
Autumn is upon us and it is time to start thinking of warming dishes for the cooler evenings. There are any number of chicken dishes, coq au vin, coq au Riesling and Chicken Marengo, reputed to have been prepared by Napoleon’s cook after the Battle of Marengo. The dish was made up of what was left in the stores and it being the Italian countryside it contained herbs, wine and fresh water crayfish, doubtless plucked from a nearby stream. Julia Child called it Napoleon’s Chicken – and of course she used Napoleon Cognac.
Reading A Tuscan Childhood by Kinto Beevor and having read Perfume from Provence by Lady Fortescue, there is a prevalence of gamekeepers and peasant cooks in both. Both books written between the World Wars.
So, in our kitchen, I decided to start from the beginning and make a new dish in the style of an imagined gamekeeper’s pot. And that perhaps the gamekeeper had some of these ingredients in his leather satchel, and plucked some from the fields and the forest floor.
The Gamekeeper’s Chicken Pot
12 chicken thighs, skin on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour, ours is in a shaker
Willow Creek Garlic infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
250g bacon bits
2 large onions, finely chopped
250g small white button mushrooms – finely chopped
100ml Fine potstill brandy
1 Tbs dried thyme
350ml dry white wine
350ml chicken stock, I use NoMU Chicken Fond
6 giant cloves garlic
6 shallots, peeled and cut in half
250 Portobellini Mushrooms, quartered
100g pitted green olives
Willow Creek Garlic Flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What you’ll do
Preset the oven at 180C. Season the chicken thighs well with the salt and pepper. Shake over some flour pat well and shake off the excess. In a large cast iron, heated casserole splash the olive oil and then over medium heat, brown the chicken pieces and set aside. Add the bacon bits to the casserole and stir fry until cooked. Remove and set aside. Add the onions to the casserole and cook gently until golden brown, add the button mushrooms and cook until most of the moisture has been driven off the mushrooms. Place the chicken thighs and the bacon on top of the onions. Pour over the brandy and set it alight. Add the thyme, wine, and stock. Place the garlic, shallots and the Portobellini mushrooms on top. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the lid on the casserole and place in the centre of the oven for 90 minutes. Add the olives and cook further for about 15 minutes without the lid. Taste and reseason if necessary.
We served the dish with roasted pumpkin and steamed broccoli.
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