I would like to think that in one of my past lives I was a provincial Frenchwoman of decent means. I would spend my mornings in the kitchen with the cooks making bread (eating bread), and my afternoons lounging in a field reading Gulliver’s Travels until the sun begun to set and I’ve have to trudge my way home through the golden fields. While I realize this romanticized view of provincial life in the eighteenth century is far from accurate, it still calls to me as if it was once my reality. Perhaps that is why I gravitate towards French meals, and nothing screams provincial comfort food more to me than my favorite French dish: Chicken Chasseur.
You’ve probably never heard of Chicken Chassuer, and if you have, perhaps you have not heard it’s story of origin. It’s a meal born out of a hunter’s catch of game foul mixed with whatever mushrooms and herbs he’d find on his way home. He’d give these ingredients to his wife, and she would throw them together in a pot with any stock on hand, add wine and serve with a starch for a hearty meal to end the day with. The name literally translates to “Hunter’s Chicken”. It’s a full bodied meal that’s perfect for a cold autumn day.
One such cold autumn day found itself to our door this past weekend, so I plucked out my beloved recipe and headed off to the grocery store to pick up my ingredients. Unfortunately, unlike the creators of this original recipe, I don’t have the luxury (nor the resources) to go hunting my game foul and plucking my herbs on my walk home, although I have spotted many a wild rosemary and thyme bush throughout Midtown, it doesn’t quite create the same effect as if I were walking through a field.
The thing that I love most about Chicken Chasseur is that with a Dutch oven, this is a one-pot meal and clean-up is a breeze. If you’re lucky to even have any leftovers from this dish, you’ll find that the flavors really mellow together better on day two. You’ll also note that this recipe calls for brandy as an ingredient, and while I realize that brandy isn’t a common spirit most have on hand, I would advise NOT to substitute with any other dark liquor as it does not create the same flavor. I have substituted with whiskey and bourbon once before and it was not my favorite outcome. The wine, however, is necessary for both the recipe and pairing with the meal itself. You’ll find this red sauce based meal pairs perfectly with a dry, crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre.
You might need these to make this recipe
- 4 ounces of thick cut lean bacon
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 lb brown mushrooms sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves stems removed
- 1 large clove of garlic minced
- 1/4 cup of brandy *do not substitute omit if you don't have it on hand
- 1 cup dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 14oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
In your dutch oven, cook the bacon on medium high heat until crispy and remove with a slotted spoon leaving the bacon fat in the bowl.
Next, thoroughly salt and pepper your chicken thighs, and place in the bacon fat to cook. Roughly 3-5 minutes each side until golden brown. Transfer thighs to plate.
Add shallots to dutch oven and saute until tender, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms in and saute until softened and browned. Add the thyme and garlic in and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add brandy and wine, scraping the sides and the bottom of the pan to loosen and browned bits. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
Return chicken and bacon to the skillet and add the tomatoes, tomato juice and chicken broth.
Partially cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from sauce and place in a covered dish, while you cook the remaining sauce until it's thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove dutch oven from heat, and whisk in tarragon, thyme and cold butter; sauce will be thick and glossy.
Ladle sauce over chicken and serve immediately.