Many people don’t think of slow simmering when deciding what to do with a chicken. However, farm raised chickens lend themselves very well to this treatment, since they are generally full of flavor, less fatty and a bit firmer in texture than standard birds (which is to say tougher, especially in the legs). All three of these traits are a good thing in my mind, but need to be taken into account when cooking; slow, moist cooking yields chicken that is fork tender and very moist.
This recipe will feed 4 comfortably using a 4# chicken and more if you have a big farm raised bird. When feeding just two, I like to roast the breasts for one meal, then stew the legs and giblets for a second, thus stretching the my food dollar; farm raised chickens are tasty but can be considerably more expensive than factory birds.
Use morel mushrooms in place of buttons (or use both kinds) and serve with asparagus for a true spring meal.
Chicken legs simmering with cream and creme fraiche.
Fricasse of chicken with mushrooms and creme fraiche
1 farm chicken (about 4 pounds)
1/2 cup flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick butter (unsalted)
1 Small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Large shallot
1lb button mushrooms ((or use morels if available))
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup cup Cognac
1 cup dry white wine
chicken stock (note: can be made from the carcass of the chicken)
Cut the chicken in “fricassee”. If you are not familiar with this process, check out “La Technique” by Jacques Pepin for full description. Split the boneless breasts into 2 halves. Separate the leg from the thigh. Set aside the liver for finishing the sauce. The heart and gizzard can be simmered as part of the stew or saved with the neck and wing tips for stock.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat half the stick of butter in a heavy pan or dutch over large enough to hold the chicken pieces in a single layer. When the butter is foamy, add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Saute until nicely colored on all sides. Remove the pieces to a plate and take the pan off the heat.
While the chicken is coloring, peel the garlic , shallot and onion. Remove the germ from the garlic. Cut the onion, garlic and shallot in small dice. Pick the leaves from the thyme. Brush the mushrooms, trim the stem and then slice.
Add the mushrooms to the pan with a bit more butter and saute over medium heat until nicely colored. Add the chopped vegetables to the chicken pan and saute for 4-5 minutest, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. De-glaze the pan with the Cognac and let reduce to dry.
Return the chicken pieces to the pan. Add the white wine, thyme leaves and bay leaf and enough chicken stock so that the liquid is about 3/4 the height of the chicken pieces. Bring to a simmer, cover loosely and cook until the chicken pieces are completely cooked and tender, about 20 minutes. Turn the pieces once during the cooking.
While the chicken is simmering, sear the liver in a hot pan with a little butter. Color on both sides. Deglaze with a tablespoon of Cognac, then pour into a mortar. Let cool 3 minutes, then work the liver and 1 tablespoon of butter until it is a paste. Work this through a fine mesh sieve to remove the connective tissues. Chill.
Remove the chicken from the pan. Increase the heat to a boil and reduce the liquid by half. Add the cream and creme fraiche to the pan, whisk well, lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the sauce is about as thick as creme anglais.
Check the sauce seasoning and correct with salt and pepper as needed. Remove the bay leave, then return the chicken pieces to the sauce. Work in the cold liver butter, stirring all the time until it is fully incorporated.
Serve immediately. Boiled rice, spelt or whole grain barley make a nice accompaniment.
Chicken legs simmering with cream and creme fraiche