Long before I ever had the pleasure of meeting Patricia Wells (I had the very good fortune to cook with her for a week while I lived in Paris), I was a HUGE fan. There is just something about her approach to food that really resonates with me. Perhaps it’s her focus on delicious “approachable” regional French cooking, stripped of its Michelin starred pretense, that really feels right and authentic. That’s not to say that she can’t saddle up with the best of them and cook haute cuisine meals, because she can. Her work with the famed Chef Joel Robuchon should put any question of that to rest. It’s just that she seems most comfortable sharing everyday (yet extraordinary) French cooking with those of us looking to inject a little joie de vivre into our kitchens.
This dish is addictively tasty, dresses up pretty for company, but can be easily pulled together for a weeknight family dinner. It’s really nothing more than browned chicken thighs, quickly braised with some vinegar and aromatics, and finished with a delectable pan sauced made with tomato, mustard, tarragon and cream. When Boris and I made this a few weeks back, we served it over brown rice tossed with a few spoons of fennel soffritto and some toasted pistachios. It was perfect!
Enjoy! – Steve
- 2 medium sweet yellow onion, peeled
- 1 chicken (3-4 pounds), cut into 8 serving pieces (we just used chicken thighs)
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 head garlic, peeled and cloves left whole
- 4 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- Bouquet garni: a couple of bay leaves, couple of sprigs of fresh tarragon, rosemary, celery leaves and Italian parsley all tied up with a piece of twine
- 6 tbsp sherry wine vinegar
- 2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, snipped
- Slice onion in half lengthwise. Place each half cut side down and slice very thin. Set aside.
- Liberally season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, combine oil and butter over high heat. When hot, and working in batches, add the chicken skin side down and cook until an even golden color on one side. Turn chicken and brown five minutes on the other side until golden brown. Keep heat regulated so skin doesn’t scorch.
- When all the chicken is browned, remove to platter.
- Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat from skillet. Add the onions, shallots, garlic and bouquet garni and season lightly with salt. Sweat by cooking over low heat without coloring for about five minutes. Add the chicken pieces, pour about 3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar over chicken and cover. Cook very gently over low heat stirring to make sure the veggies don’t burn until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with foil, keep warm in low oven.
- Leave the veggies in the pan. Over moderate heat slowly add the remaining 3 tablespoons of vinegar, scraping up any bits that stick to the bottom of the skillet. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, mustard, and half the tarragon and stir to blend. Increase heat to high and bring to boil, cook until sauce is thick and glossy , about seven minutes. Off the heat stir in the cream and stir to blend. Return to low heat just to warm through. The resulting sauce should be thick, creamy, and fragrant. Taste for seasoning.
- Spoon sauce and veggies over and alongside the chicken and sprinkle with the remaining tarragon. Serve with rice or pasta.