This method of sautéing chicken before cooking it in wine and stock can be found all across Europe. Here however, I’ve settled for a recipe that firmly nods to France, recalling my time living in the Dordogne in the 1990s. During that year, I developed a friendship with Suzette, a frisky octogenarian, who would always insist I stay for lunch when I visited; this is the kind of rustic fare I’d regularly be treated to.
Cook up some new potatoes or rice to serve alongside this dish or simply a few great hunks of good bread.
- 50g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp light olive oil
- 100g smoked lardons
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 chicken thighs (around 1kg), trimmed of excess skin
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 bunch of tarragon
- 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 200ml dry white wine
- 200ml chicken stock
- 80g garden peas
- 8 asparagus tips
- 1 gem lettuce
- 1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Salt and black pepper
Melt the butter with the olive oil in your wide shallow casserole pot over a medium heat. Add the lardons and bay leaves to the pan, breaking up any lardons that may have got stuck together. Now add the chicken thighs, skin side down, in a single layer. Cook for 9-10 minutes, over a medium heat, until golden brown. Do not be tempted to move the chicken around during this time; this has a tendency to create steam which prevents the all-important caramelisation and also causes them to stick to the base of the pan.
After 8 or 9 minutes, the thighs should release themselves quite naturally from the base of the pan but may need the full 10 minutes for the skin to be golden and the fat underneath completely rendered. Once the skin-side is ready, flip the thighs over and cook on the second side for a minute or two. Transfer the chicken temporarily to a plate.
Reduce the pan temperature slightly and add the chopped onion and 4 tarragon stalks. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and flour and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes. Now add the wine and stock, scraping any bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan, helping them dissolve in the liquid. Add a generous pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring the contents of the pan back to simmering point and return the chicken to the pan, skin-side up, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate. Cook over a moderate heat for 20 minutes ensuring the bubbles extend to the outside of the pan (to ensure even cooking).
Meanwhile, trim the bases of the asparagus tips and roughly chop 1 tablespoon of tarragon leaves. Cut the gem lettuce into quarters, lengthways.
After 20 minutes the liquid in the pan will have reduced considerably. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken to a clean plate. Add the asparagus spears and lettuce quarters to the pan, cook for a couple of minutes before adding the peas and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes until the lettuce has wilted, the asparagus is al dente and the peas are cooked. Stir through the chopped tarragon. Taste for seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary. Nestle the chicken pieces back amongst the sauce and vegetables. Serve with some new potatoes and of course the rest of the white wine!