As a child I had ‘favourite’ foods, though what they were escapes me. I think it was more a case that foods I never got to eat were on the list, so if the chance ever arose I’d waste no time choosing… But ‘favourite’ foods as an adult always seem a tad idiotic to me, because what you want to eat depends on so many factors: where you are, what the weather’s like, what you’re doing and who you’re with, for starters.
However, every so often I think about which foods I can’t live without, the ones that really work on lots of different levels and still continue to interest me. And, if I had to choose one meat, and only one, and had to give the rest up, I’d choose chicken. It lends itself to dressing up (so roasts, casseroles, fancy-dancy Szechuan dazzlers) as well as humbler occasions (a couple of legs baked in the oven is still my automatic, can’t-think-of-anything-better, dish). You can make stock and soup from the bones, scratchings from the skin and every cuisine in the world, from Afghani to Vietnamese, seems to have a way of cooking it.
I’m not the only one: ‘chicken recipe’ is (or was) the most searched-for food term on Google and, this year, three books were published all about this one bird: Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand, Catherine Phipps’s Chicken and, now, Paul Gayler’s Chicken and Other Birds. I don’t own any of them, as yet, but I keep coming across the recipes online and this, shared on ‘The Happy Foodie‘, is the first I have tried. Twice. With great success. It’s short on ingredients and steps, sits happily in one pot (though you may want another for a starch), and is really quick. And, a delight for me, the recipe barely needed a tweak, except cutting down for fewer people.
I originally planned to share it on a Friday, since it seemed like a recipe ideal for a weekend but it’s also perfect for a Wednesday, or a Tuesday, or a Thursday…try it; you may find it sneaks up to the top of your list quite quickly.
Braised chicken with bacon, lettuce and peas
Enough for 2-4, depending on sides served/greed
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
olive oil, about a tablespoon
butter, a thin slice
chicken stock, 150ml
peas, fresh or frozen (and defrosted), 150g (and yes, pea-hater, you could leave these out…)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
chicken thighs, 4
Little Gem lettuce, 1 largish or 2 small
sprig of tarragon (I made it without it the first time so don’t worry if you don’t have/can’t get any)
white wine, 75ml
cream or crème fraîche, 35g (just over a tablespoon)
1. Put the oil over a medium heat in a large lidded frying pan or casserole dish (I use a round Le Creuset) then add the lardons and fry until brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon (you want to leave the fat behind) and set aside.
2. Add the chicken thighs to the pan and cook until golden brown all over.
3. While the chicken is cooking, peel and finely slice the garlic and trim the leek, cut it into discs and rinse the discs thoroughly. Halve the lettuce(s) lengthways, trying to keep the halves together in one piece.
4. Remove the chicken from the pan when it’s a lovely colour all over and drain off any fat (and save it, for cooking roast potatoes or something else that will soak it up delightfully).
5. Add the butter to the pan and when it starts to bubble, add the garlic, leeks, Little Gems (cut-side down) and tarragon. Leave to cook for a few minutes, without stirring then add the wine. When the wine bubbles, cover the pan and leave the vegetables to braise for about 5 minutes. (If you need to, you can cook the dish up to this point in advance, then when you are ready to finish it off/eat, return it to the heat and continue it from step 6.)
6. Add the stock and peas to the vegetables, season, then add the bacon and chicken (skin-side up). Half-cover the pan then leave to simmer until the vegetables are tender (to be fair, by the time the chicken is done they will be really soft) and the chicken is cooked through (this will take about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces).
7. Finally, stir in the cream and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened (about another 5 minutes).
8. Serve just as it is, or with mash, crushed new potatoes or rice. If you are having mash, be wary of adding too much cream or butter to it, if you don’t want to feel dairy-ed out.