All my favourites in one dish: Diana Henry; a new one tin recipe; chicken thighs; sourdough. This is one of those perfect for the Aga one tin dishes which has the added bonus of using up some of the sourdough I have been making. My sourdough is improving and everyone seems to enjoy eating it but this new pastime has brought out the perfectionist in me and I haven’t yet achieved my ideal loaf. I am beginning to understand what drives people to keep baking sourdough. Part of the enjoyment is reading books about it and watching video demonstrations. I am aspiring to make Chad Robertson’s “basic country bread” as described in his wonderful book “Tartine“. I am reading it avidly and am grateful to my youngest son for leaving it at home when he returned to university this week. The other sourdough book I’m finding invaluable is James Morton’s “Super Sourdough” which my sons gave me for Christmas.
Anyway, back to the chicken recipe. It’s from Diana Henry’s latest wonderful book “From the Oven to the Table” and I hope you find it as delicious, interesting and distinctive as we did. The great thing is it’s very easy to up the quantities, using an additional roasting tin, without much extra work. You would need to allow some extra time in the oven and swap the tins round halfway through to make sure all the chicken pieces achieved that golden brown crispiness.
175g sourdough bread, torn into pieces roughly 5cm square
450g small waxy potatoes, cut into chunks
1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges
6 thyme sprigs
1-2 tsps (according to preference) chilli flakes
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
150g pancetta or bacon, ideally in one piece cut into chunks, but I used rashers which I chopped up
8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
2 tbsps sherry vinegar
220ml amontillado sherry
5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
150g spring onions, trimmed
100g bitter salad leaves such as radicchio or chicory
25g toasted pine nuts
Put the bread, onion, potatoes, thyme, chilli and garlic cloves in the large Aga roasting tin
Add the pancetta or bacon and the chicken thighs
Pour on the sherry vinegar, 70ml of the sherry and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil
Season and toss everything round with your hands, finishing with the chicken thighs skin side up. Make sure the bread isn’t too exposed, or lying at the edges, or it will become too dark
Slide onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven and roast for 25 minutes, tossing the ingredients round and turning the tin round once. Keep the chicken skin side up
Mix the spring onions with the last tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl and lay them on top of the tin, adding another 50ml sherry
Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes
Pour the remaining sherry into a small pan with the raisins and bring to just under the boil on the boiling plate. Leave these to sit, then add them to the roasting tin for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time
For us this was a kitchen supper so I served it from the tin and placed a salad bowl of red chicory dressed with balsamic and olive oil on the table. Alternatively, you could transfer everything to a large serving dish and mix in the leaves
Following on from my boeuf bourgignon post, here’s another classic recipe. Coq au Vin is in fact just boeuf bourgignon but with chicken. Discuss. Seriously, sometimes I wonder why we keep looking for new ideas when the classic, tried and tested recipes are so good; I mean, there’s a reason they’ve been around for so long. It has not escaped my notice, by the way, that the two I mention here are French.
If you Google “Coq au Vin” you will find many different ways of making it but the ingredients don’t vary much. I based mine on Delia’s recipe. Good old Delia: she provides clear instructions and retains all the essential elements without sacrificing flavour. And because we are Aga cooks, we can be relaxed about the cooking time and leave our dish bubbling gently in the simmering oven for longer than the 40 minutes – 1 hour most recipes recommend. Chatting about this in my “I love my Aga” Facebook group, there was discussion about how to thicken the sauce. You could dust the chicken pieces with flour first, but I rather like the method I give here which is to whisk in a butter and flour paste at the end.
I don’t know if anyone uses the cock bird to make this dish anymore. In fact, I don’t know if it would be possible to get hold of one. A chicken, jointed into 8 pieces has become traditional here and I confess that when I made this recently, I just used good quality chicken thighs I bought from Waitrose.
Coq au Vin
A 2kg chicken jointed into 8 pieces or 8 good quality, large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
Salt and pepper
Butter and olive oil
225g unsmoked streaky bacon, chopped
Button onions or shallots, 2-3 per person, peeled and left whole
2 cloves garlic, crushed
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Approx. 500ml red wine
225g mushrooms, sliced thickly
A butter and flour paste (beurre manié) made by mashing 1tbsp soft butter with 1tbsp plain flour
A handful of chopped, fresh parsley
Season the chicken pieces
Melt the butter with the oil in a frying pan on the simmering plate and add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Transfer to the floor of the roasting oven for 5-10 minutes to brown
Take it out, turn the chicken pieces over and return to the roasting oven floor for a further 5 minutes or so
Remove the chicken and put it in a casserole that has a lid
Add the onions and bacon to the frying pan making sure they’re coated in the fat and fry until coloured (on the roasting oven floor again)
Tip the onions and bacon into the casserole and add the garlic, thyme, bay and red wine, which should not cover the chicken completely
Bring this to simmering point on the boiling plate and then put the lid on the casserole and place it in the simmering oven for two to three hours, turning the chicken pieces over halfway through. If you want it to cook more quickly, I reckon you could put it in the baking oven or maybe even the roasting oven, but I did not try this so I can’t vouch for it
About 30 minutes before you want to eat, add the mushrooms
Remove the chicken, bacon, onions and mushrooms and keep them warm
Place the casserole on the simmering plate and when the wine is bubbling, whisk in the beurre manié and let it simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy. Taste for seasoning
Return everything to the sauce, sprinkle over the parsley and serve
The discussion about food waste on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme resonated particularly strongly with me this morning. None of us likes to think we waste food but when I went to bed last night I was wishing that I’d thrown the bacon in the bin instead of making spaghetti carbonara with it. As it turned out, no-one was ill, which was a huge relief, but I did not have a particularly peaceful night.
I was acutely aware that I should probably hurry up and use the bacon lurking in my fridge. It was about three weeks past its “use by” date (yes, really) but to me it looked and smelt absolutely fine. After his first mouthful my husband announced that it tasted odd and he was convinced it was off. Youngest son and I, however, detected nothing and, either bravely or foolishly, carried on eating. Fortunately, my husband did not need to go hungry because there was a portion of Lancashire hotpot left over from the weekend which we reheated (very thoroughly!).
He was incredulous that we could not smell and taste what he was smelling and tasting and I admit that this worried me, which is why I had a restless night. I’ve always tended to use appearance and smell rather than the dates printed on the packets to help me decide whether food is usable, but this has dented my confidence. “But the bacon was fine,” you might well say to me and you’d be right, but I trust my husband on these things and I think there’s no doubt that it was on the cusp and I feel lucky to have got away with it. I have no intention of changing behaviour to such an extent that I neurotically throw away food the minute it hits the “use by” date, but I will be more careful in future. The lesson I will take from this is of course that I should have made sure to use up that bacon three weeks ago.
(In the absence of photos of either food waste or bacon, I hope you like these roses, taken by my husband.)