Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon

Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon

When we had our Aga installed in our new kitchen twelve years ago, we considered making space for a conventional hob and oven so that we could turn the Aga off during the summer months as many Aga owners do. We decided against it though, partly because the kitchen lay-out didn’t really allow for it and partly because I felt that if I was going to be an Aga cook it should be the whole year round. I have not regretted this decision. Until this summer that is. I have found myself occasionally cursing the Aga while melting into a puddle on the kitchen floor. It has just been so hot that the last thing I want to do is stand near the Aga, let alone open its doors and place things in it! If it weren’t for the ability to open wide the large sash windows of our Victorian house, I might have left home by now!

That was a rather long-winded way of explaining that the reason I haven’t posted any Aga recipes lately is because I haven’t been cooking many. Mind you, I don’t think it’s only Aga owners like me who’ve not felt much like cooking during this heatwave. I get the impression we’ve all been making salads and barbecuing. But at some point last week it cooled down a little and even rained. Last Sunday dawned wet and windy: normal summer had returned and I was perfectly happy pottering about in the kitchen  “around the Aga” making lunch. I opted to make an old favourite from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection book delia-smiths-summer-collection-140-12847l1 which was hugely popular when it came out in 1993. All my friends seemed to be cooking from it, whether it was Piedmont Roasted Peppers, Thai Salmon Filo Parcels or Pesto Rice Salad. Some of the ingredients in the recipes (fresh coriander, lemongrass, pesto, chillies, couscous) were new to us or at least not part of our daily repertoire and not always easy to get hold of. The Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon recipe is Delia’s Spanish take on the classic French Poulet au Vinaigre, and I’ve adapted it slightly for the Aga.

 

Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs or a whole chicken jointed into 8 pieces
  • 150ml sherry vinegar
  • 425ml medium-dry Amontillado sherry*
  • 12 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few more sprigs of tarragon to garnish

Method

  • Season the chicken pieces and brush with a little of the oil
  • Heat a large frying pan or sauté pan on the simmering plate and add the chicken, skin side down, to brown it. You can do this by leaving the pan on the simmering plate, but to stop your Aga losing heat (remember the 80/20 rule which says you should do 80% of your cooking in the ovens and no more than 20% on the hot plates), you can place the pan on the floor of the roasting oven to do this. Once golden brown, turn the chicken pieces over to do the same on the other side
  • Remove the chicken to a plate, return the pan to the simmering plate and add the remaining oil followed by the shallots to brown them a little
  • Add the garlic cloves to colour them slightly
  • Return the chicken pieces to the pan, scatter the tarragon leaves over, then pour in the vinegar and sherry
  • Bring it up to simmering point and transfer it to the simmering oven to braise slowly. You know the drill: it will not come to any harm in there. Probably needs about an hour so here so if you want it to cook more quickly I suggest you put it in a hotter oven (baking oven if you have one) for 30 minutes or so. Halfway through the cooking time turn the chicken pieces over
  • When you’re nearly ready to eat remove the chicken pieces, shallots and garlic from the pan while you whisk in the crème fraîche. The sauce should be thick by now but you might want to bring it to the boil on the simmering plate to reduce it a little further
  • Check the seasoning and then either return the chicken and shallots to the pan (if it’s nice enough to serve it in) or pour the sauce over the chicken in a suitable serving dish
  • Garnish with the tarragon sprigs

 

* As you know, with Aga cooking there is less evaporation meaning that less liquid is required. I have given Delia’s quantities here but in all honestly there was a lot of sauce and I think I could have used about 100ml less sherry.

Fricassée of Chicken with Tarragon

 

 

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This morning I tweeted a line I’d read in the Sunday Times about the Sunday roast being on its way out but that this wasn’t the case in my house.  Wonderfully, the replies I received confirmed that my family is not the exception.  It doesn’t have to be eaten at lunchtime (everyone’s Sundays are busy) but I believe it’s a ritual and tradition worth preserving.

When I was a student and sharing a flat with three friends, where cooking was concerned we had the typical student repertoire of the era, comprising 1001 things to do with mince. But believe it or not, one of our staples was also chicken fricassée.  I’m afraid I can’t remember the recipe in detail but it wasn’t like the dish I made for Sunday lunch today. Our student recipe involved sautéeing pieces of chicken and mushrooms and then adding a little flour, stock and milk (and possibly some cream) to make a white sauce.  We used to serve it with rice.

The origin of the term “fricassée” is French, possibly from “frire” (to fry) and “casser” (to break in pieces), which might explain why all the fricassée recipes I found in a quick Google search this afternoon used chicken pieces rather than a whole bird.  The one I made for lunch today, based on this recipe by Michel Roux which I read in the Times during the week, is the only one I’ve seen which involves roasting a whole chicken.  (Apologies if you’re not a Times subscriber and the article is behind the paywall.)

Anyway, we really enjoyed it; the tarragon sauce is delicious.  Sometimes it’s good to return to a simple classic.  We don’t need always to be finding the next fashionable thing to cook.

I made changes to the Roux recipe; very brave of me, I thought, considering his chef’s credentials and renown, but I honestly didn’t think we needed quite that much cream and also, when you have a roasting oven as hot as the Aga’s, why would you need to brown the chicken before putting it in the oven?

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (mine weighed 2kg)
  • Butter
  • 3 shallots
  • Tarragon vinegar (I didn’t have any so used good quality white wine vinegar)
  • About 100ml white wine
  • About 100ml chicken stock
  • About 150ml double cream
  • Handful of tarragon leaves (adjust amount according to your preference)

Method

  • Place the chicken in a roasting tin, spread butter all over it and season.
  • Roast in the roasting oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, basting a couple of times during cooking.  I placed mine on the rack on the third set of rungs for the first 20 minutes, then moved the rack to the bottom of the oven with the tin on the fourth set of rungs.  The cooking time will obviously depend on the weight of your chicken.
  • Remove the chicken, place on a dish and leave to rest (perhaps on the warming plate of your Aga)
  • Pour off most of the fat, add a knob of butter and sweat the shallots gently for about 5 minutes.  Add 1tbsp vinegar and the white wine and let it bubble up for a few minutes.  At this stage I poured everything into a small saucepan: easier than continuing in the roasting tin.
  • Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced a little.  Add the cream and repeat.  Check for seasoning.  Add the tarragon leaves at the last minute.  Pour into a jug for serving.  We ate our fricassée with new potatoes, broccoli and carrots.