After a spell of unseasonably warm weather, it’s turned cold, damp, and overcast in western New England. But rather than bemoan the change outdoors, I use it as an impetus to spend time in my kitchen cooking warming, comforting dishes, like a rustic ragù of chicken with chanterelle mushrooms.
Here is a stew that will take about 45 minutes to prep, but then needs only to simmer gently on the stove top about an hour. For this hearty dish, I season chicken thighs with herbes de Provence, coarse salt, and freshly ground pepper before browning them. Onions, carrots, and brown mushrooms are sautéed next and combined with garlic, bay leaves, and tomatoes. Then the chicken and the vegetables are simmered in stock and wine until the poultry is fork tender.
What really gives this dish its star power, though, is some dried chanterelle mushrooms. After being soaked in hot water until reconstituted, the mushrooms (along with their flavorful soaking liquid) are added to the stew, providing a meaty, autumn taste to the humble chicken and vegetable mélange.
Serve this ragù (which can be prepared up to two days ahead) straight from the skillet over pasta or creamy polenta or with mounds of mashed potatoes. Its beautiful blend of flavors and colorful hues will make those dark, chilly days of the season seem practically inconsequential!
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Fall Ragu of Chicken and Chanterelles
1 oz (1 cup) dried chanterelles or mixed mushrooms or dried porcini (see note)
8 chicken thighs (3 lbs), patted dry and trimmed of excess fat and any dangling skin (see note)
2 tbsp herbes de Provence
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil plus extra if needed
1 1 /2 cups chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots, cut 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal
8 oz brown mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic
4 bay leaves, broken in half
3 cups reduced sodium chicken stock plus extra if needed
1 cup dry white wine plus extra if needed
One 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 lbs fettuccine cooked according to package directions
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley, optional
1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Then strain the chanterelles in a sieve lined with a double layer of paper towels and set over a bowl. Push down with the back of a wooden spoon on the mushrooms to extract as much liquid as possible. You should get about 3/4 cup Reserve the mushrooms and the soaking liquid.
2. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Then combine the herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Season both sides of the thighs with this mixture.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet (an 11- to 12- inch skillet works well) with a lid over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken, and cook until nicely browned, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the drippings in the pan. (If you don’t have 3 tablespoons, add enough olive oil to make that amount.)
4. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and brown mushrooms, and sauté, stirring, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves, and stir 30 seconds more. Add the stock, wine, tomatoes, and reserved liquid from the mushrooms. Stir to combine.
5. Return the chicken to the pan, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Lower heat, cover, and cook 30 minutes. Then stir in the reserved chanterelles. Cook, covered, until the chicken is tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 35 to 40 minutes more. If liquids start to cook down too rapidly, add 1 cup extra stock and 1/3 cup extra wine. Season the ragù with extra salt and pepper to taste. (The ragù can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat, 15 to 20 minutes.)
6. Serve the ragù over bowls of fettuccine and, if you like, sprinkled with parsely. Serves 8 with one thigh each or 4 with two.
Note: I found a one-oz plastic jar of dried chanterelles at my local Whole Foods for $6.99, a real bargain for these special mushrooms. You could substitute dried porcini (for a stronger taste) or use a similar amount of mixed, dried wild mushrooms.
Note: I like to use Whole Foods air-dried chicken thighs, which contain a lower water content and thus have a better taste.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014