Ever since the movie “Julie & Julia” came out, everyone seems to be crazy about Julia Child’s version of Beuf Bourguignon. I know, Beuf Bourguignon is a great dish, but sometimes you just can’t find the right beef in the supermarket or at your butcher’s. Or you just don’t want to spend the money. On the other hand, 4 chicken thighs only cost around 2 Euro. Seemed like a deal to me.
Oh, and there’s a simple rule about cooking with wine: don’t use anything that you wouldn’t drink. But you don’t have to use the most expensive one; a simple wine in a real bottle will do fine. Real French gourmet food for a couple of bucks. Perfect.
2-3 small onions, peeled and diced (1 cup)
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced (1 cup)
2-3 celery sticks, peeled and diced (1 cup)
6 thick slices of bacon, cut into strips
6-8 chicken thighs
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bottle red wine, shiraz or pinot noir
3 bay leaves
6 juniper berries
8 button mushrooms
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn starch
This is the great triumvirate of French cooking: onion, carrot and celery. The base of all kinds of meat dish with. Just cut them into 1 cm / 1/4 inch cubes. While you’re at it, also cut the bacon into strips.
Preheat your oven to 165°C / 325°F.
Mix some salt and pepper into the flour, then dredge the chicken thighs in the flour. They should be covered on all sides.
Heat up a big pan on medium, pour in the vegetable oil and start frying the chicken thighs. Just don’t overcrowd the pan, 4 at a time are more than enough. They will need around 5 minutes on each side, you want them golden brown – but no need to cook them through, we’ll get to that later.
Stack them into a large pot, I like my cast iron Dutch oven for that.
When you’re done frying the chicken, put the vegetables into the pan and cook them until they are softened but not too brown. That should take about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put all the vegetables into the pot with the chicken parts.
Then fry the bacon first and then the mushrooms – put the bacon into the pot and set the mushrooms aside.
Should look a bit like this – a pot full of chicken, vegetables and bacon. Already smells like heaven.
Don’t forget about the pan, because there is still all the good brown stuff at the bottom and you definitively don’t want to throw that away. Instead, pour in about a cup of the red wine and start scraping the bottom with a spatula. Loosen all the bits from the bottom and let it cook for a minute, then pour it into the Dutch oven.
Top it off with the rest of the wine and maybe a little bit of water. Add some salt, the bay leaves and the juniper berries.
Then put on the lid and place it in the oven for about 2 hours. Or you could prepare it until this point and cook it the next day, then it will be even more tender and flavorful.
When the 2 hours in the oven are over, check if the chicken is tender – you should be able to part the meat with a fork.
Carefully get out the meat and put the thighs on a platter. Fish out all the vegetables and spices using a strainer or a slotted spoon. Mix in the cream and if you want to, thicken the sauce with a slurry made of corn starch and water. Just mix those two together, pour it into the sauce and let it cook for a minute. As a last thing, add the mushrooms to the sauce and give it a taste – and season to your taste. I almost always need more salt.
Serve the chicken parts with the sauce, the mushrooms and your favorite side, mine being simple oven-roasted potatoes. Makes sense since the oven is hot anyway.