As the days grow shorter, temperatures crisper, and deadlines more imminent, we could all do with a hearty meal now and again to get us through the stress of work and those chilly evenings. I firmly believe that easy one-pot wonders are essential for the nippy months ahead. This simple dish, paying homage to the great French-American chef Jacques Pépin, will warm you up like a comforting blanket and I find it tastes even better every time you reheat it. This delicious braise which includes bits of dark-meat chicken, assortments of sweet vegetables, and a light savoury stock simmered over a period of time, is a sure-fire and inexpensive way to recuperate your senses after a long day.
A peasant dish originating from the provincial areas of France, jardinière is the French feminine form of the word ‘gardener’ and what could be more wholesome than gathering a few vegetables and chucking them into a pot for a stew? This style of arrangement where the vegetables surround the main meat in a dish is typically referred to as à la jardinière. I really love how the name reflects the nature of this dish which splendidly pairs garden vegetables with the tender chicken. I also wholly recommend purchasing vegetables from Durham’s local market as well as from Robinson’s on North Road, both of which offer a great range of reasonably priced produce.
Part of the dish’s appeal is the fact that it’s a peasant dish which is described as simple, plain, and modest. It ultimately means that what goes into your jardinière depends on what’s in season, or whatever’s in your cupboard. I’ve enjoyed this wonderful meal with turnips, cauliflower, and other root vegetables. The braising process ensures that little effort is needed for perfect results to be achieved; a similar method is used for other classic French braising recipes like coq au vin.
4 Chicken thighs on the bone
Bacon lardons or pancetta
Pearl onions or shallots
8 cloves of garlic
Bouquet garni of bay leaf, rosemary, thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Prep: 10 minutes Cooking time: 40 minutes
Start your prep by peeling the skin off the medium-sized potatoes, carrots, and pearl onion/ shallots. Wash or pat dry the mushrooms. Cut the carrots into 1 inch think slices and half the mushrooms. Finely chop 8 cloves of garlic.
Remove the skin of your chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper. The skin can be put into the oven on a baking tray with some salt and a little olive oil to make the perfect crackling. Fry your chicken in a dutch oven/ casserole pot along with the bacon lardons or pancetta until golden brown.
Once everything is nice and brown, add 2 tablespoons of plain flour incorporating it into the meat, then a 3/4 cup of white wine and a 3/4 cup of chicken stock and stir well. Plonk in your carrots, potato, mushrooms, pearl onions/ shallots, garlic, and bouquet garni. Adjust the braising liquid if it’s too thick by adding more stock, if it’s too wet add some cornflour to thicken. Bring to the boil and then let it slowly simmer and braise at a low heat for 40 minutes. 2 minutes before finishing, add the petit pois.
Plate in a bowl and garnish with parsley. Enjoy with some sourdough bread and butter and maybe a glass of chardonnay.