Let me just say that one taste of this dish made me feel like I was sitting down to a repast at a charming country inn in the north-west of France.
OK, not that I’ve actually had the pleasure of visiting Brittany.
But it is known for its apples and its Calvados, a spectacular apple brandy.
So, you have to hand it to a dish that can transport you like that.
Leave it to Chef Matthew Accarrino to do so, too. If you’ve ever eaten at SPQR in San Francisco, you know he has a deft hand for creating lusty flavors in rustic-chic dishes.
Of course, most of us don’t have the patience or inclination to make a lot of chef dishes. That’s why we go out to restaurants instead, right?
But “Braised Chicken with Apples and Calvados” is one of those straight-forward, one-pot dishes that anyone can do.
The recipe is from the October 2012 issue of Food & Wine magazine. A whole chicken, cut up into pieces, gets the full-on apple treatment. The chicken is not only simmered with fresh chunks of apple, but also Calvados and apple cider. You can use the non-alcoholic type or opt as I did for hard apple cider instead, which is fizzy and not as sweet.
Shallots, garlic, and a smidge of caraway seeds fortify the braising liquid. Sauteed shiitakes add an intense earthiness. Cold butter is swirled in just before serving to give the sauce gloss and richness.
The dish tastes of the countryside. And of sweet fruit with wine-y characteristics.
Serve it with rice pilaf or plenty of bread or anything else you like to soak up all that lovely sauce. And enjoy your vicarious trip to a delicious part of France.
Braised Chicken with Apples and Calvados
(Serves 4 to 6)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushroom — stems discarded, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick
Freshly ground pepper
One 4-pound chicken, cut into about 8 pieces
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 large shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Calvados
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup apple cider or hard apple cider
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons minced chives
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the pan, skin side down. Cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the chicken and brown the other side, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken to the mushrooms and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan.
Add the chopped apples to the pan and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the Calvados and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chicken stock, cider, caraway seeds and crushed red pepper and bring to a simmer.
Return the chicken pieces to the pan, skin side up, along with any accumulated juices. Braise the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the breast meat is just cooked. Transfer the breast pieces to a large ovenproof platter. Continue braising the remaining chicken until cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Add to the platter and keep warm.
Boil the pan juices and apples over moderately high heat until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and add half of the chives. Spoon the sauce over and around the chicken. Garnish with the remaining chives and serve.
Adapted from a recipe by Matthew Accarrino in the October 2012 issue of Food & Wine magazine
More: My Dinner at SPQR