Quick and Comforting — Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and White Wine

30 Oct

I’ve discovered a bit of a silver lining to the early winter, when winter rolls in and the days get shorter and the nights get colder.  That is, because the dark and cold conspire to keep me inside, I’m forced to look elsewhere for evening entertainment and ways to pass the time.  While spring and summer is often filled happy hours, patios, and outside activities, I’m not nearly as motivated or willing to leave home on the weekdays after I’ve returned from work.

The result? I end up spending more time in my kitchen preparing evening meals. (If this were the NY Times or another form of modern journalism then I would have used the word “upshot.”  For whatever reason, “upshot” is everywhere the past couple of years.  Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of the word? Better yet, can anyone explain it? It kind of annoys me to be honest.)

I digress.

The fall here in Columbus ended in traditional style.  Which is to say, schizophrenically. Less than a week ago, the high was 80 degrees.  This morning, there was snow.  And so it was, as much of the east-coast hunkered down at home, involuntarily sheltering in place, I did the same.  But unlike them, it was of my own volition.

Not too long ago, I came across a fantastic sounding recipe for Chicken Thighs and Mushrooms.  Not only did the picture make it look incredibly appetizing, but the instructions also made clear that it was relatively easy and quick to make.  I love elaborate cooking as much as the next guy, but when it’s a cold Monday night, sometimes you just want something that will come together without much effort.  If it looks and tastes like it required greater work and skill?  That’s just icing on the cake. (Or sauce on the chicken?)

I’d like to take a moment to sing the praises of chicken thighs as well.  They’re a frequently overlooked, or even worse, maligned, piece of meat.  As a result, if you watch carefully you can often get a really good deal on them.  (This is beginning to change as more and more people come around to my way of thinking. I realize, by sharing this information, I’m only contributing to their popularization and only hurting my own cause in the end.)

The beauty of this recipe, beyond its simplicity, is the wonderful variety of textures that the finished product displays.  Specifically, you end up with a nicely browned, crisp, and flavorful skin.  And it requires exactly NO additional fat or oil.  The chicken ultimately cooks in the fat that renders off of the skin as it cooks.

Mushrooms, onions, and garlic: these will be the tripod upon which your thighs shall rest (literally).

The chicken itself is only half of the equation however.  The recipe also features a sautéed combination of mushrooms, onions, and garlic, which serve as a flavorful podium on which your golden chicken thighs will sit.  Cooked in a small amount of chicken fat, and then wine which is reduced to a thicker sauce, the savory blend truly rounds out and completes the dish.  It’s what takes it to a level that’s far above average—it makes it blog worthy!

Finally, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the chef who developed the recipe.  It’s a creation of Jacques Pepin.  And, I’m a little ashamed to say, it also served as my introduction to the man.  By all accounts, the man is a genius in the kitchen.  Even better, many episodes of his cooking show are available online.  So if you’re like me, then you’ll win twice with this recipe.  First, will be when you make it and savor its delicious elegance.  Second, will be when you share in my discovery (can you call it that?) of another cooking mentor and broaden your horizons as a result.  Win-win.

So, without further ado, I give you:

Jacques Pepin’s Crusty Chicken with Mushrooms and White Wine

4 chicken thighs, skin on

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup onion, diced

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic (approximately 3 cloves, chopped roughly)

3 cups white mushrooms, washed and roughly diced

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon chives, chopped (optional)

1. Place the chicken thighs skin side down on a cutting board.  Cut a slit about 1/2 inch deep on both sides of the thigh bone.

2. Use 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper to season each side of the thighs. Arrange the thighs skin side down in one layer in a cold non-stick skillet.  Turn the burner to high only after placing the thighs in the pan.

Starting with a cold pan is one of the secrets that makes this recipe work. It also makes it easy!

3. When the thighs start to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium, cover tightly and cook for 16 to 18 minutes.  (You may need to move them around to make sure they are not sticking to the pan.) Occasionally check them to make sure they are browning properly. (If the chicken seems to be cooking too fast after 10 minutes or so, reduce the heat to low.) Once the chicken is cooked and the skin is brown, transfer to the oven to keep warm.

4. Drain enough chicken fat so that only about 2 tablespoons of fat remain in the. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms; cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper over the mixture.  Add the wine and cook over high heat for about 1 minute or until the liquid is reduced.

The sauce as it transforms from discrete ingredients into a harmonious whole.

5. Transfer some of the mushroom sauce to each plate. Place a chicken thigh on top of the mushrooms.  If you wish, garnish with the fresh chives.

6. Enjoy!

Look at that crispy and delicious skin!


2 Responses to “Quick and Comforting — Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and White Wine”

  1. Hope October 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    It looks wonderful. You and Tania should come visit and make it for me. Yummy.
    Aunt Hope


  1. Columbus Events Oct 31 – Nov 6 « - October 31, 2012

    […] you’d rather cook something that will not get eaten by the masses, I can highly recommend the Chicken Thighs with White Wine and Mushrooms written up on Pie Are Round. Or, skip cooking all together and eat at the International Festival at […]

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