|No those aren't burned carrots - they're purple!|
The casserole used to be cooked by my Mum and was very obviously chicken, but with some quite largish pieces of smoked bacon (that I used to pick out and enjoy eating), in a light coloured but very tasty sauce. I had a vague memory that she also used a bouquet garni - but got sidetracked along the line and went for thyme and tarragon in the end.
I don't remember when we used to have this meal - I suspect it was probably one of my Mum's weekday repertoire as I remember it so well. I can remember there being just one problem with the dish, in that every so often you'd find a small piece of crumbly matter in the gravy which I always took to be very well-cooked chicken marrowbone. I can remember it used to make my stomach heave - but the rest of the casserole was so tasty, it was worth chancing coming across one of these little lumps.
I was very determined not to have anything resembling chicken marrowbone in my dish!
Well, I'm not sure that I made it back to that flavour totally - but the dish that I wound up with is just so lovely that it will stand as a recipe on its own.
I dare say that I'm not alone in finding chicken terribly expensive all of a sudden? We've had to stop buying just chicken breasts for our chicken dinners these days and have opted for one breast with a combination of leg portions, or thigh portions, to make up the remainder. I have even been known to buy a whole (small) chicken and joint it, for use in dishes like this. Yes, I have finally managed to joint a chicken without getting cross with it. My wonderful poultry shears have made all the difference. I just use them to cut out the backbone, then it is an easy job to separate out the leg and wing pieces and fillet out the breasts. I should apologise to the poor chickens that I mangled, whilst learning this process!
Being cooked in the slow cooker, of course the chicken is just so succulent and tender. The pieces of chicken breast stay incredibly moist and the leg meat just collapses and adds to the gorgeous melange. I made sure, when I originally cut up the leg portions, to run the cut ends of the bones under the tap and so get rid of any loose bits and pieces.
Having the whole shallots is great too - I was so glad I didn't chop them up - as they become soft squishy bundles of sweet oniony, chickeny loveliness.
I was glad that I'd opted to put a tablespoonful of the fresh tarragon in to cook at the beginning of the process as that lent a very mature flavour to the gravy. Adding the fresh tarragon at the end just brightened up the flavours and helped the dish look appealing.
The buttermilk is an interesting addition, don't you think? It was far lighter than adding yoghurt or creme fraiche, and took the gravy down a very slightly tangy route that was helped along by the squirt of lemon juice. What could have wound up a very heavy, muddy flavoured stew wound up being light, tangy and full of different flavours.
|Just look at those carrots - they're certainly different!|
I served the chicken with some "Rainbow Carrots" as Asda so romantically called them - there were purple, yellow, white and the classic orange in the pack and they were fun to have, along with some broccoli and green peas. Just be aware, when peeling the purple carrots, that like all purple food they will stain anything they come into contact with - including the white carrots! Still, it all made for a lovely colourful and healthy-looking dish.
Hubby agreed with me that the dish had a flavour that took you back to the Seventies and beyond. It was a flavour that you'd very definitely had before, but the difficult was putting your finger on where and when! Son and heir thoroughly enjoyed the dish and (hopefully), we'll have created a "flavour of yore" that, you never know, he might find himself searching for in his own kitchen in years to come.
My Mum reads the blog, so I'd be very interested if she was to cook this and let me know what she thinks! Of course, it doesn't have to be cooked in a slow cooker, put into a low oven (150degC or so) for 2-3 hours would probably do the same job.
Oh, and if you're having problems finding Buttermilk in your supermarket, don't worry - just add a teaspoonful of lemon juice to 280ml of milk and stir gently. Within seconds, you'll have a Buttermilk equivalent. Easy - and probably cheaper!
BUTTERMILK CHICKEN & BACON (serves 3)
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 boneless chicken breast and 2 leg portions
9 rashers of smoked back bacon, cut into chunky pieces
150g shallots, peeled & kept whole
250g baby new potatoes
1 tsp dried thyme
150ml white wine
300ml hot chicken stock (I used Essential Cuisine's chicken stock powder)
a squeeze of lemon juice
1-2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp cornflour.
1. Cut the chicken breast into three equally sized pieces and separate the leg portions out into drumstick and thigh pieces - trim off any loose pieces of skin and fat.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken for around 10 minutes (although the breast pieces won't take as long, so you can include them when you've turned the leg pieces), until it has gained a lovely golden colour. Remove and put into the slow cooker, which you can now turn onto low.
3. Put the bacon pieces and the whole shallots into the frying pan and cook until the fat has reduced from the bacon and the shallots have gained a little colour. Put the lot into the slow cooker.
4. Add the white wine to the pan and frizzle for a moment to reduce the alcohol in the wine. Then add the stock, thyme and one tbsp of the tarragon. Once the liquid is up to heat, decant into the slow cooker.
5. Cut any large baby new potatoes into two and add them to the slow cooker. Replace the lid and turn the slow cooker up to high. Forget about it, for the next 4-6 hours.
6. When the chicken is falling from the bone, with a slotted spoon remove it from the slow cooker onto a plate and remove the bone and gristle and discard them. Cover the meat with silver foil and keep in a warm place while you deal with the gravy.
7. Remove the potatoes from the slow cooker and put them with the chicken under the silver foil.
8. To the gravy in the slow cooker, add the buttermilk and lemon juice and stir well.
9. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
10. If the gravy is thinner than your preference, take 1-2 tbsp of cornflour in a small bowl and slake with a little water, until you have a runny paste. Pour half of this mixture into the slow cooker, whisking like fury to make sure no lumps appear. If the consistency still requires more thickening, add the last half and whisk again.
11. Finally, add the remaining tbsp of fresh tarragon and stir it in.
12. Serve the chicken and potato mixture with the gravy poured over, along with some steamed vegetables.